Boris Johnson calls emergency Cobra meeting over floods after Jeremy Corbyn attack

Posted On: 
12th November 2019

Boris Johnson has called a meeting of the Government's emergency Cobra committee amid mounting criticism of his response to major flooding in northern England. 

There are five flood warnings in place on the River Don.
Credit: 
PA

A government spokesperson confirmed that the Prime Minister would convene the crisis committee on Tuesday after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urged him to "take personal charge" of the response.

Thirty-eight flood warnings are currently in place across England, with five severe warnings - meaning there is a "danger to life" - on the River Don in South Yorkshire alone.

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Hundreds of homes have been flooded and more than 1,000 evacuated.

A government spokesperson said on Monday night: "The Prime Minister will chair an emergency COBR (Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms) meeting tomorrow to discuss the response to recent flooding."

Jeremy Corbyn had earlier written to Mr Johnson to demand action and lambast the Prime Minister for previously saying the floods were "not looking like something we need to escalate to the level of a national emergency".

In his letter, the Labour leader said it was "far more likely" that a national emergency would have been declared had the floods taken place in a Conservative stronghold such as Surrey.

"With heavy rain expected in parts of Yorkshire and the Midlands, in areas that are already suffering from flooding, hundreds of further flood warnings are in place," Mr Corbyn said.

"Rightly there will be hundreds of thousands of people across these regions who remain concerned about their families and livelihoods.

"With this in mind, I am writing to urge you to hold a Cobra meeting and take personal charge of the Government's response to the devastating flooding we have seen over the past few days.

"In addition, we need full assurance from the Government that every resource is being utilised to aid those that need it and protect against future potential floods.

"With dozens of flood warnings still in place, I have to disagree with your assessment from the weekend that this is not a national emergency.

"If this had happened in Surrey, not Yorkshire or the East Midlands, it seems far more likely that a national emergency would have been declared.

"Every year we don't act means higher flood waters, more homes ruined and more lives at risk due to climate change."

Following the announcement of the Cobra meeting, a Labour spokesperson doubled down, saying: "If these floods had happened in Surrey, this would have happened five days ago."

'DEVASTATING'

The Liberal Democrats have also seized on the row, announcing fresh funding to help Britain cope with floods in the future.

A £5bn 'flood prevention and adaptation fund' will be set up if the party wins power, helping to make up for the loss of European Union adaptation funds after Brexit.

The party is also promising a £1bn-boost to the Department for the Environment, which houses the Environment Agency that leads the UK's response to flooding.

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson said: "These floods are devastating for local communities and highlight the need to invest our flood defences. The Liberal Democrats will create a £5bn flood prevention and adaptation fund over the next five years to support small community and council led schemes to reduce flooding and protect at-risk communities.

"Leaving the EU will mean that we lose access to the EU solidarity fund for flood relief and the EU structural investment funds that help maintain and strengthen flood defences and improve flood resilience.

"The Liberal Democrats are committed to investing in our flood defences and protecting communities from the devastation we have seen in the last week."