Minister hints that government could increase flood defence spending

AXA Insurance lobbied MPs this week to highlight concerns that businesses were being ignored in the flooding debate.

On Monday, AXA Insurance chief executive Peter Hubbard and claims director David Williams met MPs to deliver a four-point action plan to fuel debate in the House of Commons.

AXA is calling for more resources for environmental resistance, improved planning processes, better building regulations and improved disaster recovery planning (see box).

Williams said one of the main motives for the meeting was to highlight concerns surrounding SMEs and flooding, which he claimed had been largely neglected by the government.

He said: “When we talk about planning it’s not just about housing. And when we talk about support afterwards, it shouldn’t just be about housing.

“SMEs account for over 50% of national income and employment. Without SMEs our entire economy collapses.”

AXA is the UK’s largest provider of commercial property insurance in the SME market. Williams said because of this the company could play a leadership role in the discussions and debate.

Williams said there were key issues of concern to AXA and the insurance industry involving planning and building on high-risk flood plains.

He said the MPs, who represented the constituencies most affected by the June and July floods, assured AXA the issues would be raised in the House of Commons.

AXA told MPs that it would cost the insurer subsidising customers in higher risk areas about £42m because those homes were not being a charged a premium commensurate with the risk.

Williams said the number was likely to be much higher for other insurers as AXA had only 4% to 5% of the household market.

He said AXA had spoken to the ABI prior to meeting the MPs to reassure the association the company was not going over its head.

He said: “It’s wrong to rely on the ABI for everything. They are doing a great job. The ABI told us there is no harm at all for MPs to hear the same message.”

AXA four-point plan

More resources for environmental resilience: research into vulnerabilities and methods of prevention and
construction of defences

Improved planning process: a common process based on best practice throughout the UK, not fragmented by country or local authority. Accountability for sustainability of infrastructure drainage and emergency services.

Better building regulations: more prescription on building methods and materials for developments in high risk areas

Improved disaster recovery planning: improve emergency prevention measures. Enhance early warning process and act upon lessons learned by emergency services and authorities in the wake of this years events.