Tory flood minister squirms over disaster as he’s asked – where’s Boris Johnson

The Tory Cabinet minister in charge of flooding has faced heavy fire on live TV as he was asked four times why Boris Johnson has not visited the victims.

George Eustice was grilled as five 'danger to life' flood warnings were issued amid Storm Dennis, which has killed three and dumped a month of rain on some areas in 48 hours.

The Environment Secretary – who only got his job last week in the Cabinet reshuffle – insisted Boris Johnson had put him in charge and that was enough.

Speaking to LBC, he added: "Are we happy with the way our flood assets have operated? I would say yes, they have operated as we would expect them to."

But Sky News host Kay Burley said the PM is "in his bunker in Downing Street – why is he not out there reassuring people? Why is the Prime Minister not going up to the north where all these people voted for him and saying 'I’m here?'"

Labour last night demanded Boris Johnson call a meeting of the COBRA emergency committee to deal with the flooding, which brought chaos to parts of the UK already laid low by Storm Ciara a week ago.

Shadow Culture Secretary Tracy Brabin told the BBC's Westminster Hour: “If this was in Surrey or the south, we would have had swifter action. Why hasn’t the government called COBRA? This is an absolute emergency. We need to see people round the table."

Danger to life warnings have been issued in South Wales while Army personnel have been deployed in West Yorkshire – where Tory MP for Shipley Philip Davies demanded the government "pull its finger out".

He told the Daily Telegraph: "My constituents who were flooded were the same people who were flooded on Boxing Day 2015.

"It's not as if there hasn't been enough time to do something. The Government needs to pull its finger out.

"What has been done to stop it happening again? Precious little."

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At 5.30am today the government activated emergency funding for councils dealing with the fallout.

Councils will be able to reclaim 100% of eligible costs above a certain threshold from the government under the Bellwin Scheme.

Mr Eustice insisted the Government had not been caught off guard – but admitted not every home could be protected.

He added: "We've done a huge amount – we can't do anything about these extreme weather events but the steps we've taken have meant the impact of those weather events have affected fewer properties."

He blamed the "nature of climate change" for the scale of the damage, and said: "There is always more that can be done.

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"We'll never be able to protect every single household just because of the nature of climate change and the fact that these weather events are becoming more extreme, but we've done everything that we can do with a significant sum of money, and there's more to come."

He was asked at least four times by Sky News host Kay Burley why Boris Johnson had not visited flood-hit areas, like Yorkshire.

He said flooding in Yorkshire was not as bad as expected and the biggest problems were elsewhere.

He insisted: "When I was appointed by the Prime Minister one of the first things he mentioned was the floods. He added: "I was up there yesterday in Yorkshire I’ve been in regular contact with officials on this.

"The government has a firm grip on this. It’s a very difficult situation."

Questioned repeatedly, Mr Eustice could give no hint of whether Boris Johnson would visit flood victims.

Eventually he said: "I don’t manage the Prime Minister’s diary. The Prime Minister has tasked me with leading on this issue."

Mr Eustice added the Tories have a manifesto commitment to spend £4bn over the next five years.

As of 9am on Monday more than 550 flood warnings and alerts were still in force, including five "danger to life" severe flood warnings.

Those five are mainly in South Wales:

  • River Teme at Eardiston
  • River Teme at Little Hereford and Ashford Carbonel
  • River Teme at Ludlow
  • River Teme at Tenbury Wells and Burford
  • River Wye at Blackmarstone, Hereford

Parts of the UK were buffeted with winds of more than 90mph, while more than a month's worth of rain fell in 48 hours in places.

Roads and railways were flooded on Sunday after torrential downpours and high winds caused.

The Met Office said that winds of more than 80mph were recorded across parts of the country, with the highest measuring 91mph in Aberdaron in North Wales on Saturday.

A total of 156.2mm of rain fell at Crai Reservoir in Powys in the 48 hours from Friday to Sunday morning, it added.

The average monthly rainfall for February in Wales is 111.1mm, the Met Office added.

A yellow weather warning for wind is in place until 11am on Monday.

Severe flood warnings were also still in place for the rivers Lymn and Steeping in Lincolnshire, as well as the River Teme in parts of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire.

Pictures on social media show the Taff bursting its banks and flooding parts of Pontypridd, while rescue workers were using boats to get families to safety after further flooding in nearby Nantgarw.

South Wales Police said it had declared a major incident due to the flooding and severe weather.

A man in his 60s died after being pulled from the River Tawe ear Trebanos Rugby Club, despite paramedics battling to save his life – police said he was pronounced dead at the scene.

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