Flood Defence Programme

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 4th February 2016.

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Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Conservative, North West Norfolk 9:30 am, 4th February 2016

How many schemes will begin construction under the Government’s six-year flood defence programme in 2016.

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

A total of 246 schemes will begin construction in 2016-17 as part of our first ever six-year programme of investment in flood defences. That £2.3 billion of investment represents a real-terms increase on the last Parliament, and will protect an additional 300,000 homes.

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Conservative, North West Norfolk

I congratulate the Minister on championing this cause. Does she agree that when it comes to investing in new flood defences and improving existing ones, getting the support of local authorities, drainage boards, and the private sector is incredibly important? Will she pay tribute to Mike McDonnell in my constituency, who has helped to set up a community interest company to invest in sea defences along the stretch of coast adjacent to Snettisham and Heacham in west Norfolk?

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. When internal drainage boards work with local businesses and local councils, we can get really good local solutions.

The community interest company is a particularly interesting model, which is being pioneered by him and his constituents in North West Norfolk. It could potentially be used elsewhere.

Photo of Louise Haigh Louise Haigh Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

Sheffield remains £20 million short of the investment it needs to protect our city. The Department is holding a teleconference with council leaders, but will the Secretary of State commit to visiting Sheffield to see the innovative flood defences we have planned that will protect the city from a potential £1 billion of economic damage?

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

As part of the national resilience review being led by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Sheffield is one of the core cities that will be looked at in particular to make sure it is sufficiently resilient to flooding. I am sure that as part of that review there will be a visit to Sheffield to ensure that that very important city has the protection it needs.

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Conservative, Thirsk and Malton

Flood Re insurance will help many householders in Thirsk and Malton affected by recent floods, but it does not cover small businesses or leasehold properties with more than three units. In one such development in my constituency at Topcliffe Mill, residents of a two-bedroom flat now face a premium of £4,000 a year and an excess of £40,000. Will Ministers agree to meet me and representatives from the insurance industry to consider how we can provide a solution to this problem?

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We are providing £6 million to help small businesses as a result of this winter’s floods. The issue my hon. Friend raises with regard to leaseholders is important. Ministers will be very willing to meet him to discuss it.

Photo of David Simpson David Simpson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

On the defence programmes and the victims of flooding, will the Secretary of State confirm whether her Department is making an application to the EU solidarity fund to draw down funds for victims and businesses?

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We have not ruled out an application to the EU solidarity fund. We have until the end of February to apply. We need to find out the total cost of the floods before a potential application is made. Our priority has been to make sure we get funding to affected homes and businesses as soon as possible. In fact, for the floods that took place on 26 December, funding was with local authorities on 29 December. Our priority has been making sure we make £200 million available to fix the damage and help communities to get back on their feet.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The devastating floods across the country are extremely well documented, as are the knock-on effects of the Government’s decision to postpone or cancel capital schemes—an estimated cost of £5 billion. Communities, families, individuals and businesses have suffered ruinous consequences. It is imperative that the Government do everything possible to maximise resources from all areas. The Secretary of State mentioned the EU solidarity fund. Time is running out, with only three or four weeks left for an application in relation to Cumbria. Will she just get on with the job and do it now, please?

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

This Government have invested more in flood defences than ever before: a real-terms increase on the previous Parliament, which was a real-terms increase on what was spent under Labour. The fact is that the Labour Government spent £1.5 billion and we are spending £2 billion in this Parliament. We have got money to affected communities as soon as possible—that is our priority.