Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:25 pm on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Gerald Jones Gerald Jones Shadow Minister (Defence) 3:25 pm, 4th March 2020

The impact of recent floods, particularly associated with Storm Dennis, devastated a number of communities across Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, but it is often true that in the worst and most difficult of times we see the best of community spirit, and that was certainly the case when local residents came out to support each other and community organisations offered their support too. One such example was Merthyr Tydfil football club, which offered a free carvery lunch to any emergency service workers who had been out on that Sunday morning helping residents since the early hours—community spirit at its best.

Despite 10 years of austerity that has hit local authorities hard, both Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council and Caerphilly County Borough Council were on the frontline supporting residents, ensuring roads were kept open as far as possible, assisting with the clear-up operation, delivering sandbags and opening rest centres. On both sides of my constituency, we have significant issues with culverts being blocked, sinkholes, water mains collapsing and bridges that need urgent repair.

Last week at PMQs, I asked the Prime Minister for a cast-iron guarantee that Welsh communities would not be treated differently from other parts of the UK and would get the money we need to recover from flood damage. The Prime Minister gave an assurance that that money would be passported through, and that the Government would work closely with the Welsh Government in the coming weeks. Can I ask today for an update on the engagement with Welsh Government and what level of support Wales is likely to get? The First Minister of Wales has indicated that the cost could be somewhere in the region of £180 million.

The Secretary of State made a comment in his opening speech about coal tips, which, as we know, are largely the responsibility of the Government. Tips are a huge area of concern for my constituency and many others, and we need assurances that both publicly and privately owned tips are adequately monitored. In my constituency, the community of Aberfan suffered more than anywhere due to the impact of coal tips that had not been properly monitored, and people are understandably very concerned about this issue. So we do need today a signal from the Minister that funding for the remedial works required at the tips will be forthcoming.

In conclusion, the Union of the United Kingdom, a Union that I have always felt mattered—I still do—must mean something at times like this. The whole point of the United Kingdom is that we are there to offer support to each other in times of need. While we appreciate that flooding and environmental issues are largely devolved matters, these unprecedented times need unprecedented measures. We need to be there as a Union of four nations to support each other, so I ask the Minister today to outline what support she can offer to Wales in the coming weeks.