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Flooding (Insurance)

Volume 541: debated on Thursday 1 March 2012

8. What recent discussions she has had with representatives of the insurance industry on the Government’s policy on maintaining coastal and inland flood defences. (97381)

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has had regular meetings with representatives of the insurance industry, and they include discussions about the future of flood insurance beyond June 2013. This is against the background of our continuing investment in flood and coastal defence.

Does the Minister agree that there needs to be a more accurate assessment of flood risk? The residents of Romney Marsh in my constituency are living in a drought area and have seen £60 million spent on a new sea wall, yet they have been told that they might not get insurance cover after 2013.

I understand the frustration felt by my hon. Friend’s residents. The Environment Agency makes the latest flood risk information available to insurance companies, on licence, on a quarterly basis. The approaches of insurance companies vary considerably, however. Some have sophisticated risk models that reflect that information, while some upload it only on an annual basis and others continue to make assessments on a postcode basis. That is why we are working closely with the insurance industry to ensure that information is shared. The Environment Agency can write a letter to my hon. Friend’s constituents, which they can then use to show their insurance company that they are no longer have the degree of flood risk that they had before.

Happy St David’s day, Mr Speaker.

In January this year, the Association of British Insurers released information to the national media stating that my constituency had the second highest number of homes in high flood risk areas in the whole country. The number that it quoted was 7,339, but the actual number is 500. The ABI was using old statistics. What can be done to minimise the time lapse between improvement works being carried out and householders’ bills being reduced?

I entirely understand the frustration that the hon. Gentleman’s constituents must feel. I am concentrating my efforts to secure an agreement that will lead beyond June 2013, when the statement of principles comes to an end. I also want to ensure that the information that is available is being used by insurance companies. Brokers are often the first point of contact, and we need to ensure that the information is shared with them as well. There are no state secrets involved in this; the Environment Agency has the information, and it makes it available on a quarterly basis, so it should be possible for the insurance companies to use it when calculating their premiums.