Flood talks breakdown 'nonsense'
Claims that the Government's talks with insurers over flood compensation had broken down are "complete nonsense", according to the Environment Secretary.
Answering a question from his opposite number, Mary Creagh, in the Commons, Owen Paterson insisted negotiations were still ongoing.
"Today’s story is complete nonsense, the very first meeting I had outside my office was with the ABI, we have had most constructive and detailed discussions with them since, a senior level meeting as recently as the end of last week and I’m looking to receiving the ABI’s latest suggestions," he said.
The Environment Secretary's statement follows claims that thousands of homes could be left without flood cover as talks between the Government and insurers are at "crisis point".
Downing St said this morning the Government had "put a proposal" to the Association of British Insurers and that the industry group "are considering that proposal".
"We want to ensure that people are able to get insruance at an affordable price. Clearly a negotiation is ongoing.," a No. 10 spokesman said.
Negotiations had stalled after the Government reportedly refused to guarantee a "temporary overdraft" for insurers if their own pot to cover homes at high risk from flooding runs out.
Nick Starling, a director at the ABI, which is leading negotiations for the industry, said on the Today programme the Government would not agree to this "elegant solution".
But Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has hit out at the ABI, saying he would not be drawn by the industry's "opportunistic" attempts to negotiate over the airwaves.
He insisted talks were ongoing, but claimed the priority for today was helping people affected by the disaster.
"I would like to say I haven’t come down here to come down to negotiate with ABI over the airwaves. I have come down here to listen to people who have been affected by flooding, to talk to businesses, to talk to the council," he told BBC News.
"We are continuing to talk to them, we had meetings last week, we are looking forward to their latest proposal. But it’s opportunistic to try to get me to negotiate over the airwaves and I’m not going to do so."
Defra minister Richard Benyon has also refused to discuss the details of negotiations, but said the matter was being discussed at "the highest levels".
It comes as almost 300 flood warnings have been issued across the UK, with over 800 homes already flooded.