Water Bill set to go before public bill committee next week for further scrutiny

MPs have demanded greater clarity on the Flood Re proposals during a House of Commons debate yesterday.

Ministers have been invited to give evidence on the 2013 Water Bill when it goes before the public bill committee for further scrutiny on 3 December.

The government has said it plans to exclude SMEs from the Flood Re proposals that are to be included in the Water Bill because there is insufficient evidence to warrant their inclusion.

During the debate yesterday Conservative MP and chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee Anne McInTosh said greater clarity was needed before the bill went before the committee.

McInTosh said: “We are in support of Flood Re, but there are a lot of unknowns, and I do not believe we know any more about the known unknowns than we did before this debate started.

“For example, under Flood Re, why have we chosen household bands as the basis for insurance levy scales? If there is a database, where is it? What is the definition of uninsurable properties? Are small businesses excluded? If they are to be excluded, why are they excluded?”

Stoke-on-Trent North Labour MP Joan Walley added: “There are parts of the Bill I do welcome, not least the one dealing with flooding and insurance, but like many of the members who intervened earlier, I feel that the flooding issue must be dealt with urgently and in detail.”

Biba executive director Graeme Trudgill is also expected to give evidence at the hearing as the trade body has vowed to continue lobbying for SMEs to be included in the flood proposals.

After the committee has taken oral evidence, it will go through the bill, debating each clause. Any amendments proposed to the text during the committee stage will be reported back to the House of Commons before the third reading takes place next year.

Shadow secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs MP Maria Eagle said: “We support the measures in flood reinsurance – however belated they may be.

“It was disappointing that the government were adding clauses to the bill at such a late stage, but they are welcome and we will scrutinise them carefully in committee.”

In response, Defra secretary of state Owen Paterson said the government plans to put forward the new clauses in time for consideration with the committee.

He added: “We are still in intensive and constructive discussion with the insurance industry on some of the finer points of detail.”