Robert Jenrick (Newark) (Con): I am fortunate that my Newark constituency has not been seriously flooded in this winter’s flooding, but it has been among the worst-flooded of any constituency in the country over the past few years. Forty towns and villages in my constituency have been flooded in the past three years alone, including the beautiful cathedral town of Southwell, which was devastated in 2013. More homes were flooded in that small town than were flooded in all the Somerset levels in 2014. Some residents are still not home.
As other hon. Members have said, being flooded is not only a terrible inconvenience, but can be an individual tragedy. Some of those tragedies do not become apparent until sometime later. I have met constituents whose elderly parents were rescued from their homes by the emergency services and taken elsewhere, very confused and scared, and died in temporary accommodation or nursing homes, having never returned to their own homes. Essentially, their lives were washed away by the floods.
Some good things have undoubtedly come out of the floods, particularly in Southwell, which I hope gives a glimmer of hope to other communities. That community was brought together wonderfully by those events. A very important and award-winning flood forum was founded.
In the short time I have, may I make three observations drawn from our experiences in Nottinghamshire? As this is an Opposition day debate, inevitably a blame game crops up, but the Secretary of State and more recently the Minister could not have been more helpful to my communities. They have had the greatest and most helpful can-do attitude. Together, we have begun to achieve quite a lot for those communities.
My first point is that we need a more local approach to prevention and maintenance, as well as to the implementation of new flood protection schemes. In communities such as Southwell where there are superb flood forums, I ask the Secretary of State please to make use of them in her flood review and gain the benefit of their experiences. I ask her to make small amounts of money available to them. They need that money immediately to create websites and fliers and so on. Those are invaluable. Where we have those groups and they do such a good job, I ask her to use them and not simply to rely on the Environment Agency and such large, often excruciatingly slow, organisations. We should use those forums and the internal drainage boards. I heard from someone or other in the Labour party over the winter that IDBs are hopeless and out of touch, and that they are dominated by biased landowners. The opposite is true in my area: the Trent valley IDB is superb.
Secondly, I ask the Secretary of State please to use local people so that we can use public money better. This debate should be about getting value for money for the taxpayer, rather than simply about the quantities.