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Flooding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:41 pm on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Labour, Pontypridd 2:41 pm, 4th March 2020

Colleagues will be aware of the devastating impact that the recent storms have had on communities in my constituency. In Pontypridd and right across Rhondda Cynon Taf, the level of rainfall was unprecedented, and the River Taf’s levels rose by over 1 metre above all previous records. Houses and businesses have been absolutely devastated, and my community and local authority simply could not have prepared for the amount of rainfall that Storm Dennis brought us.

As a new Member of this House, I never imagined that my first few months as an elected representative would be spent visiting local businesses and residents who have seen their livelihoods and their lives shattered. The flooding that communities such as mine and others across the country have experienced is surely a sign that the climate crisis has gone far enough. I pay tribute to the fantastic way in which our community groups throughout my constituency and all over Rhondda Cynon Taf have come together to support one another, but we really should not be facing such unprecedented and unexpected natural disasters in the first place.

I am proud that the Welsh Labour Government have made £10 million available to households impacted by flooding, and the First Minister has been so quick to respond not just by visiting those impacted in my constituency, but by setting up emergency relief schemes. Yet the cost of the flooding damage in Wales could reach at least £180 million and that figure is also predicted to climb. We are simply not receiving the financial support from the UK Government to cover these unexpected costs.

As my hon. Friend Chris Bryant said, it is expected that over a quarter of the total number of flooded homes in the UK are in our local authority area of Rhondda Cynon Taf. The community response has been fantastic, but I would not expect anything less. A crowdfunder that I set up only two weeks ago has managed to raise over £36,000, in addition to the crowdfunder set up by my hon. Friend. Donations have come in from all over the world, showing that this is clearly an issue close to everybody’s hearts—although perhaps not our Prime Minister’s.

Although the flooding and the rainfall have caused immense and in places irreparable damage, the consequences of the flooding are far broader, wider and long-lasting than simply cosmetic damage. There are former coalmining sites across south Wales that are now at huge risk of landslides. Indeed, in my hon. Friend’s constituency, landslides began soon after the rainfall. Yet it is clear that the UK Government do not understand their responsibilities when it comes to devolution, and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has claimed that this is an issue for the devolved Welsh Government. The Welsh Labour Government have committed to the thorough flooding response, but the management of all former coal sites, in the wake of this flash flooding, needs urgent attention. I have been extremely concerned to see that there is some confusion from this UK Government over where their responsibilities to former coalmining sites lie, and I would like this cleared up urgently.

I sincerely hope that this UK Government are committed to working alongside colleagues in the Welsh Government to find a way forward beyond the flooding devastation. Longer term, I would like to see a new consideration of the clearly outdated Barnett consequential funding formula. I am sure that colleagues on both sides of the House would agree that we should not have to wait for natural disasters such as flash flooding to strike before properly considering methods of funding devolved Administrations such as Wales.