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Flood Risk Regulations 2009

Volume 716: debated on Monday 25 January 2010

Motion to Resolve

Moved By

To move to resolve that this House calls on Her Majesty’s Government to revoke the Flood Risk Regulations 2009 laid before the House on 19 November 2009 (SI 2009/3042).

Relevant document: 2nd Report from the Merits Committee.

My Lords, I begin by declaring my interests as a farmer and grower and as a member of a number of organisations with an agricultural background. I am also a vice-president of the Association of Drainage Authorities. Although the latter may be a particular focus of interest, it should not lead noble Lords to assume that I possess a great depth of knowledge of the subject, although it might account for my interest in raising this matter for debate.

The Minister introduced these regulations in a Written Statement on the very day of the Cumbrian floods. Since then, the House’s Merits Committee has drawn our attention to aspects that it considers are particular causes of concern. The LGA has written about the funding of local authorities’ role vis-à-vis these regulations. For this reason, I seek to move the Motion in my name before the House this evening.

As I said, these regulations were laid before Parliament on the very occasion of the Cumbrian floods. By further chance, last Friday I had the opportunity to visit Cockermouth and Carlisle on a fact-finding visit, which greatly added to my knowledge of the disaster and its aftermath. I acknowledge the kindness of all the people whom I met and talked to, particularly Messrs Robert Jackson, senior and junior, who farm just outside Cockermouth. To stand on their riverside fields, still strewn with debris and kelter from Cockermouth, just half a mile upstream, was an awe-inspiring experience but also a worrying one. Hay bales and uprooted trees one might have expected to see 10 weeks later, but to see wheelie bins by the dozen, furniture, fridges and other electrical goods scattered across the fields was, to my mind, alarming. More dramatic than that were the acres of meadowland and a drilled field of autumn barley strewn with boulders, some as big as footballs, laid out as if on a beach, and in some cases feet deep. It is hard to see how this grade one land is to be reinstated. It seems to me to be as lost as the 40 metres of the same barley field lost to the river. It caused me particular concern that, although the Rural Development Fund money, up to £6,800, might well be adequate for the costs that some farmers face in clearing up, it was totally inadequate for the task facing Mr Jackson and the dozen or so farmers similarly affected.

There was also a confusing lack of direction from the Environment Agency and Natural England about their role. Indeed, I received mixed messages both on the clear-up and future strategy for the Derwent river basin. It was not satisfactory to stand half a mile from a town struggling to re-establish normal life and be given the impression that the Environment Agency had no funds for managing the accumulation of gravel in the river or for river margin protection. It was perhaps even more worrying to find Natural England worried about SSSIs, biodiversity and the habitat of crayfish. That indicated to me that a stronger sense of direction was needed. I am tempted to coin a phrase and say, “We can’t go on like this”. I am pleased to say that the leader of the county council, Mr Jim Buchanan, has agreed that it must be a priority to assist in moving litter from sites such as Mr Jackson’s farm. The commission of temporary waste dumps and the waiving of regulations governing movement of waste are fine, but that was of little or no assistance to Mr Jackson given the scale of his task in moving the debris off his land.

It is not all negative. The Carlisle flood abatement scheme was recently completed and 600 homes that might otherwise have been flooded remain dry. On being shown the scheme, I observed that it had brought a pleasant cycle path and footpath along the newly flood-walled and protected River Caldew flowing through the town. However, this green vein, attractive though it is, has a downside in that this river, although canalised, is choked with rubble, mud and self-sewn willows and buddleia in the interests of providing natural habitats. I doubt the wisdom of a river management system that allows such a feature in an urban area. It cannot help water movement and we know that fallen trees and debris caused a great deal of havoc in Cockermouth.

I may have travelled a little from my Motion, but we should consider the application of these regulations. We could, I suppose, consider that these regulations are part of the Government’s legislative response to the Pitt report and the summer floods of 2007, but that is not strictly the case. We would, however, be right to consider them as ancillary to the Flood and Water Management Bill, which is at present in another place and which we can confidently expect will arrive in your Lordships’ House before too long. Indeed, my first question to the Minister is whether it is right to bring forward a statutory instrument that uses a concept of lead local flood authority and lays out duties for that body before primary legislation has set up the concept. The Flood and Water Management Bill defines “lead local flood authority” in Clause 6(7) on page 4, and defines “risk management authority” in Clause 6(13), also on page 4, as the lead local flood authority. Clause 7 states:

“The Environment Agency must develop, maintain, apply and monitor a strategy”.

