John Stevenson: Although we must not be complacent, does my hon. Friend recognise that in some parts of the country there have been successes? In the Carlisle area, through the work of the EA, the councils and the voluntary sector, and the success of the defences, we managed to avoided being flooded this year.
Andrew Percy: Indeed. We have not wanted for money for defence funding in recent years, including in Snaith, the community that is currently flooded. Only in 2015, millions of pounds of defence improvements were made, through the piling of the Snaith primary defence bank, but that has been overtopped this time, as have our secondary defences, on which we rely to keep us dry. It is true to say that in some places these schemes have worked, and we have a scheme under way in South Ferriby, but the water coming down the catchment in this latest incident has been on a scale we have never seen before, just as the 2013 surge then was.
I agree with some of what was said by the shadow Secretary of State, Luke Pollard. He is a nice guy, one of my favourite shadow Secretaries of State. Some of the others are a bit bonkers, and I know that he agrees with me on that. I agree with much of what he said about the need to review certain things, but he then went on to try to make some cheap political points about what is going on at the moment. There are things we need to do differently, but I am not convinced that diverting millions of pounds, which could otherwise go to flood defences, to a massive inquiry is necessarily the best way forward. I will say something on that in a moment.
What we need now in my constituency is immediate funding, into the future, to look at what we can do for the defences that have been so overrun on this occasion. After the 2013 tidal surge, additional funding was made available to the communities in my area that had been devastated by that surge to allow them to take immediate defence action in the year or two afterwards. That was outside the normal funding rules, and we benefited from that in Reedness, which was overwhelmed in the tidal surge, with immediate action to shore up and improve the defence there. So may we please look at that issue?
May we also look at the funding for the section 19 inquiries that are already under way. My local East Riding of Yorkshire Council, because it has faced so many incidents in recent months, is now engaged in about four or five different inquiries, and funding that is a huge challenge for the local authority. A section 19 inquiry into the flooding in the Snaith and Cowick washlands is under way, but we need funding for that. The recovery of costs is also an issue. Heating Snaith priory church has already cost the church about £700 to £800, and possibly more. We are all doing what we can to get donations in for that, and the Bellwin scheme might cover it, but there are direct costs here to the town council and to the church and sports hall—voluntary organisations—for the costs they have borne in being open 24 hours a day and providing support to those who have been evacuated.
Business support is also an issue. I served on the Committee for the Flood Re Bill. Indeed, in 2013 I had to leave the Committee because of the flood warnings in place in my constituency, including warnings for my own house, when that tidal surge hit. We need extra support in terms of business insurance. I do not have time to say everything I wanted to stay, but I beg that the national funding formula is looked at. We are at the bottom of the catchment and we get everybody’s water; that water is coming to us, whether we like it or not. Although the current formula provides us with the best defences and highest standards, it is not taking account of the number of properties we have versus the risk we face. We need a change to that. We also need to look at the EA’s role in flooding and whether we need a separate body. We need to examine the Flood Re scheme. We need to fund the national flood resilience centre, in my area, the bid for which is with the Government—I have talked about that before. Finally, we need to look at planning and at maintenance.