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Flood and Coastal Defence

Gillian Merron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she will report on the outcome of the Flood and Coastal Defence Funding Review; and if she will make a statement. [36858]

Mr. Morley: I am pleased to announce that the report "Flood and Coastal Defence Funding Review—Report to Ministers by the Review Steering Group" has been published today along with a consultation document seeking views on the steering group's recommendations and conclusions and how these might be taken forward. I am placing copies in the Library of the House.

The steering group's report assessed a number of options for change including additional sources of funding and a broad-based regional model to provide a single funding stream. Suggestions for short-term changes include giving the Environment Agency responsibility for all watercourses that present a significant flood risk and on combining and consolidating capital grant and revenue support grant to the agency, possibly in the form of central grant allocations.

Elsewhere, the report recommends continued reliance on the existing flood management strategic framework to monitor achievement of the Government's policies and priorities.

The Government have agreed to consult on the recommendations in the report. This provides a unique opportunity to consider provision of the flood and coastal defence service from first principles and I look forward to receiving the views of interested parties. I will keep Parliament informed of developments.


Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action her Department is taking to ensure that Ofwat improves its serviceability criteria. [34070]

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Mr. Meacher: The Government continue to work with the Office of Water Services (Ofwat) the quality regulators and the water industry to take forward discussions on serviceability and asset maintenance.

Ofwat develops measures of companies' serviceability to customers. Ofwat is reviewing its measures of the serviceability of water and sewerage company assets. A consultation paper on improved serviceability indicators was issued in November 2001. The consultation period ended on 8 February 2002. Ofwat will also consult on its approach to capital maintenance in the spring.

In its consultation paper on the approach to the periodic review of price limits for 2005–10, to be published in October 2002, Ofwat will also set out how it proposes to take account of serviceability and capital maintenance.

Water Sports

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action the Environment Agency is taking to encourage more access agreements to moving water for canoeists in England and Wales. [34959]

Alun Michael: The agency has produced a guidance booklet "Agreeing Access to water for Canoeing (July 1999)", which sets out the background to property and

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access rights and how to move forward in the development of access agreements. The guidance is provided free of charge to interested parties. The agency will also respond to requests for assistance in arranging access agreements.

Sand Dredging (Erosion)

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent guidelines she has issued to protect sand beaches from excessive erosion caused by the actions of the sand dredging industry. [35634]

Ms Keeble: I have been asked to reply.

Draft policy guidance on the extraction of sand and gravel from the English sea bed was published for public consultation in February 2001. This explains the existing requirement for a coastal impact study to be undertaken as part of the application procedure to obtain a licence to dredge for minerals. These studies need to consider, among other matters, the potential for the extraction activity to cause coastal erosion. If this suggests unavoidable risk of coastal erosion, the application is refused.

The National Assembly for Wales is responsible for dredging in Welsh waters.