HC Deb 08 December 1986 vol 107 cc9-10
6. Mrs. Clwyd

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what response his Department intends making to assist the victims of flood damage in (a) the Cynon Valley and (b) other parts of Wales.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

County and district councils for the areas concerned have wide discretionary powers to alleviate the impact of emergencies such as flooding and to provide assistance to victims. I understand that the Cynon Valley borough council has already given financial aid to householders most affected by recent flooding in its area.

Mrs. Clwyd

As the Secretary of State knows, the Cynon Valley has been identified as one of the four most deprived areas in the United Kingdom. Is he aware that householders in Cwmamam suffered severe loss through the flooding of their houses, sometimes to a depth of 6 ft? Is he further aware that some householders lost electrical equipment, furniture, carpets and personal possessions? Many of them were not insured for household contents because they were recovering from the miners' strike.

Will the Secretary of State be more sympathetic in his attitude towards those people? The council has given only a token payment of £100 per family. That is obviously not sufficient to compensate them for their loss. Will he be as sympathetic to the people of Cynon Valley as he has, quite rightly, been to the farmers of west Wales? I am not criticising him for that. However, I would expect him to be as sympathetic to the people of Cynon Valley as he has been to the farmers, who also suffered through the flooding.

Mr. Edwards

I have every sympathy with those who were affected by the floods of 18 November. I know that considerable damage was caused. However, the district council has wide powers to provide immediate assistance for the emergency and there are well-established procedures. If the sums involved are substantial, the council can come to the Government for assistance. Indeed, I received a letter today from the council seeking such assistance from us and from the European Community.

The rules are clearly laid down and the responsibility for paying sums of money is within the power of the district council. In the event of a large emergency beyond its normal resources, there are well-established arrangements for the council to come to central Government for assistance.

Mr. Rogers

The Minister referred to the wide powers of local authorities. What is the point of local authorities having powers without the resources to help? Why does he not realise that and get out of that money-grooved frame of mind? It is not money that is required, but alterations to the infrastructure so that flooding does not occur. Is he aware that during the past three years, as a result of considerable flooding in the Rhondda—and it is no good the Under-Secretary of State smirking—hundreds of people have been flooded every time it has rained? What is desperately needed—and I have asked for this time and time again—is for the Welsh Office to convene a meeting of the local authorities, the Forestry Commission and large riparian owners so that they can together solve the problem of flooding in the south Wales valleys. Why does the Secretary of State not chair a conference to deal with the problem and come up with some ideas?

Mr. Edwards

Major work has been undertaken in the valleys since the disastrous floods in 1981, and a great deal of improvement has been achieved. I am glad that on this occasion the flooding in the Rhondda was much less severe. Indeed, the worst floods were in the Cynon Valley. On the matter of resources, the threshold for assistance for the Cynon Valley borough council amounts to about £23,000. We are not dealing with enormous sums of money before the local authority can request central Government assistance. Responsibility lies with the local authority, and it is best qualified to decide whether assistance is required in a particular flooding incident.

Mr. Coleman

Is the Minister aware that the recent heavy rainfall in south Wales has again resulted in movement of the mountain at Godre'r-graig Ystalyfera and the demolition of houses? What assistance can the local authorities expect to receive from the Department to enable them to assist people badly affected by that phenomenon?

Mr. Edwards

As I have said, local authorities have wide powers to provide that kind of assistance and there are well-established rules, laid down by successive Governments, to provide for central Government assistance in major incidents in which the sums involved are very large.