Therese Coffey has revealed rain-lashed Britain has a little-known vulnerability – when the wet stuff comes from the east.
The environment secretary on Tuesday prompted ridicule after suggesting that the impact of Storm Babet was more severe than it should have been because of the direction the rain travelled.
During a quizzing by MPs, the Tory minister said Britain doesn’t have “quite as much experience” of rain coming from the east – though, fear not, when it emanates from the west the country has it down to a “fine art”.
Large swathes of the UK are dealing with the aftermath of the Storm Babet, with homes and streets flooded as the extreme weather brought eight inches of rain to parts of the country,
Asked about whether flood protection was in the right place to cope, Coffey told the environment committee: “One of the things that happened particularly with Storm Babet is that we are very good with the Met Office and the Environment Agency’s flood forecasting at predicting weather normally because most of our rain tends to come in from the west. We’ve got that pretty much down to a fine art.
“This was rain coming from the other way and we don’t have quite as much experience on that.
“Therefore our accuracy of predicting where such heavy rain would fall was not to the same degree as if it had been.
“So the Environment Agency had moved assets from parts of the country more towards Yorkshire and the North East and that way.
“But I’m conscious that there were still some places that felt they could have done with some more pumps.”
Environment Secretary Therese Coffey on why better assets were not in place to help residents hit by floods:
"Most of our rain comes from the West. This was rain coming from the other way. We don't have quite as much experience on that." 👀 ~AA #StormBabetpic.twitter.com/zNAWKTi9n5
— Best for Britain (@BestForBritain) October 24, 2023
On Monday, Coffey faced the wrath of residents in Nottinghamshire as they attempted a clear-up following Storm Babet’s destruction.
Liberal Democrat environment spokesperson Tim Farron said: “This is a new low for an environment secretary that cannot help but say or do the wrong thing.
“Therese Coffey blaming the wind for the government’s failure to protect homes from flooding would almost be comical if so many had not suffered so deeply at the hands of her incompetence.
“Coffey needs to get a grip, stop blaming everyone else for her failings and come forward with the plan to ensure that families across the country are not left defenceless against flooding.”