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Meeting date: Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Meeting of the Parliament 18 May 2022 [Draft]

Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Supporting Carers (Cost of Living), Scottish Attainment Challenge, Points of Order, Business Motions, Decision Time, Adverse Weather Events


Contents


Adverse Weather Events

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-03646, in the name of Tess White, on improving the disaster response to serious weather events. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises that parts of Scotland, and particularly the north east, have been seriously affected by adverse weather events such as Storms Arwen, Barra, Malik and Corrie, at the end of 2021 and early 2022, which tragically led to a loss of life; acknowledges that these weather events resulted in a loss of power for thousands of households, in some cases for a protracted period over a number of days, and that the water supply, telecoms, rail and road infrastructure were also compromised; notes the view that it is vital for all those involved to learn lessons from the disaster response to these storms and to make appropriate and prompt improvements to increase community resilience in future; further notes the six recommendations of the Scottish Government’s Storm Arwen review, published in January 2022, and notes the calls on the Scottish Government to set out an action plan for the implementation and delivery of these recommendations ahead of the update in June 2022; considers that the communication of information during emergencies is particularly important and notes the view that more must be done in advance of serious weather warnings to notify communities how they can access up-to-date information when telecoms are down; pays tribute to those volunteers who mobilised following these storms to support vulnerable individuals, and those who became newly vulnerable as they lost power, telecoms and water supply in communities such as Fettercairn, Stonehaven and Glenbervie, and notes the calls for people who can to engage with the British Red Cross and other organisations about opportunities to volunteer in their communities as emergency responders alongside local partners.

17:48  

Storms Arwen, Barra, Malik and Corrie were so severe that they tragically resulted in loss of life. I know that the thoughts of us all are with the loved ones of those who died. Those major storms had a shattering effect on communities—especially rural communities—across Scotland. The north-east in particular experienced profound and prolonged hardship. Households and businesses lost power for several days and people could not heat their homes or premises in the depths of winter. Their connectivity was compromised because road and rail infrastructure was damaged. Their communications were cut off because they could not charge electrical items.

Following storms Malik and Corrie, the storm damage was so severe that Edzell was completely cut off by fallen trees. In Fettercairn sheltered housing complex, Queen Elizabeth Court was without power for three nights. In Stonehaven, residents did not know where to go to access much-needed support. Such was the scale and length of the emergency that many of those affected became what the British Red Cross describes as “newly vulnerable”. By a certain point, everybody becomes vulnerable.

I pay tribute to the extraordinary efforts of responders on the ground who operated in very difficult and complex conditions, whether they were repairing line faults to restore power supply or going door to door to provide welfare support. The voluntary and community sector was integral to the response, and every volunteer deserves our recognition and thanks. I hope that others will consider signing up, too.

Although there was a massive operation to facilitate recovery, it was painfully clear that more should have been done to build resilience and protect communities. As we look ahead, we can see that the Scottish Government’s storm Arwen review is a step in the right direction. The six overarching recommendations and 15 action points highlight areas of improvement, but I strongly believe it needs a delivery plan. It needs to have clear timescales for implementation before this coming winter. There also needs to be greater transparency around the resources that are available to local resilience partnerships to take these recommendations forward. We know the risks of taking no action, and those risks are simply too great. Those recommendations must be implemented expeditiously.

I have talked to constituents and businesses about how they were impacted by the storms and I have held discussions with the British Red Cross and Scottish and Southern Energy Networks about the changes that urgently need to be implemented to better prepare people, communities and infrastructure for extreme weather events.

A key issue that emerged from those discussions was communication about advising people what preventative measures to take to prepare for a red alert and also what to do when the usual channels of communication are unavailable for prolonged periods. When the red alert was first issued for storm Arwen, there was no signposting to the Ready Scotland website. It has advice for putting together an emergency kit, including wind-up radios and torches, but it appears that public awareness of that resource was, and remains, worryingly low. Equally, many people across the north-east could not use conventional lines of communication to access vital updates about the developing situation, from which roads were closed and when to expect power to be restored to where to access support locally from rest centres and welfare vans.

I agree with everything that Tess White has said so far. Would she agree with me that the local radio stations could have played a bigger role in getting that message out, given that a lot of households would have had battery-operated radios, and that they could perhaps play more of a role in future in getting those messages to people?

