§ Mr. Pickles
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what programme of maintenance of waterways exists in the parliamentary constituency of Brentwood and Ongar. 
§ Mr. Morley
The flood defence operating authorities—the Environment Agency, local authorities and, where they exist, internal drainage hoards—have permissive powers to undertake flood defence works on watercourses. However, the primary responsibility for maintenance rests with the relevant riparian owners.
Under High Level Targets that the Government established in 1999 the operating authorities are preparing programmes for inspecting and, where appropriate, maintaining flood defences, main rivers and critical ordinary watercourses. We also require the authorities to produce publicly available policy statements, from 1 April 2001, which set out their approach to flood defence.
The Environment Agency has a programme of regular inspection and maintenance of designated main rivers in the constituency of Brentwood and Ongar. This varies according to the nature of the watercourse but generally includes trimming of banks, overhanging vegetation and aquatic weeds, debris clearance and tree work as necessary. More details are available from the local office of the Agency.
The Agency is working with local authorities in determining an appropriate regime of inspection and maintenance of ordinary watercourses in the area.