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Flood Response

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:16 pm on 10th February 2020.

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Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 4:16 pm, 10th February 2020

Where those on the two Front Benches completely agree is on the urgent need to tackle the climate crisis, because inevitably our changing climate leads to more extreme weather. This Government have the most ambitious programme in the world to decarbonise our economy. We are decarbonising faster than any other G7 economy, and we were the first major developed economy to make the legal commitment to net zero. I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman that habitat restoration, nature-based solutions, peatland restoration and tree planting are all a crucial part of our programme to tackle climate change, but they can also play a critical role in mitigating the impact of flooding. We are determined to deliver on those programmes, which is demonstrated by the revolutionary Environment Bill we have put forward.

I agree that the planning system must take into account flood risk, and there are important principles in the planning system to ensure that it does so. In relation to council funding, I reiterate that the Bellwin scheme was opened this morning by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and I encourage local authorities to submit their applications as soon as possible.

With regard to Environment Agency funding, we are absolutely committed to investing in ensuring that our flood defences are as strong as they can be and that we become more resilient to flooding. That is why our manifesto commits a further £4 billion over five years. We do have a comprehensive plan for flooding, and those investments will be made over the coming years.

The shadow Secretary of State is concerned about match funding, but one of the successes of the funding programme is that we have managed to draw in sources of funding for other areas, to maximise the impact we can have on flood defences. He makes a valid point in relation to environmental land management. We certainly would want to involve a range of locations in our tests and trials, and I very much hope that some of the areas affected by flooding today can be part of that.

Finally, Flood Re has significantly improved access to insurance, and it has kept the costs much lower than they would otherwise be. Virtually 100% of people now have the option of quotes from at least two companies when choosing insurance, but we recognise that there was concern in South Yorkshire after the November flooding incident, so we are reviewing the scheme independently to ensure that it is working as effectively as possible to help people insure in these circumstances.