Environment agency

Our flood defences aren’t fit for the climate we have now

This week’s political fuss over whether the floods in Yorkshire constitute a ‘national emergency’ misses the point. It is too easy to declare an emergency for political purposes, to give the impression that the government is taking an issue seriously. It’s quite obvious that the scenes we have seen this week represent an emergency — the question is whether, once the helicopter visits and photo opportunities have ceased, all is forgotten and the political world moves on to the next emergency. What has happened in Yorkshire over the past week is a symptom of chronic failure to manage the threat of flooding. We keep suffering these events. In 2015, it

The Spectator’s Notes | 14 January 2016

No amount of reports in the press that Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet-making is farcical and his party is divided should distract us from the fact that he is winning. I don’t mean that he will become prime minister, or even (though this seems quite possible) that he will survive as leader until the general election. It is just that he is gradually bringing more and more of Labour under his control, and grinding down his opponents. Besides, his public positions are coherent — in the sense of being internally consistent — and he is quite accomplished at adhering to an undeviatingly hardline, left-wing ideology while sounding mild and decent. Taxed,

Soggy thinking

As the chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, Lord Deben, observed this week, there is a bizarre dislocation between the government’s pronouncements on climate change and its attitude towards spending on flood defences. Only a month ago, David Cameron was at the Paris climate summit lending his weight to apocalyptic warnings of flood and tempest unless the world acted quickly to reduce carbon emissions. Yet with tracts of northern cities underwater, his government continues with a make-do-and-mend flood-defence policy which, never mind climate change, is incapable of dealing with the climate we already have. While lecturing us on the threat of greater rainfall and rising sea levels, the government

The Environment Agency cares more about wildlife than people

What do voles, beetles, mussels, trout and the golden plover have in common? Believe it or not, they have all been used as excuses by the Environment Agency not to improve flood defences. Travelling around the worst of the flooded areas last week, I met family after family who said their local rivers had been left to clog with debris — and always because of some critter or other. Somerset farmer David Gillard, for example, repeatedly begged the Environment Agency to dredge the River Parrett, which runs near his sheep farm just outside Burrowbridge. And last summer they did come and give it a go. But while they were at

If David Cameron can’t get the floods right, all his hopes will wash away

[audioplayer src=”http://traffic.libsyn.com/spectator/TheViewFrom22_13_February_2014_v4.mp3″ title=”James Forsyth and Isabel Hardman on how the floods will define the PM’s legacy” startat=1218] Listen [/audioplayer]It is all hands to the pump in Downing Street. The entire No. 10 operation from the Prime Minister down to the Policy Unit is focused on the floods. ‘We are all on a war footing,’ declares one official. David Cameron is spending his time poring over maps of the affected areas. ‘It is quite remarkable,’ says one minister who attends the Cobra meetings on the floods, ‘to hear the Prime Minister asking Gold Command about individual farms.’ Cameron knows that the floods will be a defining moment for his government. If

Britain needs small government, not weak government. That means strong flood defences

[audioplayer src=”http://traffic.libsyn.com/spectator/TheViewFrom22_13_February_2014_v4.mp3″ title=”Christopher Booker discusses the failures behind the floods” startat=61] Listen [/audioplayer]There is nothing inevitable about the by now familiar sight of residents being towed away from flooded homes, of shops and businesses submerged, and all the misery and economic turmoil which follows. A short hop across the North Sea is a country which has been having much the same weather as we have recently and has even more low-lying land vulnerable to flooding. Yet there has been a remarkable lack of footage of Dutch homeowners being forced to gather their possessions and flee their homes. Why? After a devastating storm surge in 1953, the Dutch made huge investments

Portrait of the week: as the waters continue to rise

Home Floods grew worse in the West Country. The village of Moorland, Somerset, was abandoned. Then the Thames flooded, from above Oxford to Teddington. Eventually, David Cameron, the Prime Minister, declared from Downing Street: ‘Money is no object in this relief effort.’ Some 1,600 troops were deployed. By midweek 1,000 houses had been evacuated. A storm had broken the rail line from Cornwall at Dawlish, which would take months to mend, as would the broken line from Barmouth to Criccieth. Landslides closed lines between Tonbridge and Hastings, between Machynlleth and Welshpool, and from Portsmouth via Eastleigh. Villagers at Wraysbury, Berkshire, complained of looting of abandoned houses. Eric Pickles, the Communities

