Lichfield MP criticises Prime Minister’s ‘insensitive’ response

Michael Fabricant MP

Michael Fabricant MP

Michael Fabricant has called the Prime Minister “insensitive” for his response to concerns raised about the leaking dam at Chasewater Reservoir.

The MP brought up the issue after Lichfield District Council officials made him aware that unless repairs are carried out soon it could have “catastrophic consequences”.

Mr Fabricant asked the Prime Minister in the House of Commons yesterday (January 20):

“The 200 year old earthworks dam in my constituency which contains the Chasewater reservoir has started to leak. A recent engineers report stated that if it collapses, scores of lives will be lost and there will be a lasting effect in the Midlands. The small district of Lichfield does not have the funds to make the urgent repairs.

“Will the Prime Minister please use his best endeavours to ensure that the financial burden is spread over the region as a whole?”

Gordon Brown replied:

“Of course I will be happy to consider his point although I see that he is making the case for public expenditure.”

But the Lichfield MP has voiced his displeasure at the brief nature of the reply.

He said after the exchange:

“This is one of the briefest, crass, insensitive and flip replies that I have ever heard from a Prime Minister to such a serious question. I spoke to his office the previous day so they were fully briefed in advance.

“Whatever I might think of Tony Blair, he always tried to give detailed and helpful replies to constituency problems especially if he had been briefed and no party political points were being made. I did not make a party-political point and I did brief in advance. Gordon Brown’s reply was just plain crass.

“I will, however, now be writing to the Prime Minister regarding these matters and hope the substantial cost of urgent repairs to the dam won’t all have to be born by the 40,000 householders in Lichfield District. I am also seeking further information from the Council regarding the dam’s immediate safety.”

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12 Comments

  1. Steven Norman

    21st January, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Of course what Mr Fabricant doesn’t say is that the Conservative Council decided not to spend large sums of money (which we had at the time) when they won back control of the Council in 1999 when we received reports from engineers OR that councillors knew they were liable for ANY expendidture at the time they AGREED to take over Chasewater OR the more detailed reponse from the Minister whoch he clearly didn’t want to issue a news release on on the 5th of January:

    Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) whether (a) his Department and (b) its agencies plan to provide financial assistance to Lichfield district council to meet its statutory obligations for the repair and maintenance in the earth embankment retaining the Chasewater Reservoir; and if he will make a statement; [307774]
    (2) if he will undertake an assessment of the effect on the local environment if the earth embankment constructed to retain the Chasewater Reservoir in Lichfield district were to be breached; and if he will make a statement. [307775]
    Huw Irranca-Davies: While DEFRA has overall policy responsibility for reservoir safety, the Department is unable to intervene in individual cases.
    The Environment Agency is the enforcement authority for the Reservoirs Act 1975 in England and Wales. I understand that the Environment Agency has no plans to provide financial assistance to Lichfield district council to repair and maintain Chasewater Reservoir.
    As part of the Government’s response to the Pitt Review of the summer 2007 floods, the Environment Agency has prepared inundation maps for all large, raised reservoirs. As part of this exercise, it has prepared a map showing the area that would be inundated in Lichfield district in the event of an unplanned breach of the embankment. Details of the outline breach assessment have been supplied to Lichfield district council, the registered owners of the reservoir. We understand that Lichfield district council has also carried out a further detailed breach inundation study.
    Of course the language that Mr Fabricant has used in his question and press release means no one any where teh dam is going to be able to selll their property for some considerable time!
    (From Hansard) Councillor Steve Norman

  2. Class Crisis

    21st January, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Interesting Steve. I’d have thought that the dam would have passed to BW via BTC but checking the wiki for it (not the best source I know) it seems Brownhills council bought it in 1956. When did LDC take control of the dam and why?

    I’m guessing the biggest problem LDC will have is that BW don’t have the money to maintain the system they’re already responsible for so I can’t see them letting DEFRA give part of their grant to LDC without a fight.

