HC Deb 19 December 1966 vol 738 cc1002-4
Mr. Tam Dalyell

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps the Government are taking to bring relief to those affected by the recent flooding in Scotland.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross)

The House will wish to know that, according to the latest information I have, the position everywhere has improved and is well under control. Local agencies are coping well with the practical difficulties. My Departments are keeping closely in touch with the situation: the effects are still being assessed, but I have no evidence to suggest that special Government help is called for.

Mr. Dalyell

If the situation gets worse, may we count on further Government help?

Mr. Ross

I have stated that my Departments are keeping closely in touch with the situation, which I hope will continue to improve.

Mr. G. Campbell

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that, for many farms in the North of Scotland, this will have been an especially bitter blow, as it follows the very difficult period through which agriculture in that area has been passing recently? Has he noted that the latest reports indicate that there may be flooding again in the near future in the Glasgow area? Will he do his best to take all precautions there?

Mr. Ross

We are watching the situation. It is not confined purely to Ross and Cromarty and Inverness, although in those cases it is not the hill lands which are being flooded but the parts very much lower down.

Mr. Younger

Has the Secretary of State yet had time to consider whether it would be worth while putting an inquiry in hand to discover whether there is some means whereby floods such as these are prevented from happening in future?

Mr. Ross

We have had some discussions on this in the House before. If the hon. Gentleman had followed them—they took place before he was a Member—he would realise that there are obvious weaknesses. It will be worth while to see how we can improve the position.

Mr. Buchan

This is not the first time that the River Cart has caused difficulties in Renfrewshire and Glasgow and has overflowed. If we have had discussions about this before, it is time that they were resuscitated and improvements made for the future.

Mr. Ross

The discussions were related not to particular areas but to the way in which the whole question of flood prevention is dealt with in Scotland. I shall be getting reports from the local authorities on what can be done to pre- vent this from happening in this area in future.

Mr. Noble

While we are all delighted that the right hon. Gentleman's reports this morning were better, if there is anything in the reports he gets which indicates that we are likely to have recurrences of this problem when we have heavy rain in future, would he report to the House?

Mr. Ross

Yes, I will gladly do that. I am anxiously awaiting the return of my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) who, because of the flooding, has not been able to get back here. We hope to see him either later tonight or first thing tomorrow morning with a first hand report.

Mr. James Davidson

Would the right hon. Gentleman inform the House to what extent communications—roads and railways—have been disrupted by these floods and whether this disruption has been tackled?

Mr. Ross

They are all being tackled. In Ross and Cromarty two roads were still blocked by landslide, but they are expected to be clear today. In Inverness, there is a bridge down on the Newton-more and Laggan Bridge road. It may be reopened today. In the meantime, an alternative route is available via Dalwhinnie. I shall be getting further reports later this afternoon.

Mr. Manuel

Would my right hon. Friend agree that the only cure for recurring flooding in the same areas whenever we get heavy rain is the better use of flood prevention legislation and possibly better legislation put on the Statute Book to counter the floods?

Mr. Ross

My hon. Friend will appreciate that there are two flood prevention schemes in Scotland. First, there is a scheme for flood prevention in country areas which depends entirely on the initiative of local landowners. Secondly, there is prevention within the burghs. Unless we get comprehensive legislation, we cannot deal with the matter properly. This is the thing for which we should all work.