Ministers 'too slow' over flooding
The Government has been too slow in bringing in measures that will protect homes and businesses from the "shattering" impact of flooding, MPs have warned.
The Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee said the draft Water Bill would help increase competition in the provision of water supplies for customers. But ministers are not showing enough urgency in implementing measures that will improve the country's resilience to flooding and drought, the MPs added.
A report from the committee criticised the failure to create sustainable drainage systems to prevent flooding from surface water, through measures such as stopping people laying impermeable surfaces in back gardens and businesses. Ministers are also taking too long over moves to improve the safety of reservoirs at risk of flooding, the report on the draft Water Bill said.
Concerns were also raised that local authorities and the Environment Agency are not paying enough attention to dredging and maintaining water courses, which can have a major impact on flood risk.
The MPs also called on ministers to provide more information on the solutions being considered to ensure homeowners at high risk of flooding continue to have access to affordable insurance after a deal on the issue expires later this year.
The committee's chairwoman Anne McIntosh said: "The Government has been too slow to implement changes that would protect homes and businesses from the shattering effects of flooding.
"New laws will increase competition in the retail water market, and while we welcome those changes, Government must get on with implementing changes that would reduce flooding - many of which were recommended nearly five years ago."
Water Minister Richard Benyon said: "As unpredictable rainfall and population growth puts an increased pressure on our water supplies we need a water industry that is fit for the 21st century. This Bill will ensure our water supplies remain affordable, resilient and sustainable for the future."
He also said that the vast majority of the recommendations in the Pitt Review into the devastating 2007 floods had been implemented, making the country better prepared than ever to cope with flooding.
"We are doing all we can to protect homes and businesses from flooding, we are investing over £2.3 billion on building flood defences and expect to exceed our target to protect a further 145,000 properties by 2015," he said.