Tuesday, October 20, 1998 Published at 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
No public inquiry into floods
Five people died in the Easter floods
The government has warned that "lessons must be learnt" from floods that killed five people and made thousands homeless at Easter.
Countryside Minister Elliot Morley announced a major review of flood forecasting and warning - but ruled out a public inquiry into the April floods.
Mr Morley also told the House the government would not provide compensation for insurable risks.
The floods mainly affected the Midlands and authorities that suffered the worst damage, including Northampton, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire and Worcester will receive government aid.
Earlier this month, an independent report commissioned by the Environment Agency found most of the victims received no warnings from the agency, and the whole warning system was highly confused.
Mr Morley said although staff did their best within the guidelines, the review concluded there were instances of unsatisfactory planning.
The minister underlined the importance of integrated flood warning and responses and a set out a timetable for these procedures to be reviewed.
Mr Morley said: "Flood warnings need to get to people in the area in time for them to respond appropriately. This needs to happen.
"At Easter there were deficiencies."
He went on to announce the Environment Agency will carry out a thorough review of the whole system "to ensure there are clear lines of accountability and responsibility".
The minister said the Home Office would be writing to emergency services to make recommendations for future disasters while response exercises would now be regularly carried out.
Mr Morley singled out Northampton where two people died, thousands of homes were flooded, some of which would never be returned to.
But he ruled out a public inquiry which local people had campaigned for.
A public inquiry would divert staff and resources from taking more immediate action to only result in more delay, he said.
On the issue of compensation, Mr Morley said: "It is not the policy of the government to compensate for insurable risk.
"It is impossible to plan and protect against any eventuality especially when the circumstances are so extreme."
The review by the Environment Agency will be published next month.
"Flood warning is therefore the government's highest priority.
"Flood warning dissemination plans must be checked to ensure that they contain no obvious errors or omissions."
Responding to the statement, Mr Morley's opposite number Tim Yeo said government policy could lead to more flooding in the future.
Mr Yeo said the risk of flooding would increase by the development of housing on green field sites and the prospect of climate change.
He said: "The important thing is not to act like King Canute.
"No amount of words can stop flooding from taking place. The risk cannot be entirely eliminated as the review points out."
Mr Morley dismissed Mr Yeo's comments by saying the present government had a higher target for the development of brown field sites than the previous administration.
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