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Flooding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:50 pm on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 3:50 pm, 4th March 2020

I want to point out that this is still a live flooding incident and the outlook is unsettled, although I am pleased to say that in some areas the journey to recovery is beginning.

As the Secretary of State pointed out, the Government have acted swiftly to support those affected. We have supported the authorities by activating the Bellwin scheme. I take the points made by my hon. Friend Bill Wiggin about the need for better training and perhaps better information to be disseminated about that scheme. The flood recovery network was activity on 18 February, and that triggered a series of grant payments for affected homes and businesses. The framework was devised from lessons learned from the 2016 floods, and this is only the second time that it has been triggered.

The shadow team called for another review, but yesterday we held a meeting where MPs could talk to the Environment Agency and feed in all their information, data and findings, yet only one Labour Member turned up—all the rest there were Conservative Members, feeding in and reviewing constantly, as is happening all the time with the flood recovery framework. That is what it is there for; people are constantly feeding in from local authorities, from places on the ground, and from flood forums, as are MPs and all the rest.

I wish to touch quickly on insurance, because many Members have raised that issue. In 2016, the joint Government and industry initiative launched Flood Re to improve the availability and affordability of flood insurance for at-risk properties. Before that, only 9% of those households could get hold of flood insurance, whereas now 100% can get quotes from two or more insurers. However, we are looking further at insurance cover through an independent review; the Government are already undertaking a review, so there is no need to have another review into this. We announced that on 27 December and once the information has been gathered in, details will be announced in due course. I hope that that will assuage the concerns of Rachel Reeves and my hon. Friends the Members for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) and for Penrith and The Border (Dr Hudson), who all called for this. Obviously I wish to reiterate that the Government are absolutely committed to their £2.6 billion of spending on flood defences and £1 billion on maintenance, and we have a commitment to a further £4 billion.

I wish quickly to deal with individual cases. My hon. Friend Craig Whittaker mentioned that the schemes are taking too long. I will ask Sir James Bevan, from the Environment Agency, to give an update on the progress and what is happening there. I will of course look for the letter mentioned by Yasmin Qureshi, and I apologise, because we are normally pretty fast at responding to people.

On the call for help for Toronto Close in Worcester, the EA will continue to work with the community.

My hon. Friend Andrew Percy and Emma Hardy both mentioned the flood centre, which I am happy to meet to discuss.

My hon. Friend Mark Garnier was as ever an enormous champion for his area. The Secretary of State and the Minister responsible for farming are looking at the three-crop rule.

On the funding formula, I must reiterate to all colleagues that money is handed out with regard to the number of properties at risk and the number of people at risk. The value of properties has nothing to do with it, and deprived areas have a special focus.

We will look at what is happening on flood plains, because both the Secretary of State and I agree that planning needs to be looked at. The Government are absolutely committed on tackling flooding and will have a new strategy going forward. We will be holding a summit in Yorkshire and will let the House know the date of it in due course.

Question put (Standing Order No. 31(2)), That the original words stand part of the Question.