Under Clause 7(2)(a), the strategy must specify,

“the English risk management authorities”.

All that is in the forthcoming Bill. We know that the EU floods directive 2007/60/EC covers the assessment and management of flood risks. The implications of its provisions are the subject of this statutory instrument. Earlier water environment regulations charged the Environment Agency with providing a management plan for each river basin district.

The new regulations before us introduce the concept of lead authorities and seek to reciprocate their activities, with flood risk assessments, maps and management plans already being undertaken by the Environment Agency. Defra believes that this will not impose an additional burden on the local authorities concerned. That is hard to believe but, as Defra has committed to funding any new burdens for local authorities as a result of these regulations, can local authorities be reassured that their responsibility in this area will be fully funded? I suspect that the LGA’s concern is that it all depends on what is meant by “new burdens”.

My concern extends beyond the financial to the engineering skills available in-house. There could be considerable costs in employment of consultants, or is the Environment Agency instructed to work alongside local authorities in the work involved? The engineering of water management is a particular branch of the engineering profession. It is there that my particular interest as a fenman and as vice-president of the Association of Drainage Authorities comes into play. It must be suggested that had an IDB or river authority been in place on the Derwent or the Cocker, the impacts of the floods may have been lessened, as the management of the river and its ecology would have benefited from such engineering skills. The regulations before us list IDBs in part 6 as authorities from which the Environment Agency and local authority require information, but that is all. They have no statutory consultation role, unless invited, as far as I can see. I might add that neither do the police or the emergency services, but their knowledge would be invaluable in areas that have experienced floods. This is surely an oversight. It is important that such assessments are properly constructed on sound analysis of the evidence, which requires a professional input. It is obvious that there are implications for property values, both private and commercial, in their publication.

I turn to the semantics of hazard and risk. Under Regulations 18 and 19, the Environment Agency and the lead local authorities are required to produce both hazard maps and risk maps. “Risk” is defined under Regulation 3, but of “hazard” there is no sign. Both the Concise Oxford and Chambers dictionaries that I have consulted define “risk” as “hazard” and “hazard” as “risk”. Would it not help if the meaning were determined and described so that they were clear and so that the functions of each of these pairs of maps or plans were obvious to us all?

Finally, while I do not doubt that these desk exercises can be used to good effect, they are no substitute for on-the-ground management by individuals dedicated to the proper management of water, the sound engineering of our rivers and the safety of people and property. I beg to move.

We are all grateful to my noble friend Lord Taylor for giving us an opportunity to consider the Flood Risk Regulations, although a debate before 10 December 2009 would have been more timely, for they have now been transposed into domestic legislation. Normally, I am supportive of EC measures which seek to promote consistent environmental regulation throughout member states. In this case, I fear we have missed an opportunity to scrutinise the EC floods directive and its transposition into domestic law through a vehicle which would have been much better designed than these regulations, that is the Flood and Water Management Bill which is at present going through Parliament.

The EC directive has the worthy aim, among others, of establishing effective cross-border flood risk management. This is one issue that simply does not arise, as the regulations we are considering apply only to England and Wales—they do not relate to Northern Ireland. What we need is bespoke consideration. As my noble friend just explained, some of the very clear national issues that we have are about flood management appraisal and putting into effect the right proposals.

A proper parliamentary scrutiny of the transposition of this directive in the Flood and Water Management Bill would have been an ideal way to set about it. I am sure Parliament would have made a helpful contribution as to how the regulations could have been fine tuned, as appropriate for our national needs. However, Parliament has effectively been deprived of the opportunity. We have had no opportunity to look at the fine detail, as we would if we had been in Committee on a Bill. The irony is that most of us support the thrust of the directive and see the need—not perhaps for cross-border flood risk management for England and Wales—but certainly for detailed appraisal and management proposals to be prepared, particularly in areas of priority.

The Minister may point out in replying that, as part of the public consultation on the draft Bill, one chapter addressed the issue of the transposition of the floods directive. The Explanatory Memorandum to these regulations reports that 48 per cent of respondents were broadly in favour of the proposed transposition arrangements, 46 per cent made general comments and 5 per cent were against the proposals. The conclusion that I draw from these figures is that the large majority are, like me, in favour of the general thrust of these regulations, but there is plenty of scope for improvement. Forty-six per cent of people would not have made comments if they did not have ideas as to how the arrangements could be improved.

