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Pitt Review

Volume 515: debated on Thursday 9 September 2010

1. What recent progress has been made on implementation of the recommendations of the Pitt review. (14172)

I am sure that the whole House would want me to record our condolences to the Prime Minister and to let him know that we are thinking of him at this time.

Good progress has been made since the publication of the Pitt review. We have started to implement the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 and published the national flood emergency framework, and we continue to work with local authorities to develop capacity.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. She will be aware of the consistently excellent work of firefighters in dealing with floods—indeed, I am sure she has praised it. The Pitt report was clear that to deal with the problems of training, equipment and resources, there would be a statutory responsibility. In fact, the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and many Labour Members supported such a measure under the previous Administration. Will she give an assurance that during this Session of Parliament—in the next four or five years—that statutory requirement will be introduced, because it is crucial?

I can tell the hon. Lady that we have of course read very carefully all the Pitt review recommendations, including that one. I should like to acknowledge the very important role that fire and rescue service authorities play in the face of any flooding incident. In fact, those authorities have not told us of a single case of their being constrained in their response by a lack of powers. The question of the need for a statutory responsibility will be tested in an exercise next year. The option of a statutory duty has certainly not been ruled out.

Sir Michael Pitt himself, however, admitted that his advice with regard to building in flood-risk areas was compromised by the fact that the previous Government had a very high national house building target. Now that that target, and indeed regional targets, has been removed, is it not time to revisit the planning guidance on building in flood risk areas, so that constituencies such as mine will be better protected in future than they were in the past?

The Department for Communities and Local Government has started a review of the building regulations regime, and my Department will work with it to consider how that review can support Pitt recommendation 11, being mindful of the Government’s aim to reduce the overall regulatory burden.

In view of the fact that the Pitt report identifies the problem of responsibility, both if a flood happens and before that in the planning process, and that the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 addresses that, will the Secretary of State tell us what progress is being made on the implementation of the legislation in terms of the designated authorities for flooding, and what talks has she had with the Welsh Assembly Government on how that will affect cross-border areas?

We have been making very good progress on that aspect of the Pitt review and will be talking to the Welsh Assembly Government in the next couple of months specifically on the Welsh dimension of the question. I am sure the hon. Lady will agree that it is important to raise capacity at the local authority level in response to flooding. That was a further Pitt recommendation. All those matters will be discussed with the relevant bodies in order to improve our resilience in the face of the threat of flooding.