Gillian Martin makes a very good point about radios and radio stations. It is important that we deliver the 15 points in the storm Arwen review and that we have specific, measurable and time-agreed plans so that all of the recommendations are in place and effective before this winter.

The British Red Cross has suggested that the Scottish Government should fund research with communities affected by the recent storms to understand how best to communicate in advance of and during emergencies. I support that recommendation, and I ask the Deputy First Minister to address that point in closing.

Earlier this week, I visited SSEN’s headquarters in Perth, where I was briefed about lessons that it has implemented following the storms. SSEN recognises that the estimated power supply restoration times during storm Arwen were overly optimistic—that point is also recognised in the Scottish Government review and the interim reports from the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. That was deeply frustrating for customers trying to make informed choices about alternative arrangements, and many felt, understandably, let down and angry. I understand that SSEN has acted on that feedback and has put a new process in place, as well as a £1 million community resilience fund. It is for the north of Scotland and was launched in February.

There has also been feedback from responders that the identification of vulnerable people and the provision of timely assistance to them was delayed by the poor availability of information and lack of data sharing between organisations. There is great scope for co-operation between key stakeholders in that area.

The scale of human endeavour to help the stranded and hungry will stay with us in the north-east for a long time, as will the haunting images of the devastation in places like Kemnay, Fettercairn and Edzell, where forests were all but flattened. I was in Stonehaven after storm Malik and storm Corrie hit and I saw first hand how much the community rallied together but also how much better the response at a structural and systemic level could and should have been. Ahead of the winter months, people right across Scotland need to know that lessons have been learned and change delivered. They cannot go through this again.

17:56  

I am grateful to Tess White for giving us the opportunity to again talk about the implications of what we experienced with the storms that she mentioned.

I am going to talk about storm Arwen in particular. On 26 November, at the high point of it, there were 19 full hours of winds at 97 mph and then a subsequent seven days of power outages and, sometimes, water outages for many households. Many of the households who were without power, as Tess White has rightly said, did not know what response measures were being put in place. She rightly points to the communication methods that were used. I certainly got the impression from quite a lot of people who I spoke to, including family members who were without power, that they were not aware of where the food trucks were or where they could go for hubs to charge their mobile phones or get a signal, but that did not mean that those things were not happening. There was a high level of response from volunteers, Aberdeenshire Council, the police and emergency services and third sector organisations, all of which put in a great deal of effort to make sure that people could get boiling water, heat or whatever.

In terms of future resilience, I am clear that households should be given an indication of where those hubs will always be in the event of any emergency. For example, Turriff swimming pool and the community centre opened their doors so that people could have showers and get hot water. If they are willing, they should be the hub for Turriff, and I know that they have indicated that they would be.

When we were having resilience meetings—I suppose the wash-up meetings—with Aberdeenshire Council, with Jim Savege, the chief executive, and Murray Main, our retiring chief superintendent, one of the councillors came up with an idea. It was a throwaway thing, but it is a really good idea: a fridge magnet that tells you where the emergency hub for your area is and says, “This is where to go in the event of an emergency, should you need help”. If there were a permanent arrangement about where the hubs would be, we would not have to rely on people finding out where the hubs are—they would always be in the place where they are.

I want to mention vulnerable customers and SSEN in particular. I think that SSEN had a vulnerable customer helpline, but I know that quite a few people, including some people who needed medical devices to work, phoned the helpline but it did not do anything. I think that, ahead of winter, SSEN needs to get a list of the people who registered for that helpline and the people who got in touch and start phoning around to find out why they think that they are vulnerable and what they need, so that it has an updated list of who might need help should we have a situation like we had before—let us hope that we do not.

There is another job of work that SSEN has to do, which relates to what Tess White said about funding. SSEN seriously needs to look at its infrastructure. For example, there are power lines with trees around them that are not being cut back. As has been mentioned by Tess White, in the storms, those trees were falling down and taking down power lines. SSEN must make a significant investment in putting powerlines in subterranean locations. I know that that is an expensive thing to do, but it is an awful lot better than having households without power.

Presiding Officer, I do not know how much time I have got left because I cannot see the clock, but I will bring my speech to a close, although I could say an awful lot more. I have already mentioned the radio issue. I think that it should be recommended that, in general, everyone has a battery-operated radio in their house, and I think that the local radio stations have taken on board my criticism that they could have done a lot more to get the messages out.

Thank you, Ms Martin, and I apologise that I forget to set the clock but I think you were probably around four minutes.

