Easington MP Grahame Morris has called on the Government to commission an independent public inquiry into the national and local response to Storm Arwen.
On Wednesday, five days after residents were left without power, the Strategic Commissioning Group (SCG) for County Durham and Darlington declared a major incident.
The SCG, chaired by Durham County Council, took the decision to declare a major incident after Northern Powergrid were unable to confirm when supplies will be reinstated to all properties across County Durham.
In the House of Commons, Grahame Morris MP called the Government’s response to Storm Arwen ‘lamentable’, and whilst denied by the Minister, a co-leader of Durham County Council’s Ruling Coalition, Cllr John Shuttleworth confirmed “The government hasn’t actually helped.”
In a written parliamentary question Mr Morris asked the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to commission an independent public inquiry into the national and local response to Storm Arwen once power is restored.
Grahame Morris MP, speaking following the Government’s statement on Storm Arwen, said:
“The Minister promised to look at what lessons can be learnt from Storm Arwen, however, the Government need to recognise the scale of the national and local failure. We all accept the unprecedented nature of the power cuts and appreciate the efforts of engineers, but where people are left without power for a week, there is an expectation alternative accommodation would be provided.
Storm Arwen was not unexpected. The Met Office issued a rare red weather alert warning of a danger to life. Such a warning should automatically kick start emergency preparations, with the movement of resources closer to affected areas. All preparation should be in place to meet basic needs, shelter, food and water.
To take five days to declare a major incident is not good enough. A red weather alert is advance warning of a likely major incident, in which case emergency resources such as the army should be placed on stand by.
Without the goodwill and kindness of the local community and businesses, some of the most vulnerable people in society would have been left isolated without food or heating as temperatures plummeted. The community bailed out Northern Powergrid, the Government, and the Local Authority who were ill-prepared and had no presence on the ground in the immediate aftermath of the storm.
Storm Arwen was a secondary issue for Government, which ignored the emergency situation in County Durham. When questioned it was clear that the Government had done nothing to prepare or support the relief effort, and were regurgitating generic statements provided by the powergrid.
The first duty of the Government is to keep people safe and the country secure. The Government have clearly failed to protect people and in the face of such failure, an Independent Public Inquiry to ascertain the facts and make recommendations should commence once power is fully restored.”