§ Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,the time limit on Government assistance towards storm damage costs.The matter is specific, in that it refers to the terms of the Bellwin scheme, under which, after councils have met a certain threshold cost of damage repair, the Government provide 75 per cent. of the further costs. We all know the limitations: many things that we think should be covered are not—for example, the 4 million lost trees. There is no help with replanting trees or with homes that have been engulfed, and pensioners receive no help with rebuilding fences and walls.,
Today I am concerned only with the time limits of the scheme. Under the Bellwin scheme, except in north Wales, only work completed by 31 March this year qualifies for Government assistance. Even if the damage took place on 30 March, the repairs would have to be completed by the 31st. Many areas in all parts of the country have suffered from the recent storm chaos. Homes have been engulfed by floods; there has been severe damage to buildings, sea defences and communications. We cannot be sure that we will not face more such damage in the next couple of weeks.
The matter is urgent because councils are already at their wits' end trying to complete January's repairs. Now they have been hit by these most recent storms, when their own direct labour organisations and the independent contractors are already tied up trying to deal with previous remedial work. Councils have only four weeks from Saturday to find contractors, negotiate contracts and complete the work.
It is not possible to comply with their arbitrary deadline. Storms do not tidily occur well before the end of the financial year, so that full cost of uncompleted work could fall on next year's poll tax payers. Councils and victims of the storms need this arbitrary and unrealistic deadline lifted, and we should debate the matter urgently.
§ Mr. Speaker
The right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,the time limit on Government assistance towards storm damage costs.As the right hon. Member knows, under Standing Order No. 20 I have to announce my decision without giving reasons to the House. I have listened with care to what he has said on this matter, but, as he knows, the decision that I have to take is whether to give the matter precedence over the business set down for today or tomorrow. I regret that in this case the matter that he has raised does not meet the requirements of the Standing Order and I therefore cannot submit his application to the House.