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Somerset Levels

Volume 227: debated on Monday 28 June 1993

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To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will make a statement on the current and future organisation and responsibility for flood prevention on the Somerset Levels.

I am sending a copy of this letter, together with a copy of the table to the House of Commons Library and the Public Information Office.

Under the Water Resources Act 1991, the National Rivers Authority exercises a general supervision over all matters relating to flood defence in England and Wales and is empowered to carry out works on designated main rivers. It discharges its flood defence functions through regional and, in some areas, local flood defence committees. In the case of the Somerset Levels, the relevant committees are the Wessex Regional Flood Defence Committee and the Somerset Local Flood Defence Committee.Under the Land Drainage Act 1991 internal drainage boards are empowered to carry out flood defence works in designated districts of special drainage need, while local authorities are empowered to carry out works outside these districts on watercourses which are not designated main rivers. There are 20 internal drainage districts in Somerset.The Government have announced that the NRA's functions, including flood defence, are to form part of the proposed environment agency. The Government have no plans for other changes to flood defence responsibilities at the present itme. Under current legislation it is open to the NRA to make proposals to Ministers affecting the structure of regional and local flood defence committees and internal drainage districts but at present there are no such NRA proposals affecting the Somerset Levels.