Flooding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:50 pm on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 3:50 pm, 4th March 2020

I will not take any interventions, because I want to refer to a lot of Members who have spoken.

I reiterate that this has been an unprecedented time. February 2020 was the wettest February on record in England and, indeed, right across the UK. Some places received over four times the average monthly rainfall, and the Met Office had to create a new scale on its map to show areas receiving over 200% of their average rainfall. Members who saw the map will have seen that quite clearly. It is absolutely staggering.

Although it is devastating for anybody to be flooded, we must remember that one in six properties in England are susceptible to flood risk. The storms flooded over 3,400 properties in February. Yes, that is terrible for the people who are flooded, but it is equivalent to less than 0.1% of all properties at risk in England. I point out to the shadow Minister that that compares with the 17,000 properties flooded in 2015, so the situation is a great deal better.

Thousands of properties have been protected by the permanent and temporary flood defences about which we have heard so much today. More than 128,000 properties have been protected this winter, despite the record river level rises. Many colleagues have shared their experiences to show how flood defences have helped and have worked. I am grateful to my hon. Friends the Members for Gloucester (Richard Graham) and for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat), who gave good examples of that.

In addition, people are becoming more aware of their risk of flooding. Digital services, such as the online flood warnings and alerts provided by the Environment Agency, which I hope the shadow Secretary of State has had a look at, because they are rather good—[Interruption.] He gets them himself, which is excellent. They have had 3.1 million hits so far, and this is very important, because individually we need to take responsibility for resilience. On that note of awareness of risk, I wish to respond to comments of Chris Bryant about the coal tips. Just to clarify, let me say that the Secretary of State for Wales has met local partners, including the Welsh Government and the UK Coal Authority, and it is the UK Coal Authority that has been collecting and analysing data on the situation. Based on that data, which has been gathered quickly, it will establish a schedule of inspections. That will start with dealing with those areas with the highest risk.