HC Deb 26 February 1997 vol 291 cc386-96
Mr. Chisholm

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 3, line 2, at end insert— 'Guidelines and consultation 6B. The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency shall publish guidelines as to the content of reports made pursuant to section 6A(2) above; and in preparing any such report the local authority shall consult the Agency.' This is an important amendment, because it deals with serious concerns about the Bill. In general, the Bill has been widely welcomed. However, it fails to adopt a catchment area approach, and to deal with the wider environmental implications of flood prevention. There are various ways of taking a more holistic approach to flood prevention. A simple way that was suggested in Committee is to require riparian owners to seek planning permission before undertaking flood defence work that may affect other parts of the river. That is an example of how flood defence work can have knock-on effects.

Another way of achieving a more holistic approach is to have flood appraisal committees, so that councils come together and co-ordinate their activities. That is allowed for under national planning policy guideline 7. We actively encourage and support the formation of such committees, so that local authorities can co-ordinate their work. Beyond that, there is a strong case for an independent body to have a strategic overview of flood control, particularly with reference to the reports about flood control under clause 3.

Two years ago, during the passage of the Environment Act 1995, Labour argued strongly that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency should have such a strategic role, and we continue to hold that view. SEPA's duties are already relevant. Under section 24 of the 1995 Act, it has a consultation role before drainage work is carried out. Under section 25 of that Act, it has a remit to access flood risk. Under section 32, it has general duties in respect of water, such as promoting the conservation of flora and fauna that are dependent on an aquatic environment.

In Committee, the Minister said: SEPA has no responsibility for, or specialised knowledge of, watercourse maintenance."—[Official Report, First Scottish Standing Committee, 11 February 1997; c. 25.] SEPA has already produced some best management guidance on flood alleviation works. It has reissued a small document that the previous river boards produced, which warns about the risk of certain flood defence activities. I am told that SEPA has also produced a video on soft engineering flood alleviation techniques, about which I hope to say more shortly.

In its submission to the Scottish Office on the Bill, SEPA highlighted some of those issues. It said: The powers given to local authorities under Section 2(1)(a) of the Flood Prevention (Scotland) Act 1961 are expanded under Section 3 of the same Act and allow various activities both within and on the banks of a watercourse (removal and deposit of mud, gravel, bush and timber) which might lead to serious pollution of a watercourse or damage to conservation, or other wider interests both within the watercourse and on associated land. We are particularly concerned, for example, about increased aquatic and riverbank herbicide spraying. We expect the exercise of these powers to be subject to statutory consultation with SEPA … It would be appropriate for SEPA … to develop and make available guidance on best management practice relating to any works within and alongside watercourses. Later in the submission, SEPA says that the report referred to in clause 3 should also record any instances of non-compliance with comments offered as statutory guidance and with any best management practice guidelines provided by SEPA". The flood defence schemes referred to in clause 3 can clearly have knock-on effects, such as siltation, erosion and acceleration of flow, and can damage not only the watercourse itself but the plant and animal species that depend on it for food and shelter. Increasingly"— according to the World Wide Fund for Nature— Scotland's rivers are suffering incremental damage from these activities". Equally, what happens in the wider catchment area can have profound effects on the river. For example, drainage of forestry land upstream can produce increased run-off, increased land erosion and an increased risk of flooding. All that highlights the need for a strategic overview, a catchment area approach and a role for an environmental organisation such as SEPA.

Flood defence schemes often unnecessarily straitjacket rivers, fill in wetlands or remove islands, damaging rivers and their own ability to absorb flood impact. The so-called soft engineering techniques to which I referred a moment ago can provide long-term flood alleviation, while at the same time enhancing the natural heritage. Such techniques are now widely accepted. I am told that there are now examples at Stenton in central Fife, where wet and dry ponds have been created, and that there is a new pool system near Beattock following motorway developments there. Not much information on such techniques is available, however. It could be provided by SEPA. I look forward to watching the SEPA video in the near future; I have been promised a copy, and I am told that it covers not only some of the examples that I have given, but other examples from Europe and America.

