UPDATED: Prime Minister visits Newgale and St Davids
9:11am Wednesday 19th February 2014 in News
PRIME Minister David Cameron visited Newgale and St Davids on Wednesday (February 19) as part of a tour of the UK to “learn lessons” following the recent storms and flooding.
The PM arrived by helicopter into Newgale which has been hammered by the storms over recent weeks. Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb also attended.
Mr Cameron stopped at the Duke of Edinburgh Inn where he met pub landlords Lisa Clifton and Chris Clifton, and other staff, to discuss flood and storm damage.
“I think it was a big PR thing if I’m honest, but I think it’s just left us feeling a bit more positive after six weeks of misery,” said Lisa, who has been at the pub for 14 years.
The Duke has been closed since January 3, but Lisa and Chris are hoping to re-open in some capacity by Easter.
Speaking after the visit, Lisa said: “We showed him the devastation, how high the water had come up and what we are trying to do now and in the future.”
She added: “He wished us well. Whether he does all the right things is another matter.
“From our point of view it’s about getting all of the agencies to work together better. They’re all working really hard, but at the moment they’re working separately.”
Lisa and Chris want to see flood gates installed at Newgale, but a lack of available funding means it looks likely they would have to meet the costs themselves.
Lisa said Mr Cameron had been “very sketchy” about funding. “He said any help they can offer they would but he didn’t say anything specific,” she added.
Pembrokeshire County Council workers – Dorian Williams, Stephen Phillips, Selwyn Lloyd and Roy Jones - who cleared the A487 after waves breached pebble defences were also thanked for their efforts.
Mr Cameron then continued on to St Davids where he met with bosses and workers at St Davids Assemblies, a business which supplies precision components to the automotive and domestic appliance industries.
His visit coincided with the release of the latest unemployment figures, which show unemployment is falling faster in Wales than elsewhere in the UK.
Speaking at the factory, Mr Crabb said St Davids Assemblies was a Pembrokeshire success story and signified the move towards economic recovery in Wales, employing 10 extra staff during 2013.
He added: “Here we are in the far north of Pembrokeshire, who would have thought manufacturing would still exist in a place like this?”
“WE SHOULDN’T FEEL POWERLESS”, PM SAYS
FIELDING questions from the media, Prime Minister David Cameron insisted that “we shouldn’t feel powerless in the face of these extreme weather events”.
Mr Cameron said making flood and sea defences more “robust” – and not a managed retreat by coastal communities - was the most viable option for protecting homes and businesses in the future.
“I think we should look at our flood defences and work out how to make them more robust,” he said.
“I mean where I was at the pub this morning was flooded from the sea and from behind - it was flooded twice in the last month.
“We need to make sure that there are flood defences along that sea front and obviously putting them back in place and working out how best to clear the river and strengthen the shingle barriers.”
He added: “We should look at how we can become more resilient and how we can protect ourselves. We shouldn’t feel powerless.
“If you look across the United Kingdom, of course many thousands of homes have been flooded, but a million homes have been protected by flood defences, so I think we should be confident that using modern technology, the use of our forecasting skills, we should be able to protect ourselves even better.”
FLOODING IS A DEVOLVED ISSUE
FLOOD defences and flood prevention is a devolved issue for the Welsh Government, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.
Mr Cameron’s comments came following a question about the specific funding packages available to the Welsh Government for flood repairs and defences.
“Flood defences and flood prevention is a devolved issue and it’s for the Welsh Government to take action,” he said.
“We are obviously helping them to do that. I rang the First Minister to offer particularly military help if it was required and that’s the way flooding has to work under our system.”
Mr Cameron said the UK and Welsh Governments were working together on some issues, such as insurance, and the Barnett Formula –which is used by the UK Treasury to calculate how much money should be allocated to public services in Wales – would work “in the normal way”.
“It is a devolved issue but we are obviously always happy to talk to the Welsh Government about any needs, issues, anything that needs to be done,” he added.
Weather-proofing transport infrastructure is also a matter for the Welsh Government, Mr Cameron said, but the UK Government would be looking to share expertise and experience.
“Transport is obviously a devolved issue with the Welsh Government but I think it makes sense to have a proper look at infrastructure and ask what we are doing about it,” he said.
“I’m sure the Welsh Government will be doing that and we should share expertise and experience with them.”
MP DEFENDS DEVOLUTION COMMENTS
PRESELI Pembrokehsire MP Stephen Crabb has defended the Prime Minister’s comments on devolution.
“The whole reason that he’s in Wales is because he recognises that the experience the whole country has been through is UK-wide,” Mr Crabb said.
“And notwithstanding devolution there are lessons to be learned from Wales, there are experiences to be heard from within Wales and that’s why he particularly wanted to come to Wales to hear from a family and a business which has been through an ordeal and experienced this extreme weather.
“When it comes to specific pots of money at the moment we are all reaching into existing pots. That’s why in England they are reaching into existing budgets and the Welsh Government, likewise.
“Now if we get to a point where the assessment of damage is such that Welsh Government makes a formal request to the government for extra help then that will be dealt with, but at the moment that request hasn’t come from Welsh Government.”
WELSH GOVERNMENT TO LOOK TO UK FOR EXTRA FUNDING
WELSH Government officials are looking into whether there will be extra funding to help with the flood and storm clean-up from the UK Government.
The Welsh Government minister for natural resources and food Alun Davies said he was “encouraged” by the Prime Minister’s visit.
“We have noted with interest his suggestion that there may be further financial support available to help with the clean-up.
“We assume that as the PM chose to make this announcement in Pembrokeshire, not England, there will be additional funding for Wales and our officials are following this up as a matter of urgency. We would want to make sure extra funding is used to best fit local circumstances.”
Since the storms, the Welsh Government has announced a £4.6m funding package for emergency flood repairs, restoring defences and to help support storm-hit tourism and businesses.
PM CRITICISES WELSH GOVERNMENT OVER HEALTH SERVICE CUTS
THE WELSH Government has made “a very bad decision” in cutting health funding, David Cameron said during his recent visit to Pembrokeshire.
The Prime Minister’s comments were made in response to a question about the other “storm” brewing in the county – changes to health care provision at Withybush Hospital.
“Health is a matter for the devolved government but I’m very clear the Welsh Government, led by Labour, has made a very bad decision because they decided to cut funding to the health service,” he said.
“In England, we took the decision to protect the funding to the health service so we’re not making cuts to the NHS budgets in England – we’re protecting them. But here in Wales they are being cut.
“They’ve been cut by over eight per cent and that’s had very bad consequences for the health service and that was a decision taken by the Labour government which was a mistake.”