Benn: Govt and EA must team up on flood prevention

Government and the Environment Agency will have to work together to solve the problems posed by flooding and coastal erosion - and the likelihood that they will get worse as a result of climate change.

That was the message from the Environment Secretary as he addressed the Environment Agency’s annual conference in London, on Monday.

Hilary Benn reiterated plans announced earlier this year for a Floods and Water Bill to implement some of the recommendations of the Pitt Review.

Describing the 2007 floods, Mr Benn said: “If that happened tomorrow would we do better? Would we be ready? I believe we would, thanks to your efforts and to the work of Sir Michael Pitt. But we must continue to prepare.”

He added: “We’re in this together and we’re going to have to deal with it together. The same is true of climate change as a whole.”

Asked about how the measures in the Floods and Water Bill would be financed, Mr Benn said: “I have kept some money aside to implement the recommendations of Michael Pitt’s outstanding report and I will announce shortly we are going to do that.

“But when you read his report and look at what he has said, some of it is just how we need to work in a different way – it’s not going to cost a lot of money.”

He said the draft Bill is set to be published for consultation in the next session of Parliament, which begins on December 3.

Mr Benn also praised Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s decision to hand over Defra’s climate change responsibilities to the new Department for Energy and Climate Change, headed by Ed Miliband (see related story).

“I think it was absolutely the right thing to do,” he said. “Because energy is such an important part of our CO2 emissions it means the Government’s structure has caught up with today.”

He backed Mr Miliband’s announcement that Government would amend the Energy Bill to introduce a feed-in tariff for small scale renewables (see related story), which he said “shows the benefits of the new department”.

Kate Martin

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