The point is that we must have the benefit of expertise in regard to the broad issue, as well as narrow specifics such as the effects of spraying and dredging river banks and upsetting buffer zones between agricultural land and the river. There must be an holistic approach that takes account of the wider ecology, which means that SEPA must be involved in terms of both being consulted and giving guidance. As I said at the outset, we want co-ordination among local authorities, and we welcome the establishment of the flood appraisal committees; but, beyond that, there must be a role for SEPA. It must be able to provide an environmental overview, and to ensure that an holistic approach to flood prevention is adopted.

Dr. Godman

If the Minister refuses to accept the amendment, will he assure us that the Scottish Office will provide guidelines for our local authorities? As he may recall, I spoke of the difficulties that some smaller authorities may have in producing reports. We seek expert guidance, enabling even the smallest authority to act in a realistic, purposeful way when dealing with the problems that have been outlined so often during the Bill's passage.

6.45 pm

Does the Minister agree that, if he accepted the amendment, the Bill as amended would not place an onerous burden on SEPA's officials? Indeed, I think that those officials might well be pleased to undertake such a task on behalf of local authorities. As I said earlier, I have every confidence in both the elected representatives and the officials of Inverclyde council, but I am sure that they would welcome guidelines issued by SEPA or, if that was not possible, by experts commissioned by the Scottish Office. Perhaps the Minister will be able to tell us proudly that the Scottish Office has such experts in its own ranks, and that it can produce the guidelines.

Problems such as this occur from time to time in constituencies such as mine and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham). If the Minister is going to reject the amendment, I appeal to him at least to give local authorities such as Inverclyde an assurance that guidelines will be issued, as the amendment requires, as to the content of reports made pursuant to section 6A(2) above". The principle of the amendment is essential—that authorities, large and small, should be helped to deal with these troublesome matters as realistically, effectively and efficiently as possible.

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)

The Forth and Clyde canal is an important facility in my constituency. As the Minister knows, the millennium fund has come up with a large sum for its improvement. We want to know how far the provisions of clause 3 would relate to the canal, and whether there could ever be any difficulty in future in regard to who was funding what. If the Minister cannot answer tonight, I should be glad if he wrote to me later.

Mr. Kynoch

An amendment along similar lines was tabled in Committee, this time by the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith). It was one of three amendments proposed by the Opposition, which sought to involve SEPA in flood prevention activities. As I explained then, the Government feel that it is best for councils to deal with the matters involved in the Bill. Councils will be able to determine, on the basis of local circumstances and priorities, what should go into reports.

SEPA is not a flood prevention agent. Its main role is to deal with pollution matters, although it will also advise councils on flooding risk. That said, I also explained in Committee that we are interested in reviewing from time to time whether new developments are reflected in existing policies and objectives. In that connection, I said that we expected the publication soon of a European Commission proposal for a water resources framework directive. It would be premature to anticipate the content of the directive and the implications for catchment management, but we offered to reconsider how that might impact on flood prevention activities, including consultation between interested parties. However, our view is that we should do that outwith consideration of the Bill. Meanwhile, as I further explained in Committee, there is the continuing possibility of voluntary arrangements, and I remain confident that councils, along with SEPA and Scottish Natural Heritage, will approach those issues in a spirit of co-operation.

I hope that the House will accept the assurance that I gave in Committee, that I do not oppose the principle of effective, wider communication on the subject, but in the context of the continuing discussions on this and related matters, it would be premature to act at this stage.

The hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) referred to communication from the Scottish Office. As with all new legislation affecting the powers or duties of local authorities, the Scottish Office will issue a circular as soon as possible after Royal Assent, explaining the main provisions of the Act. Obviously, that will include reports.

