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Monday, 6 November, 2000, 17:15 GMT
Minister defends flood defence record
Cars in flooded road
Morley: "No government can prevent flooding"
The government minister responsible for flood defence has offered his 'heartfelt sympathy' to people affected by the weeks' floods.

Speaking in the Commons Elliot Morley paid tribute to the work of the emergency services, and also praised the effectiveness of flood defences - given the extreme conditions.


There is further rain to come

Elliot Morley
But the countryside minister said no government programme could prevent all flooding.

Mr Morley told MPs that on top of the 400m being spent on flood and coastal defence in England this year, the government would provide an additional 51m over four years.

He said that discussions were under way about the possibility of extra resources for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Flood aid boost

The Bellwin scheme, which helps local authorities recover unexpected costs, was being boosted, the minister said, with the rate of government support rising from 85% to 100% and valid claims being settled more quickly.

Ministers would also discuss with insurance companies how the industry could respond more "quickly and effectively to emergencies such as this" he told the House.

In his Commons statement Mr Morley said he believed that most flood defences for urban areas had operated to their design standard or better, but he warned "there is further rain to come and the prospect of more flooding cannot be ruled out".

Planning issue

In response Conservative spokesman James Paice asked when the government would be publishing definitive guidance on limiting housing development on flood plains.

Pointing out the need for action he said: "In the six months to April this year, the Environment Agency has advised local authorities to refuse 190 planning applications because of the risk of flooding.

"In 83 of those cases, the authorities ignored that advice and granted planning permission," he told MPs.

Mr Morley replied that new planning guidelines due out soon would put more pressure on local authorities to listen to the Environment Agency when it counselled against development in areas known to flood.

'Extreme situation'

Mr Morley then expressed the government's "heartfelt sympathy" for those hit by the floods.

"This is an extreme situation," he said.

"The land is saturated; water is running straight off into already swollen rivers."

The great flood of 1947 was the last "comparable" event he said and added: "I believe that most flood defences for urban areas have operated to their design standards or better."

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