HL Deb 11 November 1999 vol 606 cc253-4WA
Viscount Hanworth

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress the Environment Agency has made in implementing its action plan in response to the independent report on the Easter 1998 floods. [HL4690]

Baroness Hayman

The Chairman of the Environment Agency has provided a report of progress up to the end of September 1999. Copies are being placed in the House Libraries.

We are pleased to note that the agency remains on course for completing the substantial work programme set out in the action plan to the agreed timetable.

Key developments since the agency's last report, which covered the period to end of June 1999, are as follows:

Indicative flood plain maps for all watercourses with a catchment greater than 10 square kilometres in England and Wales have been delivered to over 450 local authorities.

Pilot work on flood warning awareness has been analysed and brought together to form the basis of the 1999 public awareness campaign which commenced on 18 October and to which my honourable friend, the Parliamentary Secretary (Mr Morley) was pleased to lend his support. The first phase of the campaign focused on raising awareness of flood risk and self help measures to reduce flood damage. Future elements will repeat and reinforce these basic messages and introduce new and additional information to improve public understanding.

The head of the agency's National Flood Warning Centre has been recruited and the programme is in place for the centre to be operational by the end of the year.

The results of a review of the agency's internal management have been translated into a project plan which will see the core flood defence roles and responsibilities harmonised across the agency by the end of December 1999, with full implementation by April 2000.

Work continues in other important areas such as the project to implement the operational changes to the colour coded flood warning messages by September 2000.

The agency continues to work with local authorities in inspecting and recording the condition of all flood defences. Details of defences owned and/or operated by the agency and local authorities are being collated. However, one area of uncertainty is the inspection of flood defences owned and/or operated by third parties. The question of how to identify such defences, and the scale of the inspection exercise that will be required, is currently being considered by the agency in partnership with other operating authorities.

The agency continues to make good progress in implementing the Easter floods report and we will ensure that the House is updated on future progress.