Minister defends flood response

"Unprecedented" rainfall behind flood defence failure
"Unprecedented" rainfall behind flood defence failure

The environment secretary Hilary Benn has defended the government's response to the widespread flooding witnessed in large parts of the UK this weekend.

He said that the "unprecedented" levels of rainfall were responsible for people becoming stranded and homes wrecked; and not the failure of the country's flood defences.

"This was very, very intense rainfall, when you've got 5in in 24 hours, even some of the best defences are going to be overwhelmed," Mr Benn told BBC News 24.

Freak storms and torrential downpours on Friday and Saturday saw large parts of southern and central England and Wales flooded this weekend, several weeks after similar scenes in the north of the country.

Mr Benn, when quizzed on why in certain areas flood defences were deployed late or not at all, said: "Even if those defences had been put in place, they would have been overtopped because of the intensity of the rainfall.

"We need also to recognise that a lot of the flood defences including some of the new ones that have been put in place have worked successfully to protect people from flooding."

But echoing earlier remarks by prime minister Gordon Brown the former international development secretary acknowledged that there were "lessons to be learned" for the government.

The Environment Agency has revealed it will cost £1 billion every year to shore up the UK's flood defences.

But its chief executive Baroness Young admits that even increased levels of expenditure "won't completely remove the risk of flooding".


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