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Flood Defences

Volume 512: debated on Thursday 24 June 2010

DEFRA’s estimate of its expenditure in 2010 to 2011 on flood and coastal erosion risk management is currently £664 million. This does not include local authority expenditure, estimated at £87 million, which is funded by Government through the formula grant.

In welcoming the new ministerial team to the Front Bench, may I point out that on 23 March last year the right hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), the then shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said that it was

“essential that the Government takes a strong lead and implements the key recommendations from the Pitt review”

on flood defences? This was at a time when Labour was committed to protecting flood defence expenditure, which is very important in the north-east—in Morpeth and Carlisle—in view of the recent floods. Will cuts to her Department mean that key recommendations from the Pitt review will not now be implemented?

I can give the hon. Gentleman an absolute assurance, because the coalition agreement states our commitment to taking forward the findings of the Pitt review on the 2007 floods. We are considering how best to put this into effect, against the difficult spending background, and as he will have heard earlier from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, this year, because the Environment Agency was ahead of the game with the amount of flood defences it had provided, there is no question of this important front-line service being compromised. In the spending review we will of course give priority to flood defences.

The Secretary of State will be aware of the importance of the investment in sea defences in my constituency at Dymchurch, the Romney Marsh coast and Dungeness. May I ask that she continues to give consideration to the importance of that work when reviewing the budget in the future?

My hon. Friend will not know this, but Dymchurch and Hythe have a special place in my heart because as a small girl I used to enjoy my summer holidays taking the light railway to such places. So I perfectly understand the importance of defending that part of the Kent coast with effective coastal defences.