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London February 10 2014 040 Visitor Pass Parliament
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Flooding
3.35 pm

Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood) (Lab)
(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to make a statement on the Government’s recent response to the flooding in Somerset, and to clarify his comments this weekend accusing the Environment Agency of giving poor advice.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr Eric Pickles):
As evident from the dark skies outside, we continue to face extraordinary and sustained wet weather. Cobra has met every day since my oral statement on Thursday, with all Departments working closely together, including my comrades from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. We have made it clear again that every resource is available to local communities affected. We will keep providing whatever immediate practical support and assistance is needed, whether extra pumps and sandbags, military support on the ground, or emergency funds from the severe weather assistance fund for local councils.

The Somerset moors and levels have been some of the areas hardest hit by the weather, with 65 million cubic metres of floodwater on the land. The Rivers Tone and Parrett have been particularly affected by the continuous rainfall, leading to heightened river levels. In total, people in 150 properties across the Somerset levels, where there is a threat of severe flooding, have been advised to leave their homes. A rest centre has been established in Bridgwater. Military personnel have been tasked to work alongside local authorities, and are currently filling sandbags for deployment. Pumping continues, but it is a challenge to keep at the correct pace with the inflow from the latest rainfall, and levels are increasing in some areas. It is likely to take weeks to remove the sheer volume of floodwater, once there is a significant break in the weather.

Across the Thames valley and Surrey, the River Thames is rising and bursting its banks at certain locations. A sandbag programme is in place at key points of vulnerability. A multi-agency gold command has been set up in Croydon to co-ordinate the response locally, and a major incident has been declared. There is a high risk that the Thames, the Severn and the Wye will flood in the middle of next week. Local residents are actively engaged in planning and preparation.

As I told the House on Thursday, I commend the hard work of the emergency services, local authorities, the armed services and the staff of the Environment Agency on the ground. As I have said, there are lessons to be learned, including about its policy on dredging and how its £1.2 billion budget is spent.

I note that the issue of international development funding was touched on over the weekend. Let me say this: just as it is a false choice to cast town versus country, it is also wrong to pit helping the victims of flooding at home against helping those suffering abroad. We can and should do both—to help the plight of those facing the awfulness of flooded homes in Britain, just as we take action to help malnourished children dying from dirty water abroad. But I believe that taxpayers’ money should be well spent, and this applies just as much to quangos as it does to the international aid budget. By spending money wisely, we can better meet our moral obligations, first to Britain and then to the world, but the first and primary obligation of Her Majesty’s Government is the defence of the realm—urban and rural, city and county—and that is exactly what we are doing.

Maria Eagle:
I thank the Secretary of State for his update.

I have no doubt that those who are being affected by the severe flooding in Somerset and now in the Thames valley welcome the assistance that they are now receiving. It is a considerable relief to those who are living and farming on the Somerset levels that the Army has been made available to assist in the efforts to protect homes, farms and other businesses. That news, combined with the efforts of the fire and rescue services, the police, Environment Agency staff and the many volunteers, shows that there is finally a concerted effort to respond to the floods.

Does the Secretary of State understand people’s anger and frustration that it took so long for the Government to organise that level of response, considering that many of them have been dealing with rising water levels since before Christmas? Will he ensure that it does not take so long to help those in the Thames valley who face flooding today? Why did the Prime Minister remain so disengaged from what was clearly a worsening crisis for so long, in sharp contrast to his predecessor in 2007? What lessons have been learned to ensure that we never again see flooded communities left abandoned for weeks? Will the Secretary of State assure the House that the same level of assistance will be made available to those in Berkshire and Surrey, where severe flood warnings are in place?

Will the Secretary of State provide an update on the work to restore vital rail connectivity to Devon and Cornwall? Have Ministers formally asked Network Rail to present options for a long-term solution to the vulnerability of the line, including the option of re-routing?

On the Environment Agency, does the Secretary of State agree with the Prime Minister that

“This is a time for everyone to get on with the jobs that they have… This is not the time to change personnel, this is the time to get on and do everything we can to help people. I back the Environment Agency. I back the work they are doing.”?

If so, why did the Secretary of State go to such lengths yesterday to give the opposite impression as he toured the TV studios? Does he believe that

“the Environment Agency has been remarkably good in giving good, accurate information”?

Those are the words that he used on “The World at One” last Wednesday. Will he explain what changed his mind about the quality of the advice from the Environment Agency in the following 48 hours, other than the fact that he spotted a convenient scapegoat to distract attention from the Government’s failure?

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why the Prime Minister has been unable to deny that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been forced to write a letter objecting to the attack on one of his Department’s agencies by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government? Does he accept, in hindsight, that it was wrong to launch such a direct attack on the staff of the Environment Agency, and will he take this opportunity to apologise? Does he really believe that the cut of £97 million or 17% in real terms to the annual funding of the Environment Agency, which was required by Ministers, did not impact on the agency’s ability to prevent the flooding that we have seen?

In the House last Thursday, I asked the Secretary of State about the Pitt review, which was commissioned by the last Government after the 2007 floods. He was unable to answer my questions and instead commented that,

“The hon. Lady asked why we have not updated the Pitt review. She will recall that we set up the Flood Forecasting Centre… Perhaps she should spend a little less time in the television studios and more time with Google.”—[Official Report, 6 February 2014; Vol. 575, c. 447.]

Of course, a quick search using Google would have informed the right hon. Gentleman that the Flood Forecasting Centre was set up by the previous Government and opened by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) in 2009. I hope that he is better informed today.

Will the Secretary of State explain why the Government stopped producing progress reports on the implementation of the 92 recommendations of the Pitt review in January 2012, despite 46 of them being labelled “on-going”? Is it still the case that none of the recommendations under

“Knowing where and when it will flood”

have been implemented in full? What has happened to the six recommendations on reducing the risk of flooding, the 10 on being rescued and cared for during an emergency and the seven on maintaining power supplies that had not been implemented in full? How many of those have still not been completed by Ministers? Will he explain why the Government axed the Cabinet Committee on improving the country’s ability to deal with flooding and the national resilience forum, both of which were recommended in the Pitt review and established by the last Government? Finally, will the Secretary of State reconsider his refusal to agree to our request that regular progress reports on the implementation of the Pitt review be restarted? Will he commit to presenting the first update to the House by the end of this month?

