EFRA Select Committee: Future Flood Prevention

On Wednesday 20 July 2016, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee of which I am a member off, held an oral evidence session on Future Flood Prevention. The Committee heard evidence from Mr Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, Dr Thérèse Coffey MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Mr Neil Hornby, Deputy Director of Flood Risk Management for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.


Below are the questions that I asked and the responses from the witnesses:



Valerie Vaz MP: This is almost on the same point, and possibly we can raise it under the issue of putting you on a statutory basis. You sit under gold command, but are you able to say what it is like in other parts of the country? What would you expect to be the best‑responding service? Obviously people are going to ring you first when there is an emergency, or are they not?


Matt Wrack: In terms of calls, yes, the first calls in a flooding incident are likely to be to the fire and rescue service, but there is some confusion. For us, this comes back to statutory duty, to be honest. If you watched the press coverage, for example of the December 2015 floods, references are made to emergency service workers. Of the boats that responded, 75% are fire service boats, so 75% to 80% of the people you see in drysuits will be firefighters, and yet the coverage and sometimes the reporting, even by politicians, does not clarify the central role of the fire and rescue service within that.



Valerie Vaz: You have been really assiduous in responding to us in Parliament, when you were Deputy Leader of the House. I wanted to get a firm commitment that that £2.3 billion has definitely been allocated and definitely been committed in the budget.


Dr Coffey: Yes, it is for 2015‑21. I do not know what the rounding is. I do not know whether it is £2.270 billion, but £2.3 billion is the figure I have.


Valerie Vaz: Did you say that the LEPs would be expected to commit some money for that or are you giving money to the LEPs?


Dr Coffey: It varies. There are different examples around the country. If I use the example that I know about in Ipswich, the LEP has used some of its money in order to put in extra flood defences, because they believe that that will unlock land for economic growth and for housing, so it is a sensible use of LEP money to drive economic regeneration. I do not think there is any requirement on LEPs to have to do it, but several of them have been very sensible, and that way they can pull in extra money from the centre.


Valerie Vaz: I am sorry, but I have to mention it; it is the EU question. Was there any committed EU funding for any of this?


Dr Coffey: I do not know the answer to that question. I do not know if Neil knows.


Neil Hornby: The £2.3 billion is all Exchequer funding. There is no EU element to that. We understand there might be some EU structural funds used to support some schemes in some places.


Valerie Vaz: Can you give us a vague idea of the figure?


Dr Coffey: I do not know the answer


Valerie Vaz MP: Could you write to the Committee and let us know that?


Chair: Yes, that would be quite interesting.



Valerie Vaz MP: Chair, there are a series of decision letters that go out there when inspectors refuse. I just wondered if there was a possibility of gathering that all together. One of the things that have been mooted is to have local planning authorities report back to Parliament. Then again, we get enough pieces of paper and tick boxes. I just wondered if it was possible to garner the evidence, say from the Planning Inspectorate, and publish all those decisions that have been made on the floodplain, so people can see.