§ 3. Mr. T. W. Jones
asked the Secretary of Slate for Wales whether he will indicate the extent of the damage caused by the recent floods in Wales; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. James Griffiths
I want, first of all, to thank the Lord Mayor of Cardiff for his public spirited action in opening his Appeal Fund, the National Coal Board for generously making available mobile homes for homeless people and the local authorities, river boards, voluntary organisations and others who have all done splendid work.
So far, 376 claims, totalling £46,000, have been received in respect of uninsured losses. Because of the unusual severity of the floods in some localities, the Government will supplement the sums received by the Lord Mayor so that substantial help is given in cases of real hardship. The claims are now being scrutinised and I shall consult the Lord Mayor to ensure that early payments are made. The necessary Supplementary Estimate will be presented in due course and, in the meantime, advances for urgent expenditure will be made from the Civil Contingencies fund. Exceptional expenditure falling on local authorities will be considered separately.
378 I understand that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government will consider sympathetically requests on a comparable basis from local authorities in England in whose areas there was severe flooding at the same time.
As regards the question of flood prevention, I understand from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that the river boards concerned are working to repair, or reconstruct, flood defences where necessary and are also considering what long-term capital works may be practicable. At Bangor-on-Dee, works have been approved and are being put in hand. A scheme to improve flood protection at Trefriw is being considered. The River Board is investigating the possibility of extending flood protection at Llanrwst and also at Dolgellau. As regards the Newtown area, the Severn River Board is carrying out a comprehensive investigation and a preliminary report should be available at the end of February. I will continue to keep in touch with my right hon. Friend in this matter and a further statement will be made as soon as possible.
§ Mr. Jones
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the promptitude of his action and that of the Minister of State for Wales when this havoc overtook parts of Wales is greatly appreciated throughout the Principality? Is he further aware that his statement will give great encouragement to the sufferers, both farmers and householders? In view of the great devastation in the town of Dolgellau and the surrounding area, has he any special provisions in mind for that district?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. The position at Dolgellau is being examined and I shall receive a report on that, with my right hon. Friend. I will be glad to discuss the matter further with my hon. Friend, in whose constituency it lies.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
The whole House is grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's statement on this important problem. Can he say what is the latest date for application by individuals for recompense?
§ Mr. Griffiths
That matter is being considered by the Lord Mayor of Cardiff and the Welsh Office and I hope that an announcement will be made shortly.
§ Mr. Hooson
In echoing the acknowledgment which the right hon. Gentleman made of the actions of the Lord Mayor of Cardiff and the other bodies which gave help during the emergency, in mid-Wales in particular, may I ask him if he is willing to reconsider his decision not to set up a public inquiry to investigate the cause of and the possible steps to alleviate the flood damage in the Severn Valley and in Newtown in particular? Will he bear in mind the fact that it appears that after the 1960 floods, which were quite as devastating, there was no kind of inquiry and no real steps taken to take appropriate measures to prevent a recurrence?
§ Mr. Griffiths
The engineers of the Severn River Board are making an investigation into this problem and will present a report to my right hon. Friend. When that report is received it will be considered. This is the quickest way to deal with what is a very big problem.