As my noble friend Lord Taylor just remarked, there are very specific issues on flood management which are all too apparent and need to be addressed. The way the EC floods directive has been transposed into UK law is a missed opportunity. Frankly, Parliament has been treated poorly. I know that the original intention was for the Government to use the Bill to transpose the legislation—they were worried about the cost of infraction proceedings. What has happened is that, for pure convenience in administrative matters, Parliament has been sidetracked. That is a great pity.

My Lords, I would like to follow my noble friend Lord Selborne, because he touched on a couple of things which are extremely worrying. I take his point that many of those who responded had queries. I have looked at the observations of the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee on the Bill. My noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach stated in his introduction that he was quite concerned about the extra resources needed. In fact, the Merits Committee points out in paragraph 19 that,

“a significant number of respondees called for sufficient funds and resources,”

to be available to,

“local authorities to undertake their responsibilities,”

under this directive. Can the Minister say how many people asked and how many was a significant number? How confident are the Government that they—Defra particularly—will have sufficient funds and resources, in terms both of money and of manpower and skills? All of us are well aware of the dire straits in which the Government find themselves within departments, and Defra is one of those departments that is looking to find cuts in commitments. How confident can the Minister be, if local authorities realise that it will cost them more than was originally understood, and if the Merits Committee are right in saying that the lead role has been underestimated by Defra, that that will be resolved? There is no sense in us today passing measures under which we have no guarantee that those costs will be met.

I go back to the point made by my noble friend that this discussion should have taken place within our debates on the Flood and Water Management Bill. My noble friend is slightly more gentlemanly than me in his approach, but having been Front-Bench spokesman for 10 years on this brief, it irritates me beyond words that we are asked to accept legislation on this issue in the form of statutory instruments. As we know well, we can debate it tonight and we can raise issues with the Minister, but it will not change anything because we cannot change the regulations. Whereas, if proposals were in primary legislation—a Bill—one would have a chance to alter and improve it. I, and I think all of us, support many of the things that this statutory instrument is trying to do.

I have some basic questions on costs and skills, bearing in mind the cost-cutting that will come to Defra and, indeed, local authorities. I return to the very good example raised by my noble friend. We are grateful that he went to Cockermouth and talked to some of the farmers up there. The regulation refers to those with economic interests and the environment. I hope that farming is considered to be an economic business, because if it is not, it jolly well should be, because farming is a business. My noble friend raised the problem of the enormous costs that a particular farmer will incur that will not apply to other farmers in relation to some floods. How do the Government intend to support the local authority to help that farmer to cover those extra costs?

I wish to raise two other issues. One is about the maps that will be created. My reading of the statutory instrument is that they will be available to members of the public. Will they be able to obtain them online? Will there be a cost? How will that work? My final point is that obviously some areas and counties do not have the same risk-management problems as those experienced by other counties on a regular basis. Are they expected to produce reports and plans as full as those required to be produced by an authority with constant risk-management problems? Those are specific issues, but I am anxious because this statutory instrument has raised real issues that need addressing. Our only chance to do so is through the statutory instrument, and I am grateful to my noble friend for raising this matter.

My Lords, I should declare an interest as a member of a unitary authority, Cornwall Council, which will be one of the authorities which has to implement these regulations, which have already been passed.

I was interested in the comments around subsidiarity raised by the noble Earl, Lord Selborne. I, too, read these regulations and two issues sprang out at me. One was whether the directive, if we or the European Union Committee looked at it, would pass the subsidiarity test. Within continental Europe, given the large river basins, including the Rhine and the Danube, cross-border planning is important, and more than two member states are often involved. However, these regulations apply only to England and Wales, and a small part of Scotland, but do not apply to the Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland border. I wonder whether these regulations are essential to us as a member state in terms of European legislation.

Exactly as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said, having looked at a number of these issues that are largely already covered in UK legislation—perhaps not sufficiently—I should be interested to understand from the Government which parts of the directive are not covered sufficiently. They may be perfectly good in relation to what the Government want, but there is insufficient explanation as to which parts of the directive are not covered by existing EU legislation and, therefore, why such an order is necessary. If the Government wish to improve the current legislation, as many of us would wish to, it would be much better—as has already been stated—for that to be included in the Flood and Water Management Bill. I should be particularly interested to understand why the current spatial planning flood-risk assessments do not cover what the directive already requires and why we therefore need, in terms of implementation of European legislation, flood-risk management plans.

