I guess I am relieved we were spared a posing Minister for drought three years ago, and an overexposed Minister for floods over the last couple of years. I would, however, like the Ministers responsible for water supply and water control to do something instead of just saying things.
Three summers ago it was hot and dry. We ran out of water, so it was rationed. I called for a new reservoir in the dry south-east, and backed the plan for a desalination plant for London to act as reserve supply for dry times. Neither project has got past the drawing board three years on. On the law of averages we will get a dry summer sometime, and clearly we will have one before this government has got round to building the extra capacity we need for all the extra people they have invited in and all the extra homes they are building in the south east.
Now we have had two of the coldest and wettest summers I have ever had the misfortune to live through in a row. Fourteen months ago all too many people were flooded in their homes. We have had fourteen months of memos, lawyers letters, arguments over which public body is responsible in each case, Ministerial statements, a major Enquiry and Report, but very few men in diggers actually improving the ditches and digging a few more where there is too much water flowing.
What people want is some solutions. Public sepnding is now racing to £10,000 a year for every man, woman and child in the country. Why can’t they, within these huge budgets, afford just something to improve our land drainage, and to collect enough of the water so in drier times we don’t run out? Why is this just impossible for them to do? Why does everything take so long, cost so much and work so badly? Why does the Environment Agency define its job as warning peopole they might be flooded rather than helping ensure they will not be flooded? And why yesterday did Ministers give up on talking to the media and leave it to an official to do so? Are they at last embarassed by their lack of action?