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Issue #1580      February 6, 2013

Ministers “put market ahead of action on flooding”

Britain: Senior MPs have warned the government that it is putting market competition in the water industry before urgent measures to protect homes and businesses from the “shattering” impacts of flooding. The Commons environment, food and rural affairs committee said the draft Water Bill helps increase competition in the provision of water supplies for customers.

But ministers are not showing enough urgency in implementing measures improving the country’s resilience to flooding and drought, it said. A report highlighted the failure to create sustainable drainage systems or combat the use of impermeable surfaces in back gardens and businesses.

It claimed ministers are taking too long over moves to improve the safety of reservoirs at risk of flooding and raised concerns that local authorities and the Environment Agency are sidelining dredging and maintaining water courses.

The MPs also called on ministers to give more information on how homeowners at high risk of flooding can continue to have access to affordable insurance after a deal on the issue expires later this year. They said bill-payers should not have to bear the costs of those who do not pay up on bills, and they should be legally protected from bad debt in the water industry.

Committee chairwoman Tory MP Anne McIntosh said the government had been “too slow” to act. “New laws will increase competition in the retail water market, and while we welcome those changes, government must get on with implementing changes that would reduce flooding,” she said.

“Widespread flooding has once again wrought devastation and heartache in communities across the country.”

She said successive government hadn’t “had the mettle” to tackle flooding.

Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh said she was astonished the government had not put in place advanced computing systems to predict severe weather.

She said: “Instead they are pursuing an ideologically driven shake-up of the water industry that could mean higher bills, and serious environmental damage.”

Morning Star  

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