Mr Pickles:
The hon. Lady seems to be obsessed by process. We are much more concerned with making a concerted effort to deal with the problem of flooding.

On readiness, we understand that as the week progresses, there will be increased flooding along the Thames valley. The substantial gravel layers in the valley will make it more difficult to put barriers up. Nevertheless, we have continued to ensure that demountables are available and the enormous help from the military will continue. [Hon. Members: “Answer the question.”] Forgive me, but I thought that I was answering about flooding, not some peculiar problem with regard to procedure.

Today I was in Croydon looking at a water station that ensures there is clean water for 47,000 properties. I looked at the magnificent work of the Environment Agency and of local gold command, which is putting together a team for action to ensure that properties are not flooded and that clean water is available.

On the Environment Agency, it is entirely wrong for the hon. Lady to suggest for one moment that I have issued even the slightest criticism of its marvellous work force. My admiration for the work of the Environment Agency exceeds no one, and I believe it is time for us all to start to work together, not to make silly party political points. I am confident that with the help of the Environment Agency, the armed forces and the good work of local councils, that is exactly what we will do.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton) (Con):
I believe that we need a period of calm in the House because those who have been flooded, and those who are on the verge of being flooded, look to us to give some leadership. May we look at what is required to be done now in terms of clean water and sanitation to avoid a public health issue for those who have been unable to use their own facilities for a period of time? I welcome what the Prime Minister told the House last week, which was that everything that has happened under that Government, this Government, or any Government, will be looked at anew. We need leadership; the Environment Agency will do whatever its political masters ask it to do, and I think it has done that to the best of its ability. In future we can look at what lessons can be learned from this episode, but we are in the middle of an emergency and must allow the emergency services, including the Environment Agency, to do their work.

Mr Pickles:
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Her knowledge of matters relating to the environment, and particularly flooding because of the peculiar circumstances of her own constituency, is considerable. She is absolutely right, and it is a matter of some priority to ensure that those strategic sites, pumping stations, gas stations and those relating to electricity, are protected and can withstand the rigours of this terrible weather.

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab):
I cannot remember a more complacent or inadequate response from a Cabinet Minister to a serious matter in this House. Last year, after last winter’s floods and the travel disruption in the south-west, the Government announced £31 million of new money for improved rail resilience in the south-west. That money has still not materialised. Why should anybody believe any of the new promises the Secretary of State is making when he has failed to deliver on any of them in the past?

Mr Pickles:
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman seems to resort to petty insults across the Chamber. There are people right now risking their lives and working on the railways to get them running and get a proper price worked out, and frankly, to play this rather pathetic game of who is to blame—[Interruption.] There will be a time when we will look closely into the causes of the floods and the reaction of the Government, but right now we should get on with the job.

Mr David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD):
On behalf of the people of Somerset may I say a big thank you to all those who have been working in the here and now, dealing with our emergency? I particularly welcome some of the biggest pumps that I have ever seen arriving on the levels over the weekend. There will come a time when we have to look at the emergency response, and also at long-term policies and the advice that we in Somerset have given to successive Governments and agencies over 20 years. Will the Secretary of State look at the funding stream available to local authorities, not just to deal with emergencies but to enable us to maintain these delicate structures far into the future?

Mr Pickles:
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. It is perhaps good to make the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater and West Somerset (Mr Liddell-Grainger) cannot be with us today—he is down there dealing with flooding matters. I am sure he would have made similar points.

I felt it was about time somebody apologised to the people of Somerset and I was happy to do so. The Prime Minister has endorsed that apology. It is true that the advice was solidly given, and that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs last autumn started some preliminary dredging on the two rivers. That was due to start up again, and it will do so, but in a more enhanced role. That decision was taken by the wisdom of the Secretary of State.

Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Lab):
Today we have had a summary of the short-term, overdue measures that the Government are taking, but what about the long-term implications? What about climate change? Will Cobra, when it meets, look not only at adaptation, but at mitigation? Will the right hon. Gentleman speak to the Chancellor and ensure that we implement the fourth carbon budget review?

Mr Pickles:
Of course, we take climate change into consideration in all the modelling we do with regard to flooding, but the hon. Lady will accept that the weather patterns we have had have been truly remarkable—nothing like them have been seen since the latter part of the 18th century. I will ensure that her remarks on flooding are passed on to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor.

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con):
As the two main A roads from my constituency into Reading have been closed by floods, and as many homes, businesses and gardens have been inundated, sometimes with foul as well as surface water, will my right hon. Friend assure me that, in future, the £1,200 million budget and the near £100 million cash that the Environment Agency started the year with will be available for schemes that I and others recommend which could stop that water in future? Is it not about time that we had the promise of some action from the Environment Agency?

Mr Pickles:
We need to deal with the short-term effects of the floods given what is likely to happen over the next few weeks, but my right hon. Friend makes a reasonable point—it is not just the size of the Environment Agency budget, but what it does with it and what priorities it has. I am sure that, as the water recedes, there will be a lot of discussion between the Government and the Environment Agency.

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab):
May I suggest to the Secretary of State that, instead of engaging in this arrogant bluster, he answers the questions put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) from the Opposition Front Bench, and by colleagues who, along with their constituents, have experienced the terrible impacts of the flooding? He ought to apologise instead of continuously passing the buck and saying that it is everybody else’s responsibility but not the Government’s.

Mr Pickles:
For me, sorry is not the hardest word. I have been criticised for saying sorry to the people of Somerset, and the Prime Minister has said sorry to them. The problem with Labour Members, who talk of hubris and arrogance, is that they are never prepared to admit that they have done anything wrong and go around defending bad practice. The Government are prepared to say that we got it wrong, along with the Environment Agency, with regard to dredging. Had it not been for the campaigning efforts of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, that dredging would not have started.