Therefore, on the understanding that the Government are prepared to consider the principle of the matter in drawing up any future legislation, I ask the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Chisholm) to withdraw his amendment.

Mr. Chisholm

As the Minister pointed out, there was a similar amendment in Committee, but, first, it was not pressed to a vote and, secondly, it was not identical. That amendment, which was supported by my hon. Friends the Members for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith) and for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman), did indeed refer to consultation, but there was no amendment in Committee about guidelines with reference to the reports in clause 3, so amendment No. 1 builds considerably on the amendment in Committee.

The Minister repeated his claim that SEPA has no remit in that area, but all the evidence that I gave from the Environment Act 1995 and from SEPA's submission to the Scottish Office showed that that is simply not true. SEPA has the expertise on the environment rather than councils and, in saying that, I make no criticism of councils. We welcome the Minister's undertaking that he will consider the matter in principle in future, and we welcome the new duties for councils, but there is a gaping hole in the Bill, because there is no catchment area approach, there is no holistic approach and no account is taken of the environmental implications of flood defence works. Because the environmental principle is so important for Labour Members, we shall press the amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 174, Noes 223.

Division No. 85] [6.52 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Fyfe, Mrs Maria
Allen, Graham Galloway, George
Alton, David George, Bruce
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Gerrard, Neil
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Godman, Dr Norman A
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Golding, Mrs Llin
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Graham, Thomas
Austin-Walker, John Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Barnes, Harry Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Barron, Kevin Grocott, Bruce
Battle, John Gunnell, John
Bayley, Hugh Hain, Peter
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Harvey, Nick
Beith, Rt Hon A J Henderson, Doug
Bell, Stuart Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Bennett, Andrew F Hoey, Kate
Bermingham, Gerald Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Berry, Roger Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Blunkett, David Hoyle, Doug
Boateng, Paul Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hughes, Robert (Ab'd'n N)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Byers, Stephen Hutton, John
Caborn, Richard Illsley, Eric
Callaghan, Jim Ingram, Adam
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampst'd)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Jackson, Mrs Helen (Hillsborough)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Jamieson, David
Campbell-Savours, D N Jones, Dr Lynne
Canavan, Dennis (B'ham Selly Oak)
Chidgey, David Jones, Martyn (Clwyd SW)
Chisholm, Malcolm Kennedy, Charles (Ross C & S)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Kennedy, Mrs Jane (Broadgreen)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Kilfoyle, Peter
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Lestor, Miss Joan (Eccles)
Coffey, Ms Ann Liddell, Mrs Helen
Cohen, Harry Litherland, Robert
Corston, Ms Jean Livingstone, Ken
Cousins, Jim Lloyd, Tony (Stretf'd)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John Loyden, Eddie
Cunningham, Ms Roseanna Lynne, Ms Liz
(Perth Kinross) Macdonald, Calum
Dalyell, Tam McFall, John
Darling, Alistair McGrady, Eddie
Davidson, Ian McKelvey, William
Dewar, Rt Hon Donald Mackinlay, Andrew
Dobson, Frank McLeish, Henry
Donohoe, Brian H Maclennan, Robert
Dowd, Jim McWilliam, John
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Madden, Max
Eastham, Ken Maddock, Mrs Diana
Etherington, Bill Mahon, Mrs Alice
Evans, John (St Helens N) Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Fatchett, Derek Martlew, Eric
Faulds, Andrew Meacher, Michael
Fisher, Mark Michael, Alun
Flynn, Paul Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Milburn, Alan
Foster, Don (Bath) Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Foulkes, George Morgan, Rhodri
Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe) Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Mudie, George Strang, Dr Gavin
Mullin, Chris Straw, Jack
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Sutcliffe, Gerry
Olner, Bill Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
O'Neill, Martin Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Pearson, Ian Thurnham, Peter
Pike, Peter L Timms, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond (Ogmore) Touhig, Don
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Tyler, Paul
Prescott, Rt Hon John Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Radice, Giles Watson, Mike
Raynsford, Nick Welsh, Andrew
Rendel, David Wicks, Malcolm
Wigley, Dafydd
Robertson, George (Hamilton) Williams.Rt Hon Alan
Roche, Mrs Barbara (Swansea W)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Wilson, Brian
Rowlands, Ted Winnick, David
Ruddock, Ms Joan Wise, Mrs Audrey
Sheerman, Barry Worthington, Tony
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Wray, Jimmy
Simpson, Alan Wright, Dr Tony
Skinner, Dennis Young, David (Bolton SE)
Smith, Chris (Islington S)
Soley, Clive Tellers for the Ayes:
Spearing, Nigel Mr. Thomas McAvoy and Mr. Eric Clarke.
Spellar, John
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Conway, Derek
Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F)
Alexander, Richard Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Amess, David Cormack, Sir Patrick
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Couchman, James
Arbuthnot, James Cran, James
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Currie, Mrs Edwina
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Davies, Quentin (Stamf'd)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Davis, Rt Hon David (Boothferry)
Baker, Rt Hon Kenneth (Mole V) Deva, Nirj Joseph
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Devlin, Tim
Bates, Michael Douglas-Hamilton,
Bellingham, Henry Rt Hon Lord James
Beresford, Sir Paul Dover, Den
Biffen, Rt Hon John Duncan, Alan
Booth, Hartley Duncan Smith, Iain
Boswell, Tim Dunn, Bob
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Durant, Sir Anthony
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Dykes, Hugh
Bowden, Sir Andrew Elletson, Harold
Bowis, John Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'ld)
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Brandreth, Gyles Evans, Nigel (Ribble V)
Brazier, Julian Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Bright, Sir Graham Faber, David
Browning, Mrs Angela Fabricant, Michael
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Fenner, Dame Peggy
Burns, Simon Forman, Nigel
Burt, Alistair Forsyth, Rt Hon Michael (Stirling)
Butcher, John Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Butler, Peter Fox, Rt Hon Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Butterfill, John French, Douglas
Carlisle, John (Luton N) Gallie, Phil
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Linc'n) Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Carrington, Matthew Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Cash, William Grant, Sir Anthony (SW Cambs)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Chapman, Sir Sydney Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Clappison, James Grylls, Sir Michael
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth Hague, Rt Hon William
(Rushcliffe) Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald
Coe, Sebastian Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Colvin, Michael Hampson, Dr Keith
Congdon, David Hannam, Sir John
Hargreaves, Andrew Pawsey, James
Harris, David Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Haselhurst, Sir Alan Pickles, Eric
Hawkins, Nick Porter, David
Hawksley, Warren Powell, William (Corby)
Hayes, Jerry Rathbone, Tim
Heald, Oliver Redwood, Rt Hon John
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Richards, Rod
Hendry, Charles Riddick, Graham
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Robathan, Andrew
Hicks, Sir Robert Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence Robertson, Raymond S (Ab'd'n S)
Hill, Sir James (Southampton Test) Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (Grantham) Roe, Mrs Marion
Horam, John Rowe, Andrew
Hordem, Rt Hon Sir Peter Sackville, Tom
Howell, Rt Hon David (Guildf'd) Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W) Shaw, David (Dover)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensb'ne) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Jack, Rt Hon Michael Shepherd, Sir Colin (Heref'd)
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Shersby, Sir Michael
Jenkin, Bernard (Colchester N) Sims, Sir Roger
Jessel, Toby Skeet, Sir Trevor
Johnson Smith, Smith, Tim (Beaconsf'ld)
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Speed, Sir Keith
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Spencer, Sir Derek
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Spicer, Sir Jim (W Dorset)
Kirkhope, Timothy Spicer, Sir Michael (S Worcs)
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Spink, Dr Robert
Knox, Sir David Sproat, Iain
Kynoch, George Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Stephen, Michael
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Stewart, Allan
Legg, Barry Streeter, Gary
Leigh, Edward Sweeney, Walter
Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark Sykes, John
Lester, Sir Jim (Broxtowe) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Lidington, David Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Temple-Morris, Peter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham) Thomason, Roy
Luff, Peter Thompson, Sir Donald (Calder V)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Townsend, Sir Cyril (Bexl'yh'th)
MacKay, Andrew Tracey, Richard
McLoughlin, Patrick Tredinnick, David
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Trotter, Neville
Maitland, Lady Olga Twinn, Dr Ian
Malone, Gerald Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Marlow, Tony Walden, George
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Waller, Gary
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Ward, John
Merchant, Piers Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Waterson, Nigel
Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants) Watts, John
Moate, Sir Roger Wells, Bowen
Monro, Rt Hon Sir Hector Whittingdale, John
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Needham, Rt Hon Richard Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Nelson, Anthony Willetts, David
Neubert, Sir Michael Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesf'ld)
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Wolfson, Mark
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Wood, Timothy
Norris, Steve Yeo, Tim
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Oppenheim, Phillip
Paice, James Tellers for the Noes:
Patnick, Sir Irvine Mr. Roger Knapman and Mr. Richard Ottaway.
Patten, Rt Hon John