18:00  

I start by thanking my colleague Tess White for securing this debate and giving us the opportunity to address the response to what were exceptional weather events. The problem was not just the serious damage that storms Arwen, Malik, and Corrie caused but that they occurred soon after each other, when communities were still trying to recover.

I pay tribute to all the brave volunteers who supported their local communities through actions ranging from checking on their neighbours to helping set up local hubs. The generosity of people during these times, as through the pandemic, has been inspiring. However, we should not need to rely so desperately on those individuals during emergencies. There is a significant lack of resilience planning including, for example, around the creation of dedicated local hubs. Some of that work is still not completed since storm Frank in 2017—a five-year delay that this Government should have been on top of.

It is obvious that, when storms of this magnitude hit, telecommunications go down, and even at the best of times, my constituency does not have reliable broadband. Information often does not reach those who are most vulnerable, and those who have a signal face the issue of having no means to charge their devices.

I should commend SSE at this point for some excellent communications. Greg Clarke, in its office, deserves a special mention for tirelessly updating us and helping constituents who contacted us. I also commend Aberdeenshire Council, which, after a poor start, adapted and significantly improved. Sadly, Scottish Water’s response was woeful and I hope that, given that it falls under the Scottish Government’s remit, something will be done to address that.

During times of serious weather emergencies, we need to ensure that those who are vulnerable get help. Sadly, I heard from people who were isolated and had not heard from anyone for days, including one constituent who was stuck in his wheelchair for three days because the hoist could not be powered. Being stuck in a chair in front of a fire for that length of time is beyond most people’s imagination and was certainly the most harrowing example that I came across.

Priority lists, which have been mentioned, were not being shared and consolidated, and information about visits from health and care partnership teams was not being communicated to others. Councils, energy networks, local resilience partnerships and the authorities must be able to collaborate in their emergency response.

There are also post-event actions that need addressing, and compensation schemes should be improved. Electricity companies have claimed that restoring the power for a period that is not even long enough to boil a kettle counts as a reset of the compensation timetable. That may obey the letter of the law but certainly not the spirit. Another point about compensation is the inflexibility of the Bellwin scheme. The cost to Aberdeenshire Council was over £950,000 but it received nothing. We would like to see some more discretion for compensation or at least some kind of sliding scale to support our local authorities.

There are other smaller issues, such as the ability to get codes for defibrillators, the supply and reservation of generators for care homes, telephone masts and water pumping stations, and also the use of unique property reference numbers instead of postcodes, something that particularly affects rural parts of Scotland.

We await the Scottish National Party Government’s detailed plan of action, but from the answers that I have received so far, I have low expectations. I am told that the national centre for resilience will not undertake a review. Of what value is that body, based in Dumfries, to my constituents if it will not review events like this? How exactly does it help communities? What does it contribute to resilience planning if it does not address the points that have been raised tonight? At the moment, it feels like every community council is having to reinvent the wheel with zero budget and only the briefest of guidance.

18:05  

I thank Tess White for bringing the debate to the chamber. I declare an interest as a director and trustee of the Glasgow City Heritage Trust.

I note the points that were made in the opening speech about the immediate recommendations of the report into storm Arwen and how important they are, but I think that we need to take cognisance of some of the longer-term impacts and continuing effects of storm Arwen—most notably, in relation to buildings that were damaged in that storm.

There is a particularly egregious case in Glasgow that I have been dealing with over the past few months. On 29 January, hundreds of residents in the Park Circus area of Glasgow were evacuated from their homes due to damage that was sustained at the historic Trinity College tower from storm Malik. There had been long-term concerns about the structural integrity of that building, but motion sensors in the building were triggered by the storm, which caused building-control engineers to attend immediately and evacuate not just the building and the owners there, but the surrounding streets. An impasse continues to this day, with residents unable to get back into their homes. There is uncertainty and there is a dispute between council building-control engineers and the owners’ engineers about the nature of the repairs and what is required.

That shows that there is a lack of accountability and a lack of communication under emergency delegated powers for building safety and building control. Those powers have not been addressed well enough in the context of such disasters. Residents have suddenly found themselves not just out of their homes and displaced for an indefinite period, but faced with bankruptcy. That is not only because of the costs to repair the building—they are in dispute with the council about the nature of the repairs—but because of the costs of compensating other residents who have been displaced from their homes because of the exclusion zone. That represents a serious challenge that we need to think about for the longer term. The report does not adequately address that matter, and this is a case that we need to take seriously.

