27/11/2012 16:01 GMT | Updated 28/11/2012 06:27 GMT

Prime Minister Promises 'Tough Approach' With Insurers Over Floods

Prime minister David Cameron has promised to take a "tough approach" on negotiations with insurers over homes in danger of flooding.

Up to 200,000 high risk properties are at risk of being priced out of affordable cover when a deal struck in 2000 between the then Labour government and insurers ends next summer.

The government has been in talks for two years but as yet an agreement has not been reached.

david cameron floods

David Cameron has called on insurance companies 'to do what they are meant to'

"I'm sure we will do a deal," Mr Cameron said. "We are in negotiations at the moment.

"We need to take a tough approach frankly and it's important insurance companies do what they are meant to, which is provide insurance to households and we are going to make sure that happens."

Mr Cameron said he was determined to reach an agreement. "I am personally involved," he said, "(Cabinet Office Minister) Oliver Letwin is doing this negotiation on my behalf.

"The current situation we have lasts until the middle of next year and we have some time to sort it out.

"But I want to get it sorted. I've seen myself in my own constituency the difficulty people have when they can't get insurance.


"It's not just it makes them feel unsafe in their own home but they can't sell their own home, so it's very important we get this sorted on their behalf."

Mr Cameron was speaking after he met householders in the village of Buckfastleigh, Devon, which was struck by flash flooding at the weekend.

"It is obviously very traumatic when communities are hit by flooding like this but what I found are people are incredibly steadfast and have behaved incredibly bravely at handling the flood and now we need to help them with the recovery," he said.

"We have to make sure their insurance pays out, make sure the Environment Agency puts in place good flood defences, make sure there are better warning schemes.

"There are always lessons to learn and I wanted to come here and hear it for myself."

Mr Cameron also visited recently-built flood defences on the River Dart, which have helped protect the local area from worse flooding.

The prime minister defended his government's record on providing flood defences despite a cut in the budget.

"We are spending over £2 billion on flood defences over the current four-year period, which is 6% less than was spent over the last four years," he said.

floods tewkesbury

Flooding is still affecting large parts of the UK, including Tewkesbury

"But as well as that, we are actually encouraging private and other money into flood defences and making sure they are more efficient as we build them.

"I am quite convinced we are going to provide flood defences for another extra 145,000 homes over the period ahead and that's very important."

Mr Cameron met two residents of Station Road in Buckfastleigh whose homes had flooded on Saturday night.

He met mother-of-two Musky Kendall and her neighbour James Rice and was shown around their houses.

Ms Kendall, 48, mother to Louis, 12 and eight-year-old Gus, said she and her partner Richard Lloyd had just 10 minutes' warning before their home flooded from the rising River Dart.

After she met the prime minister, she said the water would have caused thousands of pounds of damage as household appliances will have to be replaced, as well as carpets, flooring and skirting boards.

david cameron devon

Musky Kendall told the prime minister of the effects the flood had on her home

"We had just 10 minutes' warning," she said.

"Richard went out to move the cars to higher ground and the water was just rushing down the street.

"My sons were terrified but they were brave and they helped throw things upstairs.

"The cat was locked in a room upstairs and the two guinea pigs were put in a cardboard box and taken upstairs as well.

"Seeing the force of the water was just phenomenal and quite scary and we didn't want to stay in the house, even upstairs.

"We lost quite a lot of power and we were reaching for torches. I was lucky that my partner is an electrician.

"There was just no time. People say that and you just don't realise and appreciate it until it happens to you," she added.

"We don't want to move but it makes you think about where you store your possessions.

"I've always kept the photos upstairs but I've lost sentimental stuff like my grandmother's old scrabble set."

Ms Kendall, a school admin worker, said the flash flood happened at around 9pm when water started coming through the garage, from under the floorboards and over a neighbour's wall.

She told the prime minister that the water reached a height of between 2ft and 3ft in the garden and 1ft in the house, as well as gushing down the street.

For the last three nights she and her family have stayed with her sister.

Mr Rice, 32, said he rushed home from work as the manager of a local chip shop when he heard the flash flood was on its way.

"It don't think we'll see anything like it again and it was a freak of nature - a perfect storm," he said.

uk floods

David Cameron talks to James Rice who described the flood as 'a perfect storm'

Mr Rice, who rents a cottage that backs onto the river, said the flood water nearly burst through his rear garden wall - rising almost 10ft.

"It started at about 9pm and by 10pm this house was under water and it was at its worst from then until midnight," he said.

"The water just rushes straight off Dartmoor into the river, which is one of the fastest rising and falling rivers in the country.

"1979 was the last time it flooded here and since then they have put in some flood defence system.

"Fortunately my landlord had all the electric sockets moved higher up, so I didn't have any electrical problems."

Mr Rice, who does not have contents insurance, told the prime minister he had not lost too many possessions but would have to speak to his landlord about when he would be able to move back into his home.

After leaving Devon, Mr Cameron travelled to Gloucester to meet emergency staff who have been dealing with the flooding of the River Severn.

The prime minister met those co-ordinating the Gloucestershire's efforts against the severe weather at the TriService Emergency Centre in Waterwells, Quedgeley.

Jon Hall, chief fire officer of Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service, later tweeted: "Prime Minister came and thanked @glos_prepared @glospolice and @glosfire staff this afternoon - Not necessary but much appreciated."