§ Mr. Stephen Twigg
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Dr. Palmer) of 31 March 1999,Official Report, column 744, on floods, what further progress the Environment Agency has made in implementing its Action Plan in response to the Independent report on the Easter 1998 floods. 
§ Mr. Morley
The Chairman of the Agency has provided me with a report of progress up to the end of June 1999. Copies are being placed in the House Libraries.
I am pleased to note that the Agency remains on course for completing the substantial work programme set out in the Action Plan. In line with the priorities that I set out last October, the Agency has received an independent report on its management structures and skills base and the recommendations will be implemented by next April. An elaboration of the Environment Agency's flood defence supervisory duty was published in May, along with interim high level targets for the Agency and other flood and coastal defence operating authorities. The Agency is now working with others to ensure that flood and coastal defences are identified and inspected; the results recorded and assessed; and appropriate action to remedy defects put in hand. Consultation on further development of high level targets and the supervisory duty is in hand.
The Agency has reported that indicative maps of floodplains have been produced ahead of the September target, and are currently being distributed to local authorities for use in both development control and emergency planning. These maps are being used to review the Agency's database of properties at risk of flooding. Further work has been done on flood warning, with an extension to the number of properties now able to receive direct Automatic Voice Messages through the telephone system. Flood warning messages have been reviewed and a new system to replace the present colour-coded warnings is planned from September 2000. The Agency is embarking on a significant programme of work, both internally and with partners such as local authorities and the emergency services, to ensure that the necessary preparations are made. I have agreed with the Agency that it is important to ensure that these arrangements are introduced successfully and are coupled with a campaign to increase public awareness.
The programme of improvements to the Agency's telemetry network is starting following MAFF agreement to grant aid work in England. The National Assembly for Wales is separately considering the telemetry programme in Wales.
The Agency continues to make good progress in implementing the Easter Floods Report and I will ensure that the House is updated on future progress.