Last night, Rachael Maskell MP, along with several other Labour MPs, asked the Floods Minister Rebecca Pow when the Yorkshire Flood Conference will take place after she announced a summit for South Yorkshire.
On 16 February 2020, George Eustice MP, the Environment Secretary, visited York following the floods caused by Strom Kiara. At a meeting with residents, including the Environment Agency Chair Emma Howard Boyd and other officials, the Secretary of State announced that there would be a Yorkshire Flood Conference, bringing together all interested partners to discuss flooding in Yorkshire. This announcement was welcome, as many of the solutions to flooding depend on better upper catchment management, especially on the moorlands. Mr Eustice also stated that the conference would take part in York within the following two months.
Clearly the delay in the conference was understood in the light of pandemic. However, with winter approaching and concerns rising, Yorkshire MPs held a debate in Parliament on 30 September to understand progress that was being made ahead of the York-based event promised by George Eustice. Ahead of the debate the Environment Minister Rebecca Pow MP hastily announced a floods summit for South Yorkshire only, and when challenged in the debate about the rest of Yorkshire could not give an answer, preferring to change the subject. More MPs then quizzed the Minister concerning the Flood Conference, to which she stated the upcoming meeting would only be focusing on South Yorkshire.
Rachael Maskell, MP for York Central, says:
“The Government came to York and committed to hold a Yorkshire Flood Conference in York in the spring. Clearly, we understood with the pandemic that there could be delays in the Government’s proposal but were not expecting the response we received from the Minister last night. She refused to recognise the commitment made, instead changing the subject of the debate on each occasion she was challenged over the Conference.
“Flooding is a really serious issue, and residents and businesses have really suffered over the last few years. It was not only discourteous of the Minister not to acknowledge the questions put to her during the debate but has significantly dented confidence that the Government are serious about providing the essential support our city needs to prevent flooding in the future.
“We are nearly 5 years on since the floods of 2015 which devastated so many lives on Boxing Day as 453 residential and 174 commercial properties flooded. Many of these properties are yet to receive protection through Property Level Resilience measures, while city-wide defences are only just being raised. I also raised these concerns in the debate.”