Like many other Members of this House, I am also concerned at the cost of this. The £6 million one-off cost may be credible, but the ongoing zero cost is very optimistic. All local authorities are under financial pressure and will continue to be so. They are putting their budgets together at this very moment; although this is of great importance, it will be an additional pressure on local funding which regrettably will have an effect on other services as well.

I could not see anywhere within these regulations, which are now already within the law of the land, when these plans by local authorities have to be submitted. I did not see any timescales and I would be interested to hear those.

This is an important debate and I do not wish to prolong it any further. My only comment is that in my experience of Parliament whenever a Member stands up and says, “My Lords” or “Fellow Members, I will be brief”, they are always the longest speaker. It is also the case that when Members stand up and say they know nothing about the subject or are very modest about what they know, they come forward with extremely important, in-depth and relevant speeches. We certainly heard such a speech from the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, this evening.

My Lords, I understand that these regulations were previously intended to be part of the draft Flood and Water Management Bill, but the Government decided to push them separately without debating them in either House, as has been said. I thoroughly agree with my noble friends Lord Selborne and Lady Byford that it would have been much better to have debated them before December.

My noble friend Lord Taylor has asked why it is right to bring forward these regulations before primary legislation. I agree: it is like putting the cart before the horse. It is very unusual to have secondary legislation coming before primary legislation. One can only assume that the Minister does not expect the flood Bill to make it through all the stages of the parliamentary process to become law. On this side of the House, we have said that we will support the Bill, so what are the Government not telling us? In their endeavours to comply with EU legislation, the Government have brought forward these regulations regardless of whether the flood Bill becomes law or not.

I want to move on, as others have done, to the cost of implementing these regulations. I understand that Defra’s impact assessment suggested a one-off cost of £6.66 million. The Minister is no doubt already aware that the Local Government Association believes that the Government have underestimated this, and that the cost will overrun. Can the Minister confirm, as others have asked, that Defra will not only fully fund this cost, but also that of any overrun?

My last point concerns Regulation 7, “Lead local flood authority”, and it was raised by my honourable friend Anne McIntosh in another place in Committee on the Flood and Water Management Bill. Regulation 7 states that the lead authority should be the county council, where there is no unitary authority for an area. Obviously, the county council should be the lead authority in many instances—for example for sustainable drainage along the highway—but what about when a planning application is being considered? The district council is clearly the planning authority, so it seems obvious that it should deal with the Sustainable Urban Drainage System, or SUDS. However, under Regulation 7, the county is the lead authority in this area, whereas the district, as I have said, is the most appropriate authority to deal with SUDS. Does the Minister propose to give guidance to councils suggesting with which level of local authority the lead should lie? Otherwise, as things stand, the planning process will be unnecessarily prolonged; I know we are all keen to speed up this process.

It might not seem obvious that SUDS is relevant to these regulations, which deal with flood risk management, maps and plans, but it is. These regulations are now law. They define who is to be the lead authority and so have a direct link with and bearing on the flood Bill.

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have participated in the debate. By their very participation, they have answered the charge that there is very little opportunity to discuss the issues. I hasten to add that it is also the case that we are confident that the Flood and Water Management Bill will be before the House immediately after the Recess. There will be a number of weeks before there is any question of Parliament being dissolved. Consequently, we look forward to constructive debate on the issues during that time, within the framework of the Bill. Far from the Government having denied any opportunity, they have provided a dual opportunity: the opportunity for debate on the regulations, and the opportunity for subsequent debate on the Bill. I am grateful that noble Lords have indicated that there is merit in both, and that there is not much that we will want to see translated into law.

I will add that if noble Lords are critical of the opportunities for discussion of the regulations in the other place, the fault lies with those who had the opportunity of asking for that debate. Here, the noble Lord from the opposition Front Bench asked for this debate and duly got it. The fact that his colleagues in another place did not ask for a debate is not the Government’s responsibility: it rests firmly with those who chose priorities other than this important one. I am glad that the noble Lord chose this important one, and that we have the chance to debate the issues. As I indicated, we will be able to do even more when the Bill is before us.

