Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 696 - 699)



  Q696  Chairman: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to a further evidence session of the Select Committee's inquiry into flooding. Can I welcome representatives of the Pitt Review Team, specifically Sir Michael Pitt, Chair of the Learning Lessons from the 2007 Floods Review; he is supported by Roger Hargreaves, the Head of the Pitt Review Team. Gentlemen, you are welcome and may I congratulate you on the interim report which you have produced; it is beautifully laid out and I think the illustrations certainly give an added dimension to the words in there in terms of the conclusions that you draw. Sir Michael, you have spent six months now looking at this matter. You have come up with a very large number of interim conclusions, 72 in fact, but none of them at this stage are prioritised in terms of the one that you really think should be the number one area for action, so what is it?

  Sir Michael Pitt: First of all I should mention that there are also 15 urgent recommendations that we would like the Government and other organisations to act upon as quickly as they possibly can. I think the overriding issue as far as we are concerned is preparedness. The floods which took place during the summer of last year, as we all know, were unprecedented. We think that the emergency services, the local resilience forums and other organisations were stretched to the absolute limit, if not beyond. The objective of this report and volume two—which will be available in the summer—is to ensure that the country both nationally and locally is much better prepared for this degree of flooding which we suspect will be happening again at some stage in the future.

  Q697  Chairman: Can I just pick you up on a bit of language there? You used the word "unprecedented" and one of the issues we are trying to grapple with is the fact that a lot of the preparedness is determined by the frequency of events, but it would appear that what we had last summer was, if you like, a concentration of the event over a shorter timescale than had been taken into account by previous planning based on a probability basis. Is that an impression that you gained as well?

  Sir Michael Pitt: Yes, we know that during the months of May, June and July last year more rain fell than ever recorded in history so this was a very, very major flood and therefore it was not surprising that those people I was referring to earlier were stretched to the limit by those floods.

  Q698  Chairman: So you see any evidence that there is to be a revision of the way in which you plan in the future, taking into account that intensity factor?

  Sir Michael Pitt: One of the big points we are making is that we want people to recalibrate their risk registers. We think flooding should have a higher status in those risk registers and you may have seen in some of the press reports at Christmas that we were arguing that this has a degree of seriousness which is laid alongside terrorism or flu pandemic and so we are inviting central government and local organisations to review their risk registers in the light of the lessons learned from last year.

  Q699  Chairman: Do you have any say in the terms of reference of your inquiry? When you got the phone call asking you to look at this did you jointly determine those terms of reference?

  Sir Michael Pitt: I was invited to review some terms of reference which had already been drafted and the conclusion I came to was that they seemed appropriate.

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