Prime Minister says emergency services told him to stay away from flood-hit communities

Boris Johnson has claimed he was told to stay away from flood-hit communities during recent devastation by the emergency services as he would “distract” from “dealing with the immediate crisis”.

Appearing on This Morning on Thursday Mr Johnson was asked why he did not visit areas such as Calderdale in Yorkshire when it was hit by Storm Ciara, in stark contrast to flooding elsewhere in Yorkshire during the election.

Appearing to pass the buck to the Environment Agency and the emergency services, he said: "You arrive and everybody has to down tools for an hour or more to brief you when they could be getting on with the emergency," he said.

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"They said to us all you'll do is distract us and the business of dealing with the immediate crisis".

Flooding in the village of Snaith, East Yorkshire. Photo: SWNSFlooding in the village of Snaith, East Yorkshire. Photo: SWNS
Flooding in the village of Snaith, East Yorkshire. Photo: SWNS

He added: “We have a wonderful system called Cabinet Government and we’re working around the clock to protect those victims.

"I’m very proud of the work the emergency services do and of the work of Cabinet ministers. What happens when you go to a flood area is you arrive and everybody as the down tools because the goal command, they all meet for an hour or more to brief you.”

Labour yesterday called for an independent review into the response to the flooding and accused the Government of seeking to "silence" the voices of communities that have been affected.

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Shadow environment secretary, Luke Pollard, also took aim at Conservative MPs for refusing to back his party's proposals to establish a review.

Mr Pollard said: "The review that we're asking for seeks to look at how we learn the lessons as a country, how the Government learns lessons, how the work and the innovations of local communities is recognised.

"But the Government's amendment to our motion today seeks to do only one thing - not learn the lessons of the flooding. It deletes the lessons learned review and it seeks to silence the voices of those communities that have been flooded. I want to have the voices of those communities underwater heard in the review we are proposing."

Environment Secretary George Eustice said that the Government's amendment acknowledged a need for further investment in flood defences and outlined a commitment to tackling climate change.

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He said: "We are determined to be ready for the future and we know that we must expect more frequent extreme weather in this country.

"So as well as investing even more in flood defence, the Government is also committed to leading a global response to climate change through our work around the world and as hosts of the next climate change conference, COP26, urging nations to achieve net zero in ways that help nature recover, reduces global warming and addresses the causes of these extreme weather events."

Tory backbencher Craig Whittaker criticised the speed of the Government's payments to flood victims.

The MP for Calder Valley, which was hit by recent flooding, said: "Will the Secretary of State agree to look at the support package and amend it so that we have an off-the-shelf package that automatically gets triggered in the future for any constituency that's (hit by) flooding, so no constituency should be left waiting for nine days ever again?"

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Labour chairwoman of the Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee and Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves said flood insurance was too expensive for many people.

She said: "Many businesses in my community no longer have flood insurance because it would make their businesses unviable."

Closing the debate, environment minister Rebecca Pow accused Labour MPs of avoiding a meeting on flooding held in Westminster.

She added: "Yesterday we held a meeting where MPs could come and talk to the Environment Agency and feed in all their information and data and all their findings.

"And what happened? Only one member of the Labour Party turned up, all the rest of them were from the Conservative benches."