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con):
We have had some flooding in Old Amersham and Chalfont St Peter. I praise the fire service and the local authorities, and the Environment Agency and its subcontractors, which have been pumping and saving buildings from flooding by the River Misbourne. Will the Secretary of State look very carefully at the Government’s spending priorities? I believe that the Government should protect our existing transport infrastructure, our towns and our countryside before spending money on new shiny projects that have a disgraceful cost-benefit ratio compared with the 1:8 cost-benefit ratio imposed on the Environment Agency?

Mr Pickles:
The House has grown to appreciate my right hon. Friend’s doughty defence of her constituents and her dislike of high-speed rail. The Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis) has just come back from Marlowe, where he examined the state of preparedness, and he reports the fantastic work of local firefighters, working alongside Environment Agency staff and the local police. No doubt my right hon. Friend will be calling him very soon to offer them some moral support.

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab):
I met Fire Brigade Union representatives, representing firefighters in the south-west, last week, and they report that firefighters are working extremely hard for long hours. I pay tribute to them. But they asked me to make the point that they are being hampered by job cuts—2,000 firefighters over the last 18 months. In addition, although there has been an improvement in equipment, the Government still have not decided to establish a statutory duty on fire authorities to deal with flooding, which would protect investment in equipment in the future.

Mr Pickles:
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would also like to thank the thousands of retained firefighters for working hard on behalf of their local communities. I, too, had the opportunity to speak to firefighters this morning in Croydon. I was remarkably impressed by their dedication, hard work, cheerfulness and adaptability in ensuring that an important water pumping station remains open. We will ensure that firefighters have the best possible equipment to deal with this issue, and we have a strategic reserve of high-volume pumps that are being used extensively throughout the Thames valley and the Somerset levels.

Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con):
I would like to use this time to talk about Somerset and the decision that I took there, but I feel I must talk about my constituents, many of whom have had an utterly miserable week and have tough times ahead. Rivers such as the River Kennet, which I have known for all my 53 years, have never been dredged and never should be dredged, because it would mean that the water would flow very fast through my constituency and end up in Reading and beyond. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we give false hope to certain communities if the question comes down to the binary decision—to dredge or not to dredge? Getting it right has to be right for that catchment.

Mr Pickles:
My hon. Friend was a very distinguished environment Minister and he is 100% correct. What works in the Somerset levels might not be appropriate elsewhere. I represent an Essex constituency where several fields are regularly flooded, offering enormous protection to communities along the coast. His point about the Kennet is correct. It is the same problem when pumping out—the need to ensure that the flow is not so fast that it just creates additional flooding.

I do not think that my hon. Friend made a bad decision: I think that I would have made the same decision on the information that was available. He should not ascribe any blame to himself.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green):
I am glad that the Secretary of State is in a mood for apologies, because he might like to apologise to the Environment Agency, instead of engaging in a blame game that helps nobody. Sustainable urban drainage systems can play a key role in managing surface water flooding, and the Government’s statement that they will implement schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 for new housing developments is long overdue. Does he agree that people in existing housing should benefit from the cost-effective flood protection provided by sustainable urban drainage schemes, and will he agree to a comprehensive retrofit programme so that they can do so?

Mr Pickles:
The hon. Lady’s question is based on a false premise. I have not criticised the Environment Agency, whose staff are doing an excellent job. Merely expressing doubts about one aspect of the agency’s approach in the Somerset levels hardly qualifies as a criticism. The Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Dan Rogerson) informs me that the very regulations that she seeks will be laid in April, and I hope that she will volunteer to serve on the relevant Delegated Legislation Committee.

Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay) (LD):
Cornwall faces a repair bill in the tens of millions of pounds, and it will take months to put right the damage that the storms have caused. Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that when claims are made under the Bellwin scheme, they will be expedited as quickly as possible?

Mr Pickles:
My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the battering that the coast of Cornwall has received. The decision I announced last week on the changes to the Bellwin formula—the first time in 30 years that we have changed the threshold—was made specifically to help Cornwall. I look forward to working with him and the county council to ensure it is compensated for the enormous effort it has put in.

Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) (Lab):
For every £1 spent on flood defence, there is an £8 return. In the last year of the Labour Government, capital flood defence spending was £371 million. The following year, it was cut by this Government by £87 million, then £115 million, £94 million, £53 million and £35 million. Will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to apologise to the people of Rhyl, St Asaph, Somerset levels, Dawlish and the Thames valley for the £400 million of costly capital cuts that have totally backfired and will cost this country billions?

Mr Pickles:
The hon. Lady—[Laughter.] I would never mistake the hon. Gentleman for a lady. I am so sorry.

We need to look at the straightforward arithmetic. In their last five years the Labour Government spent £2.7 billion. We will be spending £3.1 billion—a lot more money. They had added to it in 2007, so theirs is a boosted figure that is well below ours.

Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con):
The misery of the current floods is confined to one region of the country, but the fear of flooding extends to all regions of the country, particularly those that have suffered floods before. My right hon. Friend is right to commend and make the most of the emergency services and the help being given by them. It is, however, undoubtedly true that the best way to deal with flooding is prevention, not cure. For example, it will cost £200 million to £300 million to reinstall the Humber defences. That sounds like a lot of money until the day after a storm surge or major flood, so will my right hon. Friend make it clear to the Treasury that, unlike the previous Government, it should not go in for being penny wise and pound foolish?

Mr Pickles:
I am very familiar with the area to which my right hon. Friend refers, which has a sizeable proportion of holdings below sea level. I know the nature of the river and the historic floods that have taken place around Beverley and across to the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Miss McIntosh) towards York. People have suffered from flooding there in the past and he is right that there is a fear of floods. For years afterwards, people who have been flooded worry every time it rains. It is almost like being burgled: it is not just cleaning up the mess, but the psychological damage. The Government have a responsibility to ensure that residents are kept dry and that we do all we can to alleviate flooding. As my right hon. Friend rightly points out, we were playing, very heavily, catch-up.

John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab):
Will the Secretary of State now answer the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) and tell us what assessment he has made of making flood attendance a statutory duty on fire services? If he has not made that assessment, will he do so and then report back to the House?