Question accordingly negatived.

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.—[Mr. Kynoch.]

7.6 pm

Ms Roseanna Cunningham (Perth and Kinross)

I agree with hon. Members who have said that there is little in the Bill to criticise. As it stands, it imposes duties to assess watercourses, publish reports and so on, and that is worth while.

I should like to mention some studies that have been carried out in Perthshire in the past couple of years. There has been a River Tay catchment study and rural communities flood studies at Bankfoot; at Bridge of Earn; at Milnathort; at Comrie-Dalginross; at Auchterarder; at Aberfeldy; and at Birnam. There have been flood studies on the benefits and costs of flood defences at Aberfeldy and Birnam, which were separate from the two individual studies, and there was a study on the benefits and costs of flood defences at Almondbank.

Those studies were all carried out between 1994 and 1996 and they related only to the rural part of Perthshire. The list does not include the detailed work on the Perth flood prevention scheme, about which the Minister knows a fair amount. The floods in Perth in 1993 were most spectacular in the city, but the rural areas were also flooded, and it is those areas that I should like to speak about. People live in fear of further floods. All the coverage and publicity is of the most spectacular images, and they are to be found in the built-up urban areas. However, sometimes the rural areas suffer just as much, but do not get the same coverage.

I was in Comrie on Wednesday night, when parts of it were flooded. Roads were closed and I was wearing wellington boots as I looked at homes that had been flooded. That was a small flood and was unlikely to attract the cameras, but it was important for those who were affected. I spoke to people in Bridge of Earn on Saturday. During the week, they had anxiously watched the river rising because they had been badly flooded early in the big flood, and they were worried because it looked as if they would be flooded again, especially when they heard the news from Comrie.

On Saturday, people in Comrie had words of praise for Perth and Kinross council's response, and they said that many changes had been made since the flood. During the week, they certainly did not have any criticism of the response to the imminent threat. However, they want more than a response—they want prevention. When rain has fallen for more than an hour, they do not want to have constantly to look out of their windows and worry whether it will be another occasion on which they are flooded. The people of Comrie were flooded very badly. I saw a home video that had been made in the previous bad flood. They have a very anxious time when rain falls heavily and the rivers rise. They worry that there will be another such flood, and they cannot understand why prevention work has not been done.

Perth and Kinross council—in both its previous and its current incarnation—has not shirked its duty on reports. When speaking to new clause 1, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Chisholm) mentioned that one or two hon. Members might like to talk about the issue of finances. I am one of those hon. Members. The council in my area has not shirked its duty on reports, even when that duty had not been imposed on it by legislation.

