16 January 2001

Alison Halford (Delyn):

What discussions has he had with the Secretary of State on the current condition of flood defences in North Wales (OAQ8811)

The First Minister:

I have discussed this matter with the Secretary of State for Wales before and since his visit to north Wales to see at first hand the effects of the recent flooding. People will make comparisons between what happened in York, Gloucester, Tewkesbury, Worcester, Bewdley and the affected areas in England. Some areas were affected by rivers that rise in Wales. The area which Alison Halford and David Hanson, the Parliamentary Under-secretary of State for Wales, represent has been in the eye of the storm, if that is the right term to use. That subject is discussed because we are anxious to see exactly what are the funding requirements. I do not know of an area in England that has had a problem similar to that of the Horseshoe Pass, for example, with a landslide wiping out a fairly important road and forcing people to travel an extra 25 miles to get to work. On the other hand, there has been flooding in England. The ideal situation for us in terms of remedial works, would be for considerable additional funding to be allocated to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. We would then receive the Barnett consequentials of that. However, I presume that we are affected more than the Barnett consequentials would normally allow.

Alison Halford:

Acknowledging your frequent and welcome visits to north Wales, you might be aware that Flintshire County Council has introduced some good initiatives. It has set up an environment forum to ensure that the public is aware of what is going on. It has also set up a land drainage unit, although this has cost £750,000. Do you think that these important initiatives should be established in other parts of Wales to ensure that flooding is kept to a minimum?

The First Minister:

Yes. They sound like good initiatives. The key to trying to prevent or minimise incidents of this kind—given the dire predictions about climate change which imply their greater frequency—is good co-operation between a local authority and the Environment Agency in its area and between adjoining local authorities because rivers do not respect local government boundaries. Good and path-breaking initiatives can therefore be set as a benchmark for other authorities. I will not comment in detail on the schemes that you mentioned but I am sure that Sue Essex has taken note of what you said, Alison.

Janet Ryder:

Rhodri, you have talked about the money that has been made available to address flooding issues and the possibility of extra money being made available perhaps in our Barnett share of that. You have also said that our need might be greater than that Barnett share. The Environment Agency estimates that we need at least £10 million compared with the £3 million available. What steps have you taken to ensure that we get that extra money and where do you think that it will come from?

The First Minister:

It is too early to say yet, Janet. The point that I made reflects a discussion between Ministers to try to calculate whether if you use the Barnett formula—Wales equals 6 per cent above England, if I remember the figures correctly—given the amount of flooding and likely remedial work required in York and Bewdley and Worcester and so on, are we at 6 per cent of that or are we at 26 per cent of that? If we have had much more flooding than 6 per cent, it will cost more in Wales than our Barnett share would imply. In which case, we may have to think of other ways to handle the issue. I fear that it is still early days and that it will be much more than 6 per cent of the likely remedial works required in England.

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