Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:34 pm on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee 2:34 pm, 4th March 2020

My hon. Friend is right. I would like to see VAT relief on private flood protection, which many people are forced to buy for their own homes. I hope the Chancellor will consider that for the coming Budget, but I suspect we may have missed that one.

I want to thank a few people who have made a huge difference. In our community, flood wardens have had a huge impact by not only ensuring that people are safe when a flood occurs but helping to clear culverts and report blocked drains, so that floods do not accumulate, and particularly surface water flooding. Carl Lewis in Tonbridge has led the way, and a small thank you should go to him. Other people around the area have agreed to allow private land to be used.

When I was driving from home into Tonbridge the other day, large areas of west Kent were covered by the Medway. However, in Tonbridge we have had issues this winter caused by management companies and house builders failing to look after residents. This is not a question about building on floodplains; these are buildings that are deliberately and expertly built on floodplains, with floodable garages underneath. They are specifically designed for the purpose, but those living in Riverbank House in Tonbridge were let down badly by Pembroke Property Management. Only now has the floodwater been pumped out of their car park following the flooding that occurred before Christmas. Pembroke had no plan to deal with the flooding and failed to ensure that there were working pumps in the car park, so cars remained submerged for weeks. I pay particular tribute to some of the local councillors, including Matthew Boughton, who made a huge noise in making sure that constituents and residents were properly represented.

In the absence of action from property management companies, we must look at ways to ensure that residents are protected and that they are not charged for services that should already be provided—none more so than those let down by Redrow at Waterside Reach. This building is only four years old and, as the name suggests, it was specifically built next to the river. So there is more that this Government can do and I look forward very much to the Government taking action and making sure that towns such as Tonbridge—deliberately built, by the Vikings, on the river—are able to continue.