There have been efforts in Parliament and the Government to address the matter more widely and for the longer term. The Built Environment Forum Scotland produced a series of recommendations in 2019 to improve the resilience of heritage buildings. The aim was to establish long-term solutions that would assist and compel owners in multiple-ownership properties—in particular, tenements—to maintain their buildings, and to have in place financial resilience so that there would be no shortfall when there is a sudden maintenance event, such as a storm hitting and causing unexpected damage.

Legislation will be slow in coming. The report that the Scottish Law Commission proposes will take until 2026, which is nearly a decade after the recommendations—or, at least, the exercise to investigate recommendations—were put in place. The requirements are quite straightforward: buildings should be inspected every five years and owners’ associations should compulsorily establish sinking funds and building reserve funds.

There are complex policy and legal issues, notably around the interaction of the proposed legislation with existing property titles and human rights concerns, but we need to move much faster if we are to address the major strategic threat that extreme weather events pose to our built environment, and the subsequent huge effects on people’s lives when they are suddenly kicked out of their homes and lose shelter and the fundamental right to property.

We need to look at what the Scottish Law Commission is saying, which is that it will take until 2026. That is way too slow; it is not fast enough, so we need to look at a way of increasing the pace. Sadly, it is an indictment of the level of importance that the Government is placing on the issue that we do not have enough rigour in the approach. We have seen all too clearly, as a result of storm Arwen, the serious impact that storms can have. The Trinity College tower case is but one egregious example, but with 76,000 pre-1920 tenements in Glasgow, with an estimated repair bill of £3 billion, the problem will only get worse as time goes on. Let us get ahead of the problem instead of dithering for another parliamentary session.

18:09  

I very much welcome the opportunity to explore the issues that are highlighted in Tess White’s motion, so I congratulate her on securing the debate.

The “lessons to be learned” mantra was never more appropriate than it was in relation to the impacts of the storms that battered Scotland late last year, and in relation to our preparedness for and response to them. If I were to be asked what one thing we should focus on in that context, I would say that it is communication.

The scale and nature of storm Arwen were unprecedented. My household, and those of many of my constituents, had not found itself without heating, lighting and telephone before. The lack of heating and lighting for the evening of 26 November into the next day was of considerable inconvenience, but my biggest personal challenge, being Minister for Transport at the time, was that I had to drive around to find a phone signal so that I could chair a transport system recovery meeting. However, that is not the communication issue that I want to home in on.

We have, as a society, become utterly reliant on the phone and the internet to communicate and to source information. When neither is available, as we discovered in the immediate aftermath of storm Arwen, there is a problem. Being told either to phone a helpline or to check a website for updates on when power might be restored, or what practical support is available in one’s locality, is of little real use when the phones and internet are inaccessible.

Will the member take an intervention?

Do we have time, Presiding Officer?

Yes.

I am grateful to Graeme Dey for giving way. It allows me to make the point that BT was going to make all the lines fibre, but there have been significant interventions by our SNP group in Westminster to make sure that BT rolls back on the Digital Voice fibre roll-out. We cannot do without copper wiring in situations such as we were in at the end of last year.

That is a lesson that needs to be taken on board from the situation.

The disruption and inconvenience that were suffered in Carnoustie, where I live, lasted hours, but in several smaller communities in Angus they went on for days. The response to that, although it was ultimately extensive, was inadequate in the early stages. Not every smaller community was aware, for example, of the presence in nearby towns of food vans from which they could access free hot meals. Getting detailed information about anticipated supply restoration timetables was, frankly, a nightmare. I know because, as the local member of the Scottish Parliament, I found it to be virtually impossible to get information for constituents who were becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of news about when their homes would again be warm and lit, and when cooking a meal would become an option.

That was problematic because—as has been pointed out—had people been in possession of accurate information they would have made different choices; they might have gone to stay with friends or relatives, rather than sitting tight and toughing it out. The advice on how long they would have to do that for was either impossible to obtain or—perhaps understandably—wrong. However, I know from subsequent discussions with SSEN that there is recognition that communication of information was not what it could have been, so it is exploring how to get better at information and data sharing, which is obviously welcome.

There are other questions to be answered, as Gillian Martin noted. The dependability of some of the power supply infrastructure and the proximity of trees to lines are just two examples.

