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That if, at the conclusion of this Session of Parliament, proceedings on the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill have not been completed, they shall be resumed in the next Session.-( Mr. Watts.)
That the draft Double Taxation Relief and International Tax Enforcement (Guernsey) Order 2009, which was laid before this House on 17 June, be approved.
That the draft Double Taxation Relief and International Tax Enforcement (Jersey) Order 2009, which was laid before this House on 17 June, be approved.
That the draft Double Taxation Relief and International Tax Enforcement (Virgin Islands) Order 2009, which was laid before this House on 17 June, be approved.
That the draft National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Social Welfare) Order 2009, which was laid before this House on 25 June, be approved.
That the draft National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Exceptions to Matters) Order 2009, which was laid before this House on 25 June, be approved.-( Mr. Blizzard .)
That the Motion in the name of Secretary Jim Murphy relating to Rule 56 of the Parliamentary Election Rules shall be treated as if it related to an instrument subject to the provisions of Standing Order No. 118 (Delegated Legislation Committees) in respect of which notice of a motion has been given that the instrument be approved.-( Mr. Blizzard.)
That the Resolutions of the House of 30 January 1989 relating to House of Commons Services and 6 December 1991 relating to Access (Former members and United Kingdom Members of the European Parliament) shall cease to have effect insofar as they relate to United Kingdom Members of the European Parliament . -(Mr. Blizzard.)
That Dr Richard Taylor be a member of the West Midlands Regional Select Committee.-( Mr. Blizzard.)
That Mary Creagh be discharged from the Yorkshire and the Humber Regional Select Committee and Mr Austin Mitchell be added.-( Mr. Blizzard.)
That Linda Gilroy be discharged from the South West Regional Select Committee and Roger Berry be added.-( Mr. Blizzard .)
Mr. David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con): I am very grateful for the opportunity to raise the important matter of power cuts in my borough of Bexley in north-west Kent in the week commencing 20 July. There are a number of issues that I would like to raise in relation to the event, the impact that it had on my constituents, the response of network operators EDF Energy, and matters that need to be considered going forward. I hope that the Minister will consider carefully the points that I will raise in the debate, as well as contributions from colleagues. These issues are of great concern in our area of south-east London and north-west Kent. Locally, there is great anger and concern about many aspects of the incident, as well as about how it has been dealt with and the consequences of the power cuts.
I am very pleased to see my neighbour, the hon. Member for Dartford (Dr. Stoate), in his place. His constituents were heavily affected by the power cuts, as were mine. I am also delighted to see my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (James Brokenshire), as he has an active interest in these matters. My hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) is also with us to listen to the debate this evening.
I shall begin by informing the House of the background to the debate and to the incident. At around lunchtime on Monday 20 July the power failed across our area. Subsequently we were advised that vandals had broken into an access point to the Dartford creek cable bridge and caused what was later described as malicious damage to the cable infrastructure. That affected supplies to 93,000 households in Bromley, Bexley and north-west Kent. Traffic and street lighting were also affected. Some households in the south of Bexley borough were cut off for a very short period before having their power restored, and experienced no further problems.
However, Bexley residents in Slade Green, Erith, Crayford, Bexleyheath, Barnehurst, Welling, Belvedere and Thamesmead, and residents in Dartford, were not so fortunate and suffered because of the prolonged power cuts. In the immediate aftermath, many contacted my office here in Parliament, seeking information about what had happened, as they were unable to find out much information.
James Brokenshire (Hornchurch) (Con): My hon. Friend is making a number of important points, of which a significant one is the issue of information and the inability to provide it in a timely and effective manner. Can he comment on his own experiences and those of others who, I have heard, felt that they were literally cut off, not knowing when the power would come back on or the cause of the power cuts, and feeling a sense of insecurity as a consequence?
My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. I shall come to that a little later. There was indeed a feeling that people did not get information; they were
cut off, they did not have the internet, and the recorded messages from EDF were not updated, which caused real concern.
The first contact that my office had was to say that there had been a power cut and that engineers were out working on the problem. Like my hon. Friend, I was appalled at the lack of information given to me and my constituents. It was not until the following morning, Tuesday, that we were advised of the severity of the situation. EDF subsequently reported that it was seeking to put residents on a power cycle, which meant that they would get three hours with electricity and six hours without, in order that some customers would have some power supplied.
EDF circulated information the next day about postcode sectors that would receive the three-hour bursts. It was at that time that the massive problem was identified, which would have a considerable impact across the area, particularly in Slade Green and Crayford. We established that, owing to the network infrastructure, power bursts could not be provided there. The consequences were massive, and I shall highlight them later in my speech. We were advised later on Tuesday 21 July that although some people were getting supplies, 10,000 were unlikely to get any power in the foreseeable future.
Those who were able to get information about the power cycles could limit the impact and plan ahead, but many more could not. Power would sometimes be restored to households in the middle of the night; some of the information about the power cycles was inaccurate; postcode sectors did not get the bursts that they were expecting until later; and some sectors never got them at all. Many were not able to make use of their three-hour cycle because they were at work or were out. It was not until 6.30 on Thursday morning that the vast majority had power restored.
The lack of information about the incident has been shocking. Only last night did EDF offer me a briefing note about the incident. Since the summer, its silence on the incident has been deafening. I have had responses only to letters and e-mails that I have sent, which says something about how proactive EDF has been.
Since the power failure, scores of constituents have contacted me about the incident, questioning how and why it happened, and the response of EDF. The company claims that the incident was caused by malicious damage to the network, and that therefore the power cut was not its fault. There is some truth in that statement. However, nobody has forgiven EDF for allowing it to happen. EDF's response to the incident was inadequate, as it clearly had no contingency plan in place for such an incident. It obtained some generators, but only the most vulnerable got power on the first night. It was not until the next day that more generators were in place. It attempted to contact sheltered housing schemes, and some it successfully did contact. However, it claims that owing to data protection laws it was unable to contact vulnerable network customers. Little was done to help people in tower blocks, and information that was provided online was not much use. I am really concerned about the lack of consideration that has been shown to my constituents, especially those in Slade Green and Crayford. In the worst examples, people were cut off for up to 70 hours. They did not receive generators or three-hour bursts.
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