King’s Lynn MP criticises Hurricane Irma relief effort

Lynn News election hustings at London Road Methodist Church,

Henry Bellingham Conservative
Lynn News election hustings at London Road Methodist Church, Henry Bellingham Conservative

North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham has added his voice to the criticism of the British government’s response to Hurricane Irma.

At least 80 people are thought to have been killed by the storm which battered the Caribbean and the United States last week.

At least five people are thought to have died in the British Virgin Islands and four in the neighbouring territory of Anguilla.

Ministers have faced fierce criticism from leaders of British-controlled territories that were hit by the storm, claiming their relief efforts have been inadequate.

And Sir Henry, a former Foreign Office minister with responsibility for the Caribbean, agreed this week.

In a Channel Four News interview on Monday, he said: “I would rate the UK government’s response as six out of 10, not good enough.”

Speaking to the Lynn News today, he added: “A lot of the people in these territories have lost everything. They are British citizens and the government has a duty to help.”

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson visited the region this week to see the extend of the damage for himself. The government has also pledged an extra £25 million in aid.

But ministers have also been urged to change current rules which critics say prevents the British aid budget from being used in its overseas territories.

Sir Henry, who chairs the all-party Parliamentary group for the Commonwealth, said the law should be changed if necessary.

He added that the warship HMS Ocean, which set sail for the region carrying aid this week, should have been deployed much earlier, given the projections of how severe the storm was expected to be.

He also called for a permanent British naval base to be established in the region.