I emphasise the links between the two. The noble Earl, Lord Selborne, is absolutely right to say that the Government were probably worried about the issue of infraction if they delayed too long their response to the directive: that is why they introduced the regulations in November. We were then able to take into account what the regulations covered when it came to the drafting and presentation of the Bill. We have the advantages of both being contributory to dealing with what we all recognise is a matter of great importance and some urgency, given what that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and others who have spoken, identified as the risk of flooding and the horrors that were visited on Cumbria in the latter part of last year.

The Government are not apologetic about the situation: far from it. This is largely because the directive substantially followed the pressure that they were applying to the European Community to secure the directive that they wanted. We find it relatively straightforward—although there are always problems—to follow the principles of the directive and bring them within the framework of our regulations because they are largely consistent with how we want to act.

We are also conscious of the fact that the European dimension on this is important. There is no doubt about the flood risk in Europe. The noble Lord, Lord Lawson, is in his place, so I will not provoke him by any reference to climate change; but the noble Lord, while disavowing any such concept, will recognise that parts of Europe have been subject to more extensive and dramatic flooding than has been the case in the recent past. Therefore it is right that the Government address the issues. After all, we experienced floods in 2005 and 2009 that produced devastating effects on localised communities, and so have reason to act.

I repudiate the idea that the Government have not been keen for scrutiny: quite the opposite. We will provide opportunities for that, and will be constructive about the legislation. I have no doubt that the contributions made here today will be constructive, because no noble Lord has addressed the regulations—or, in passing, the Bill—without offering the view that they are necessary and that we need legislation that is effective and deals with the problems that we all appreciate.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, rightly identified one crucial issue. He was by no means the only one because the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, also raised this point. I recognise that there are obligations on the local authorities, but we have made it clear, and the local authorities have in their representations accepted that point, that resources will be available for this. We have indicated that if there are additional costs above and beyond the provisions that we have made, this is part of the negotiations that we had in the preparation of the legislation. We have been concerned to increase the level of public involvement. Obviously local authorities have been involved with costs and I assure the House that Defra recognises its responsibility as regards costs, and the responsibility will remain with Defra.

We have said that if it becomes clear that local authorities have incurred additional costs in fulfilling their responsibilities under the directive, Defra will provide the extra funds in full.

My Lords, will my noble friend give way? Is any information being made available on who is going to get this money? Many local authorities will have a minimal case to make in terms of flood risk. Has any work been done on the profile of expenditure and who is getting it?

My Lords, of course it will be the local authorities which are involved in the risk management exercise and for which the risk with regard to floods is important. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, spoke of his visits to Cumbria. He will recognise that my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours lives there and represented part of the area in the other place for a considerable time. I want to assure him that there are different funds available with regard to clean-up and clear-up after the devastation. I applaud what the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said about the necessity of recognising—the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, also emphasised this point—the catastrophic impact upon some farmers from the floods. We are going to give help with regard to that. We have clearly signalled it and the issue of clear-up is enormous. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, identified in his graphic description what a formidable challenge that is for land that has been devastated in this way.

The Government of course have indicated that they will address the consequences of the floods for Cumbria. It will not be overnight and not by the stroke of a pen—everybody recognises the difficulties. As regards farmland, of course, time is also key because there is no way in which clear-up of that kind of devastation can be effected in a short period of time. But that is separate from the resources that I was indicating related to the directive and the implications and the work that derive from it.

In these terms, the Government maintain that we have consulted on the directive, we have consulted certainly on the Bill; noble Lords have indicated in their speeches the responses that we have had on these issues. We know the degree of public anxiety. I want to assure the noble Baroness, who raised the next stage of public consultation, that the maps will go on line. There is every intention of seeking to involve the public with regard to the presentation of the maps and the proposals in these terms. Consequently, I hope it will be appreciated that the Government intend to act in as open a manner as possible, knowing full well that local areas are extremely important sources of information on risk assessment as regards flooding. It is important that we tap into that.

I hope noble Lords will also appreciate the drafting of the regulations and especially the drafting of the Bill. I know that the Bill is not immediately before this House but it has had very extensive consideration in the other place with which noble Lords will be acquainted. Those deliberations indicate the openness of the legislation, the necessity for consultation and, above all, the necessity of effective co-ordination with localities on the implementation of the legislation. In that respect, I hope I can reassure noble Lords.