Mr Pickles:
That is contained within the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, with the local resilience forum. With enormous respect to the hon. Gentleman, I saw in Croydon what I have seen at all major incidents: a number of services working together very well. The local resilience forum, as I saw today in Croydon, is an exemplar of the way to do things. Making this a statutory duty would not help anything and would not make a single community safer.

Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) (Con):
As my right hon. Friend wisely reflected, it is the exceptional weather that is responsible for flooding. Does he agree that, in the end, the forces of unstoppable nature humble us all, as we have faced the wettest January since 1767? As he rightly says, the time for review will come later, but does he agree that one lesson, as outlined wisely by my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon), is that land management needs to be looked at again in the different areas where floods have taken place?

Mr Pickles:
As always, my right hon. Friend is correct. We cannot have conventional orthodoxy, and neither should we replace one inflexible orthodoxy with another. We have only to stand close to these rivers, some of which were previously gentle and meandering, or to see that monstrous gap in Brunel’s railway to see the sheer strength of nature. Conventional orthodoxy has to be re-examined, and instead we need bespoke solutions for each area of the country.

Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Lab):
When he got the job, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs removed from his Department’s list of priorities an intention

“to prepare for and manage risk from flood and other environmental emergencies”.

Does the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government agree that this was a terrible error of judgment on the part of his colleague?

Mr Pickles:
My right hon. Friend replaced an enormous, overbearing bureaucratic system with an emphasis on some key issues, one of which was flood defences. As a consequence, we are spending more on this than the Labour party did in its last five years in office, and no matter how much the Opposition huff and puff, they cannot get away from that basic fact.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con):
Will the Secretary of State reconsider his comments about overseas aid? When natural disasters take place in other parts of the world, the Government are quick to provide financial assistance to people who suffer, yet it appears that the provision of financial assistance to people in this country has been much slower. At a time when money is tight, the overseas aid budget is the only one not under financial pressure. If people need help and aid, should the aid budget not be there to support them? The Government should not treat people abroad more favourably than people at home.

Mr Pickles:
The Prime Minister has made it absolutely clear that we will spend and do whatever it takes to ensure that our communities feel safe from flooding. I recognise that my hon. Friend has a distinguished record on this matter, but I do not agree with him—I hope he will forgive me—on this occasion. I think it is possible to deal with overseas problems. I do not think that this great island nation achieved anything by looking inwards.

Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op):
Last year, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in response to a question from me about whether the Thames barrier could be overwhelmed in 100 years or 10 years, said:

“We have begun preliminary investigations of the prospects of long-term flooding.”—[Official Report, 16 May 2013; Vol. 563, c. 781.]

Have those preliminary investigations come to any conclusions, and what will be done about it, given the threat to the Thames barrier from climate change and other issues?

Mr Pickles:
We have deployed the Thames barrier several times in recent weeks, and it has proved remarkably effective at protecting London and some of the islands in the upper Thames. We are confident that it will continue to play a massively important part in the defence of London well beyond the foreseeable future.

Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con):
The hearts of those of us whose homes, communities and constituencies have not been flooded go out to those of our neighbours whose homes or constituencies have been. In the interests of community solidarity, could the Government not take the lead in setting up a charitable fund to which we and our constituents can contribute to support those who are under-insured, uninsured or in some other difficulty? That way we could show some solidarity and deal with these personal, human tragedies, rather than using this occasion, as some are, to score points?

Mr Pickles:
That is exactly the kind of attitude that makes the Chamber a worthwhile place, rising above petty politics. A number of charities are offering help. The Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis), met a number of co-ordinating groups, but I accept the criticism—perhaps I should apologise again—that we have not done enough to signpost them. We will ensure that there are good signposts to these excellent voluntary organisations to help people in distress.

Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab):
May I invite the Secretary of State, if he has not already done so, to view Friday’s edition of “Newsnight”, which showed the powerful impact of the flooding in Somerset on individuals? When will he give us a report on the impact of climate change on these events? That is an important determinant of present policy, and we must assess the impact of present policy on the future.

Mr Pickles:
Sadly, I missed Friday’s “Newsnight”, but I will do my best to pick it up on iPlayer. With regard to climate change, the best advice I have received is that the flooding probably has something to do with climate change. That is not necessarily the case—some of it may be the result of changing patterns—but the effects that we have to deal with are the same. I have no doubt that as part of the process of looking at how we can improve the response of the Government and the Environment Agency, we will consider that and give the hon. Gentleman, who asks a very sensible question, that kind of outlook.

Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con):
The Prime Minister has shown decisive leadership in dealing with the here and now. Will my right hon. Friend do the same by calling on BT and other phone companies to ensure that they provide a priority service to reconnect vulnerable elderly people who live alone and whose lives depend on their having a working phone?

Mr Pickles:
My hon. Friend makes a reasonable point. I will make those representations. Looking at the local resilience forum, I have noticed that people have a good idea where those who are vulnerable live, and I saw examples of people working together to make sure that someone who has not been about for a few days is checked up on, but that in no way diminishes my hon. Friend’s point, and I will pass on her remarks to BT and other telephone providers.

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab):
Support for individuals and families is vital when they are at risk of flooding or they have been flooded. In Hull in 2007 the National Flood Forum charity did excellent work, providing practical assistance both before and after families found themselves flooded out. Is there any additional money for the National Flood Forum to provide such assistance on the huge scale that it faces now?

Mr Pickles:
We are working closely with the forum. As the hon. Lady suggests, it is doing a terrific job. I do not know about levels of funding, but clearly, if it is taking on additional work for us, we do not want it to be out of pocket.

Richard Harrington (Watford) (Con):
What plans do the Government have to provide an assessment of local authorities’ plans for flood prevention in the years to come, particularly asking Hertfordshire what plans it has to stop the River Colne flooding and causing disruption to my constituents?

