Flooding

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): May I suggest to the Secretary of State that, instead of engaging in this arrogant bluster, he answers the questions put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) from the Opposition Front Bench, and by colleagues who, along with their constituents, have experienced the terrible impacts of the flooding? He ought to apologise instead of continuously passing the buck and saying that it is everybody else’s responsibility but not the Government’s.

Mr Pickles: For me, sorry is not the hardest word. I have been criticised for saying sorry to the people of Somerset, and the Prime Minister has said sorry to them. The problem with Labour Members, who talk of hubris and arrogance, is that they are never prepared to admit that they have done anything wrong and go around defending bad practice. The Government are prepared to say that we got it wrong, along with the Environment Agency, with regard to dredging. Had it not been for the campaigning efforts of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, that dredging would not have started.

Flooding (Somerset)

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Is the Secretary of State aware of modelling done by the university of Cardiff that shows that a Severn barrage, operating on ebb flood, would significantly protect the Somerset levels from flooding and act as a barrier against storm surge, protecting 500 sq km and many properties from flooding? Is that not a reason for pressing ahead with the barrage?

Mr Paterson: I admire the right hon. Gentleman for grabbing the opportunity to promote that project, of which he is a very strong supporter. I remind the House that some are very hostile to it because of the barrage’s environmental consequences.