HC Deb 03 June 1954 vol 528 cc104-5W
64. Commander Maitland

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when it is proposed to publish the Report of the Waverley Committee on Coastal Flooding.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

The Report of the Departmental Committee on Coastal Flooding is being published today and copies are available in the Vote Office. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing the thanks of Her Majesty's Government to the right hon. Viscount Waverley and the other members of his Committee for their valuable report. I am circulating below a statement about the Committee's recommendations.

The Report endorses the present administrative arrangements for the distribution of responsibilities for sea defences between river boards and coast protection authorities and between the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Minister of Housing and Local Government. The Committee make certain recommendations aimed at clarifying the responsibilities of each type of authority. The attention of the authorities concerned is being drawn to these recommendations.

The Committee recommend that the maximum standard of protection to be afforded by public authorities against flooding should be that sufficient to withstand the floods of January, 1953, and that this should be provided where flooding will affect a large area of valuable agricultural land or would lead to serious damage to property of high value such as important industrial premises or compact residential areas. Elsewhere, the defences should be at a standard which would reasonably have been thought adequate before the floods of January, 1953. This recommendation is in complete accord with the policy which has been adopted since January, 1953 and the Government accept it.

The Committee endorse the present basis of Government assistance whereby some part of the cost of sea defence improvements falls locally. They recommend that the maximum precept which river boards may levy on local authorities without the consent of their local authority members should be raised from 4d. to 6d. in the £ and that Exchequer grants should be made towards expenditure on the maintenance of sea defences. These recommendations will be considered by the Government after consultation with the interests concerned.

The Committee refer specially to the problem of London and they recommend that a co-ordinating authority representing the various authorities along the tidal Thames should be set up. Consultations on this recommendation will take place with the authorities concerned. The Committee also suggest that, as an alternative to raising the banks, the possibility and cost of erecting a structure across the Thames which could be closed in a surge should be urgently investigated. The interested authorities have already been invited to co-operate in this investigation.

Hon. Members will know that as a result of the interim report of the Waverley Committee a flood warning system was instituted along the East Coast last winter. The Committee now recommend that research should be undertaken to increase its reliability: they also recommend research into various other matters affecting coast defence. Action is being taken to set up two Advisory Committees to co-ordinate these researches.

The Committee's proposals relate in the main to England and Wales. The scale and nature of the problem in Scotland are different. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is, however, joining in the appointment of the advisory committee on research to improve sea defences and is examining such of the other recommendations as apply to Scotland.

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