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CONFERENCE BACKS LIZ CALL FOR EU ACTION ON FLOODS AND DISASTERS

September 21, 2007 8:25 AM

A key amendment proposed by a local LibDem Euro MP calling for European Solidarity Fund reform and a European force to deal with extreme climate events was approved at the Brighton Party conference.

Liz Lynne, MEP for the West Midlands, said she felt that the motion debated, on managing the risk and impact of flooding, which calls for improved support for people and communities affected by flooding, was very good but needed a European context.

She said: "My West Midlands regional constituency was one of the worst affected areas in the summer floods. My own village was cut off and I don't live far from Pershore in Worcestershire where six inches of rain fell in 24 hours, a record in the UK over the last hundred years.

"The rainfall led to catastrophic flooding which had a devastating impact. Flash floods caused loss of life and severe damage to infrastructure. It also meant that many people lost their livelihoods and it caused great difficulty for local farmers.

"The main bridge in Ludlow was literally swept away. Much of the Severn Valley railway was destroyed and will be out of action until next February. I could name example after example.

"Despite the bravery of our emergency services, Central Government and Local Authorities stood by impotent, unable to react effectively. We had the ridiculous situation of new mobile flooding equipment, meant for one of the hardest hit areas, Upton on Severn, stranded on the M5 due to flash floods. We have to learn; we have to do better.

"This motion is a step in the right direction but we need to put it in a wider European context. Extreme weather hit all over Europe this summer. Not just Britain. There were the fires in Greece and flooding in Eastern Europe.

"My colleagues and I are working to ensure the EU can play a more effective role. There was a resolution on natural disasters recently adopted by the European Parliament which I co-tabled.

"The EU solidarity fund is in place precisely for such disasters and I hope the European Commission will look at the UK application for financial support favourably, and process it speedily and effectively.

"But we must fight for reform of the solidarity fund to ensure that the threshold for access to funds is lowered and the fund more flexible.

"We must continue to call for an EU Rapid Reaction force capable of deploying equipment, resources and personnel.

"Above all, we must share best practice with other Member States for the purpose of preventing natural disasters, through comprehensive care for the land in order to increase the retention capacity of bodies of water.

"Finally, we must urge implementation of the Kyoto commitments and acknowledge that unless we radically reform the way that we live our lives, this summer's climate events will only be the first step."

The motion and amendment were adopted with an overwhelming majority, on the final day of the Liberal Democrat autumn conference in Brighton.

ENDS