An additional £600m committed to coastal defences this year

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has confirmed flood defence spending will play a major party in the government’s three-year spending plan.

Blair told the Commons this week that cash for flood defences will “obviously form a fairly significant serious part of the comprehensive spending settlement” which is expected in the autumn, setting out predicted public spending until 2011.

The pledge comes days after torrential rain wreaked havoc across the country, expected to lead to a surge of insurance claims.

Blair assured MPs an announcement would be made about coastal flood defences.

He said: “We are committed to spending an additional £600m this financial year on our coastal defences. Since 1997 we have invested some £4bn in coastal defences. This is an indication of how over time, countries are going to have to invest large sums of money protecting against the changing weather.”

Coastal flooding could cost the insurance industry up to £16bn a year by 2040, according to the ABI.

More than 50 MPs have signed a Com-mons motion demanding government action and pledge increases amid

criticism that funding has remained “almost flat” since 2005 at about £570m per year.

The pledge was the first strong commitment from Blair that flood defence spending will increase.

Last year the government announced almost £15m would be slashed from the management of flood defences after a £200m overspend by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Defra has been ordered by the Treasury to make substantial cuts, which will see a £23.7m reduction for the Environment Agency – which is responsible for flood management.

An Environment Agency spokesman said “tough and unpalatable” decisions had to be made in a “tactical and opportunist” way as the budget cuts were notified mid-year.

No money was cut from the budget for new flood defences to be built but the £14.9m slash will hit maintaining current defences.