Maria Eagle MP, Shadow Secretrary of State for Defra has attacked the Tory record on flooding and climate change pointing to the poor record of the current and previous Environment secretaries.
“The Department I shadow, the first thing Caroline Spelman did as Environment Secretary was slash flood defence budgets. The second thing she did was to try and sell off the Public Forest Estate. That went so badly amidst the outcry from all quarters, including a public petition half a million strong, she was then eventually sacked. Owen Patterson refused to meet his own scientific advisors to be briefed on climate change and repeatedly put his own personal prejudices ahead of following the science and then slashed the budget for climate adaptation.”
“He removed flood protection from the core responsibilities of the Environment Department and last winter saw the worst floods since 2007.Yet Owen Paterson didn’t even seem to notice that Somerset was under water for weeks until the local authorities there issued desperate cries for help. The Prime Minister had to go on an extensive South West tour clutching the Government’s chequebook to try and rescue Tory reputations”.
Consequences of a Tory victory ‘would be dire’ says PPC
Bridgwater PPC & Sedgemoor Labour leader ,Cllr Mick Lerry, said: “Maria Eagle MP is right, because this gives us a clue to what the next five years would be like if David Cameron was to be re-elected. The consequences of a Tory victory would be dire. Take flood risk as an example. It is increasing because of the impact of climate change. It requires consistent, long term planned action and investment from a Government committed to taking the issue seriously. That’s why this Government wants to avoid a Public Enquiry into the flooding this year”.
“We know that around five million properties in England are at some risk of flooding from rivers, the sea, or from surface water. We know that there are 490,000 properties at serious risk of flooding.”
After the shock of the 2007 floods the previous Labour Government recognised the need to significantly increase spending on flood protection, this increase in spending was supported by David Cameron in opposition. There was a cross party consensus that it should be carried out. But one of the first things David Cameron did when he became Prime Minister was to cut it again.
Real term cuts of 20%
The Committee on Climate Change have calculated this decision represented a real terms cut of around – and this is a quote from them – “20% compared to the previous spending period under the Labour Government”
“Despite the Prime Minister’s announcing some additional money as he toured the flood hit areas earlier this year, it will primarily be spent on repairing and reinstating defences that have been damaged recently in the storms. It will do nothing to prepare us for the increased risk of severe flooding caused by our changing climate”, said Maria Eagle MP.
Committee on Climate change calculations show that current Tory plans will put an extra 330,000 properties at serious risk from flooding by 2035. This means another five years of David Cameron’s Government would on average, put over 80,000 new properties at serious risk of flooding every five years. They have also said that the chance of a catastrophic flood happening in England within the next two decades, causing in excess of £10billion in damage is around one in ten. This would be an event ten times worse than last winter’s floods – more than three times worse than the 2007 floods in terms of the damage caused.
Cllr Mick Lerry, leader of the Labour Group on Sedgemoor District Council
Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Bridgwater and West Somerset.