MPs debate flood risk management

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MPs took part in an estimates day debate on managing flood risk on 3 March 2014.

The debate was based on a report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee which said funding has not kept pace with an increased risk of flooding.

It concluded that the Treasury needs to be convinced that flood management capital funding must rise year-on-year by £20m over the next 25 years to keep pace with the increasing threat, and to better-protect homes and businesses.

Opening the debate in the Commons, Conservative MP Anne McIntosh, who chairs the committee, said: "How prescient that report in hindsight now appears."

She claimed the Environment Agency had not properly maintained buildings and river embankments at risk of flooding because of the direction of the last Labour government, which wanted to protect "birds nesting".

"I would argue that internal drainage boards work with nature and only do the dredging at the right time," the Thirsk and Malton MP went on to add.

Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas, said the government should commit to increasing spending on flood protection in line with recommendations by the EA, and the Energy and Climate Change Committee.

She suggested this could be funded by redirecting "just some of the billions of pounds of subsidies and tax breaks given to the fossil fuel industry".

Echoing earlier concerns expressed by Ms McIntosh, Barry Gardiner urged the government to stop confusing people by conflating new flood defence funding with its spending on repair, as he summed up the debate for Labour.

He said: "It is not sensible to increase the amount of new-build flood defences without a corresponding increase in the budget for major repairs.

"In the interests of transparency, the government really needs to disaggregate that element of its capital spend budget that is for new defences and that part which is for the major repairs and maintenance of assets."

Wrapping up, Floods Minister Dan Rogerson told MPs the government was spending £2.4bn on flood defences between 2010 and 2014, which he said compared to £2.2bn spent over the previous four-year period.

"Now this means we have investment plans to improve the protection to at least 465,000 households by the end of the decade," he continued.

The Lib Dem frontbencher added: "Looking further forward we've made an unprecedented long-term six-year commitment to record levels of capital investment in improving defences - £370m in 2015-16 and then the same in real terms each year, rising to more than £400m in 2020-21."

The vote on the estimates motion was deferred until 7pm on 4 March.

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