Heatwave Response

– in the House of Commons at 12:50 pm on 20th July 2022.

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Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 12:50 pm, 20th July 2022

I would like to make a statement on this week’s heatwave. Coningsby in Lincolnshire broke records yesterday when it registered a provisional reading of 40.3°C. According to the Met Office, no fewer than 34 locations around the United Kingdom exceeded the country’s previous highest temperature of 37.8°C, which was set in 2019.

We have seen a collective national endeavour to prepare for and manage the effects of the heat, from town hall to Whitehall and across various industries, to keep people safe and infrastructure functioning. From water companies and rail engineers to public servants across the land, everyone has pulled together, with members of the public responding in a responsible way that took the pressure off vital public services.

Our national resolve has been exemplified by our fire and rescue services, for many of which yesterday was the busiest day since world war two. They were undoubtedly stretched, but coped magnificently. The systems in place to make sure that the fire services can operate nationally as well as locally worked well. In tinderbox conditions, they have dealt with dozens of wildfires around the country over the past 24 hours. Fifteen fire and rescue services declared major incidents and handled emergency calls the length and breadth of the country.

Sadly, at least 41 properties have been destroyed in London, 14 in Norfolk, five in Lincolnshire and smaller numbers elsewhere. On behalf of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and, I am sure, the whole House, I would like to pass on our sincere condolences to those who have lost their homes or business premises. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is working closely with local authorities to provide support to them.

Throughout recent days, the Prime Minister has monitored our work and has been specifically briefed on a number of occasions; we briefed him again this morning. The Prime Minister was briefed during the wildfires by Mark Hardingham—the chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council—and the civil contingencies secretariat. He has passed on his thanks to all the brave firefighters who have sought to control the flames in such debilitating conditions. I would also like to pay my tribute to the fire control staff, officers and support teams for their essential work and to the other agencies that have made such tremendous efforts in recent days: the NHS, our emergency call handlers, the police and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, among many others.

Hon. Members will be relieved to know that some pressure on these services will now ease as the fiercest heat has subsided. Many incidents are now being scaled back. Thunderstorms are likely this afternoon, but for much of the country, more clement, dry conditions are the pattern for the coming days. The Met Office, however, stresses that the summer is likely to bring further hot weather and wildfire risk remains elevated. That is why we are treating this heatwave as an exacting test of our national resilience and contingency planning. As always, there is no room for complacency.

We have seen over the past few days what we can achieve when we prepare properly and then work closely together. Owing to the technical expertise of the weather forecasters who predicted with admirable precision the peak of the heatwave and how high the temperatures would be, the Government were able to launch an advance campaign of comprehensive public advice. Our early data shows how, well before the heatwave arrived, people were taking on board that advice from the UK Health Security Agency, the NHS, the chief and deputy chief medical officer, emergency services and key agencies on the ground.

Because of our established local networks and colleagues in the devolved Administrations, we had people spread across the UK ready to step in when it mattered. I am particularly grateful for the co-operation and support that we received from the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive. We all need to manage these events together.

I would like to give some examples of how people taking the right action helped to mitigate the effects of the extreme weather, starting with the heeding of advice. Fully five times as many people accessed NHS England internet pages on how to manage the symptoms of heat exhaustion in the critical week beginning 11 July. We had feared that our vital 999 call services would come under untold pressure, yet as the mercury climbed inexorably on 18 July, fewer 999 calls but more 111 calls were made than the week before. That suggests that the public had heeded the advice to avoid 999 except in emergencies.

With travel, once again people were playing for the team. The public stayed at home to avoid the heat, not venturing far. The data bears that out: on Monday, footfall at major London stations was at approximately 35% of normal post-pandemic levels. Network Rail reports that passenger train numbers yesterday were approximately 40% down on the previous week. We did not forget those who cannot easily leave their homes; we asked people to look out for the elderly and for vulnerable family members and neighbours.

Tragically, 13 people are believed to have lost their lives after getting into difficulty in rivers, reservoirs and lakes while swimming in recent days; seven of them, sadly, were teenage boys. I would like to pass on our sincere condolences and those of the whole House to the families of the victims for their terrible loss.

