HC Deb 08 March 1978 vol 945 cc1402-4
2. Mr. Blaker

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has yet received an official communication from the EEC Commission about EEC aid for recent flood and storm damage in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Shore

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Blaker

Does the Secretary of State recall that on 15th February the Commission stated that the offer of nearly £1 million in aid for the East Coast of England and parts of Scotland was made after discussion with United Kingdom authorities? Did the Government in those discussions put forward the case for part of the EEC aid going to the Lancashire coast, which suffered severe flood and storm damage in November?

Mr. Shore

The hon. Gentleman is wrong on the point about discussion. There might have been some informal exchanges, but there was no discussion with Ministers before the Commission made its offer. I have subsequently tried to sort out the general terms of the offer that was made. I have very much in mind the point made by the hon. Gentleman, that other areas of the country have also suffered and that it would be helpful if the offer were more broadly spread.

Mr. George Rodgers

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the United Kingdom's contributions to the Community budget in 1977 exceeded receipts by no less than £377 million? Against that background, could not the Common Market mandarins afford to be more generous than they have been so far?

Mr. Shore

That raises the whole question of the nature and imbalance of the monetary contributions that this country has made. We have been over this ground before. I thought that I should not necessarily raise it on this question of flood relief.

Mr. Thorpe

Will the Secretary of State confirm that although £900,000 has been received, it has not been allocated specifically to any region of the United Kingdom, and that any suggestion that it has is totally wrong?

Mr. Shore

I do not think that anyone has made any such suggestion. The right hon. Gentleman will understand from the nature of the reply that I gave to the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) that it would be premature to think of allocating it until we have decided which regions are eligible to receive it.

Mr. Alison

Is the Secretary of State aware that on the basis that help should first come from home, Thanet and the Canterbury District Council, despite the fact that severe damage was caused on 12th January and officials from the Department inspected that damage on 17th January, have still not received a single penny to help towards repairing the breaches in the sea wall and that more damage is threatened later this month?

Mr. Shore

Help will come from home. We fully accept the responsibility of looking after our own people in our own country. That is the intention of the arrangements that I have already announced. We have urged local authorities to use the powers that they have without any delay to deal with urgent cases of need. They have those powers under Section 138 of the Local Government Act. We have said that as soon as they have firm estimates they are to come to us so that we can decide how much and in what way we can assist them.