The Environment Secretary has defended Boris Johnson for defying calls to visit flood-stricken communities in the wake of Storm Dennis.
George Eustice insisted the Prime Minister had raised incoming storms as the “first thing” on his agenda after being appointed to the role in the recent reshuffle.
The PM has faced criticism for remaining in the Foreign Secretary’s Chevening country estate in Kent rather than visiting regions including Yorkshire, South Wales and the Midlands.
“It’s not true that the Prime Minister’s not been engaged in this,” Mr Eustice told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday. “From the very moment he appointed me he’s been engaged.”
"Where is the Prime Minister this week?"
With widespread flooding, @SophyRidgeSky asks Environment Secretary George Eustice why @BorisJohnson hasn't visited affected areas or been seen in public for 9 days.#Ridge pic.twitter.com/Br6kVvxaIg— Sophy Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday)February 23, 2020
The Cabinet minister insisted the Government is “not a one-man show” and said the national response centre has been stood up to tackle the devastation.
Mr Eustice was pressed on why the PM has not been seen in public in nine days, in stark contrast to during flooding in the election period when he visited Yorkshire and called an emergency Cobra meeting.
He said that was because election campaigning rules meant there was “less ministerial involvement”, so “there was seen to be something of a slow start”.
“That’s why, because of the criticism, the Prime Minister in that instance did stand up Cobra,” he said, adding that it has not been “necessary this time” because of the existing national flood response centre.
“We didn’t need to stand up a separate Cabinet Office infrastructure in the form of Cobra because you already had one dedicated to floods that was operating.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had joined residents in calling for the PM to visit affected areas and also criticised him for not calling a Cobra meeting.
“Sadly, I’m not surprised but I do think that it’s the duty of the Prime Minister to be there in places where there are difficulties, whether there is an election or not,” Mr Corbyn said during a visit to south Wales.
Welsh Labour MPs directly appealed to Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Sunday for a one-off grant of £30 million to pay for repairs across the Rhondda Cynon Taff area.
They also asked him for an exemption from council tax and business rates, and a Government-funded review of all former coal mining sites across south Wales.