Of course, we have still to work through the longer-term consequences of the heatwave. The true picture will not come until all incidents are analysed, all emergency teams are debriefed and all incident logs and data are reconciled. A great deal of data has yet to come in from colleagues in the devolved Administrations and from local authorities and agencies around the country. We recognise that we are likely to experience more of these incidents, and that we should not underestimate their speed, scope and severity. Britain may be unaccustomed to such high temperatures, but the UK, along with our European neighbours, must learn to live with extreme events such as these.

The Government have been at the forefront of international efforts to reach net zero, but the impacts of climate change are with us now. That is why we have a national adaptation programme under the leadership of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. As we have seen in recent days, we will continue to face acute events driven by climate change. It is the responsibility of Cabinet Office Ministers to co-ordinate work across Government when those events take place.

The Government will continue to build our collective resilience. To that end, the national resilience strategy, about which I was asked on Monday, will be launched at the earliest possible opportunity by the incoming Administration. In the meantime, I will continue to co-ordinate the work of teams across Government in building resilience to make sure that the country is ready to meet the challenges of the autumn, the winter and beyond. In that spirit, I commend this statement to the House.

Photo of Angela Rayner Angela Rayner Deputy Leader of the Official Opposition, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Shadow Secretary of State for the Future of Work, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 12:56 pm, 20th July 2022

The events of the last few days have been incredibly traumatic for communities across Britain. Individuals and families have had their homes destroyed and, as the Minister said, lives have been lost. As the mother of teenagers, I reiterate that they must not swim in our rivers—it is too dangerous.

Farmers and businesses have seen their livelihoods go up in smoke. We saw horrifying images of the A2 on fire yesterday. I join the Minister in paying tribute to the incredible bravery of our fire services and those whose job it is to head straight into danger as the rest of us escape it. Sadly, four firefighters have been hospitalised in South Yorkshire and over a dozen have been injured in London. I know that the whole House will give them our gratitude and wish them well, but for too long our public servants have been underappreciated and undervalued by this Government. The Minister mentioned our fire services; over the last 10 years, the funding and staffing of fire and rescue services has been cut, and response times have gone up by 8%. Yesterday, no mutual aid was available to services facing literal firestorms.

Mr Speaker, this statement is far too late. The impact of this heatwave was completely predictable, so why the delay in coming to this House? It has literally taken the country going up in flames for the Minister to turn his focus to this emergency. Climate change will cause more and more national emergencies like this, from heatwaves to fires, floods and pandemics, but as we have seen over the past week, the leadership contenders are doing their hardest to outbid each other on how they would cut action on climate change. They will leave us vulnerable to more freak natural disasters.

The caretaker Minister says that it is his job to chair Cobra meetings, but it should be the job of the Prime Minister to lead. Yesterday, the remaining Cabinet gave the Prime Minister the complete volumes of Sir Winston Churchill as a leaving gift—but he is no Churchill. He has been missing in action. Can the Minister tell us where the Prime Minister was as the country burned? Where was he when Cobra was called last weekend? Has he attended any talks with Ministers or senior officials in the days since? Is the truth not that the Prime Minister and his entire Government have gone missing while Britain burns?

We might have cooler temperatures today, but another heatwave is inevitable as our climate heats up. Britain cannot continue to be so unprepared. The Minister tells people to drink water and wear a hat. It is just not good enough. We need a long-term emergency resilience plan for the future, so can the Minister answer these questions? Where is the plan for the delivery of essential services? How will people be kept safe at work, on transport, in hospitals and in care homes? Where is the guidance for safe indoor working temperatures?

The Minister now says that the Government’s national resilience plan will be published in due course, by the new Administration. It is already 10 months overdue. Why should the British people be forced to wait for a whole year? It is the primary duty of any Government to keep the public safe, and Britain deserves much better than this. Labour already has a resilience plan for the long term. We would implement a Department-wide approach and appoint a Minister for Resilience. We would give local government the resources that it needs to plan and prepare for emergencies. Local government has been on the frontline, and I pay tribute to its response to this crisis—and to what it did during the pandemic—but its resilience has been eroded by 12 years of cuts and austerity at the hands of this Government.

Finally, Labour would empower businesses and civil society organisations to strengthen our response. Homes have been destroyed, our brave firefighters have been hospitalised, and lives have been ruined and lost. Enough is enough. If the Minister is not willing to take the action that is needed, we on this side of the House are.

