Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he plans to take to involve voluntary sector organisations in the implementation of the action plan set out in the Government's response to the Pitt Review of the summer 2007 floods. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: A number of steps have already been taken to involve the voluntary sector in the implementation of the action plan. This is largely though local flood response planning and response arrangements. For example, numerous local resilience forums now have Memorandums of Understanding with voluntary agencies to provide assistance to vulnerable people during flooding incidents and in providing care and support during recovery from flooding.
The Government recognise and acknowledges the significant contribution that voluntary organisations can make. We will continue to provide guidance to response agencies on how voluntary sector groups can best be utilised during incidents and in the ongoing implementation of the action plan.
DEFRA is also committed to helping the National Flood Forum to work both with and through third sector organisations to provide advocacy and voice on the issue of flood risk; and to encourage property owners to take action which improves their resilience to flooding.
Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect of regular local flooding on the sustainability of communities; and if he will make a statement. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: There has been no single piece of research which addresses the sustainability of communities after a flood event. However the impacts of flooding are known from individual case studies. These studies show how some communities resist adapting to flooding following an event and wish to return to a pre-flood status. Conversely, some communities, often in rural or suburban areas, establish flood groups and take affirmative, adaptive action to increase the resilience of the community to floods. These studies have also shown that the sustainability of communities can be negatively affected by flooding.
The long-term adaptation of communities to increasing flood and coastal erosion risk is being considered under the ongoing cross-government 'Making Space for Water' programme. In respect of new development, Planning Policy Statement 25 Development and Flood Risk provides the policy framework for local planning authorities to avoid, manage and reduce flood risk towards delivering appropriate sustainable development in the right places.
Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will take steps to ensure that the draft Floods and Water Bill contains the measures on (a) abstraction and (b) water metering and charging, outlined in Future Water, Cm 7319. 
However, and as set out in Future Water, the Government will shortly consult on proposed changes to the abstraction licensing system. Household water charging and metering are the subject of an ongoing independent review led by Anna Walker, which is due to report in the summer.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations the Environment Agency has received on the waiving of controls on development in flood risk areas of Canvey Island in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: The Environment Agency has not received representations as described. The Environment Agency advises local authorities, which make decisions on planning applications within flood risk areas.
Huw Irranca-Davies: An extensive study of the flood risk in Pickering carried out by the Environment Agency indicates that 52 residential and 13 commercial properties are considered to be at risk from a one-in-100-year flood.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the feasibility of creating upstream retention dams to protect against flooding of Pickering, North Yorkshire; and what estimate he has made of the cost of the project. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: Durham university led a project with the local community, the local authority and the Forestry Commission to look at ways of managing floods in Pickering. The results of this study have been made available to the Environment Agency.
The Environment Agency is now considering the technical issues associated with the creation of upstream storage above Pickering (including costs) from data supplied by Durham university. The technical appraisal will involve the local community throughout.
Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the strategic co-ordination group set up by the Environment Agency to investigate measures to reduce flood risk in the Ouseburn catchment is expected to report; and on what dates it has met. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: A professional partnership consisting of Newcastle city council, the Environment Agency and Northumbrian Water Ltd. was formed to co-ordinate activities exploring flood risk alleviation opportunities across the city.
The group has met three times since September 2008, most recently on 21 January 2009. At the end of 2008, the group held its first full public meeting, chaired by the leader of the council and attended by over 100 residents. The group expects to report further in March 2009.
Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the percentage change in the incidence of flooding in the west of England has been during the last five years. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: In order to collate instances of flooding that have taken place in the west of England over the last five years the consideration of a number of factors and definitions at a large number of locations would be required. These cannot readily be interpreted into a percentage.
Factors such as comparison between years, the sources of flooding, flood warnings for tidal and fluvial flooding, the number of properties flooded and daily flow and rainfall records would need to be collated and analysed which would incur disproportionate cost.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will take steps to abolish his Department's non-departmental public body, Food from Britain; how much was spent by his Department on Food from Britain in each of the last 10 years; and if he will make a statement. 
The Secretary of State announced the Government's intention to close down Food from Britain (FFB) in a written ministerial statement on 26 March 2008, Official Report, column 9WS. The process of
closing down FFB is already underway and it will cease operations as planned on 31 March 2009, though a small number of staff will remain until the end of June 2009 to prepare FFB's 2008-09 annual report and accounts. The close down is taking place in anticipation of FFB's formal dissolution in law which will happen as soon as a suitable legislative vehicle can be found.
|DEFRA funding (£)
1. Data from the years 1999-2000 to 2007-08 is taken from Food from Britain Annual Report and Accounts 1999-2000 to 2007-08.
2. Data for 2007-08 and for 2008-09 was provided by DEFRA
Mr. Hurd: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer to the right hon. Member for Horsham of 19 November 2008, Official Report, column 476W, on public relations: Forestry Commission, which (a) external public affairs and (b) external public relations firms hired in that period; and how much was spent on each firm. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: Public affairs and public relations firms engaged by the Forestry Commission deal with a range of activities. These include the promotion of the public forest estate, including advertising and marketing of events and the promotion of visitor facilities and attractions. Other work includes the production and distribution of publicity resources (for example literature, video, display material), support for the regional distribution of Commission news releases, and strategic consultancy, for example preparation of communications plans.
Some of the expenditure is on externally funded projects in which the Forestry Commission is a partner. A common feature of many of these projects is the focus on community engagement where communications plays a significant role.