Expenditure on drainage by my Department’s Roads and Water Services in the Omagh and Strabane district council areas was as follows: in 1996-97, £932,000; in 1997-98, £977,000; in 1998-99, £1,187,000; and in 1999-2000, £1,281,000. Figures for 1995-96, the first year of the period specified, are not readily available, but I can indicate that planned expenditure in the current financial year is up — again — at £1,313,000.
Can the Minister give a clear undertaking that his Department will alleviate the effects of the flooding that can sometimes occur three or four times a year in Newtownstewart? Will he also give an undertaking to liaise and work with the Rivers Agency to bring about a situation where the A5 is not subject to flooding six or seven times a year?
I am aware of a number of flooding incidents not only in West Tyrone but across Northern Ireland, and I take every incident very seriously. My Department has been looking into the flooding that occurred on 28 October in the West Tyrone area and is currently endeavouring to ensure that measures are taken to make that flooding less likely in the future.
Our efforts can be seen in the amounts I have outlined. We are spending more, year on year, on trying to improve the drainage system to minimise the effects of any extreme flooding, which Northern Ireland has unfortunately been subjected to over recent months.
Due to the recent lack of adequate drainage systems in my constituency of West Tyrone we have experienced severe flooding, particularly in the Ballycolman area of Strabane because of the failure of electric motors in pumping stations. The main factor contributing to the failure of these motors was that they were clogged with leaves, which tripped the circuits. Fortunately, the local Water Service — and I compliment them on their work — got the pumps back into action and thus prevented dozens of homes being flooded.
Yes. Will the Minister assure me that his Department will check stations throughout the North of Ireland to make sure they will operate when needed? I represent a rural area, and my office constantly receives calls from residents complaining of sheughs being blocked throughout the constituency. Will funding be made available to upgrade these sheughs and small drains in rural constituencies?
I do not wish to make light of it, but it will be interesting to see how Hansard deals with the spelling of "sheugh". I will undertake to ensure that the areas mentioned by Mr McMenamin are investigated. I am aware of the locations he mentioned, and I have instructed my officials to go back to ensure that the problem is being alleviated. I will write to him if there is any unresolved or outstanding issue in direct relation to the incident he has just referred to.