Mr Pickles:
Local plans are fed in through the local resilience forum to our teams. One thing that has been clear in dealing with all these emergencies is that there have been pretty well worked out plans. We have found it a lot easier when we are dealing with the worries about the Thames valley that a well established pattern is in place. For example, a number of authorities have what they call flood ambassadors, who will liaise individually with individual houses and offer them support. But I will look specifically at my hon. Friend’s constituency.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab):
Much of the land on which this Parliament is seated is reclaimed land. Indeed, King Canute was the first king to build anything here at all, so would it not be a fine tribute to parliamentary tradition if we were all to unite around building full resilience for the future, rather than permanently bickering every two or three years about what happened last week?

Mr Pickles:
I knew it would happen at some stage in my parliamentary career, but it came a little sooner than I thought: I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman.

Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD):
The Environment Agency staff, some brand new flood defences and, indeed, those on loan from Bristol city council were a welcome presence in Bradford-on-Avon this weekend. We would like to record our thanks to them. Will the Minister show the same resolve as we have seen in learning the lessons from the floods at Christmas time in taking preventive measures in all the locations that have been affected by floods this week, not just those on the levels?

Mr Pickles:
Of course, and I am very happy that the beautiful town of Bradford-on-Avon has received those additional flood prevention measures. The number of demountables that we have been able to get out has been something of a record, and I have seen them in operation and how effective they are. Of course it is right that we must learn from the past, not be frightened to apologise and ensure that communities are protected from flood water, even though these have been exceptional events.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab):
Why on this problem, as with all others, do the Government first blame the last Government, then the European Union and then the civil service? Will the Secretary of State tell us on what precise date the Government will take responsibility for their own conduct and cuts? When will he answer the claim by the chairman of the UK Statistics Authority that last week they fiddled the figures?

Mr Pickles:
It is certainly not those on the Government Benches who are seeking to make political capital from this or engage in some kind of blame game. I am not entirely sure what we got out of this afternoon, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that there are a lot of people working extremely hard right now to keep him and his constituents warm and dry.

Sir Peter Luff (Mid Worcestershire) (Con):
When it comes to advice on flooding from the Environment Agency, is not the real problem that it has too often been ignored by local authorities and the Planning Inspectorate, leading to inappropriate development that makes flooding worse?

Mr Pickles:
I know that my hon. Friend has had some particular problems. I looked carefully at the figures for building where there was an acute risk of flooding, and I am delighted to tell him that the number of buildings in high-risk areas is at an all-time low. I am also pleased to say that where there have been objections from, say, the Environment Agency, they have been adhered to on 99.3% of occasions.

Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op):
As the former chair of Flood Risk Management Wales, charged with adapting Wales to climate change in respect of flood risk management and flood systems, may I ask the Secretary of State why he has failed to apply for EU solidarity funding, which gave this country £162 million in 2007 and has given another 23 countries £3.5 billion since 2002? Is it because he is against European money because he is prejudiced or is it because he thinks there is a greater priority for investment than flood risk management for devastated communities? They are upset in Somerset—very upset.

Mr Pickles:
I answered this the last time I appeared in the House. The reason is that there is a threshold of €3.7 billion to get over, and even should we get over the excitement of getting over the threshold to get the EU money, the way the system works means we would have to pay most of it back.

Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) (Con):
My constituency has experienced some river flooding, but it has not been as severe as that in other areas. However, there are particular problems with surface water flooding in the local villages, including the very unpleasant effects of foul water and overflowing sewerage systems. A substantial amount of new housing is proposed in those areas, at a level that local authorities consider to be unsustainable. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that in setting housing numbers, local authorities will be able to take into account the adequacy of the infrastructure to support new housing, so that the current problems do not become worse in the future?

Mr Pickles:
My right hon. Friend has conducted a long campaign in this regard, and he has made a number of very reasonable points. I think that such decisions must be made on the basis of scientific fact. The rising level of groundwater will continue to cause problems in my right hon. Friend’s constituency, my constituency and, indeed, most constituencies until well into June, even if from now on things start to shine.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab):
The Environment Agency says that last year it allocated £400,000 for dredging in the Somerset levels, which is the maximum level that Treasury rules permit, but that other Government agencies and partner bodies such as local authorities were not able to “match contribute” towards the £4 million total cost of the scheme. Given the Secretary of State’s leadership role in local government, may I ask when he was made aware of its inability to contribute? May I also ask what representations he made to the Chancellor with the aim of bringing about a change in the Treasury rules?

Mr Pickles:
That is why I apologised to the people of Somerset, and that is why the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Dan Rogerson), insisted on starting the dredging last autumn in order to demonstrate its efficacy. Sadly, however, the turbulent weather arrived before that excellent study could be completed, but we now know that we shall start to dredge, and we shall start to dredge in earnest.

David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Con):
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the last Government stripped the “hold the line” flood defence systems criteria from 10 to five in 2009? Will he please look into that, in order to prevent more flooding in coastal areas such as my constituency?

Mr Pickles:
I did note that, but I did not want this to be a partisan exchange, which is not the attitude of the Labour party—I did not want to criticise the Labour party. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has just reminded me that we will look at bespoke patterns of support that will enable us to ameliorate the effects of flooding, and to ensure that people feel safe in their own homes.

Mr Speaker:
Mr Wayne David.

Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab):
Thank you for the sigh of confidence that you gave before calling me, Mr Speaker.

Everyone in the House would agree that we need a united Government response to this crisis. How does the Secretary of State respond to suggestions that there is a damaging Cabinet rift between him and the Environment Secretary?

Mr Pickles:
I think that you spoke for the whole House with that sigh, Mr Speaker. Let me make it absolutely clear that the Environment Secretary and I are two peas in a pod. We are two brothers from a different mother. We speak on a regular basis. I am the mere custodian of his wishes, and I look forward fervently to the day when he stands at this Dispatch Box and responds to the hon. Gentleman.

Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con):
Devon contains a longer road network than any other local authority area in the country, and anyone travelling there will see the devastation that the flood waters are causing. Will the Secretary of State recognise that later this week, and give extra assistance to Devon?

