Examination of Witnesses (Questions 696
WEDNESDAY 23 JANUARY 2008
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 twowhich
will be available in the summeris 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.
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
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
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.
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.