Settlements that I represent that are far from remote still do not understand why they were so badly hit by storms Arwen and Barra. I very much welcome the dialogue that is currently under way between SSEN, the local authority and communities in my constituency about how we can make them more resilient to such events, such as what they might need to have available in the local village hall to provide a fully functional haven for residents if and when similar storms strike again in the future.

From a distinctly local perspective, lessons are being learned and solutions are being implemented. There are things that we got right in Angus—I acknowledge the role of the council and voluntary sector partners in that—but there are other responses that need refining, at the very least. I am pleased that is happening.

Having looked at the Scottish Government’s review recommendations, I do not doubt that it is seeking to ensure nationally that we have learned from what happened last November, and that we will be better prepared for future severe events. I look forward to hearing from the Deputy First Minister, when he closes the debate, a flavour of what the planned update on progress, which is due next month, will contain.

18:13  

I congratulate Tess White on securing this incredibly important debate.

The impact of these storms across Scotland, but especially in the north-east, were devastating, and Tess White and many members have given powerful testimony throughout the debate. It bears reiterating that what we saw on the ground was our local communities stepping up, whether it was local businesses such as Cafe83 in Kemnay taking hot drinks and soup to a care home or the shire council setting up welfare centres delivering over 3,000 meals and carrying out 8,000 welfare checks.

I want to make two specific points today. Tess White’s motion flags that those weather events resulted in a loss of power for thousands of households, in some cases for a protracted period over a number of days, and she is right. The north-east had more than 10,000 homes left without power for at least four nights.

We know that the Scottish Government has a drive towards heat pumps as one solution to decarbonising homes, but these are powered by electricity, which means that during blackouts, as we saw in the north-east, the only reliable source of heat for many were things like oil heaters and open fireplaces. I had innumerable constituents contact me expressing their relief that they still had fires or oil heating during the outages. The people of Scotland entirely understand the importance of reaching our net zero targets, but they cannot come at the expense of people’s safety. If the Scottish Government is going to persuade people in the north-east to change their heat source, it will have to deal with the very real fears that people have of being left freezing in such situations.

Secondly, I want to pick up on Graeme Dey’s important point. Many of my rural constituents told me of their terror at their communications being cut off. With the increasing tendency away from land lines and the move to digital voice, people’s mobiles are more important than ever. Gillian Martin probably knows this, but if not, she will be concerned to learn that, on its website, BT actually says:

“In the same way, your broadband won't work during a power cut, so you won't be able to make or receive calls using Digital Voice. This includes 999 calls.”

That is terrifying for people. Members have rightly talked about helplines being set up, but after folk have run out of battery, they are in the dark about what is happening and how to get help.

Several months ago, I asked the Scottish Government what planning and action takes place to ensure that people who experience power cuts are able to contact the emergency services when their mobile battery has run out or the land line is internet based. In its response—having blamed the United Kingdom Government, of course—the Scottish Government did not answer the question, so we still do not know precisely what it proposes for those who experience a power cut and are either dependent on mobile phones or the new digital voice. That absolutely needs to be addressed in the contingency planning, and the Scottish Government needs to start taking responsibility for such things happening in Scotland, not offering diversions by blaming the UK Government.

Tess White is absolutely correct. It is beyond time that we started properly learning from these storms and implementing effective preparation and mitigation strategies, as a number of members have rightly suggested. We cannot hide behind statements that such storms are exceptional or unprecedented. We must do better. Local communities stepped up. It is beyond time that the Scottish Government does the same.

18:17  

I congratulate Tess White on securing this debate on an important subject, which has consumed a large part of my energy and focus over the course of the winter months, given the gravity of storms Malik, Barra, Corrie and Arwen and the close succession in which they inflicted significant damage on our society.

In her contribution, Tess White made reference to some of the scenes. Those scenes were, frankly, of staggering horror in the damage that was done in communities such as Edzell, a village that I represented for many years. I was stunned by the images of the damage to the natural environment around Edzell. The scale of the impact in the example of that one community demonstrates the severity of what was being experienced. In relation to the impact of severe weather incidents, we are in a different situation today from the one that were in in the past. Generally, in my lifetime we have not seen weather incidents of this nature. The climate has been relatively benign, but in recent years we are seeing a significant shift in the climatic conditions.

