Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): May I thank the Secretary of State, the Prime Minister and the floods Minister for all the work they have done on the flooding in the north of England? We now need a fundamental review on floods, as they are occurring more often. In the past, there may have been a flood every 25 years or 50 years, but now there is one every five years or 10 years. The frequency may be down to climate change or it could be part of a pattern, but something is fundamentally wrong.
We must ensure that internal drainage boards have more powers, so that more can be done locally and that more dredging can be done. We must also learn the lessons from Somerset, where large pumps were brought in from the Netherlands. If we need pumps, let us move them around the country and ensure that we can pump out all the water. Rivers close to the sea and inland rivers are very flat and silty and tend to need dredging. My hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick) was quite right to say that chalk streams and rivers do not need the same amount of dredging.
We must also look at land management. At the moment, farmers are given compensation only when there is a loss of earnings. We need to look at that land and say, “Why don’t you farm that land in a way that allows you to have an income from it?” I am talking about planting trees or retaining water in the peat. Farmers might then view managing flood protection in a much more positive way. If we can put all these things in place, we could slow down the amount of flooding that is happening, but if we have 13 inches of rain in 36 hours, it is very difficult for any flood protection scheme to protect everybody.
What the people of Cumbria were absolutely certain about today when they attended an Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee was that they have all worked so well together and that their communities and their emergency services have performed well. They were delighted that Ministers had turned out to support their local communities. It is essential that we work together to change what is happening and to put enough money in place.
I plead with the Chancellor to view flood protection as very much part of our infrastructure. If we are to build infrastructure, we need to protect it from inland floods and the sea. We need look only at the Netherlands to see that if we want to protect the country, we need sea and coastal protection. These floods have been a wake-up call.
My very final point is that if we look at the amount of spending on flood protection, we will see that it began very slowly during the last Labour Government, but then it started to rain and the flood money went up, and the same happened under the previous Government. Now we are seeing a bit of tit for tat between the Government and the Opposition, but what this Government need to do is put together a package that will ensure that we have the right funds in place to protect us.