HC Deb 27 January 1978 vol 942 cc809-11W
Mr. Moate

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he can now provide an estimate for the losses sustained and costs incurred, as notified to him, by the Swale District Council, householders, businesses and others within the Faversham constituency resulting from the floods of 11th and 12th January; and if he will make a statement about central Government assistance to local authorities and individuals in that area.

Mr. Shore

I have received some general reports of the kind of damage and losses sustained in the hon. Member's constituency and information about an isolated individual loss of a small business. But I have not yet had compre hensive details on which a realistic estimate of the costs involved could be based. On the question of central Government assistance I would refer the hon. Member to my reply today to my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, South (Mr. Orbach).

Mr. Moate

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment, in view of the damage sustained by businesses in the flooding of 11th and 12th January for which flood insurance was not available and which were therefore dependent upon adequate sea defences, if he will make a statement about possible Government assistance in the form of grants or loans to deal with emergencies of this kind.

Mr. Shore

There is no provision whereby Government can compensate uninsured businesses specifically for losses sustained in these circumstances.

Mr. Orbach

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations have been received from the local authorities affected by the recent floods and gales on the East Coast; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has given further consideration to the need of local authorities in Eastern England for central Government financial aid to assist in giving relief to the victims of the recent floods; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Shore

The recent floods and gales affected substantial areas of the East Coast, causing wide spread damage. Many of the local authorities involved have been in touch with us, and my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Markes) from my Department, has, at my request, toured some of the worst affected areas, has had discussions with representatives of the local authorities concerned, and has had a meeting with a number of hon. Members whose constituencies suffered the most.

Local authorities in the affected areas have wide powers given to them in Section 138 of the Local Government Act 1972 to initiate any action they consider necessary to safeguard life, minimise damage and alleviate distress. They have, of course, been helped by the full range of emergency services, and, where necessary, by the Armed Forces. The regional offices of my own Department, and the local officers of the Department of Health and Social Security, have been available to give whatever help they can. Government engineering experts have made on site inspections and have given specialist advice wherever necessary. There can be no doubt that in this emergency, the local authorities and all who have helped have reacted with great speed and efficiency.

The Government are ready, as in similar emergencies in the past, to consider claims for special financial assistance to lighten the burden which will otherwise fall on local ratepayers. This would be additional to the specific grants already available, for example, for coast protection and sea defence.

When deciding on special financial assistance, we shall be looking at such factors as the additional expenditure falling on the local authority as against its financial resources and the availability of specific grants.

All local authorities who think that they have a case for special financial assistance should send me reports as soon as possible giving the nature and amount of the expenditure which they have already incurred, or which they feel they will have to incur. Claims will need to be properly examined, but this will be done expeditiously and the local authorities concerned will be informed of the outcome with the minimum delay.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has set out in his answer today to the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) the types of emergency help that are available to individual victims of the floods through the supplementary Benefits Commission.