This is our only debate on these regulations—it is customary to have only a one-hour debate on regulations. However, we also have the Bill. The advantage with the proper response to the European directive and the regulations is that we were given an early start in November and a chance to put the regulations alongside the Bill. We are conscious of the constraints of time and everyone knows that we do not have a full parliamentary Session before us. The Bill was introduced into the other place at an early stage and it will come to us a week after the Recess. Therefore, we have a framework for a full debate on it.

I want to assure noble Lords about the opportunities for getting this legislation right and seeing that the regulations complement the Bill. I heard the criticism that the regulations offer less debate. Of course they do, but they also supplement the Bill and enable us to cover a range of areas which otherwise might lead to a very protracted debate on the Bill with the danger that it might not be delivered in the time allotted. There is a logic to that position.

Therefore, the Government are in no way apologetic about the way in which they have approached these issues. First, although we are as one with everyone who has spoken this evening on the importance of action in this area, we must have a clear definition of why we need legislation. Secondly, I want to reassure the House on the issue of costs. We are addressing the costs and we appreciate above all that effective consultation at a local level is the only way in which these issues will be conducted satisfactorily.

I realise that I have not answered every single point in what has been a fairly wide-ranging debate, but I hope I have succeeded in indicating to the House that far from these issues not being subject to open and full consultation and then debate, this House will soon enjoy the opportunities which the other place has had to debate the Bill. Therefore, where there are weaknesses with regard to the regulations—I am the first to recognise that any form of regulation, given the extensiveness of this issue, is bound to be limited in its impact—we will be able to address them when we consider the Bill.

My Lords, by his last comment, is the Minister indicating something that does not normally happen: that if for any reason this House decides that changes need to be made to the statutory instrument that may happen? Normally, that never happens.

No, my Lords, I was not indicating that. The noble Baroness will be well aware of the fact that we cannot amend a statutory instrument that will be part of the regulation that has been passed by Parliament if in fact it goes through this stage this evening. What I was indicating is that we will be able to look at what is then in law as far as the regulations are concerned and consider the Bill against that background. I am indicating that, of course, the regulations make their contribution to addressing this issue.

The Bill is far more important and much more wide-ranging, as would be expected, and I was indicating to the noble Baroness that the Bill should be seen in that context. If from that we had a position in which the regulations needed to be advanced further, we could then subsequently address that, but we are dealing this evening with regulations which will go through as they stand. Of course, it may be from the Bill that there is a necessity identified of secondary legislation and, of course, the Government will be prepared to look at that.

My Lords, I do not think that the Minister has answered any of my questions. While some of them may be too difficult within such a short debate, perhaps he could just tell me when these flood-risk management plans need to be completed and ready, since, as I said, I do not see that anywhere.

My Lords, we have to deliver this by 2011: that is the deadline that we are working to and that is why the deadline for the introduction of the legislation was in November last year. We did not quite hit that deadline, but we were within two weeks of doing so, in terms of the European directive. I think that all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate will be concerned not just with deadlines which are derivative from a European directive. We are all conscious of our fellow citizens and their industries—of which farming is an important one, as has been identified this evening—who have suffered from the flooding problems in very graphic ways and we need to address ourselves to those issues.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for responding to this short debate. My noble friend Lady Byford got to the nub of the issue in her challenge to the Minister—there is no doubt that the passage of this statutory instrument does indeed, to some degree, prejudice our capacity to debate the Flood and Water Management Bill. However, that is not an unusual situation.

I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate for their general support for what we have sought to do this evening. Generally approving the Government’s purpose in introducing the Flood and Water Management Bill also exposes our responsibility as Members of this House to debate the Bill and to ensure that it achieves the Government’s objectives and the objectives that are shared by other Members of this House, so I hope the Minister will not assume that that debate will be all sweetness and light. At least the debate this evening has shown that the detail of the Bill will be very properly debated on its arrival here.

As for the regulations, I am grateful for the Minister’s assurances to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, first, that local authorities’ expenditure will be fully funded by Defra—I believe that that is what the Minister said—and, secondly, that funds will be made available beyond what has already been committed to deal with the extraordinary circumstances in which certain businesses and individuals find themselves as a result of the Cumbrian flood damage.

Given the nature of these things, I am sure the House will wish me to withdraw the Motion.

Motion withdrawn.

Sitting suspended.