HC Deb 18 March 1937 vol 321 cc2264-5
83. Mr. Wilson

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that in other countries considerable assistance has been given to districts threatened with flooding by calling upon the skill and assistance of regimental engineers; and whether he will consider the advisability of the adoption of similar methods in this country?

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I am aware of the part played by military engineers in organising the flood defences in the valley of the Mississippi recently, but in this country the catchment boards have at their disposal engineers who are fully qualified to deal with their special problems. As regards additional labour and transport, if the responsible catchment board felt that their existing resources were inadequate, the Government would be ready to give any help in their power.

Mr. Muff

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the Yorkshire Catchment Board and give them a larger grant?

Mr. Wilson

Are we to understand that no assistance can be rendered to districts so seriously threatened?

Mr. Morrison

Everything that can be done is being done, but the only way in which you can deal with a situation of this kind is not by last minute efforts, however valuable they may be in an emergency, but by work commenced some time ago. The Ouse Catchment Board has been assisted very considerably by grants.

Mr. Attlee

Were not plans made to deal with flooding and everything made ready in 1931, and was it not neglected when this Government came into office?

Mr. Morrison

No, Sir. This Government has given a great deal of assistance.

Mr. de Rothschild

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that last night the Ouse Catchment Board broadcast for more workers all through the night, asking them to bring picks and shovels and lights? Would it not be better to obtain some labour from Mildenhall and the regimental engineers in the neighbourhood?

Mr. Morrison

I think there is a little misunderstanding about the position of Mildenhall. The real danger point is Welches Dam on the main River Ouse. That is remote from Mildenhall. You could not get much assistance from there very quickly. On the general question of local labour, what is wanted for these occasions is labour which can reach the spot very quickly. The Ouse Catchment Board were quite right to ask local inhabitants to come with picks and shovels.

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage

Is it not a fact that the Minister's advisers visited the spot, and is it not also true that no request has been made by the catchment board which has been refused by the Minister?

Mr. Morrison

Certainly. I have been in touch with my officers on the spot during the whole time, and there is no request for assistance by the catchment board which has been refused. They have been given every assistance that they desired. I had a report at 12 o'clock to-day that the situation is now somewhat easier.

Captain Heilgers

Will my right hon. Friend consider enlisting the services of the hon. Member for Inverness (Sir M. Macdonald) and other eminent engineers?