Politicians from across the political spectrum threw their weight behind the ABI's coastal flooding report, but were scathing of Defra's overspend.

Shadow secretary of state for the environment Peter Ainsworth said: "It is sometimes easy to forget that the effects of climate change will become starkly evident in the UK. Rising sea levels will continue to batter our coastline and greater areas will be vulnerable to flooding. Not only will this cause great personal distress but it will have implications for the UK economy as well.

"In the meantime, Defra's bungling at the Rural Payments Agency has resulted in a cut to the budget for flood defences. This will render communities even more vulnerable to extreme weather conditions."

Liberal Democrat shadow environment secretary Chris Huhne said: "This report highlights the madness of cutting flood defence budgets when we know that climate change is severely increasing the threat of flooding.

"Flood defences are our first bulwark against some of the worst effects of climate change, and it is essential they are maintained to the highest standards."

Secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs David Miliband said he was "interested in looking at the possibility for a longer term investment strategy," and added: "Any £15m cut is regrettable."