HC Deb 26 June 1991 vol 193 cc510-1W
Mrs. Ray Michie

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what assistance is given by the Government for the provision of early flood warnings around the River Thames; what is the cost of providing warnings; what form such warnings take; and if he will make a statement;

(2) what statutory requirements are in operation to provide advance public warning of flooding around the United Kingdom coast; if he will list those places which have a standard advance public flood warning system in operation; what form these systems take; what funding is provided for this purpose; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Curry

Under section 32 of the Land Drainage Act 1976 (as amended by paragraphs 1 and 14 of schedule 15 to the Water Act 1989), the National Rivers Authority (NRA) is empowered to provide and operate flood warning systems in England and Wales.

Under section 92 of the 1976 Act (as amended by schedule 17 to the Local Government Act 1985 and by paragraph 1 of schedule 15 to the Water Act 1989) my right hon. Friend, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is empowered to make grants to the NRA towards the cost of flood warning systems. In the 1990–91 financial year these grant payments totalled about £55,000. The authority has made arrangements for flood forecasting and warning covering both river and coastal areas. Weather forecasts, weather radar, rainfall and tidal levels are monitored in order to detect possible flooding incidents. Information about possible surge tides from the storm tide warning service based at the meteorological office, Bracknell is also used in assessing the risk of coastal flooding.

This Department is responsible for funding the storm tide warning service, and in the 1990–91 financial year about £400,000 was spent on this service, which produces primary warnings based on estimates of surge tides at a series of specific reference ports. Detailed warnings for vulnerable points along the coast are given by the NRA drawing on expert knowledge of local conditions to interpret the information from the storm tide warning service.

The NRA issues flood warning notices to the police who are responsible for deciding when the public should be warned, and local contingency plans for flooding will, if necessary, be initiated. These plans which are worked out by the NRA in conjunction with the police, local authority emergency planning officers, port authorities and others, cover the form that warnings will take (eg sirens, announcements on local radio, etc.).

The River Thames area is covered by the arrangements outlined above. Surge forecasts are particularly useful in assessing when the Thames barrier should be closed to prevent possible flooding of London from the sea but the cost is not recorded separately by the Department.

Nor do we have any information on the overall costs of providing public flood warnings.

Separate arrangements apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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