MPs demand Cameron response

Hilary Benn MP
Hilary Benn MP
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LABOUR heavyweight Hilary Benn is adding to the mounting pressure piled on the Prime Minister to respond to The Yorkshire Post after it made a series of demands for greater protection against flooding.

The open letter sent on January 25 and featured on this newspaper’s front page has so far gone unanswered by David Cameron after 53 days on his desk.

In the meantime a press release offered by Downing Street espousing the virtues of tourism in Yorkshire was publicly ditched as The Yorkshire Post Comment Editor Tom Richmond decided it would be a ‘disservice to readers’ to print it while the region is still recovering from this winter’s dreadful storms.

Taking up the mantle for The Yorkshire Post in coaxing the Prime Minister into a personal response after a seven week wait are those MPs whose constituents were most affected by Boxing Day devastation as well as leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron.

Holly Lynch, Labour MP for Halifax, said communities were working hard to get back on track after Storm Eva and is backed by Leeds Central MP Mr Benn, Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves, and York Central MP Rachel Maskell.

While the Chancellor’s welcome announcement that York and Leeds will share a portion of £150m to get better flood defences goes some way to address the letter’s demands, questions on insurance and support for business remain unanswered.

Ms Lynch writes in her letter: “Homes and businesses in Yorkshire must be better protected from flooding and it is crucial that we have a conversation about what exactly can and should be done. It is clear that thousands will continue to face the prospect of future flooding unless plans are developed to invest substantially in flood defences and solutions are found which better manage the uplands and moorlands.

“The Yorkshire Post sent you a letter in the wake of the floods, inviting you to respond to a number of important questions. Fifty days and counting have now passed with no response.

“As MPs from the flood affected towns and cities, we hope you will be able to respond in full to The Yorkshire Post, as soon as possible.”

Mr Cameron did respond in person however to a written question from Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, whose own constituency of Westmorland and Lonsdale also bore the brunt of extreme flooding.

Mr Farron wrote ‘Mr Cameron please don’t ignore our nightmare’ to which he responded ‘a reply will be sent shortly’.

Downing Street have said a letter will be sent to the Yorkshire Post next week.

This newspaper’s five demands were: a fully independent audit of all spending on flood defences, immediate funding for a new feasibility study into a major scheme to protect Leeds, a Government inquiry into the Yorkshire floods, greater support for those businesses and urgent talks with the insurance industry.

So far the Government has pledged £40m to fix repairs in Yorkshire, £280m on flood resilience work across Yorkshire and an extra £150m to be split between projects in Yorkshire and Cumbria.

The feasibility study for Leeds has been funded by the Government, and the Chancellor said he was committed to ensuring the city is protected.

It is understood Downing Street receives a significant amount of post and letters are not ‘fast-tracked’.