Government accused of trying to ‘silence’ flood-hit communities

The Government has been accused of trying to "silence" the voices of communities affected by severe flooding.

Labour called for an independent review in order to learn the lessons following Storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge, including an assessment of the Government's response.

But Shadow Environment Secretary Luke Pollard took aim at Tory MPs for refusing to back the party's plan.

He said: "The review that we're asking for seeks to look at how we learn the lessons as a country, how the Government learns lessons, how the work and the innovations of local communities is recognised.

"But the Government's amendment to our motion today seeks to do only one thing – not learn the lessons of the flooding.

"It deletes the lessons learned review and it seeks to silence the voices of those communities that have been flooded.

"I want to have the voices of those communities underwater heard in the review we are proposing."

Mr Pollard said that he was keen to hear from small business owners, farmers, home owners, emergency service workers and Welsh coal mining communities as part of the review, but accused Conservatives of refusing to listen.

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Mr Pollard added: "For every Tory MP that votes against our motion today, they're doing something very simple, they're refusing to listen and learn the lessons of the flooding, refusing to improve their response to flooding in a calm and independent manner.

"Those communities who are underwater, many of whom are represented by Conservative MPs, will wonder what has happened to their Members of Parliament when they had an opportunity to have the voice of those communities heard, they decided to turn against them. That's not leadership at all."

Environment Secretary George Eustice said that the Government's amendment acknowledged a need for further investment in flood defences and outlined a commitment to tackling climate change.

He said: "We are determined to be ready for the future and we know that we must expect more frequent extreme weather in this country.

"So as well as investing even more in flood defence, the Government is also committed to leading a global response to climate change through our work around the world and as hosts of the next climate change conference, COP26, urging nations to achieve net zero in ways that help nature recover, reduces global warming and addresses the causes of these extreme weather events."

Tory backbencher Craig Whittaker criticised the speed of the Government's payments to flood victims.

The MP for Calder Valley, which was hit by recent flooding, said: "Will the Secretary of State agree to look at the support package and amend it so that we have an off-the-shelf package that automatically gets triggered in the future for any constituency that's (hit by) flooding, so no constituency should be left waiting for nine days ever again?"

Labour chairwoman of the Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee Rachel Reeves said flood insurance was too expensive for many people.

He said: "Many businesses in my community no longer have flood insurance because it would make their businesses unviable."

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