HC Deb 23 May 1985 vol 79 cc552-4W
Mr. Leigh

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what criteria he applied when allocating a grant earning ceiling to water authorities in 1985–86.

Mr. Jopling

In allocating grant-earning ceiling, that is, the total capital expenditure attracting grant aid to water authorities for sea defence, flood protection and arterial drainage purposes for the current year, I was faced with bids that in total exceeded the amounts available by over £16 million. I therefore decided that in allocating such expenditure I should establish a rough order of priorities that would seek to ensure that the money was allocated to cover the work that was most needed. The first factor that I took into account was the firm contractual commitments for 1985–86 that had already been entered into by authorities and where contractual penalties would be incurred if the work was not carried out. I then sought to allocate amounts with the following priorities very much in mind: flood warning schemes; urban sea defence; urban flood relief; rural sea defence and the preservation of existing rural drainage schemes; new rural drainage schemes.

In using this broad order of priorities I recognised that many schemes serve more that one objective. I am not seeking to lay down the programme of works for water authorities. The order of priorities does not mean that I consider that all requirements in a higher category need to be met before there is any expenditure in a lower category. I envisage that some authorities may quite rightly consider that to protect an existing agricultural scheme is more important than to alleviate a particular urban sea defence problem in view of the likelihood or the scale of potential damage. It must always be for the drainage authority committee with knowledge of the local problems to decide on those schemes that it wishes to undertake