§ Malcolm Bruce
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the last assessment of the relative risks and priorities in regard to the categorisation of watercourses in England took place; and when she intends to review this categorisation to determine responsibilities for flood defence measures based on the current assessment of the severity of the flood risk issues and their relative priority. 
§ Mr. Morley
Watercourses in England are classed either as "main river" or "ordinary watercourses". The Environment Agency has permissive powers to undertake flood defence works on main rivers while for ordinary watercourses similar powers rest with the relevant operating authority, ie the local authority or, where one exists, the internal drainage board.
In 1999 the Government published a series of high level targets for flood and coastal defence, alongside an elaboration of the Environment Agency's general flood defence supervisory duty. Following this, work has been undertaken to identify "critical ordinary watercourses" which are those watercourses agreed between the Environment Agency and the relevant operating authority as presenting a significant flood risk. The Environment Agency has also been working with the operating authorities to ensure that these watercourses and any related flood defences are regularly inspected and their condition reported to the Environment Agency.
We recently consulted on a Review of Flood and Coastal Defence Funding including a number of options for streamlining the service. These included the possibility of transferring to the EA responsibility for watercourses presenting the most significant flood risk. We have received nearly 300 responses to the consultation, and will be considering these and our conclusions through the summer and autumn.
§ Malcolm Bruce
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which of the high level targets for flooding and coastal defence her Department(a) met within the stated objective date, (b) has met and (c) has still to achieve. 
§ Mr. Morley
[holding answer 3 July 2002]The high level targets (HLT) published in November 1999 apply to the Environment Agency and other bodies. No targets apply to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The targets generally require the Environment Agency and others to report on specific issues at specific times. Unfortunately reports due in 2001 were delayed because resources had to be diverted during the serious and widespread flooding in autumn 2000 and to deal with follow-up work.
Reports covering the 2001–02 period were published on 24 May 2002 for: HLT 1 (Policy statements); HLT 2 (Provision of Flood Warnings); HLT 3 (Emergency exercises and emergency plans) and HLT 9 (Biodiversity). I expect shortly to be able to publish reports for HLT 2 (due April 2002) and HLT 5 (Flood defence inspections and assessment).593W
On other targets, the National Flood and Coastal Defence Database (HLT 4) is now expected to become operational by September. Coastal groups have provided partial responses under HLTs 6, 8 and 13 and we are working with them to secure fuller and timely compliance in future. Information has been forthcoming from operating authorities under HLT 7, and the Association of Drainage Authorities have issued guidance to IDBs under HLT 14, though this was delayed by factors beyond the Association's control.
The Environment Agency are still awaiting submissions for the targets 10, 11 and 12, and reports will be published in coming months. While there might be some residual delay following the impact of the autumn 2000 floods, I hope to achieve rather more timely publication in future.