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Flood Control

Volume 493: debated on Tuesday 2 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many and what proportion of (a) high risk and (b) other flood defence systems have been at target condition in each of the last five years. (277396)

The Environment Agency began measuring the condition of flood risk management systems in 2007.At that time 45.0 per cent. (643 out of 1,429) of high consequence systems and 45.8 per cent. of all systems were at or above their required condition.

In 2008, 66.5 per cent. (958 out of 1,440) of high consequence systems and 72.5 per cent. (2,259 out of 3,117) of all systems were at or above the required condition.

As of April 2009 71.9 per cent. (951 out of 1,323) of high consequence systems and 73.5 per cent. (2,136 out of 2,907) of all systems were at or above required condition.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will place in the Library a copy of the letter sent to local authorities in December 2008 on flood risk and the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Pitt report on flooding. (277400)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of local authorities which have (a) collated and (b) mapped their main flood risk management and drainage assets. (277442)

In October 2008 the Local Government Association undertook a survey for DEFRA to assess what local flood risk management activities were being undertaken by local authorities. The survey included a question on whether they had collected and mapped information on flood risk management assets owned by themselves, by water companies and those privately owned. 66 per cent. of authorities responded to the survey and indicated that:

85 per cent. had collated and mapped some or all of their own assets;

41 per cent. had collated and mapped some or all water company assets and;

48 per cent. had collated and mapped some or all privately owned assets.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will publish (a) the national register of flood rescue assets and (b) a list of assets which must be purchased before the winter of 2009-10. (277445)

In April 2009 we initiated a national Flood Rescue Enhancement Project involving all the key organisations in the UK associated with search and rescue, and flood rescue in particular. The project has prepared a draft national register of flood rescue assets. Work is in hand to validate the information held on the register to ensure it is kept up-to-date—we envisage that it will be a ‘live’ dataset to track the availability of flood rescue assets (and trained rescue personnel) across a range of organisations operating in the UK. As it will be a dataset of assets owned by a multitude of organisations, publication of a snapshot of the register, once completed, would be a matter for collective agreement by all of the organisations involved.

The review of existing assets and the ongoing work during the summer to determine flood rescue capability requirements will provide a much clearer indication of any gaps in existing capability. We will then be in a position to target investment in order to bring existing assets (and trained rescue personnel) that are not yet declared on the national register up to an agreed operational standard.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which emergency response organisations have enhanced their training and flood rescue capability following the floods in summer 2007. (277446)

Following the floods in 2007, organisations which have enhanced their training and flood rescue capability include the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, numerous fire and rescue services throughout England and Wales, mountain rescue services, and the Maritime Coastguard Agency. Other enhancements have also been made by organisations such as the Automobile Association, the Red Cross, the RSPCA and numerous small specialist flood rescue associations and groups such as Global Rescue Services.

Some of these organisations have trained together and begun to use commonly recognised accreditation standards such as “Swift Water Rescue Technician”. Some have made investments in both the training and purchasing of equipment and assets to enhance their flood rescue capability over the past 18 months.

The Flood Rescue National Enhancement Project will bring a lot of these components together to deliver the primary aim of improving flood rescue capability and co-ordination between the agencies concerned.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress has been made in increasing flood resilience at sites of critical infrastructure. (277657)

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 with the industry regulator in the scope of the current distribution companies' price review.

In addition, lessons from the 2007 floods are being taken forward 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.

The Natural Hazards Team is now in place in the Cabinet Office and will work across all infrastructure sectors to prioritise and co-ordinate work to counter the risks to national infrastructure from natural hazards.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress his Department has made in the establishment of a natural hazard team. (277709)

The Natural Hazards Team was established in the Civil Contingencies Secretariat in the Cabinet Office at the beginning of May.