Mr Pickles:
We are offering extra assistance, and we will continue to do so. I think that we must accept, because of the nature of the weather, that we will see exceptional turbulence and disruption to transport in the region. Obviously we need to repair the rail system and make it safe, but we also need to provide alternative ways of getting about, which is why we have laid on extra coaches and the like. Once it stops raining, Devon will be a terrific place to visit, and a terrific place in which to set up a business.

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab):
Obviously the immediate priority has got to be to help the people in Somerset and elsewhere who are living in an absolutely desperate situation at the moment, but in the longer term—and following on from the very interesting answer the Secretary of State gave to the right hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Nicholas Soames)—how will the Government use the common agricultural policy direct payments budget and the Environment Agency’s maintenance budget to ensure long-term flood protection and to look at things like land management issues?

Mr Pickles:
I cannot tell the hon. Lady when the consultation finishes, but we are in the middle of the process of doing exactly that. If the hon. Lady wants to make a contribution she could write to the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall and that will be taken into consideration in the review and consultation.

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con):
As I keep reminding the House, when the rivers Aire, Ouse and Trent and the Dutch river and the Humber estuary flooded hundreds of my constituents’ homes in December, due to international events we may not have got the media attention, but at least we avoided becoming a political football. At that time we were very well supported by some very dedicated Environment Agency staff. That said, however, local farmers and the drainage boards are desperate for a change in the way in which we manage river catchments in this country so that we can have more localised solutions. May I urge the Secretary of State to ensure that happens after this flooding is finished?

Mr Pickles:
I know from my discussions with the Environment Secretary that he has very strong views about this matter, because often local people know and understand individual culverts and watercourses better than other authorities, albeit that that authority might be benign, efficient and full of very good people. The point my hon. Friend highlights must be taken into consideration in the long-term review.

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op):
Communities in my constituency, particularly along the Penarth coastline, have also been affected by these unprecedented events in recent weeks, albeit not, thankfully, to the extent we have seen elsewhere in Wales or, indeed, in the south-west and the Thames valley. Can the Secretary of State please assure the House that he has, and will continue to have, close co-operation with Welsh Ministers, Welsh local authorities and Natural Resources Wales given that climate change, wind, waves and rain respect no boundaries?

Mr Pickles:
Absolutely. Of course, our great nations are joined together and what happens on the river Severn has a very big impact. I can give the hon. Gentleman that assurance unequivocally.

Mr Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton) (Con):
My right hon. Friend will be aware that in addition to high rainfall, the people of Pagham in my constituency also face problems from the sea, where the growth of the Pagham harbour spit has led to massive erosion of the shingle beach fronting hundreds of properties. Will he ask one of the Ministers from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to come to Pagham to see the very real danger this is presenting and to help us secure the funding and the permissions we need to cut a channel through the spit before it leads to the loss of people’s homes?

Mr Pickles:
My hon. Friend is talking about a very beautiful part of the world. I am sure DEFRA Ministers will come and visit, but I was rather hoping in the not too distant future to come and visit myself, because he raises an important matter. The amount of shingle and the like that has gone is truly breathtaking.

Mr Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con):
The Secretary of State is right to focus on the areas he has discussed, but may I inform him that when I left my constituency this morning three of the four roads into the town of Tewkesbury were cut off, and with further heavy rainfall expected this week we expect that, sadly, a number of houses may be flooded, so will he bear us in mind as well as all the other areas he understandably has to concentrate on?

Mr Pickles:
I certainly will. As I said to my hon. Friend the last time I spoke at the Dispatch Box, I remember very vividly a visit to his constituency in the summer floods of 2007, I think, and the devastating effect on local businesses and a local public house. He more than anybody understands the effect repeated flooding has on communities and the psychological damage it does. Indeed, the fate of Tewkesbury and neighbouring communities bears heavily on the mind of the Government.

Tessa Munt (Wells) (LD):
The European Union Commissioner responsible for these matters has made it clear that regional disaster funding is available, with no minimum limit. The Government can define the size of the affected region, and the funding can be made available provided that serious and lasting damage has occurred, that there have been repercussions for economic stability and living conditions in the region and that 50% of people living there are affected. Does the Secretary of State acknowledge that Somerset clearly qualifies for such funding, and will he ask his colleagues at DEFRA to apply for it without delay?

Mr Pickles:
The Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall has just volunteered to meet the hon. Lady, and I am sure that—

Mr Speaker:
Order. We wish to see the Secretary of State’s face, looking at us all fully rather than just at those on his own Benches. He has a habit of gyrating around; let us see the man’s face.

Mr Pickles:
I apologise. I have always felt that those on my own Benches scrubbed up rather well, and it is uplifting to the spirit to look at them.

As I have said, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has agreed to meet the hon. Member for Wells (Tessa Munt) to discuss that matter, and I am sure that those deliberations will be worth while.

Mr Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con):
I understand that the Secretary of State will be in touch with my right hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry) shortly. The Secretary of State will be aware that a bankrupt country would find it much more difficult to defend itself, and it is to this Government’s credit that they managed marginally to increase flood defence funding on coming into office. However, the long-term investment strategy put out by the Environment Agency in 2009 made it clear that we were going to have to almost double our investment in flood defences. Will my right hon. Friend and his colleagues make that point forcefully to the Treasury?

Mr Pickles:
The Treasury is taking an enormous interest in the promises that Ministers are making from the Dispatch Box. Even when representatives of the Treasury are not physically in the room, their presence is always felt.

Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen) (Con):
Will the Secretary of State ensure that local Environment Agency workers have the ability to team up with farmers, particularly to work on catchment area solutions such as tree planting? Will he also ensure that the agency takes some of the reported £2.4 million that it has spent on public relations services and puts it into the Rossendale valley to prevent flooding on the River Irwell, the River Darwen and the River Ogden?

Mr Pickles:
Many hon. Members have made that point about local solutions. We are looking for an integrated approach from local drainage boards, local authorities and the Environment Agency to deal with these problems. It is often the people on the ground who understand the problems better.

Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con):
The flooding on the Somerset levels during the past six weeks has destroyed homes, farmland and wildlife habitat, and I welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to look into dredging. For 20 years, successive Governments have not done so, and have not dealt with the problem.

