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Flood Control

Volume 492: debated on Friday 8 May 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what level of priority his Department gives to the completion of his Department's programme of work on the protection of critical infrastructure from flooding in relation to work on the implementation of the other recommendations of the Pitt Report. (273132)

In undertaking to act on every one of his recommendations, the Government endorsed the importance given to this area of work by Sir Michael Pitt. While the Government will give a fuller progress report in June on all that we have done since we published our action plan on 17 December 2008, I have provided some examples of what has been done to protect critical infrastructure from flooding.

The energy sector began work on improving resilience to flooding in the autumn of 2007, with an initial focus on electricity substations being extended to include both gas and oil installations. The Energy Networks Association, working with the Government and the electricity industry, has produced a report on the steps that can be taken to further safeguard electricity substations. The matter is being given full consideration at present with the industry regulator in the scope of the current distribution companies' price review.

In addition, work has been put in place to take forward lessons from the 2007 floods in relation to water companies. All companies have considered resilience in their draft business plans, which were submitted to Ofwat in August. The plans vary, as expected, reflecting the size of the company and the specific challenges presented by their locations. In total, almost £1 billion of investment has been proposed to increase resilience.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress the Environment Agency has made on establishing the system for opting-out of flood warnings recommended by the Pitt Report. (273134)

The Environment Agency systematically registers customers with its free flood warning service using publicly available information (names, addresses and telephone numbers). Customers are given the opportunity to opt out of this service. The Environment Agency pre-registered 55,605 new customers and only 521 customers chose to opt out of this service, giving an overall retention rate of 99 per cent.

For the Environment Agency to provide a full opt out flood warning service it needs access to ex-directory information. Since the publication of the Pitt Review, the Environment Agency has re-instated negotiations with the telecommunications companies holding ex-directory data. The Environment Agency is working hard to move to a fully opt out flood warning service by the end of 2009.