§ Mrs. Brinton
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the effects of global warming in the next 50 years on the(a) area of agricultural land that may be lost and (b) number of people displaced by loss of land in the United Kingdom. 
§ Mr. Morley
I have been asked to reply.
The land below high tide level is already vulnerable to flooding and depends on flood and coastal defences. These low lying areas form around 5 per cent. of the land area of England, including a similar proportion of the developed urban land, and over 50 per cent. of the highest grade agricultural land.
This land could be at increased risk through climate change. We need to respond to the challenge primarily by ensuring that, where necessary and appropriate, existing defences are replaced and upgraded. Since 1989, MAFF has issued flood and coastal defence operating authorities with allowances for sea level rise for them to take into account when designing new or upgraded schemes; these allowances reflect both climate change and long term geological land movement.
However, the response to climate change cannot be automatically to surround Britain in concrete by building ever higher sea defences. Sustainability is a key criterion and we cannot commit future generations to unsustainable defence options. In assessing defence options the operating authorities need to consider alternative approaches including "managed realignment" of defences to reduce such pressure on the inter-tidal area, compensate for habitat losses and provide more sustainable long term lines of coastal defence. Decisions on such matters will need to be made by the operating authorities over the coming years.