Mr Pickles:
My hon. Friend has been a powerful advocate of dredging, and that was the principal reason why I felt it was appropriate to apologise to the people of Somerset for us ignoring their views. As hon. Members on both sides of the House have pointed out, however, there is no single solution that fits everywhere. Dredging there would be a sensible thing to do, for example, but dredging on the River Kennet would not be sensible. We are therefore looking for bespoke solutions in particular areas.

Andrew Griffiths (Burton) (Con):
I congratulate the Secretary of State on his robust management of this crisis, and on focusing on what matters—namely, helping those people who are knee-deep in water. Given that the River Parrett has not been dredged since 2005, does he not find the response from those on the Opposition Benches a bit hypocritical?

Mr Pickles:
I am never surprised by those on the Labour Benches. It is true that I take a robust view on this and sometimes may have erred on the wrong side of robust, but I believe that the things I say in public should be those that I believe in private. I certainly believe that someone whose house is flooded, someone who is worried about their future employment or someone who is worried about their communities wants to know whether the Government are going to get on and deal with the job, or are they going to bicker on pointless procedural points?

Steve Brine (Winchester) (Con):
A great number of my constituents in place such as Kings Worthy, Twyford and Winchester have had a truly miserable weekend. I met people with very young children and very elderly people who have been in tears this weekend, and it brings home the real human cost of this, not the petty politics that we are sometimes seeing today. The Secretary of State will understand the sheer helplessness that many of my constituents feel right now. What advice does he have for those who are rightly concerned about the public health threats that will arise if flood waters around their homes persist for a long period?

Mr Pickles:
We are, of course, not only constantly monitoring the rise of the flood waters, but analysing what is within them, with a view to public health. I congratulate my hon. Friend on being out and about with his constituents, as I am sure everybody here will be. One thing that has become very clear through this is that people in public office, be it Members of Parliament or councillors, have taken a considerable lead, not just in pressing for resources or offering help, but in rolling their sleeves up and getting involved—they should be commended.

Neil Carmichael (Stroud) (Con):
First, I wish to thank all the people in my constituency in the agencies and services who have done so much on prevention and risk-management. In order effectively to sharpen the focus on flood defence perhaps there should be a strategic review, so does the Secretary of State agree that it needs to be reinforced and informed by strong local input?

Mr Pickles:
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that strong local input is immensely important. Although authorities from nearby cities or from London can have a grand strategic view, local people know how the rivers and culverts flow, and are in a position to offer good advice.

Stephen Barclay (North East Cambridgeshire) (Con):
The Environment Agency is spending £18 million on waterlogging some of the best farmland in the country in my constituency to create a habitat for birds, in a scheme due to start in a couple of months. Will my right hon. Friend examine the resource allocation within the Environment Agency, because it is not just dredging, but wider river maintenance that matters in areas such as the Cambridgeshire fens?

Mr Pickles:
I am somewhat conflicted on this, as when I am not here I am somewhat of a twitcher and I was very much looking forward to the particular habitat my hon. Friend was talking about. He makes a reasonable point: we now need to look at priorities. We need to consider things not only in terms of where people live, but in terms of ensuring that we are able to produce sustainably the products from agriculture that this nation so desperately needs, and so reduce our imports and dependency on elsewhere. He makes a very good point.

Eric Ollerenshaw (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Con):
The residents of Fleetwood are extremely grateful to the Government for the £60 million-plus they agreed in the summer to provide much-needed new sea defences. But the residents of Thurnham, just along the coast, are being told by the Environment Agency that it will not maintain their sea defences beyond 30 years because of Treasury rules about the valuation of farming land. As part of the Secretary of State’s long-term plan on flooding, can he get the Treasury to re-examine these rules?

Mr Pickles:
The Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Dan Rogerson) is going to be very busy, because he would like to speak to my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Eric Ollerenshaw) on precisely this issue. I would not be flippant and say that 30 years is a long time and things can change, but this set of storms has been a big wake-up call, not just for government and the Environment Agency, but for the nation as a whole, and we need to make some valuable judgments about where it is appropriate to have defences.

Dr Thérèse Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) (Con):
I am sure that my right hon. Friend will join me in thanking the volunteers from Halesworth who proactively filled sandbags and put them out along the thoroughfare and outside houses on Friday night. More importantly, although a tragedy is happening in the Thames valley and the south-west, there is a silver lining, as we once again have an opportunity to reflect on the strategy on making space for water and the principles on which the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 was founded. Will he assure me that a review will involve a consideration of the flood, water and habitat directives, and that there will be a recognition that some of the things we have to do are, frankly, bonkers, while common-sense stuff is being left aside?

Mr Pickles:
I assure my hon. Friend that we will consider all matters relating to flooding and the storms, whether that is the habitat directive or questions of global warming, but I hope she will forgive us that, right now, we need to get on with the process of making communities feel safe.

Mr Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con):
We had a wake-up call in 2000, when the then Prime Minister made promises to MPs in No. 10 Downing street. That happened again in 2007 and it is happening now, so the one question remaining for the House is how we put in place a long-term framework that will mean that, when the political spotlight moves on, flooding does not drop down the list of priorities, as has been the case under successive Governments.

Mr Pickles:
My hon. Friend makes a firm point, but these storms have been so dramatic, widespread and all-encompassing that the coalition Government’s resolve is that we are determined not to flunk the decisions and make the mistakes of the past.

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con):
The River Mease in my constituency has regularly flooded near Elford, Haunton and Harlaston, partly because the Environment Agency, with other agencies, has refused to allow farmers to clear and manage their watercourses. May I echo others by asking my right hon. Friend to encourage the practitioners of conventional orthodoxy to pay close attention to the concerns and advice of farmers, who are as expert at managing their fields and watercourses as anyone in the EA?

Mr Pickles:
We have looked to farmers and those in similar professions to help us out during this whole process and their local knowledge has often made the difference. As I have said from the Dispatch Box, my right hon. Friend the Environment Secretary believes in that principle passionately, and I believe that good management is operated, if only by acting as an agency for the agency.

