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Volume 548: debated on Monday 9 July 2012

Following my written ministerial statement to the House on 3 July 2012, Official Report, column 48WS concerning the flooding events in the midlands and north-east of England on 28 June, I would like to provide a further update on the significant flooding events that have taken place over this weekend on 6 to 8 July in England following further periods of extremely high rainfall.

I would also like to acknowledge the tragic events which have taken place in the Krasnodar region of Russia over the weekend and to express our sympathies for the communities and individuals involved.

During Friday and Saturday there was heavy and persistent rainfall across England and Wales, which on top of the already saturated ground has caused serious flooding in some areas and disruption to many more. There were widespread local impacts including to property, transport networks, sporting and cultural events, and agricultural land.

I can confirm that on the latest count a total of 391 properties were flooded across England from rivers and surface water flooding. One hundred and forty-seven properties flooded in the south-west; two-thirds of which were flooded due to rivers overflowing their banks and the rest from surface water. Eighty properties were flooded in the midlands and a further 86 in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and the north.

Nationally it is estimated that about 3,000 properties have been protected from flooding over this weekend as a result of flood defences in place. The Met Office and the Environment Agency have been providing flood and weather warnings and over 200 flood warnings and alerts were sent to communities at risk of flooding across the country, including three warnings of severe river flooding.

Following the wettest June since records began across England and Wales, the rainfall in July falling in East Devon was over 100 mm—three times the rain normally expected for the whole of July—and across the south Pennines over 60 mm of rain fell which is 75% of the rain expected for the whole month. These rainfall figures demonstrate how severe and unusual the conditions have been but despite this we are determined to carry on improving our resilience to deal with this type of weather in the future.

On Sunday I visited the town of Ottery St Mary in the south-west and saw for myself the damage and disruption to people’s lives that this flooding has caused. I would like to thank the local authorities and other agencies in the area for their efforts to protect lives and properties in Ottery and other affected communities and now to help them begin to clear up.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is activating the Bellwin scheme of emergency financial assistance to help local authorities with their immediate costs associated with protecting life and property in their areas. Exceptionally, the scheme will reimburse local authorities for 100% of their eligible costs above threshold. This is in recognition of the particular circumstances around these floods and will give the affected local authorities assurance that such costs will be reimbursed. Government officials will also be discussing the recovery arrangements with local authorities in the areas affected.

The Government recognise the importance which flood insurance plays in these circumstances and are working closely with the insurance industry to secure the future availability and affordability of flood insurance following the expiry of the statement of principles next year.

I am pleased to be able to report that the situation in the south-west and other parts of England worst hit by the floods continues to slowly improve. There are no longer any severe flood warnings in force. I would like once again to take the opportunity to praise the excellent response from our front-line emergency services, local authorities and the diligent work by Met Office and Environment Agency staff in the Flood Forecasting Centre. With the forecast indicating continuing unsettled weather, we will all need to remain alert to the risk of further flooding in the coming weeks.

It is my intention to hold a technical briefing for flood affected constituencies in the early part of next week to enable MPs to be made aware of the full range of tools at their disposal to help their constituents.