Revealed: how green ideology turned a deluge into a flood

[audioplayer src=”http://traffic.libsyn.com/spectator/TheViewFrom22_13_February_2014_v4.mp3″ title=”Christopher Booker explains how the EA failed to prepare for the floods ” startat=60] Listen [/audioplayer]It has taken six long weeks to uncover the real hidden reasons why, from the West Country to the Thames Valley, the flooding caused by the wettest January on record has led to such an immense national disaster. Only now have the two ‘smoking guns’ finally come to light which show just how and why all this chaos and misery has resulted directly from a massive system failure in the curious way our country is governed. Because I live in Somerset, I first became aware that something very disturbing was going on back

Floods of incompetence – why Chris Smith should resign from the Environment Agency

[audioplayer src=’http://traffic.libsyn.com/spectator/TheViewFrom22_6_February_2014_v4.mp3′ title=’Fraser Nelson discusses the Environment Agency:’ startat=1350] Listen [/audioplayer]When Prince Charles arrived in Somerset to meet some of those caught up in the disaster which in five weeks has drowned 50 square miles of that county in floodwater, a reporter asked him whether he blamed the Environment Agency. Judiciously, he replied, ‘You may well think that — I couldn’t possibly comment.’ Later, having spoken to several of those intimately involved in this crisis, he hinted rather more plainly at his own view by saying, ‘The tragedy is that nothing happened for so long.’ With the third flood disaster to hit the Somerset Levels in three years, the Environment Agency

Charles Moore

The Spectator’s Notes: Quangos – a world of perfect hypocrisy

The accusation that the Tories have been installing their people in public appointments should evoke only a hollow laugh. They have been comatose on the subject. One of the greatest skills of New Labour was putting its allies in positions of control across the public sector. A great many are still there, and yet the Tories wonder why their efforts at reform are frustrated. Maggie Atkinson, for example, was imposed by Ed Balls, when in office, as Children’s Commissioner, against the recommendation of the relevant selection committee. She lingers on in her useless post. Lord Smith, the former Labour cabinet minister who has been flooding the Somerset levels, is still

The quango state: how the left still runs Britain

[audioplayer src=”http://traffic.libsyn.com/spectator/TheViewFrom22_6_February_2014_v4.mp3″ title=”Fraser Nelson discusses David Cameron’s quango problems” startat=1350] Listen [/audioplayer]Last week Sally Morgan reverted to type. After almost three years as a model of cross-party co-operation, instinctive Labour tribalism finally won out as she accused Downing Street of purging Labour supporters from high offices. Of the many Labour types appointed by the coalition into quangos, she was probably the last person the government expected to go hostile. Not only had she done a fine job chairing Ofsted, the schools inspector, but she was a proven reformer who certainly shares Michael Gove’s passion for new schools. Like many Blairites, she is something of a Goveite at heart. But now,

What medieval farmers knew – and the Environment Agency doesn’t

Our neighbour Philip Merricks is a farmer on Romney Marsh, 90 per cent of whose land is below sea level. The marsh would not exist without the medieval ingenuity which ‘inned’ it from the sea. Phil is therefore well placed to understand the interests of farmers on the Somerset Levels who have now been inundated for a month. But he is also a conservationist, owning and running two bird reserves, so is pro-farming and pro-wildlife, which too few are. Last week, he went to the Somerset Levels as chairman of the Hawk and Owl Trust, which has a reserve down there. He tells me that while the usual winter waterlogging

Portrait of the week | 30 January 2014

Home Britain’s gross domestic product grew by 1.9 per cent last year, the most since 2007, according to the Office for National Statistics. The last quarter’s growth was 0.7 per cent, a little less than the 0.8 per cent of the previous quarter. In the fourth quarter of 2013, construction actually declined by 0.3 per cent, and economic output was still 1.3 per cent less than in the first quarter of 2008. Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, promised in a speech that Labour would restore the 50 per cent rate of tax on higher earnings. Daniel Evans, a former Sunday Mirror journalist, told the Old Bailey that he had intercepted voicemails

Letters | 7 November 2013

Counting on the country Sir: I spent many hours helping to canvas for local Conservative candidates before the last two elections (‘The countryside revolts’, 2 November). I was motivated to do so because of the Labour government’s prejudice against the rural community. The Conservative party offered a chance to redress this prejudice through repealing or amending legislation on small employers, hunting, communication, transport, fuel, immigration and the EU. But progress on these issues has been negligible. We see no action on the Hunting Act, and no action to stop the harassment of country people by vigilante pressure groups, despite managing a more robust reaction to anti-fracking campaigners. Huge effort has