Troops should be drafted in to help flood-hit communities in Wales, the Leader of Plaid Cymru Adam Price has said.
He said that Welsh men and women “loyally serve” in the forces in Iraq and Afghanistan but were not sent to “help their own communities” and condemned the UK government for not deploying troops as they had done for northern England.
Speaking during FMQs today, Adam Price questioned why flood-hit Yorkshire received on the ground support from troops but the people of Wales had not been afforded “the same level of assistance” by the UK government.
The UK Armed Forces, under the instruction of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, were drafted in to help with severe flooding in Yorkshire during July and November 2019 and again earlier this month.
Two weeks ago, areas in Wales including Pontypridd, Rhondda, Neath and Monmouth saw some of the worst flooding in decades leaving hundreds of homes and businesses underwater.
“When Yorkshire was hit with severe flooding in July, November and again this month, the UK Armed Forces were drafted in to help under the instruction of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself,” Adam Price said.
“Storms come and go under different names but the impact and devastation they leave behind is always the same. And whilst flood-hit Yorkshire in northern England rightfully received support from troops, the communities and the people of Wales were not afforded the same level of assistance.
“Welsh men and women loyally serve in the forces. They’re sent to fight in wars overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan but they aren’t drafted in to help their own communities during this crisis.
“Why didn’t the UK Government deploy troops to support people and communities in Wales? And why didn’t Boris Johnson summon a Cobra meeting to discuss a co-ordinated response like he did with the flooding in Yorkshire? Did the Welsh Government not press Westminster for such assistance? Will they in the future?
“Time and again Welsh communities are treated as an afterthought by the two main Westminster parties. When severe flooding hits Wales again – and there’s no doubt that it will, troops must be drafted in to help and support our communities. They shouldn’t be left behind to deal with this on their own.”
In response to Adam Price, First Minister Mark Drakeford said troops had not been deployed because the situation was “too dangerous”.
He also said that it was not possible to give the UK Government a figure for how much they needed to help clear up the flooding damage at this point. “Some of the damage that will need to be repaired is literally still underwater”, he says.
He added that an estimate by Adam Price of £180m of damage in Rhondda Cynon Taf was “not unreasonable”.
Welsh Conservative leader Paul Davies also questioned the First Minister over his administration’s approach to flood prevention and alleviation strategies.
He asked if Mark Drakeford was confident that the Welsh Labour Government was doing all it could to protect communities, before referring to concerns raised by Mari Arthur, Chair of Welsh Water’s independent advisory panel.
She had said: “We’re missing that leadership, I feel, at the top to bring that together. That’s why things aren’t happening.”
Mr Davies said that it has been 10 years since the since the publication of the last flood risk management strategy, saying: “We are yet to see an updated strategy, which surely will help in making sure that responses are better coordinated in the future.”
He then called on the First Minister to accept that the delay in publishing a flood risk management strategy has made some communities feel that flooding is simply not a priority, saying: “It’s time that more effective leadership is shown on this matter.
“Perhaps we need to rethink how we address flooding in the future, especially given the warning signs received at the start of the Assembly, because people I spoke with believe that more could have been done sooner to mitigate the impact of flooding on their communities.
“Let’s be clear about this, we all accept that the Welsh Government can’t control the weather – and nor can it prevent all flooding – but it is responsible for developing an holistic plan with all stakeholders and concerned parties.
“What these people, some of whom were hit twice within a week, need is reassurance that the Welsh Government will do all it can to prevent – and then mitigate the effects of – flooding, because storms, rain, and floods will, of course, come again.
“Key to this is updating the flood risk management strategy, and making it fit for the 2020s and onwards. We have been waiting for it for two years now, and to hear that the First Minister believes it will be ready in ‘a couple of months’ is too late, and must come as a bitter blow to those residents still trying to repair their homes after these devastating floods.”