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Flood Defences

Volume 594: debated on Thursday 12 March 2015

7. How many flood defence schemes are planned to be built under the Government's flood defence programme. (908025)

Our six-year flood defence programme, announced in December, includes more than 1,400 projects across the country. This £2.3 billion investment is a real-terms increase in capital spending and will mean that 300,000 homes are better protected.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that. She will be aware of local authorities’ proposals to strengthen defences around the Humber estuary, and the autumn statement allocated £80 million for initial expenditure. Will she update us on when her officials will have made a full assessment of the proposals and when she will be able to make an announcement?

I was delighted that in December we could announce £80 million for schemes on the Humber estuary, which will improve protection for more than 50,000 households. We are examining the ambitious proposals put forward by my hon. Friend, his colleagues and local authorities in the area, and we will publish the results in July.

12. I am grateful to the Secretary of State for publishing the flood protection investment figures as official statistics, for which I asked in the House more than a year ago. They show, as I claimed, that over the past three years the Government have cut the amount spent on flood protection by £350 million, compared with the amount they inherited. The really interesting thing is that although the figures show the amount rising this year to £469 million, they show it falling immediately after the election to £370 million. Is that because the Government believe flood risks will fall by 20% next year—or is it just pre-election cynicism? (908032)

Let us be clear: the amount we are spending in our six-year programme—£2.3 billion—is a real-terms increase on the capital expenditure this Parliament, which again is a real-terms increase from that in the previous Parliament. The result of that is we will end up reducing flood risk, including the impact of climate change, by 5%.

My right hon. Friend will be aware that it is not just the sea we need to protect against, but flooding from excessive rain. What action is she taking to encourage the Environment Agency to ensure that drainage ditches are regularly dredged?

First, we are putting additional funding into maintenance—an additional £35 million this year and next year for those types of activity. We are also running pilot projects so that local landowners and farmers can be involved in that work, as well as the Environment Agency. In addition, local environment agencies are spending more time now on issues such as dredging to make sure that that work happens.

The residents of Morpeth in my constituency are delighted with the actions of the Environment Agency and the near completion of the flood alleviation scheme, but they are really concerned about flood risk insurance. What stage are we at in the discussions and negotiations on Flood Re and other affordable insurance schemes?

We are on track for Flood Re to be established this summer—we are currently working on that. In the interim, we have the 2008 statement of principles, which will make sure that people in those areas do have flood insurance.