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Flood Defence

Volume 450: debated on Thursday 26 October 2006

10. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on funding for flood defence works. (97065)

The Government recognise the importance of funding flood defences, as I have made clear to the hon. Gentleman in letters and at a meeting with him in July. We have ensured and put in place big increases in flood defence and flood management funding since 1997, and future funding will be considered in the context of next year’s comprehensive spending review.

I thank the Minister for that meeting and for receiving the thousands of petition signatures from Lewes Flood Action and the National Flood Forum, which expressed concern about funding for flood defence works, but does he not realise that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is being squeezed and that, because of the farm payment fiasco, the money for flood defence work is actually being reduced? How can the Government be consistent with their policy to tackle climate change when money for one of the major adaptation measures is being cut, and what has he got to say to my Lewes constituents, who were promised a comprehensive scheme in 2000 and are still waiting for it?

The reality is that this year, compared with 1997, spending on flood defences and coastal erosion is more than a third higher than inflation. Let me be clear: there are no cuts in DEFRA’s spending limits or in the Environment Agency’s capital investment programme for flood risk management. DEFRA Ministers are managing the year-to-year pressures resulting from problems in the Rural Payments Agency and the costs associated with bird flu. It is right that we expect them to do so, although I recognise that that is not the traditional Liberal way, which is to throw money at, and make fresh spending commitments in respect of, any problem and any pressure.