Long-term strategy ensures insurance will remain widely available, says ABI

The government has promised the industry a flooding summit if it is re-elected, following the last-gasp passage of its landmark floods legislation.

Floods minister Huw Irranca-Davies, speaking in the winding-up debate last week on the Flood and Water Management Bill, said the government had agreed to hold an event later this year to discuss the effect of flood risk on household insurance.

The minister told MPs that the summit would involve “wide-ranging discussions” with all interested parties.

The bill, which implements key recommendations of Sir Michael Pitt’s review of the summer 2007 floods, received royal assent last week at the end of a 48-hour session in which the government passed 18 separate pieces of legislation.

The act’s provisions include:

• Introducing statutory responsibilities for managing flood risk; national strategies and guidance will be introduced; councils will develop strategies for managing local flood risk by bringing together all relevant bodies, which will be under a legal duty to co-operate.

• The Environment Agency, local authorities and internal drainage boards will be able to ensure that privately owned buildings and other structures, such as walls, that help cut the flood risk, cannot be altered without prior consent.

• Drainage for all new developments will need to be in line with new national standards to manage and reduce the flow of surface water into the sewerage system.

The ABI, which has pushed for many of the provisions, welcomed the passage of the act. A spokesman expressed relief that the bill had not been abandoned in the rush to complete government business before last week’s dissolution of parliament.

He said: “A long-term flood management strategy, based around a better understanding of the extent of flood risk backed by adequate investment, will not only reassure the owners of millions of property at risk of flooding, but ensure that flood insurance continues to remain widely available.”

He expressed concern, however, that there were still question marks over the future funding of the flood protection, which he hoped the summit would address.

Biba corporate affairs executive Graeme Trudgill said: “We are pleased that this bill has gone through.”

Last-minute decisions

  • Floods and Water Management Bill – passed with 25 minor amendments.
  • Equalities Bill – passed, but with an exception allowing insurers to gear premiums to reflect the risk of covering groups, like older people.
  • Financial Services Bill – passed, but without a provision that would have allowed class actions against financial institutions.
  • Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) Bill – not passed. This private members’ bill, designed to enable individuals to pursue claims for compensation through the courts, did not proceed following an initial debate.