MPs have called for a “flood tsar” to lead a co-ordinated government strategy on flooding.

And John Prescott has been suggested as the ideal candidate by David Curry, chair of the Commons Agricultural committee, which suggested the move.

“We've got to have someone with sufficient status and the clout to get things done,” he said.

“If you pull someone in from the outside they simply don't know how the machine works or have the support of the civil service.”

The committee's report on flood and coastal defence criticised the present arrangements, with responsibility split between a number of agencies as “Byzantine in complexity”.

It said there was “an awkward division of responsibilities between the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and no obvious ‘Mr (or Ms) Flood', a designated person ultimately responsible for flood and coastal defence”.

The ongoing review of funding was said to offer the government “an opportunity to develop a clear, long-term strategy and the means for ensuring its delivery”.

The report also said councils should be given immediate funds to counter the threat of flooding rather than have to wait for a year for funds to come through from central government.