HC Deb 04 August 1966 vol 733 cc667-9
21. Mr. A. Royle

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he has taken to ensure that residents in Kew and Richmond are given adequate warning of possible flood hazard from the River Thames.

Mr. Taverne

As the hon. Member was informed in answer to his Question of 10th March, the arrangements were reviewed earlier this year, and in future there should be an improvement of 30 minutes in the speed with which warnings are broadcast at Kew and Richmond. This should ensure that warnings are always given in good time.

Mr. Royle

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this 30-minute extension is totally inadequate? In view of the grave concern caused locally, would he consider this matter again since, with the prospect of winter coming on and floods taking place, 30 minutes plus the original time will not be adequate to enable householders to take the necessary precautions?

Mr. Taverne

The only way in which better notice could be given would be if, every time there was a chance of high tide, warning was given, which would mean in a number of cases that false alarms would be given. I am advised that warning to the public two and a quarter hours before predicted high water, which is what will be the case, should be adequate, and that there will be no serious risk of damage to life or property.

Mr. Grimond

I declare an interest in this matter as my house is subject to flooding. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I wholly support the point put to him by the hon. Member for Richmond, Surrey (Mr. A. Royle), but that the solution is to stop the Thames from overflowing its banks? Would he, therefore, kindly do what he can to encourage the authorities concerned to raise the embankment by 3 ft.? In days when we can explore space and build enormous new premises for local authorities, surely we can stop the river getting into people's houses.

Mr. Taverne

I realise that, since King Canute was not notably successful, building higher banks would be the answer, but that is not part of the responsibility of the Home Office.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Will the hon. Gentleman also look at the question of the tidal warning? Is he aware that a policeman with a handbell is heard by only a very few people, and such a warning ought to be by siren or maroon?

Mr. Taverne

I will certainly look into the nature of the warning which is given.