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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:14 pm on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 1:14 pm, 4th March 2020

I am going to address all those points of review later, but I wanted to take the opportunity, since this does not always happen, to effectively acknowledge some of the great work that has been done on the ground by the Environment Agency and our emergency services.

In Ironbridge, the substructure of the soil along the riverbank sadly does not lend itself to the demountable barriers that were so effective in other towns, but temporary barriers were deployed to contain the water that breached the river bank, with 800 metres of temporary barriers deployed along the Wharfage.

While most effects in the days after Storm Dennis were felt along the Severn, there was further heavy rain late last week, which led to major challenges in parts of Yorkshire, notably around the washlands at Snaith and East Cowick. The washlands are one of the oldest man-made flood defence systems in the country, dating back some 400 years. However, the sheer volume of rainfall meant that they were overwhelmed. We have deployed 48 multi-agency pumps in operation across the Aire washlands, as water levels start to drop, to dewater homes. There is an urgency to this work, since next weekend we will also see peak seasonal tides on the east coast, which can lock rivers. We must therefore use the window of opportunity in the weeks ahead.

The motion tabled by the Opposition suggests an independent inquiry. I am grateful for this opportunity to describe all the other inquiries that we have had on flood response over the last decade or so and what actions have been taken to implement those recommendations. First, the Pitt review, which was alluded to by Geraint Davies and which followed the 2007 floods, informed new laws better to manage flooding under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010. The crucial recommendations of the review regarding flood response led to the establishment of local resilience forums.