Winter Floods

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 11:49 am on 6th February 2014.

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Photo of Eric Pickles Eric Pickles The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 11:49 am, 6th February 2014

I thank the hon. Lady for her kind remarks about my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The very able Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Dan Rogerson, will be dealing with these matters.

I am quite surprised that the hon. Lady is in a position to reply to the statement, because given all the chuntering that took place during my delivery of it, I did not think she was paying an awful lot of attention. I had the opportunity—this is like a double whammy for me—of listening to her on Sky this morning, when she explained to viewers that the previous Government had enhanced the amount of money that was available for flooding following the problems in 2007. She is condemned out of her own mouth, because the facts are straightforward and out there—under the last five years of the Labour Government, they spent £2.7 billion and we will be spending £3.1 billion. You cannot argue with those figures.

The hon. Lady said “What a shock” about our providing 85% of Bellwin. That is the normal course of events. Perhaps she does not understand how the system works. This is money that we use to compensate, and no claims have been made as yet. It is normal procedure to set it at 85%. Perhaps she may consider this: in the 30 years that Bellwin has been in existence, this is the very first time that the threshold has been reduced. This is a real help to local councils, and she should not be so parsimonious about it.

With regard to the railway, the hon. Lady said, “Why didn’t we know?” She just needs to look at those dramatic television pictures of the railway at Dawlish—Brunel’s great, beautiful railway. We are not in a position to make an assessment of how long this is going to take because right now, as we speak, people are working to shore up the bank and protect the damaged railway from the next surge that is coming. It is utterly ridiculous to expect anything other than that.

The hon. Lady asked why we have not updated the Pitt review. She will recall that we set up the Flood Forecasting Centre, which has been producing very straightforward predictions. Perhaps she should spend a little less time in the television studios and more time with Google.