May I begin by passing on the Secretary of State’s apologies for not being here this morning? He continues to recover from eye surgery and will be back soon. I am sure the whole House will join me in wishing him a speedy recovery.
As the country continues to experience the onslaught of stormy weather, I should like to express my deepest condolences to the friends and families of those who have lost their lives, and to put on record that our thoughts are with everyone who continues to experience the misery of flooding.
Hampshire county council is discussing a proposal with the Environment Agency, but the business case has not yet been submitted to the agency.
Yesterday marked the passing of 40 days and 40 nights of flooding in Hambledon since it was first flooded by groundwater, and no one yet has any idea when the floodwater will recede. Every night, the residents sleep in shifts to monitor their pumps, and every day they wake up wondering whether that will be the day on which their house will be flooded. The village has been cut off from the rest of the world for over a month now. An engineering solution that would avert most of this now almost bi-annual flooding has been drawn up and costed, but funding remains a sticking point. Will the Minister meet me and potential partner agencies to try to agree a deal and get this vital work done as soon as possible?
I very much applaud the tremendous efforts of the Hambledon community in its response to the groundwater flooding and the issues it is facing. I know that the Environment Agency is working closely with Hampshire county council to support the community in making the strongest case in its bid for flood defence grant in aid, and I would indeed welcome a meeting with my hon. Friend and any representatives he wishes to bring along to discuss the matter.