That is why we have to take the actions that we have to take on net zero. Liam Kerr raises absolutely legitimate issues about some of the solutions that might be put in place, but I point out to him that if someone is using an oil-fired central heating system, they do not have much chance of using that if the electricity is off as well, because it will be reliant on electricity to fire the boiler.

I understand the point that he is making, but what does the Deputy First Minister advise for those who want to convert to something such as a heat pump but are afraid to lose the back-up of, let us say, an open fire?

That is a slightly different issue from the one that I am making about power systems, because there are inherent vulnerabilities in all electricity-fired systems. We cannot escape that point in this debate.

There is a necessity for us to respond to significant weather incidents. Mr Sweeney raised the issue of Trinity tower, which of course raises a different element of the impact of significant and acute weather incidents. The issues that he highlighted raise questions about the resolution of different professional assessments of particular cases of that type. They are very difficult to legislate for and ultimately require dialogue, engagement and resolution, where—we hope—there is good will to reach points of agreement.

Of course, there are wider issues that arise from the matter. One of the common issues has been access to communications; Graeme Dey made the point about the significant dependence that society now has on digital connectivity. That is an important observation, and the power companies have to respond to that dependence by having in place better sources of information, and they have to advertise that information in advance of incidents, so that individuals are better prepared.

The storm Arwen review is welcome, but there is a concern that it will not be acted upon by winter. Can the Deputy First Minister commit to having deliverable timescales in place before winter?

I assure Tess White that that will be the case. The Government commenced the review of storm Arwen when the clean-up was still under way, and we have published the outcomes of that. There was a slight delay because of the other storms that came along, but that has all been published. I think that the delay was only about 10 to 14 days. We published those outcomes and we are working with the Scottish resilience partnership and local resilience partnerships. I hear Alexander Burnett putting everything at the door of the Scottish Government—he is entitled to do so—but the Scottish Government cannot direct local resilience operations and it would be folly to think that we should be able to do that. Indeed, Aberdeenshire Council would vigorously resist that, because it wants to be delivering local resilience in its community. There has to be a partnership approach. I assure Mr Burnett that that is the case with the Scottish resilience partnership, which the Government leads, and local resilience partnerships.

Will the member give way?

If Mr Sweeney will give me a moment, I will give way to him after I address this point.

We have to work with power companies to make sure that there is better knowledge and resilience available to individuals. One event that I saw in my constituency the other week was in the town of Alyth, where SSE used a community awareness day to bring along some of the resilience kits that it was making available. The kits included—this goes back to the point that Gillian Martin raised—battery radios. My household no longer had a battery radio, but we have now, after I went to that information event, and I am grateful to SSE for that. There will be precious few households that have battery radios nowadays. With our dependence on digital technology, having access to a means of communication of that type is important for people, so that they are be able to hear the information that is available.

On partnership and dialogue, would the Deputy First Minister consider consulting councils and other stakeholders that have been affected by building controls applying emergency powers where they declare a building to be dangerous? That has an incredibly onerous effect on residents and that is little appreciated, unless one is at the sharp end of it. In a democracy, that feels rather overwhelming and there have been overzealous applications of such powers. There is no room for discretion and no room for assisting residents in recovering personal belongings—even professionally or medically vital equipment. We need a more conciliatory and co-operative approach going forward. Could that be incorporated into the study that the Government is doing on the issue?

Mr Sweeney makes a number of serious and significant points. I am aware from some contacts that I have of the disruption to people’s lives that is still going on as a consequence of Trinity tower. Let me take away those issues and I will endeavour to ensure that the Government uses its available channels to encourage dialogue to resolve some of those questions.

I want to reassure Parliament that lessons have been learned and the actions that are arising out of the review will be implemented, and I want to make one final point, which is about the preventative interventions that we can make. One of the strongest is the management of power lines around the country, which Gillian Martin spoke about. I visited Gillian Martin’s constituency to look at the impact of the damage that was done by storm Arwen, given the proximity of forestry to power lines. In the community that I visited, it was not that one tree had to be removed to restore power to a particular settlement. A dozen separate incidents had to be resolved to secure power connections, which is why the restoration took so long. The power companies have to invest more heavily in removing forestry and foliage to protect power lines, so that they are not damaged by such incidents.

Of course, we will continue to face incidents of this type, given the severity of weather that we now experience. I assure Parliament of the Government’s determination to work in partnership with local resilience partnerships to address the issues. We will, of course, keep Parliament updated on the progress that is made in the months that lie ahead.

Meeting closed at 18:27.