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EA to be reviewed

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Environment Agency

19. Elizabeth Truss (South West Norfolk) (Con): What plans she has to review the (a) functions and (b) accountability of the Environment Agency. [3955]

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mrs Caroline Spelman): In the Queen's Speech, the Government announced their intention to bring forward a Bill to reform public bodies. DEFRA is carrying out a critical examination of the number and cost of its arm's length bodies. The Environment Agency is being considered as part of that review.

Elizabeth Truss: I thank the Secretary of State for her answer. I am worried about the bureaucratic and remote nature of the Environment Agency's processes, specifically on the flooding of the A1101 at Welney and flood defences at Wiggenhall St Germans. Will she tell us how local communities can hold the Environment Agency's functions further to account and make it more responsive?

Mrs Spelman: One assurance I can give about unnecessary bureaucracy is that every one of the arm's length bodies with which DEFRA does business will be subject to the three tests applied to arm's length bodies

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across Government. They are: does it perform a technical function; does it need to be politically impartial; and does it act independently and transparently to establish the facts? The Environment Agency will be subject to those criteria.

I shall certainly take up my hon. Friend's concerns about flooding. She has made it clear on her website and in a number of interventions how anxious she is to ensure that her constituents are protected from flooding. I shall impress that upon the Environment Agency.