Suffolk MP disputes environment secretary Owen Paterson’s claim floods were a freak event

Waveney MP Peter Aldous.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous. - Credit: Archant � 2012

Suffolk MP Peter Aldous has hit out at environment secretary and known climate change sceptic Owen Paterson's claim that last week's floods were a freak event.

The Waveney MP has said it is wrong to dismiss the storm surges as a 'once every 500 year' occurrence, warning they are likely to be a thing of the future.

Mr Paterson escaped making a planned urgent statement in the House of Commons on Monday, which would have required him to answer questions from the floor about the floods, as MPs paid tribute to the first black president Nelson Mandela who died last week.

But he published a written statement on Tuesday in which he said: 'The extreme conditions of last week put sea defences to their greatest test in 60 years. Record tidal surge levels were experienced at many locations, including at North Shields, Whitby, Hull, Immingham and Dover. In Wales, Rhyl was badly hit with 250 properties affected. Some parts of the East Coast experience such circumstances only once every 500 years.'

Mr Aldous has secured an adjournment debate on Wednesday and said he would raise concerns about the claim, which was made by Mr Paterson.

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He said: 'It is wrong to dismiss these floods as a once in a 500 year occurrence. There were floods six years ago. I think with rising sea levels these are going to be a thing of the future, and we do need to be looking at protecting the most vulnerable areas.'

It is not yet clear who will be called to respond to the questions, but Mr Aldous believes it could be a minister from Mr Paterson's department Defra. It is unusual for a cabinet minister to answer questions in a backbench adjournment debate.

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Mr Aldous said he expected other MPs to join him at the debate with a colleagues from Lincolnshire already indicating they would speak.

'Whilst the title of the debate is Waveney, I am going to widen it out to take in Norfolk aswell, and if others who are affected want to come in with interventions they can.'

He said that a very very serious crisis had 'only just been averted', but some areas had still been very badly affected.

'In Lowestoft a relatively small area has been affected, but it has been hit hard and I think we need to do all we can to make sure people who have been affected, whether it is residents or small businesses, are given every support to get back on their feet.'

He also questioned if the Bellwin formula, which councils can apply to for compensation, was 'fit for purpose in today's world'.

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