It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship once again, Ms McVey.
I thank my right hon. Friend Jake Berry for securing this important debate on the flooding in Irwell Vale, and for describing the area and its inhabitants so passionately and so well. It is also good to see my hon. Friends the Members for Hyndburn (Sara Britcliffe), and for Bury North (James Daly), who remind us through their very presence that raging torrents do not stop at constituency boundaries, and that we have to look at the problem in a whole-catchment, or catchment-sensitive, way.
The Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Rebecca Pow, who has responsibility for the environment, is sorry not to be responding to the debate, but she is at the United Nations oceans conference in Lisbon, so I am afraid that my right hon. and hon. Friends have her stand-in today. However, I undertake to speak to her about this debate, and will ensure that she meets interested colleagues once again to discuss the issues to do with the scheme that have been outlined this afternoon.
The devastation caused by flooding is terrible. Having lived all my life in the Cherwell valley, I sympathise deeply with all those affected, including those who have been affected repeatedly over the past 10 years. It is even more devastating when a location is affected time and again. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen described graphically, residents rarely have a moment’s peace when the rain is coming from both directions.
I pass on my sympathies to all residents in my right hon. and hon. Friends’ constituencies who have been affected by flooding, including during really dreadful events in February 2020, when 56 houses were flooded, and on Boxing Day 2015—that was the really bad one—when 94 properties were flooded.