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

What a shame that—notwithstanding the loss of some homes and some tragic deaths in water-related incidents—the right hon. Lady did not take the opportunity to recognise that by and large the system worked, and that, owing to our planning and the resilience that we built into all the public services and, indeed, public servants whom she lauded, the country got through this particular extreme weather event in pretty good shape. We obviously recognise that there were some unfortunate incidents—as I said, a number of homes were set on fire—but the fact that we kept the damage to a minimum and the vast majority of the population got through this difficulty well was not recognised by the right hon. Lady at all, and I think that that is a real shame.

The right hon. Lady claimed that no mutual aid was available. That is not correct. One fire and rescue service, Norfolk, called for national mutual aid, and mutual aid was provided from other parts of the country. The system that we have for flexing the use of the fire service throughout the country worked extremely well, as the chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council was able to confirm to the Prime Minister last night and, indeed, this morning.

The right hon. Lady seemed to claim that this was the first time I had turned up in the House to discuss this issue. It is not; it is the second time I have done so, and we have been working on this since the weather forecasters notified us that an extreme weather event was likely to occur. It is, however, the first time the right hon. Lady has turned up in the House. [Interruption.] You were doing a radio interview.

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

Being in your office is not being on the Front Bench. “Present but not involved” is, I believe, the claim from the Labour party. Before the right hon. Lady starts flinging stones and claiming that others are not doing their job, perhaps she should polish the glass in her house.

As for the involvement of the Prime Minister, he has been kept in touch with our work throughout, either through personal briefings from me or, last night and this morning, through briefings from the chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council and the Civil Contingencies Secretariat. As the right hon. Lady will, I am afraid, never know—because, I hope, she will never be in the Government—No. 10 and the Cabinet Office work together very closely when emergencies such as this arise and we need to establish plans and specific co-ordination work to ensure that we all understand what the picture is.

As I have said, the resilience plan is in progress and will be launched as soon as we have a new Administration in No. 10, but the right hon. Lady should not mistake the question of the publication of a national resilience plan for our not having any plans at all. As we saw in all manner of elements of the function of our country, the plans that we had in place worked well, the capacity that we stood up flexed, often brilliantly, to deal with an ever-changing situation, and, as I have said, most of the country got through it in good shape.

As for the appointment of a Minister for Resilience, I am afraid that we already have one: it is me. The job of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is to look after the Civil Contingencies Secretariat, whose purpose is to deal specifically with issues of resilience and ensure that the system works, as it did—largely—yesterday.

Photo of James Wild James Wild Conservative, North West Norfolk

Yesterday, wildfires in my constituency destroyed properties in Brancaster Staithe and also destroyed habitats and wildlife on the famous Wild Ken Hill estate, which is well known for hosting the BBC’s “Springwatch”. Let me put on record my constituents’ immense thanks to Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service and the other emergency services, as well as all those in the local community who helped to tackle those blazes in such awful circumstances: they will recover and rebuild those community areas. May I also ask the Minister to reinforce our commitment to achieving net zero so that we are better protected from climate change?

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

My hon. Friend is right: Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service was severely tested yesterday. As I said earlier, it received mutual aid—from, I believe, as far afield as Merseyside—to help it in that battle, and I understand that those services will remain in situ to ensure that Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service can get back on its feet and deal with any event that may arise over the next few days. My hon. Friend is also right to suggest that, while we are very focused on the continuing elevated risk of wildfires, the long-term work enabling us not only to make our own contribution to the battle against climate change but to lead the world and challenge some of its biggest polluters to change their habits and their uses of fuel is critical, and I know that in Parliaments to come he will be at the forefront of that fight.

Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Inclusive Society), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and

I thank the Minister for prior sight of this statement.

Let me begin by paying tribute to those in all the emergency services who, once again, have gone above and beyond to help their fellow citizens in a time of crisis. Let me also extend our sympathy to the people whose homes and businesses have been destroyed in the fires that raged across parts of England.

We may not have known anything like this before, with record temperatures being set in three of the four nations of the UK and the symbolic 40°C barrier being broken in England, but, sadly, I predict that this—or something like it—is here to stay. We are all going to have to live with it, and Governments are going to have to prepare for it in the future. Climate scientists have been warning us for decades that this day was coming, and it would be disingenuous in the extreme for anyone to claim that it was a one-off freak event or dare to compare it with the summer of 1976. This is the climate emergency. This is exactly what we were told would happen if we did not change our ways. This is what COP26 was all about, and that is why those who are still part of the Tory leadership race cannot, and must not, renege on the commitment to achieving net zero in return for securing votes from the party’s base.

