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Flooding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:07 pm on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Labour, Rhondda 2:07 pm, 4th March 2020

Nearly a quarter or more of all those affected in the recent flooding were in one local authority area in Wales, in Rhondda Cynon Taf. I hope, Mr Deputy Speaker, that my hon. Friend Alex Davies-Jones will catch your eye later to talk about the situation there. That meant that a very significant number of homes in my constituency were flooded: in Treorchy, Trehafod, Ystrad, Britannia, Blaenllechau, Ynyshir, and Penrhys.

In Pentre, a culvert overflowed from the top of the hill, and slurry came down full of coal dust, debris and a fair amount of sewage. It swept down through a whole part of Pentre. What was particularly upsetting was not only what those people had to suffer on the first occasion, but that, three days later, in Pleasant Street—ironically named—the flooding came all over again because the brash that had got stuck in the middle of the culvert was now further down, and water was coming out of a completely different place. So, when nobody else was being flooded in the country, the people in Pleasant Street were flooded all over again. That is particularly upsetting for so many people in my constituency because dozens and dozens of them—I met many of them—have no insurance. That is not because they are on a floodplain or for a complicated reasons about insurance, but because, in the run-up to Christmas, many families in my patch are on borderline finances. They are literally making decisions about whether to put food on the table or to buy a school uniform; consequently, the insurance is the first bill that goes. Those people have lost absolutely everything—literally everything. Most people in my patch own their own homes as well. It has been a double, triple, quadruple whammy. What has been upsetting for even more people is that some have also lost their job because business in Pontypridd has been dramatically affected, so they have lost their job and their home.

The damage to the infrastructure of Rhondda Cynon Taf is phenomenal. About a dozen bridges across the whole of RCT will have to be rebuilt completely. A couple of those are historic buildings, so we have to get permission from Cadw to take them down. That will have a dramatic cost. There are hundreds of culverts. In my patch, flooding is not normally caused by the river overflowing or bursting its banks; it happens because of water coming down off the mountain at great speed in areas where it was not expected, with new watercourses suddenly being created and culverts not working. A phenomenally complicated set of infrastructure decisions have to be looked at.

The council now reckons that its bill will be something in the region of £44 million, but its annual capital allocation is just £13.4 million. RCT could be completely wiped out unless there is significant additional funding to the Welsh Government from here. Rhondda Cynon Taf has given £500 to every household affected; the Welsh Government have given another £500, and more to those who are not insured. I hope that the crowdfunder that I set up, which has now reached £52,341, will be able to give £250 or perhaps more to every single household. I would love it if the Minister would stand up and say that he will ensure that the Government match the funds that have been raised. I represent one of the poorest constituencies in the land, and for that money to have been found locally is just phenomenal. If somebody watching this debate on television would like to give us £50,000, it would mean that we could give £500 to every household.

I want to celebrate the spirit the people of the Rhondda, which has been absolutely amazing. I remember standing in the middle of the slurry in Lewis Street in my wellington boots, and there were about 30 people there who had come from all over the Rhondda to give a hand in whatever way possible. Many were in completely inappropriate clothes, but they just wanted to do their bit. One old man was in his bed and could not move, and neighbours carried him—in his bed, which was in danger of floating away—to safety. There were Canolfan Pentre volunteers there every single day. Tesco and others have provided food because lots of these families have no money to pay for food right now. Fundraising events have been carried out by Morlais. Squares nightclub has come up with £3,063. Visit Treorchy has found another £3,000. The Manic Street Preachers have given £6,000, between my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd and I. Neil Kinnock has given £500. But there is so much that we still have to do to put things right. You can make a donation as well, Mr Deputy Speaker.