Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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Benn accepts urgent recommendations from Pitt report on summer floods

Benn accepts urgent recommendations from Pitt report on summer floods

DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS News Release (473/07) issued by The Government News Network on 17 December 2007

Secretary of State for the Environment Hilary Benn, has today accepted the urgent recommendations put forward in Sir Michael Pitt's interim report into the summer floods, on behalf of Government.

Mr Benn pledged to work with all of the organisations involved in responding to the summer floods, in order to take forward the report's proposals.

Welcoming the report Hilary Benn said:

"The summer floods affected huge numbers of people across England, many of whom are still living with the devastating after affects, and are not able to get back into their homes. My particular sympathies are, of course, with the families of those who lost their lives during the floods.

"The interim report confirms the extreme nature of the weather that gave rise to the floods and acknowledges the efforts that were made by everyone engaged in responding. It identifies a number of urgent steps which it recommends should be taken straight away. These relate particularly to monitoring of specific flood risks, better information sharing and the practicalities of emergency response. The Government agrees with all of the urgent recommendations and will work with all organisations involved in taking them forward as quickly as possible.

"Earlier this year I announced a significant increase in funding for flood and coastal erosion risk management. This will rise from its current level of £600m, to £650m in 2008-09, £700m in 2009-10 and £800 million in 2010-11. These record levels of investment will be supported by the establishment of new outcome measures to secure best value for investment and, through the Environment Agency, and considering whether a Long Term Investment Strategy for the next twenty years is appropriate for this policy area."

The report also sets out a larger number of interim conclusions, on which Sir Michael Pitt is seeking views before he publishes his final report. The Government will carefully consider these and respond to him in due course.

Defra, along with other government departments, is already taking action to address a number of the key issues raised in the report, including:

* Developing proposals for better management of surface water, including resolving the current complex institutional arrangements and use of sustainable drainage systems, both of which we shall be considering early in the new year as part of our new water strategy.

* Finalising national guidance on multi-agency flood planning, upon which we will shortly be consulting key organisations before it is made more widely available in the new year.

* We have revised our flood emergency procedures to set out more clearly how Defra, as lead government department, will manage serious flooding in conjunction with the Environment Agency and operational responders on the ground. These procedures were tested during the East coast tidal surge on 9th November and we have refined them further after that event.

* Working with Water UK and water companies in England to help ensure a wider take up of the more immediate and practical lessons from the water supply emergency in Gloucestershire. These will now be followed up in the light of the specific recommendations in the Report, such as a review of the minimum supply requirement for water to be provided in the event of the loss of the piped supply.

* The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has asked electricity network operators to review the resilience of electricity substations to flooding. This work is underway under the leadership of the Energy Networks Association.

* Developing a strategic overview role for the Environment Agency for all sources of flooding and coastal erosion.

* Sir Ken Knight, the Government's Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser, is in the final stages of a review looking at the operational response and role of the Fire and Rescue Service during national flooding incidents. His review will consider, amongst other issues, the need for inter-operability between Fire and Rescue Services training and equipment and that of other local responders.

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. The Pitt Review interim report can be found at:
http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/thepittreview

2. Hilary Benn's written ministerial statement in response to the report can be found at:
http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/ministers/statements/default.asp

3. Hilary Benn announced that Government would be conducting their own lessons learned review on 12th July, and on 8th August Sir Michael Pitt was announced as independent chair to lead the review. The review was set up to examine both how to reduce the risk and impact of floods, and the emergency response to the floods in June and July.

4. Today it has been formally announced that the remit for the review will be extended to cover the recovery arrangements put in place following the floods. A final report that encompasses this is expected next year.

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