Can the Minister tell me where is the plan to increase and bolster resilience so that the Government’s response to the guaranteed future heatwaves is more co-ordinated and strategic than what we have witnessed on this occasion? Given the melting roads, buckling rail tracks and dissolving runways, what plans are being considered to make our critical infrastructure more resilient to this type of heat? Finally, does the Minister agree with me—and, I suspect, the vast majority of the country—that the optics of the Prime Minister’s decision to party while parts of the UK literally burned showed a complete lack of self-awareness and a complete dereliction of duty?

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

First, let me join the hon. Gentleman in celebrating our firefighters. It is a remarkable form of public service to run towards an inferno in all circumstances, and particularly in the case of wildfires, which I know can be very challenging for firefighters to address, not least because they often cover a much wider area than, say, house fires. It was, I understand, particularly difficult yesterday because the ambient temperature was so high: firefighters have to wear very heavy clothing and equipment, so it was particularly debilitating for them physically.

As for building resilience into our infrastructure, I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware that we have a national adaptation plan. As we go through periods like this particular heatwave, we shall need to learn the lessons and adjust that plan accordingly. For example, over the last 24 hours there has been much debate about the impact on the rail system—a wide impact, obviously—and the tolerances to which we build our railways. We need to learn from our European partners in this regard. While it may be possible to stress a railway to enable it to deal with high temperatures, that stressing may not accommodate very low temperatures—in Scotland, for instance—and uniformity across the country is critical.

The hon. Gentleman alluded to attendance at Cobra. Let me gently point out to him that the First Minister of Scotland did not attend either. Happily, the Deputy First Minister and other Cabinet Members joined us, and they were able to function perfectly well in Cobra, as I am sure the First Minister would have done.

Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price Conservative, Thurrock

I associate myself with the comments made by all the hon. Members who have paid tribute to the emergency services who fearlessly tackled the challenges, particularly the fire at Wennington, which generated a smoke cloud that spread across the whole of east London and Thurrock. That showed just how challenging it was. I would particularly like to draw my right hon. Friend’s attention to the River Thames. He mentioned drowning incidents, and for many years it has been challenging for the Port of London Authority to encourage local authorities to do their bit on drowning prevention by raising awareness of just how dangerous the River Thames is as a waterway and also by ensuring that there is sufficient safety equipment. Will he take this opportunity to remind local authorities to work collaboratively with the PLA to address that?

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

One of the lessons for all of us—not least in Scotland where the school term has finished—is the need to underline the dangers inherent in bodies of water to people who live by them or want to use them. My hon. Friend is quite right to say that the Thames might look like an innocent retreat from the heat, but beneath the waves there are strong currents and we often see people get into difficulty therein. She raises a good point about the PLA and I will take that away and see what more we can do to co-ordinate the work of the PLA and the riparian authorities.

Photo of Ian Lavery Ian Lavery Labour, Wansbeck

The men and women of the fire and rescue services were quite simply awe-inspiring yesterday, as they regularly are, but they cannot continue to work miracles. The impact of 12 years of cuts and austerity on the fire and rescue services has been an absolute disaster. They quite simply need much more critical investment if we are to tackle climate change correctly. The morale within the fire and rescue services is at an all-time low, but this week the Government offered their members a paltry 2% pay increase. It is absolutely outrageous to offer 2% to the men and women who, as the Minister says, were running towards the inferno yesterday. It is time we stopped clapping the great members of our fire and rescue services and started paying them.

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

As I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, the pay of firefighters is not within the control of the Government. It is set by a body that involves both employees and employers, many of which are Labour-controlled local authorities. He may have strong views about the percentage that has been offered to the firefighters, but this is a challenge that he has to put down to some of his own colleagues, not to the Government. As he knows, the fire service has been remarkably successful over the last decade or so—or longer—in driving down the absolute number of fires with which it has to deal. Much of that is about its prevention work, which has been brilliant, but it is also about technology changes, not least in furniture composition. I am sure the hon. Gentleman is also aware that there is a White Paper on fire reform out at the moment, and I hope that he will make a useful contribution to it.

Photo of Neil Hudson Neil Hudson Conservative, Penrith and The Border

I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement, and I thank him and those in his Department and across Government who are working on planning and resilience in these unprecedented weather times. I also thank our emergency services, people in the public services and in the NHS on the frontline, people in fire and rescue, the police, our local authorities and our transport networks and people at large: our community volunteers. Will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to those people in Cumbria and right across the UK for all that they have done, and continue to do, to keep people safe?

