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Floods (Public Inquiries)

Volume 438: debated on Monday 9 June 1947

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55.

asked the Minister of Agriculture when he proposes to set up public inquiries into the cause of the recent floods.

Reports have been received by my Department from all but a few of those Boards in whose areas abnormal flooding occurred this spring. Discussions with the individual Boards are in progress and will continue this month. It is clear, however, that in all areas substantial works of rehabilitation will need to be completed before next winter which will make heavy demands on the technical staffs and resources of the Boards. I am not satisfied that any general need exists to hold public inquiries, and would be reluctant to divert the energies of the Boards from the urgent and important works which are now in progress.

While I fully appreciate the point made by the Minister about the work begun by the catchment boards, and while not desiring to detract from it, may I ask him to bear in mind three things? The first is, that the destruction of people's houses in some of the flooded areas is appalling; secondly, that the Government, by giving £1,000,000 out of public money raised through taxes, virtually, I submit, are bound to give some account to the taxpayers who subscribed that it is necessary to give that amount; and third, that there are a great many people who are calling for these inquiries. Whether or not the catchment boards' report indicates it, I do ask him to have these inquiries as soon as possible.

I do not see what the first two questions have to do with public inquiries. As regards the last supplementary question, inquiries may or may not be held later on, but it seems to me that flood prevention work is of far greater importance at this moment than inquiries.