  3. Brownhillsbob

    21st January, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Hi guys

    If you pop over to the official LDC dam blog, where they lay out what’s actually going on and what is to happen, you’ll note that in reply to a comment on the post linked below, Lichfield Council confirm that the dam doesn’t pose any immediate threat at all.

    http://www2.lichfielddc.gov.uk/chasewaterdam/2010/01/21/michael-fabricant-responds-to-prime-minister/

    Well done Mickey for reducing yet another issue to the level of a playground squabble. Surely a bit more diplomacy could have worked wonders?

    Bob

  4. johnthemon

    21st January, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    I would think the most sensible thing to do is to have a controlled emptying of the pool, leaving enough to feed the canals etc, after all it is manmade, why keep throwing good money after bad? If it were drinking water I could see the concern, after all it is only a boating lake for the few.

  5. Class Crisis

    21st January, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Thanks for that Bob, it seems our Mickey has got himself over excited with the chance to, as he puts it on facebook to give Gordon Brown premiership an “acid test”. Drama.

    I’d still like to know how LDC ended up with the dam though.

  6. BrownhillsBob

    22nd January, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    I’ve posted about this on my blog, here:

    http://brownhillsbob.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/chasewater-the-only-victim-seems-to-be-the-truth/

    As to how Lichfield came to own Chasewater, can I suggest interested parties nip over to Chasewater Wildlife Group’s site and peruse their excellent history of Chasewater .pdf files, available from their main page. (Right hand side, halfway down).

  7. Michael Fabricant

    27th January, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Just for the avoidance of any doubt, I raised the matter of the dam last week because I had been allocated a Prime Minister’s question in the draw (it’s a random selection and it was the first time in many months) and rather than ask the usual party political question I decided to do as Lichfield District Council had asked: namely ask a question about the dam. Since then, 2 members of Gordon Brown’s Cabinet have come up to me and said how ‘shocked’ they were at the PM’s insensitive and party point scoring reply in the face of possible loss of life. They were even more shocked when I revealed I had helpfully briefed the PM’s office the day before. LDC have been working hard on getting funding for the repair of the dam for a couple of years or so, but they felt my question would assist. As a follow up, I have now sent a full briefing to the PM and await his considered reply.

  8. Michael Fabricant

    27th January, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Incidentally, Steve Norman’s post has a number of factual errors. And the wording of my question was carefully agreed with Lichfield District Council in advance. This issue is too serious to play party politics.

  9. Class Crisis

    27th January, 2010 at 10:48 am

    So Lichfield District Council, despite saying something completely different on their blogsite for the dam told you it was dangerous? Did you not think to check? Do you also not think that your post on facebook about the question being an acid test for Gordon Brown’s premiership makes your above statement about the issue being too serious for party politics somewhat disingenuous?

  10. Michael Fabricant

    27th January, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Lichfield District Council manage the dam and employ engineering consultants. It was the consulting engineers who state that urgent repairs are required or a breach may occur. A brief is available from the Council. As for my Facebook comments, get real! I hardly think, Gordon Brown reads them!

  11. Class Crisis

    27th January, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    I think BrownhilIsbob has called this right. There’s nothing dangerous and nothing urgent going on. Financially motivated scaremongering is the phrase I think he used on the dam blog.

    I know Brown doesn’t read your facebook page but the media do, a fact you delight in. So my point about you using the dam for petty political point scoring still stands.

  12. Steve

    29th January, 2010 at 1:05 am

    Mr Crisis makes a good point. The loss of life scenario is the very worst possible case and unlikely. I think LDC and our MP may have taken the angle as a media strategy, to get the publicity. I hope they took advice on that and know what they are doing.

    Mr Bob from Brownhills has the a good view. I commend his blog type thingy.

    There is a problem with the dam and it needs address, so thank you Mr Fabricant for getting involved and having a go.