Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:19 pm on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Rachel Reeves Rachel Reeves Chair, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Chair, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee 2:19 pm, 4th March 2020

It is a real pleasure to follow Holly Mumby-Croft. Many of us in this House deeply miss Nic Dakin, but it was a real pleasure to hear her story about how she was forged in Scunthorpe. Like her, and like all of us in this House, we hope that Scunthorpe will continue to make steel for many years and generations to come.

I want to speak about Kirkstall and Burley in my constituency, which were devastated by floods on Boxing day in 2015. In the aftermath of those floods, we were promised by Elizabeth Truss, the Environment Secretary at the time, that Yorkshire would soon have

“one of the most resilient flood defence programmes in the country”,

and that Leeds would be given

“the right level of protection” from floods. Well, more than four years after those words were uttered, we still do not have those things and still desperately need them. Phase 2 of the flood alleviation scheme for Leeds was cancelled in 2011, and we are still fighting to get it back. Although phase 1 has happened and protects Leeds city centre, Kirkstall and Burley are still as unprotected as they were on Boxing day 2015. We had a near miss with Storm Ciara and luckily avoided the floods that we experienced in 2015, but if the water in the River Aire had risen by just a few centimetres more, we would have been devastated in exactly the same way, because we still do not have the flood defences that we were promised and that we need. We remain £23 million short of the funding that we need in Leeds to build the second phase of the flood alleviation scheme. Some work is happening, and we welcome that. Only last week I visited Harden Moor in Bradford, where trees are being planted and leaky dams are being put in, but not, frankly, at the level needed to provide the protections that we need.

People in my constituency, and particularly businesses in my constituency, like those that other hon. Members have mentioned, are in fear every time there is a flood warning, and every time they see the river and the canal near to where we live rising, because they know that we are just as vulnerable as we were back then. Not only are we as vulnerable to the flooding but, as my hon. Friend Chris Bryant said, many people and businesses now do not have flood insurance, although not always for the same reasons that he mentioned. In this case, it is because that flood insurance is simply unaffordable, as now we have gone through floods the insurers will not insure at the same rates as they did previously. Yesterday evening, I spoke to a business owner and asked him what happened to his flood insurance after the floods of 2015, and he said that it almost trebled overnight. Many businesses in my community no longer have flood insurance because it would make their businesses unviable.