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House of Commons Hansard
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17 March 2016
Volume 607
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3. What recent progress she has made on the national flood resilience review and updating her Department's flood defence plans. [904153]

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We are making good progress on the national flood resilience review. The call for evidence closed on 4 March. Yesterday, at the Budget, the Chancellor announced that, as well as the £2.3 billion already committed, an additional £700 million will be made available for flood defences.

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Has the Secretary of State any qualms about the fact that under the Help to Buy scheme her Government are subsiding first-time buyers to purchase homes in flood risk areas? At the same time, those people are not included in the Flood Re scheme the Government set up to provide flood insurance.

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The reason the Flood Re scheme applies only to homes built before 2009 is that we are very clear that after that period there should be no building in these flood zones. That is a clear part of the national planning policy framework, and it should be adhered to by local authorities.

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May I thank the Secretary of State; the floods Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart); the floods envoy, my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill); the Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government; the Prime Minister and indeed the Chancellor for all their hard work to ensure that Calderdale got the much needed flood defence money in yesterday’s Budget? Now that funding is not being inhibited for flood defences, will she assure the good people of Calder Valley that the Environment Agency and other agencies will be held to account over timescales to physically get spades in the ground?

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I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work he has put in to make the case for Calderdale to receive this funding. I saw for myself the devastation that had been caused by the extreme weather over the Christmas period. We are investing an additional £35 million. At the end of May, there will be a report on the Mytholmroyd defences. Then, in October, we will produce a full plan for Calder Valley outlining the timescales and exactly which schemes are part of this.

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The Government finally gave in to pressure from Labour Members and will apply to the EU solidarity fund. As the Secretary of State said, yesterday the Government announced additional funding that goes some way towards compensating for huge cuts in flood defence spending in previous years. However, will any of this money be used to replace the 50% cut in DEFRA’s funding of crucial research on flood forecasts, warnings and defences, demonstrating that the Secretary of State understands the importance of up-to-date evidence in developing our flood defence plans?

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Let us be absolutely clear about flood defence spending. Between 2005 and 2010, £1.5 billion was invested. In the previous Parliament the figure was £1.7 billion. In this six-year programme it is £2.3 billion, and we are adding an extra £700 million because of the extreme weather we are seeing. Under the previous Labour Government, nothing like that amount was invested in our flood defences.

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While considering future plans, will my right hon. Friend consider the aftermath of last December’s floods? Farmers in Ramsbottom in my constituency are being denied access to the farming recovery fund because people do not accept that Ramsbottom is in Lancashire, which it clearly is. When it rains and there is flooding, it does not stop at an artificial border, so will she ask the Rural Payments Agency to look at this and apply some common sense?

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I very much believe in common sense, and I am happy to look at the case for my hon. Friend’s farmers. I am pleased to say that we have already allocated £1 million from the farm recovery fund to help them to get their farms back in order.