Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Laurence Robertson MP (FL MP 08)

  Thank you for your letter dated 24th July regarding your Committee's inquiry into flooding.

  I am pleased that your committee is to look into this matter and I should be pleased to help in any way I can.

  For now, as requested, I enclose some ideas which my Assistant had compiled. If you need any more help or clarification please do not hesitate to get in touch.


1.  Flood Defence by:

    a.  The EA

    b.  Local Authorities

    c.  Riparian Landowners

    d.  House Holders

  Why not dredge the Rivers, should there be stiff penalties for non maintenance of ditches, drains and watercourses. Does EU regulations for farmers and set aside policies make matters worse, and should farmers in floodplains be exempted? Why are not drains adopted immediately, and any faults rectified and billed to developers afterwards.

  Why are developers allowed to tap into existing drains, which are unable to cope with the extra demand.

  Is the EA too big to deal with often localised issues of this nature, do their own policies conflict, ie conservation and defence. Is the balance of policies correct?

  Why flood defences were not kept on site or close to instead of miles away, and thus prevent installation. Keeping the Public Informed.

  How have the public authorities and media both local and national coped and kept local people informed. Are flood warning systems adequate, why telephone messages, why not as in Lincolnshire sirens.

  Did the projected flooding as per EA models match with the actual? If not why not and what lessons have been learnt?

  Does top down planning from Government and the regions ignore the serious issues of floodplains and washland area, will current proposals in such areas make matters worse? Is flood alleviation plans the right way to deal with such things?

2.  Emergency Response

  How did the local authorities cope? Will regional control authorities make matters worse? How did individual councils cope with such things as water distribution. How did Parish Councils cope? What lessons can be learnt, about having very localised emergency planning as part of a wider county/district framework. Why was the response of Severn Trent so inadequate at the beginning when the water went off? Why was the Army only called in after the situation had become untenable? Have the utility companies got adequate emergency plans in place, how do they co-ordinate with the government local and national? Why did they give wrong information on the website as to Bowser locations, and indeed give out that bowsers were in place when they were not. Why did they not give accurate information as to parishes, eg Twigworth as being city centre when not even in the city? What lessons did they learn about vulnerable people, health provision etc. In some cases vulnerable people were unknown and went without for periods of times. Were plans made to ration water to prevent some from being greedy, ie emptying bowsers to keep businesses open and deprive vulnerable people of basic drinking water?

3.  Infrastructure

  What lessons can be learnt about the fragility of major infrastructure plant such as water and power, and not being part of a national network. Did the authorities have plans in place early enough? Were/are the authorities fully aware of potential issues and do they have plans in place? Should the national network for electric/water be able to be "trunked" in order that if one part goes the system will still supply an area with minimum disruption? Why did the M5 come to such a halt, and caused extra problems for the emergency services and therefore put lives at risk?


  Does the Belwin scheme adequately deal with such emergencies? What support do small businesses get? What about the uninsured who cannot get reasonably priced insurance because of where they live? What other packages could and should be put in place to help an area recover quickly?

Laurence Robertson MP

August 2007

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