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

That is a very welcome question from my hon. Friend, and I am more than happy to join him in thanking all those people who played on the team to get us through in such good shape. There were obviously some tragedies, but the fact that we were able to minimise the number was a tribute to the work of all the organisations he has mentioned.

While I am answering, I also want to take the opportunity to pay tribute to my staff in the civil contingency secretariat who have worked round the clock over the last few days, in particular working closely with the Met Office, as we sought to predict and to prepare the country, co-ordinating across Whitehall and all the other agencies. It has been a really remarkable effort and, notwithstanding the terrible tragedies that we have seen, the fact that we got through in good shape was down to all of their work.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I think that this is the first opportunity I have had to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his new role. We shall miss scrutinising him on the Home Affairs Committee. Can I also add my thanks to the emergency services for everything they did yesterday to save property and lives? As the Minister has said, there is a White Paper out about the fire and rescue services, and its consultation has a deadline of 26 July, which I think is Sunday. In the light of the fact that the Home Affairs Committee will be looking at this in the autumn, I wonder whether it would be sensible to extend that deadline. The events of this week show that there is clear evidence of climate change-driven volatility, which will have serious implications for the fire and rescue services. This might be a good time to reflect on that before submitting to the consultation, so if the deadline could be extended, that would be helpful.

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

I have certainly enjoyed being constructively challenged by the right hon. Lady during my three years in the policing job. I hope I made a small difference to the safety of the public during those years, but obviously that will be for others to judge. The timing of the White Paper is not within my remit, but I undertake with her to raise it with the Minister concerned and make the point that she has made.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Brexit)

I also congratulate the emergency services on their excellent work, but is it not a fact that while we have been pursuing a policy of decarbonisation and spending huge amounts of money on it—£50 billion to the energy industry in the last 20 years, with another £50 billion estimated by the Office for Budget Responsibility in the next three years—it is having little effect on our own climate or the world’s? We can wave our puny fists at the forces of nature, but the fact of the matter is that it is not working. Instead of spending money on expensive attempts to decarbonise, would it not be far better to spend that money on adapting to the inevitable changes in our climate, to make people safe when we have extreme flooding or extreme heat?

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would agree that we should do both. We should adapt, and we have a national adaptation strategy, but I urge him to be more optimistic about the impact that human ingenuity can have on solving the world’s problems. We have seen throughout our history that the invention of technology in this country, once established and proven to work, often accelerates progress in other parts of the world, whether it was with the invention of the spinning jenny and the loom or the silicon chip and the smartphone. The iPhone was invented less than 15 years ago, and just over a decade later pretty much the whole world has one. These things often start slowly, but once they accelerate they make a huge impact.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Bobby Seale wrote a campaigning book called “Seize the Time”. Can I ask the Minister to seize this time and this opportunity? Many of us have been campaigning on climate change and global warming for a long time. A really pivotal moment was when I read and reviewed Professor Steve Jones’s book “Here Comes the Sun” about four years ago. We are all campaigners in this place, and the truth is that we know when a particular incident is suddenly going to change the public mood and the public mind in terms of urgency, priority and the dramatic need for action. Will the right hon. Gentleman please say to his Ministers, to future Ministers and to the future Prime Minister that this is the time to capture the imagination and really get the public behind this?

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

The hon. Gentleman is correct that incidents such as these often serve to underline the importance of our collective mission on climate change. As somebody who has campaigned and been an enthusiast for the hydrogen economy for over 20 years now, I am always keen to welcome more people to the cause, but as we have seen in the debate elsewhere over the last couple of weeks, we have to take care that as we seek to progress and fight climate change, we bring the population with us. We need to illustrate to them that the work we are doing will not only make their lives better but, critically, make their children’s lives better, rather than characterising it as purely a cost today.

Photo of Christine Jardine Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury)

I am interested in what the Minister says about taking the public with us. Surely, following the past few days, the public are well aware of the impact of climate change and see the heatwave here in the United Kingdom and the five heatwaves across Europe as a consequence of inaction, or of being too slow to react to climate change. I am concerned about the contradiction between what he has said today and what we hear from his party’s leadership candidates about climate change and the action to combat it. Can he assure us that the Government are committed to continuing the fight to reach net zero as quickly as possible?

