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Flood Defences

Volume 589: debated on Thursday 11 December 2014

8. How many flood defence schemes will be built as part of the Government’s six-year flood defence programme. (906578)

11. How many flood defence schemes will be built as part of the Government's six-year flood defence programme. (906583)

With permission, I will answer questions 8 and 11 together.

We will be investing £2.3 billion in more than 1,400 defence schemes over the next six years, protecting at least 300,000 homes and reducing overall flood risk by 5% by 2021.

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the proposals within the Humber flood risk management strategy for protecting 110,000 dwellings and 20,000 businesses. The £80 million announced in the autumn statement last week was extremely welcome, but when will decisions be taken on how to spend the £80 million, and will there be an early decision on future proposals?

I congratulate my hon. Friend and colleagues on their work to put forward such an ambitious proposal. The Environment Agency is considering the proposal in detail, and we will publish a review in July 2015. We were delighted last week to announce £80 million of funding to improve protection for more than 50,000 households around the Humber estuary.

I call Daniel Kawczynski. Oh dear, the fellow’s not here. Never mind. I call a Member who is always here: Mr Neil Carmichael.

14. Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am grateful to the Environment Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for funding £750,000 of investment in protecting my constituency by improving and maintaining defences along the Severn estuary, notably at Lapper ditch at a cost of £500,000. What assurances can the Secretary of State give me and my constituents, however, that this kind of investment and attention to the problem will be continued over the next few years? (906586)

This is the first time a Government have ever laid out a six-year forward capital spend proposal. It is an increase in real terms on the figure this Parliament, which in turn was an increase in real terms from the previous Parliament. We are also committing an additional £35 million for maintenance this year and next, which the Environment Agency has said will do the job of maintaining our defences.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that of the 1,400 schemes she has talked about, 1,119 are only partly funded and rely on 80% unsecured partnership funding and a 10% efficiency saving that nobody has yet identified? In fact, only 97 of those 1,400 schemes are both new and fully funded. She says that 300,000 households will have reduced flood risk, but this figure is the result of homes going from the category of “low risk” to that of “very low risk”, while the number of homes at “significant” and “high” risk of flooding will go up by 80,000 in the next six years. Will she also confirm that in order to get these figures to add up for the Treasury, she has had to value human life at zero?

Listening to the hon. Gentleman, I always feel that I am on the receiving end of a learned academic treatise, but a question would on the whole be preferred.

In this Parliament, we have already raised £140 million in partnership funding, which is 10 times the amount raised by the previous Government. This means that we are able to go ahead with more flood schemes and protect more homes than they were able to do. As I have made clear, the Environment Agency carried out a detailed assessment showing that overall flood risk will be reduced by 5% as a result of this funding. In the autumn statement, the Chancellor outlined his plans to give tax relief on private contributions to flood defence schemes, thereby making it likely that even more private sector companies will want to invest in flood defences. We are making it happen.