On 7th December 2015 a statement from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on flooding in the north of England was repeated in the House of Lords. The Bishop of Portsmouth responded:
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, I apologise to the House and in particular to the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, and the Minister for my earlier ill-timed intervention. I add an expression of my compassion and sympathy, and the assurance of my prayers, to all those whose lives and livelihoods have been affected and particularly to the families of those who died.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle lives in Keswick so has seen for himself the terrible problems caused by these storms. I know that the House will appreciate that he cannot be in his place today. In the past 10 years we have seen in Cumbria three so-called once-in-a-lifetime flooding events. Does the Minister believe that there may be a category problem here, and that some redefinition may be appropriate? Further, will Her Majesty’s Government reassess not only how they categorise these events but prepare for their apparent more frequent occurrence? We have heard of the help given by some of the flood protection measures that are in hand, but does the Minister believe that reconsideration of present flood prevention measures is not just needed—that is the reflection and learning that the Statement mentions—but urgently needed when we see so graphically the results of this particular circumstance?
Finally, will the Minister confirm that, alongside short to medium-term flood prevention measures, these ghastly events have surely confirmed the vital significance of the deliberations in Paris on climate change for a deep-seated change, so that floods and such awful events occur, if not never, certainly less frequently? Meanwhile, I know that Christian churches of all denominations are working alongside the huge number of volunteers, and we welcome that.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate. I think that all Members of Parliament from Cumbria are in their constituencies and I am not surprised that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle is in his diocese.
The definition of how we deal with and approach what continue to be unprecedented circumstances is a difficult one. All I can say is: having seen the scale of the rainfall, I hope that what we saw over the weekend remains unprecedented. The point is that lessons always have to be learned when we have such emergencies. We need to look at the flood protection measures. As I said, very considerable sums of money are being spent not only on capital projects but on maintenance, but we clearly need to continue looking at whether they are the best value for money and whether they secure the best safety, which is obviously paramount for people. There are lessons to be learned and, as I have already mentioned, the deliberations in Paris on climate change are clearly of huge importance.