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

The battle against climate change has been a central part of Conservative policy since the heady days of David Cameron, who campaigned on the slogan “Vote blue, go green.”

Photo of Olivia Blake Olivia Blake Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

An illegal net zero strategy, no national resilience strategy, 15 areas declaring major incidents, 11,500 firefighters cut since 2010 and a 2% pay offer on the table. Does the frontline of the climate emergency not deserve better?

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

As I said earlier, the hon. Lady needs to pose that question to her colleagues in local government. As she knows perfectly well, and as the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Miss Dines—she is here on the Front Bench—knows perfectly well, pay awards for firefighters are not within the Government’s control and are settled by a body that includes both employers and employees.

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Labour, Barnsley Central

I pay tribute to South Yorkshire fire and rescue service, which did amazing work yesterday in very difficult conditions to keep communities safe in my part of the world. I am sure the Minister will be aware that the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy is conducting a timely inquiry into critical national infrastructure and climate adaptation. What plans does he have to follow suit?

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

As we deal with these incidents, both in the last few days and over a summer in which the forecasters tell us the risk remains elevated, we will learn exactly the lessons that the hon. Gentleman is asking us to learn, and obviously we will review the Joint Committee’s report. He will know that we pay constant attention to the resilience of our critical national infrastructure. As the climate changes, so should we.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

I, too, commend the work of NHS staff and North Yorkshire fire and rescue service, which is currently facing cuts. I urge that those cuts do not go ahead.

Having dealt with a lot of flooding, I know what a resilience plan looks like, and yesterday there just was not a resilience plan. There were no checks on the most vulnerable people in our community, and no rest rooms or cool spaces for people who do not have such facilities. Will the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster go back and instruct all resilience areas to put in place a proper integrated resilience plan?

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is in close touch with the resilience forums and, indeed, attended the meeting of chairs earlier this week. These are very good challenges and questions for the hon. Lady’s local resilience forum, and I would be happy to arrange for her to meet the lead body on the resilience forum in York so she can reassure herself that it has the right plans in place.

Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Independent, Rutherglen and Hamilton West

I thank the Minister for his statement. Yesterday was the busiest day for London firefighters since the second world war, and I thank firefighters across the UK for keeping us all safe.

I also express my deepest condolences to the families of those who have died in recent days after getting into difficulty in the water. What support are Ministers giving to organisations such as the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and campaigns such as Respect the Water to raise awareness of the dangers of open water swimming on hot days?

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

I echo the hon. Lady’s thanks to the fire services, and I know that all of us, particularly the fire Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire Dales, have been watching in awe as the firefighters did their job over the past 48 hours.

There has been a strong communication campaign, in co-ordination with the devolved Administrations, not least in Scotland where the schools are not open at the moment, to illustrate the dangers of young people specifically, but all of us generally, diving or jumping into water about which we know very little. One of the lessons that has come out of the last couple of days is on our need for more targeted communication. As we review what has happened over the last three or four days, we will make sure this is one of the key things we examine.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

It is always a pleasure to hear the Minister, and I thank him for his statement. I also thank all the fire and rescue services for their endeavours and for the vital work they do across the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Have there been any discussions with the Ministry of Defence about using our armed forces personnel to police our lakes and rivers as the heatwave pushes people to swim in unsafe areas? As the Minister said, 13 people are believed to have lost their lives, and I add my condolences to all the families who are grieving with an empty chair in their house. I think of them all.

Does the Minister believe the Government can increase public safety to prevent further tragic loss of life such as we have seen over the last few days?

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

In contemplating any civil contingency situation, we examine whether we have the capacity needed to deal with it and, therefore, whether we need to seek it elsewhere. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will remember the worst pictures we saw during the extensive wildfires on Saddleworth moor and Winter hill in the north of England in 2018, when the armed forces were deployed to assist the emergency services. That was not deemed appropriate this time. In fact, our judgment that the emergency services would cope proved to be correct.

On the hon. Gentleman’s challenge on whether we can do more to educate people and to target bodies of water that might prove dangerous, and as I said to Margaret Ferrier, that is definitely something we will need to take away and consider. Obviously, we urge parents to take responsibility by understanding where their children are and by warning them about the dangers, as we did through our health messaging on looking after elderly neighbours. We all have to work together to keep our young people safe. We will examine what more we can do as we learn the lessons from this incident.