All 2 Debates between Lord Krebs and Earl Cathcart

Wed 13th Sep 2023
Tue 11th Feb 2014

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Debate between Lord Krebs and Earl Cathcart
Earl Cathcart Portrait Earl Cathcart (Con)
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My Lords, I have houses for rental on my farm in Norfolk and in London. Sadly, I have been caught up in the restrictions. In March 2022, I proposed to convert two redundant barns into houses, but my council wrote to me to say that Natural England was blocking all developments because of nutrient neutrality restrictions. Further, the council said that at the present time, there were no identified solutions available to resolve this impact, and that it might be a year before it is resolved. Here we are, 18 months later and Natural England is still blocking the developments without any solution for these restrictions.

Nutrient neutrality laws are certainly well intentional, but blocking new home building will have little material impact on improving the quality of water, as my noble friend Lord Moylan said. Our waterways and coastline are undeniably in a terrible condition, and the situation is not improving. If anything, it is getting worse with the inability of the water companies to treat water effectively. At the same time, we have an undeniable chronic housing affordability and supply disaster. We see the laws intended to protect against and treat pollution blocking thousands of desperately needed homes while the source of this pollution runs practically unchecked. The water companies can do what they like.

The wastewater from all my houses goes into my sewage treatment plant which is emptied regularly so that no mucky water can get down into the ditch and the rivers. In addition, we have a second reserve tank for any runoff, just in case. How many more months or years do we have to wait until we have a solution? Or is Natural England going to just say, “Sorry, you can’t build at all”? I support the government amendments.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, I had not intended to speak in this debate. However, on Monday evening I went along to the very helpful briefing session hosted by the Minister. I thank her for that session. Two points arose that particularly stuck with me and caused me to say something this evening.

The first relates to the Office for Environmental Protection, which we have heard about from numerous previous speakers. When the Minister was asked why the OEP thinks this proposal will reduce environmental protection, the reply came that the OEP had not considered the matter in the round. While it is true that building extra homes adds a certain amount of pollution to water, and we can debate what percentage, this proposal says that to offset that there are mitigation measures. That is indeed what the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said in her reply to Dame Glenys Stacey.

I thought it was odd that the OEP had not considered the matter in the round, so immediately after the meeting on Monday, I emailed Dame Glenys Stacey to ask her whether indeed the OEP had neglected to consider the mitigation side. As it happened, Dame Glenys was away, but Natalie Prosser, the chief executive replied immediately and said that it was not true. In fact she said that, in line with its correspondence, it has considered the matter in the round. So I ask the Minister to take this opportunity to correct what she said to us in the briefing meeting on Monday evening.

My second point—which has also been referred to by many previous speakers including the noble Lord, Lord Deben, in most eloquent terms—is about facts and evidence. I asked the Minister and her officials whether they could show us their workings that demonstrate that the increase in pollution from extra homes will be more than offset by the mitigation measures that are proposed in this amendment. No answer was forthcoming; instead, the Minister said that she believed these measures will enhance the protection of the environment. Belief has an important role in our society, particularly in places of worship, but I have never heard a conservation scientist, an ecologist or someone concerned with protecting the environment claim that by believing that we can make our waters cleaner or that by believing we can protect curlews and other endangered species. Without seeing the workings, without understanding anything about the evidence that underpins this proposal from the Government, I simply cannot see how anyone could vote for it.

Water Bill

Debate between Lord Krebs and Earl Cathcart
Tuesday 11th February 2014

(10 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, I support the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter. As will be apparent, the amendments that I will bring forward shortly are in the same vein. They reflect the points I made in a letter to the Secretary of State on 22 November 2013, in which I said:

“The Flood Re scheme offers the opportunity to strengthen incentives for the uptake of household flood protection measures but it is currently not designed to do this. The consequence is that Flood Re costs will be higher than they need to be, at the expense of householders funding the programme through the industry levy”.

I declare an interest as the chairman of the adaptation sub-committee of the Committee on Climate Change.

As this discussion has made clear, there is a real opportunity here and this is a helpful and supportive proposal. I will shortly describe my amendment, which would redesign Flood Re to help it, as has been said, to do two things: to provide cover for householders at risk and, at the same time, help to reduce those risks over the years ahead, so that when Flood Re comes to an end householders do not drop off a cliff after 25 years.

Earl Cathcart Portrait Earl Cathcart (Con)
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My Lords, I am very nervous about these amendments, probing as they are. Flood Re has one aim: to provide flood insurance for those people who cannot buy it at the moment. The first year or two will be very difficult until it has built up its reserves, provided that there are not too many claims in those early years. However, I am very nervous about the suggestion that Flood Re ought to spend money on flood-resilient activities. What happens in 10 years’ time if we have another horrendous year of rain—floods all over the place—and these households go to Flood Re and say, “I’ve now got a claim, will you pay it?”. What happens if Flood Re replies, “I’m so sorry, I have paid it all out on building a dam here and there”? I do not think it is the right answer to get Flood Re to pay money out other than for genuine flood claims.