|All sentenced males and females
Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on water quality at English beaches and the Blue Flag scheme. 
The Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC, as revised by 2006/7/EC) sets water quality standards for bathing waters. The Blue Flag scheme is an independent award, administered in England by ENCAMS, which has water quality as only one of its criteria.
Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with reference to page 119 of the Pre Budget Report Cm 7684, what form will be taken by the review to assess how best public value might be delivered from assets in the medium term in respect of British Waterways; and if he will make a statement. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: The Treasury Operational Efficiency Programme Review will consider the scope for improved asset management across Government. The project will include a review of the British Waterways non-operational property portfolio, and business model, to consider how its assets might best deliver public value. The review will consider carefully any implications of options considered for the long-term funding of British Waterways statutory responsibilities. Formal Terms of Reference for the review will shortly be finalised.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) businesses and (b) individuals provided consultancy services to his Department in each of the last three years; and what the top 10 contracts by value were in each case. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: This information could be provided only at disproportionate cost. The Department will in its departmental report 2009 publish a list of its 10 most valuable contracts in the expenditure area of consultancy. A copy of the departmental report will be placed in the Library of the House.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) businesses and (b) individuals provided consultancy service to his Department in each of the last three years; and what the 10 most valuable contracts were in each case. 
Huw Irranca-Davies [holding answer 8 December 2008]: The information could be provided only at disproportionate cost. The Department will in its departmental report 2009 publish a list of its 10 most valuable contracts in the expenditure area of consultancy. A copy of the departmental report will be placed in the Library of the House.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much his Department spent on professional (a) IT and telecommunication, (b) management and business consultancy, (c) programme and project management, (d) research and development, (e) specialist consultancy and (f) temporary staff services in 2007-08. 
Huw Irranca-Davies [holding answer 8 December 2008]: The information is being compiled for inclusion in DEFRAs departmental report for 2009, a copy of which will be placed in the Library of the House.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many flood engineers are employed by the Environment Agency; and how many vacancies for flood engineers there are at the Environment Agency. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: The Environment Agency estimates that it employs around 200 chartered and incorporated engineers with experience in flood and coastal risk management. The Environment Agency has 64 vacancies in engineering posts. It is recruiting to fill 20 posts and will start recruiting for the remaining 44 posts in the new year.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which districts have held emergency planning measures and resilience scenarios to prepare for future flooding incidents following the floods of summer 2007. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: In the last survey undertaken by the Government (the National Capability Survey in January 2008) some 70 per cent. of Category 1 responders indicated they had validated their flood response plan through an exercise or during a real event in the last two years. Category 1 responders are those organisations at the core of the response to most emergencies (e.g. emergency services, local authorities, NHS bodies).
More recent information has confirmed that there have been exercises in every Government office region across the country since summer 2007. These range from in-house exercises by individual responder organisations to multi-agency exercises involving a number of Local Resilience Forums across the region. There have also been a number of real flooding events that have triggered the use of local flood emergency plans.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps have been made to improve the resilience of critical infrastructure from flooding since the floods which took place in July 2007. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: In response to Sir Michael Pitts interim report, the Government agreed the need to introduce a systematic, co-ordinated, cross-sector campaign to reduce the disruption caused by natural hazards to critical infrastructure and essential services. The Government will now establish a Natural Hazards Team charged with co-ordinating efforts to identify and counter the risks to national infrastructure from natural hazards. In the short term, the systematic programme will co-ordinate the early assessment of the vulnerability and risk of flooding in the most critical elements of national infrastructure.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change instigated reviews of the resilience of the electricity, gas and oil sectors to flood risks in 2007 and 2008. In the case of electricity, work is well advanced to identify and develop additional resilience measures on a site specific basis. The oil and gas industries demonstrated a high level of confidence in the inherent resilience of their infrastructure. However, both industries are reviewing the remaining risks to identify precautionary measures. In the telecommunications industry, the distributed network largely provides the necessary service resilience. In the water sector, Ofwat has issued guidance for water companies on flood risk assessment and identification of priority investments in preparation for the 2009 price review.
Huw Irranca-Davies: The Environment Agency undertakes regular assessments of the number of properties at risk of flooding from rivers and from the sea through its National Flood Risk Assessments (NaFRA). There are no national figures available to estimate the number of properties at risk of flooding from surface water, drains or sewers.
DEFRA made estimates through its national assessment of assets at risk (NAAR) in 2000 and 2001. The Environment Agency undertook risk assessment for strategic planning (RASP) research in 2002 and developed the research tool into the NaFRA methodology with results in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
|Properties at risk ( m illion)
Huw Irranca-Davies: The Environment Agency continuously investigates ways to improve the service it provides to all customers at risk through its flood warning systems. Recent and planned improvements include:
extending real-time river level monitoring network to cover more sites at risk;
improving the quality of forecasts of tidal and river flooding by developing computer models;
recruitment of over 70,000 people since summer 2007 with a further 60,000 expected to be recruited by February next year, raising people on the system to well over 400,000;
a series of local campaigns to raise awareness of flood risk and encourage more people to sign-up to our flood warning system;
negotiating with the telecommunications companies holding ex-directory landline phone numbers so we can warn everyone on this list by the end of 2009;
working with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to produce audio versions of the leaflets which tell people what to do before, during and after a flood;
producing audio versions, developed in conjunction with the RNIB, of their guides to flooding;
working with critical infrastructure operators to share information on flood depths and levels so energy and water companies can identify which of their assets are at risk;
launching an online registration system for the public to sign up for floodline warnings direct by spring 2009;
providing a more targeted flood warning service by creating more specific and appropriately named community flood warning areas;
reviewing existing Floodline Warnings Direct (FWD) customer data to ensure that they hold accurate information;
contacting 9,200 existing customers to inform them that the flood risk to their property had been reduced and they no longer had to stay registered with FWD; and,
undertaking trials with a number of local authorities to see how advice from different organisations can be accessed at one point through the Environment Agencys Floodline service.