Mr. Kynoch

The simple answer to the hon. Lady's question on why the measures have not started is that there are still two objections. I am very surprised that she is not aware of that. My hon. Friend the Member for North Tayside (Mr. Walker), who is ardently in support of speedy action in such matters, is certainly well aware of the objections. This afternoon, he spoke to both my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and myself on that very subject.

Ms Cunningham

I appreciate that comments are being made. Unfortunately, however, when one speaks to constituents, they simply do not understand why the work cannot be done. The delay cannot go on indefinitely. We are not short of reports showing the work that needs to be done; we are short of the financial resources that are required to do the work.

Mr. Bill Walker


Ms Cunningham

The Minister knows that Perth and Kinross council has been able to place the Perth flood prevention scheme under the challenge fund. The sums required for the scheme are so great that it cannot be funded by the capital allocation. As he knows, rural schemes do not come under it. In this debate, I am talking specifically about rural schemes—about such areas as Bridge of Earn, Comrie and others. About £1 million-worth of work is required. Under current legislation, it is possible to obtain grants from central Government to finance such work, and the grants would be about 50 per cent. of eligible scheme costs. However, in the years indicated, councils would be required to fund the remaining costs from the block capital allocation, which would require section 94 borrowing consent.

One of the difficulties is that we cannot allow the Perth scheme to proceed unless the rural works are done first. If the scheme proceeds without completion of the rural works, the effect on places such as Bridge of Earn will be even worse. Will the Minister reassure the council and my constituents that borrowing consent will be forthcoming for those rural works?

Mr. Kynoch

I thank the hon. Lady for giving way once again. Very briefly, no scheme has yet been submitted for the rural areas. Until such a scheme is submitted, my officials in the Scottish Office clearly cannot consider it. She should know that I have been full of praise for Perth and Kinross council and its predecessor, for the work that they have done so far in developing schemes. I am disappointed that she seems to take the attitude that she does towards measures that are intended to try to help both her constituents and those of my hon. Friend the Member for North Tayside. He at least realises that such things must be done properly, and that there is no half-measure.

7.12 pm
Mr. Bill Walker

I shall be very brief. I should first like to thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Minister for meeting me earlier today. That meeting was a follow-up to others that we have had on the same matter. I should tell the hon. Member for Perth and Kinross (Ms Cunningham) that the Secretary of State was very sympathetic to the case that I made. I only wish that some of the councillors were not quite so keen to jump into the public debate on the matter, because I believe that the work record that we have achieved together is worth noting. I should also like to say again that all those involved have the highest respect for Harry Robertson and his team.

As the hon. Member for Perth and Kinross should have known and probably does know, the scheme for rural Perthshire is incomplete. That is what I am concerned about. The damage sustained in the upper reaches of the River Tay when it breaks its banks is horrendous. I have been discussing that aspect, the challenge fund requirements and other matters. All I can tell the hon. Lady is that, like her, I want things to happen. Unlike her, however, I think that I have been attacking the matter in a structured and organised way. I believe that the results that I have achieved in the past could well be repeated.

7.14 pm
Dr. Godman

I shall speak for even less time than the hon. Member for North Tayside (Mr. Walker), and I shall stay away from the situation in Perthshire—that beautiful county where my wife and I have spent so many happy holidays, particularly in Kenmore, where the fishing is good. If the Bill improves matters for our constituents who suffer flooding to any extent, obviously it must be welcomed by both sides of the House.

In response to a comment made earlier in the debate by the hon. Member for North Tayside, I should like to say that I am utterly confident that, with this legislation, Councillor Harry Mulholland, leader of Inverclyde council, his fellow councillors and officials will act expeditiously in dealing with such problems. I was pleased that the Minister, when I asked him about guidelines, promised a circular. Matters will be improved for our constituents if such advice is forthcoming to Inverclyde and other councils—heaven knows, they deserve no less. There is nothing worse than a flooded house, with treasured possessions ruined. My local council—Harry Mulholland and his team, officials and elected representatives—will be able to use the legislation to improve matters for people in the communities across Inverclyde.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.

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