Added 26/11/2012  You are here: Jubilee River Home Page > Jubilee River - key facts > The Jubilee River Story - 0001 > Index >  How to contact me > Jubilee River guided tours



The Jubilee River story (0948g) -

Flood insurance talks with government have broken down,' admits ABI (Post online)

I wrote in March 2012 that it seemed to me that the Government and the Insurance Companies were preparing to abandon the 10% of the population at risk of flooding!  Post is now reporting that the Association of British Insurers has confessed that talks with Government on reaching a joint solution on long term affordable insurance have broken down. A previous report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation recognised alternative and fairer solutions to the problem (Social justice and the future of flood insurance (283kB.pdf)  and the Morpeth Model has been mentioned repeatedly elsewhere.

Two similar articles from Post are reproduced below:

Silence on flood solution continues as Defra plays hardball over funding 20 Nov 2012

Flood insurance: is the industry sleepwalking to disaster? 22 Nov 2012

(Post is an on-line magazine for the insurance industry which delivers paid-for, up to the minute hard-edged news, analysis and comment for UK general insurance professionals and has been the market’s leading source for business-critical information since 1840.)


Silence on flood solution continues as Defra plays hardball over funding

The Association of British Insurers' long-running attempt to reach agreement with the government over replacing the soon-to-expire Statement of Principles has been described as "dead in the water".

According to Whitehall sources, there is a fundamental disagreement over the level at which liability for flood risk could be transferred to the government as an insurer of last resort.

This, combined with a reluctance by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson to bend on his department's funding contribution, has caused talks over the ABI's Flood Re solution to run aground.

The SoP expires in just seven months, and sources suggest that the industry will be forced to revert to a free market model while a longer-term solution to rising flood risk is agreed by the government.

A well-placed source told Post: "The Flood Re model is massively struggling and the government is unlikely to go for it.

"Despite the ABI's insistence that conversations are on-going, the government cannot hold the ultimate contingent liability at the level the ABI is suggesting.   No-one wants to budge on this crucial issue and therefore it is likely to reject Flood Re for something else."

Insurers have been hoping for confirmation about the SoP replacement by the end of this year at the latest, while former Defra minister Caroline Spelman had hinted that discussions with the ABI reached an "advanced" stage before the summer recess.

However, Post understands that Paterson, who took over the department in September, is unwilling to make enough funds available to accommodate the ABI's proposal.

One Whitehall insider said: "The new minister is definitely a tougher cookie than the last one and the issues with the ABI are looking increasingly difficult to resolve.   As Secretary of State in Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson was seen as being one of the most fiscally-minded members of Cabinet, so it's highly unlikely he will start loosening the purse strings now and sign a blank cheque to replace the Statement of Principles."

Another source in government told Post that Defra plans to meet the ABI again in a final attempt to rescue the floundering Flood Re proposal.

However, Mary Dhonau, chairwoman of the Flood Protection Society, claimed that she has received no reports of a break-down in communication between the industry body and government.

"The last I heard the government was hoping to make an announcement before Christmas. But then, of course, we had been promised an announcement before spring that never arrived," she told Post.

"I know the ABI is saying it is not prepared to play out its negotiations in public, but it might help if the public and wider insurance industry were a little bit more enlightened.

"If it does transpire that negotiations between the ABI and government have broken down, then it would be pretty catastrophic."

An ABI spokesman stated simply that "talks are on-going", while a Defra spokesman said that the department is "considering a number of options to ensure that home insurance continues to be widely available and affordable in areas of flood risk".

Other flood risk proposals being considered are Marsh and Guy Carpenter's reinsurance solution known as Project Noah and an Aon Benfield proposal that would work alongside Flood Re.

Post – Insurance    20 Nov 2012


Flood insurance: is the industry sleepwalking to disaster?

As the UK reels from another deluge of flood warnings and chaos as bad weather sweeps the country, the questions about what will replace the Statement of Principles that has ensured the availability of flood insurance for properties in high risk areas for the last decade become ever more pressing.

In case anyone has forgotten, this deal between the insurance industry and government expires next June and without anything to replace it home and business owners in flood-prone areas will fall on the mercy of the open market.   Make no mistake, this will mean tens of thousands of people suddenly finding themselves unable to obtain flood cover as part of their household or business property insurance policies.  Many more will find they are offered cover at premiums that are not affordable.

If it comes to this, who will get the blame? The insurance industry or the government? Let's be realistic: it will be the insurers who will get the biggest clobbering if this happens. It could be a public relations disaster for an industry that can ill-afford more bad publicity. Some in the industry seem naively to believe that the government can be made to shoulder, or at least share, the blame but this won't happen.

The simple fact is that it is the insurance industry that has decided to walk away from the Statement of Principles without having anything to take its place, not the government. It will therefore be the insurance industry that gets the blame from consumer groups and MPs.   I don't think the industry, least of all the Association of British Insurers, is complacent about this risk although it does give the impression that it might be sleepwalking to disaster. I just don't get the impression they have worked out how to deal with it.

Pointing at the cuts to flood defence spending might have some intellectual validity as that was the government side of the deal behind the original Statement of Principles but I can't see it impressing those people who will be looking at financial disaster if they can't get insurance for their homes. For many this will knock-off eye watering amounts from the value of their homes.

Secretary of state for environment food and rural affairs Caroline Spelman "With some justification the ABI feels let down by government, if not cruelly misled. From the high point last June when the then Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman (pictured) said that a deal involving a government-backed fund of last resort was near and the sun was blazing it has been all downhill. The Treasury vetoed her plans at the 11th hour, she got the sack and we had the wettest drought on record. You can't blame the government for the last bit but the intervention of the Treasury and the arrival of the fiscally-conservative Owen Paterson at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is certainly the fault of government.

DEFRA is a notoriously incompetent government department as Mr Paterson has quickly found out with its bungling over the disease that threatens our Ash trees and this crisis has probably ended the chances of a Flood Re type deal emerging. My guess is that the last realistic chance of a decent scheme being put in place will be when the Chancellor George Osborne delivers the Autumn Statement on 5 December. I am not holding my breath because if Mr Paterson gets any additional money for DEFRA it will be to deal with the Ash tree crisis and not flood insurance. It will then be over to the insurance industry to explain what has happened and prepare people for the consequences. I hope it is ready.

Post – Insurance   
22 Nov 2012

Link to Post home page and documents