Update on Rivers Authorities and Land Drainage Bill

Blackbrook watercourse in Burscough_22899

David Warburton MP (Somerton and Frome) announced the River Authorities and Land Drainage Bill in Parliament in March 2018 but it has now run out of parliamentary time.

The Bill passed through all stages in the House of Commons successfully, with full government and opposition support, along with a great deal of help from Defra. But it was held up in the House of Lords, and will now not make it into law.

As civil service officials in Defra have confirmed, this was really due to three factors:

  • First, the DPRRC report into the Bill.
  • Secondly, the Bill was considered by the Lords to be a hybrid Bill and therefore a matter for greater scrutiny
  • Thirdly, proposed Lib Dem amendments to the Bill, tabled in the Lords.

It therefore simply was not possible to schedule committee stage due to a lack of possible time to further consider the Bill in the House of Lords.

Mr Warburton is now working with Defra to try to ensure that all of its measures can form part of the forthcoming Environment Bill. 

In a press release he stated:

"It really is vital that we are able to properly plan ahead in order to make certain that the appalling results of the floods we suffered just a few years ago will never be seen again."

Further questions

If you have any questions regarding this announcement, you can contact NFU CallFirst on 0370 845 8458or email the NFU's national flood management policy adviser Dr Mhari Barnes

Background on the proposed Bill

This Private Members’ Bill looked to:

  • Provide a power to enable ‘Rivers Authorities’ (e.g. the Somerset Rivers Authority) to be established and to become a statutory precepting body.
  • Update the Land Drainage Act 1991 to enable new Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs) to form and for pre-existing IDBs to extend their boundary.

Creation of Rivers Authorities

The Private Members' Bill would provide a power to create a ‘Rivers Authority’. The Secretary of State would also be given powers to determine the membership, function and funding of the Rivers Authority. It is not expected that a large number of Rivers Authorities would be created, but this could be used to create the Somerset Rivers Authority.

The NFU is in support of the creation of Rivers Authorities where there is local support for their establishment. They provide a way to create additional funding targeted for essential flood risk management works.

Revisions to the Land Drainage Act 1991

Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs) are small public authorities who can raise funding specifically for flood risk management and land drainage works. Many NFU members are calling for pre-existing IDBs to be able to extend their boundaries (primarily in low-lying eastern parts of the country), and in some catchments in the North West there is strong local support for the creation of new IDBs.

The Bill would look to address the current bottleneck where land valuation data from the 1990s is required to create new IDBs or expand pre-existing IDBs. In a lot of circumstances this data has not been retained from this era. The Private Members' Bill will provide the power to use modern day data to value land.

The NFU was supportive of this proposed change and worked closely with Defra and other partners locally and nationally to raise awareness of the importance of getting this change in legislation.

The bill successfully passed its Second Reading in Parliament on 8 February 2019. The Second Reading was the first opportunity for the Bill to be debated in the House of Commons and the overall principles of the Bill, outlined above, were considered. The NFU has played an integral part in raising awareness of the Bill in order to improve the likelihood of its success. The NFU also provided comprehensive information as to how this Bill will help members.

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