HC Deb 20 May 2003 vol 405 cc694-5W
Mr. Paterson

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what provision there is to provide support to(a) home owners, (b) farmers and (c) businesses whose properties have been, or may in the future be, subject to flooding in the North Shropshire constituency. [113176]

Mr. Morley

The Government are committed to the effective management of flood and coastal erosion risk and have increased funding in all three spending reviews. Following autumn 2000 floods, i.e. between 2000–01 and 2005–06, total expenditure is expected to increase from £328.5 million to £564.2 million an increase of £236 million in cash terms. The Government plan to spend approximately £1.5 billion over the next three years.

The Environment Agency provide the public with timely warnings in order that they may be prepared in the event of a flood. In recent years flood warning has been improved, and there is now a flood watch area covering most of North Shropshire and four flood warning areas covering the River Severn from Shrawradine to Coalport.

The emergency response to flooding falls primarily to local authorities and emergency plans have been checked and amended and liaison arrangements between the Agency, local authorities and emergency services have been improved.

The Government do offer other support in instances of flooding: In cases of genuine hardship, help may be available from the social fund; details are available from Benefits Agency offices. Properties that are vacant while being repaired or refurbished after flooding are generally exempt from council tax, although the tax may be payable on any temporary accommodation. Local Authorities receive Civil Defence Grants to help fund, for instance, reception and rest centres for evacuated families. Local authorities would be required under homelessness legislation to provide long-term accommodation to flood victims. The Government have in the past made Ministry of Defence housing available. Defra may be able to achieve some flexibility in the rules of various farm schemes (e.g. adjustments to allow farmers to enter flooded land into the set-aside scheme). A joint Environment Agency, Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA) and Building Research Establishment (BRE) website provides advice on restoration and repair of flooded property. In particular, this provides guidance on appropriate flood-resistance materials, such as special plasters and building plastics. Flood insurance is widely available and provides a range of cover.