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Environmental Sustainability

Volume 517: debated on Thursday 4 November 2010

16. What discussions she has had with ministerial colleagues on progress by the Government towards its performance objectives on environmental sustainability. (21661)

This Government are committed to showing leadership on sustainability through our own decisions and policies. I am discussing ways to mainstream sustainable development across Government, specifically focusing on Cabinet-level working, policy making and the Government’s own operations and procurement with Cabinet colleagues. I have also spoken to the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee to discuss how Government can be held to account for our performance against our commitments.

In the Secretary of State’s role of leading mainstream sustainability across the Government, will she continue to meet the designated green Ministers from each Department to ensure that sustainability is the organising principle behind all that they do?

I give my hon. Friend that assurance. Sustainable development cannot be delivered by one Government Department alone. In fact, the Cabinet Office has a cross-cutting role and will report on pan-Government progress against the targets for the sustainable operations of the Government estate. The latest performance data will be published by the end of the year.

One key performance objective on environmental sustainability is protection from flooding. The Association of British Insurers has expressed disappointment at the Government’s cuts to flood defence spending, and the Institute of Civil Engineers estimates that the cuts could cost us £4.8 billion in future. How will those cuts affect the insurance premiums and excesses of those 5.5 million British properties that are currently at risk from flooding? Can she give a guarantee that the cuts will not lead to any properties becoming either uninsurable or unmortgageable?

I can assure the House that the Government are working very closely with the ABI on the question of insurance. Its statement of principles is up for renegotiation in 2013. My impression of the situation is different from the hon. Gentleman’s, because actually the ABI welcomed the fact that much of the capital for flood defences was protected, so the Government can spend £2.1 billion on flood defences within the spending review period. There will be an 8% reduction per annum, but a lot of that can be absorbed in efficiencies, as the Environment Agency demonstrated this year by building more than its target of flood defences notwithstanding a 5.5% reduction in its resources.