1.The Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee reported to the House on future flood prevention in its Second Report of Session 2016–17, published on 2 November 2016, as HC 115. The Government’s response to the Report was received by the Committee on 30 December 2016.
2.We are pleased that the Committee’s Report has stimulated a wider debate on how best to manage flood risk. The Government’s response notes that there has been a considerable amount of work undertaken across Whitehall and by flood risk management bodies. We welcome the efforts of all those involved, including those on the front-line responding to flood events. Our Report’s recommendations were aimed at assisting them in delivering the most effective, co-ordinated response to the increasing risk of major flood events to communities across England. These were based on wide-ranging stakeholder inputs during a detailed and lengthy inquiry. We are therefore disappointed that the Government’s response addresses a number of our recommendations in only a cursory manner.
3.In particular, the response provides little insight into the assessment Defra has made about the merits of our recommendations on promoting catchment-wide approaches and on new governance arrangements. We request that Defra provides us by the end of February with additional information on how much of the £2.5 billion flood risk management programme for 2015–16 to 2020–2021 includes natural flood management approaches, beyond the £15 million referred to in the response. We also request a fuller response by the end of February to our proposals for improving local governance and partnership working at catchment level to address our concerns about fragmented and inefficient flood risk management structures.
4.Additionally, we consider the Government justification for its rejection of a number of other recommendations, including on insurance, resilience and sustainable drainage, to be deficient. The response largely repeats the original Government evidence to the inquiry about ongoing work programmes which have long-term or opaque timescales. We are disappointed there is no commitment to achieving outcomes on these issues by the deadlines set out in our Report. Defra must update us by the end of 2017 on progress on those recommendations where actions will not be completed in the timescales we recommended.
5.Effective flood risk management is vital for communities across England and the Committee will continue its scrutiny of Government approaches in future. We will be inviting the Secretary of State to discuss these matters at an evidence session to be held before the Summer.
6.The Government response is appended. Each conclusion and recommendation made in our original Report is set out in a bold paragraph. The Government’s response is set out directly beneath in plain text.
20 January 2017