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con):
Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the Environment Agency were subject to a duty to take account of economic growth such as that proposed in the Deregulation Bill, it would have a welcome opportunity to redefine, refocus and improve its long-term policies and direction?

Mr Pickles:
I am sure that many in the Environment Agency, which is made up of excellent people, will have listened with great interest to my hon. Friend and may well be taking those wise words into account……….End…..
4.43 pm Afghanistan

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Philip Hammond):
With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on Afghanistan. At the end of this year we will have completed our combat mission in Afghanistan, so today is an opportunity not just to pay tribute to the courage and sacrifice of the men and women of our armed forces, but to reflect on why the mission matters and what we have achieved so far and to look forward to the completion of Operation Herrick.

It is well over a decade since September 11, but the events of that day still have the power to shock. The operation that began later in 2001, and continues to this day, has been hard fought and has cost us dear, but the cost of doing nothing and abandoning Afghanistan to the terrorists and insurgents would have been much greater. Thankfully, in today’s Afghanistan al-Qaeda is a shadow of its former self, and we are all safer as a consequence.

Since the start of operations in 2001, 447 members of our armed forces have made the ultimate sacrifice, two of them since my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development made the last quarterly statement on Afghanistan to the House on 17 October. I know that the whole House will want to join me in paying tribute to the extraordinary courage and commitment of those individuals, and of their families, who have to live daily with the loss of their loved ones, and of the many hundreds more who have suffered life-changing injuries. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten. They have protected our national security by helping the Afghans take control of theirs. Working with our international security assistance force partners and the Afghans themselves, they have ensured that Afghanistan is neither a safe haven, nor a launch pad for terrorists who despise everything we stand for and seek to destroy our way of life.

The security situation in Afghanistan today represents very real progress since 2003. When the campaign started, the Afghan national security forces did not exist. Today they are leading operations, protecting the population and taking on the Taliban. For example, as part of the security operation for the Loya Jirga in November, the ANSF established a layered security zone a week before the event. It was a complex, large-scale operation in which all elements of the ANSF co-operated. The results were impressive: 6 tonnes of home-made explosives were interdicted and the event ran safely and smoothly.

A major operation in December spanning Kandahar, Zabul and Daykundi provinces, and involving over 4,000 ANSF personnel, had a similarly successful outcome. More than 250 villages were cleared of insurgents and more than 600 improvised explosive devices were destroyed, with few casualties sustained. The Afghan air force flew resupply missions and evacuated casualties during the operation, with ISAF support limited to advice, intelligence and a small number of air support operations.

The ANSF have almost reached their surge strength target of 352,000 army, police and air force personnel, and between them they are leading 97% of all security operations and carrying out over 90% of their own training. While work continues on professionalising the forces and addressing high attrition levels, their ability to provide security for the Afghan people and maintain the momentum generated by a coalition of 50 nations remains a significant achievement—a source of pride to the Afghan forces themselves and a source of confidence to the civilian population.

As the ANSF have grown in stature, so our role in Afghanistan has evolved from leading combat operations to training, advising and assisting the ANSF. Today, UK forces are primarily engaged in mentoring their Afghan counterparts, providing world-class training and support and undertaking our own draw-down and redeployment activity. The progress of the ANSF is helping to drive the pace of transition, enabling us to meet our target of reducing our military footprint in Afghanistan to 5,200, down by nearly half from this time last year, when there were around 9,000 UK personnel in theatre.

As the nature of the mission has changed and the Afghans have taken the lead responsibility for security across central Helmand’s three districts, we have significantly reduced the number of British bases, from 137 at the height of our engagement to 13 last January and just four plus Camp Bastion today. Our draw-down trajectory will reduce our footprint to one forward observation post and the main operating base at Camp Bastion following the elections. Subsequently, as we enter the final phase of the Herrick campaign, the UK will combine its headquarters at Camp Bastion with those of the US Marine Corps.

Our efforts have not just focused on building the necessary security apparatus. The UK-led provincial reconstruction team, currently operating from Camp Bastion ahead of the completion of its mission next month, has helped deliver real progress in Helmand. Today, 80% of the local population can access health care within 10 km of their home, improved security and infrastructure conditions have meant the reopening of local bazaars and the reinvigoration of the local economy, 260 km of roads have been added to the existing network since 2012, and we have seen the completion of the paving of the strategically important Route 611 in Helmand, a project funded jointly by the UK and the United Arab Emirates.

Ordinary Afghans have seen the quality of their life improve significantly, and we can be proud of the role we have played in making this possible.

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VISIONS: Seeing the Aurora in a New Light
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Image by NASA Goddard Photo and Video
NASA’s VISIONS sounding rocket mission (VISualizing Ion Outflow via Neutral atom imaging during a Substorm) is studying what makes the aurora, and how it affects Earth’s atmosphere. VISIONS Project Scientist Doug Rowland stands next to the payload during the final days of testing Poker Flats, Alaska before launch.

On Feb. 1, 2013, Rowland reports:

"Today was another great day at the range. We received final clearance to launch during our window, and completed vertical checks. The payload is in good shape, and is ready for the launch window, starting Feb. 2."

Credit: NASA/Goddard/D. Rowland

To read more about the VISIONS mission go to: www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/visions-aurora.html

VISIONS: Seeing the Aurora in a New Light

A team of NASA scientists arrived in Poker Flats, Alaska at the end of January, 2013. The team is patiently waiting for the exotic red and green glow of an aurora to illuminate the sky. Instead of simply admiring the view, this group from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center of Greenbelt, Md., and The Aerospace Corporation of El Segundo, Calif. will launch a sounding rocket up through the Northern Lights. The rocket could launch as early as the night of Feb. 2, 2013, but the team has a two-week window in order to find the perfect launch conditions.

Armed with a series of instruments developed specifically for this mission, the VISIONS (VISualizing Ion Outflow via Neutral atom imaging during a Substorm) rocket will soar high through the arctic sky to study the auroral wind, which is a strong but intermittent stream of oxygen atoms from Earth’s atmosphere into outer space. The rocket will survive only fifteen minutes before splashing down in the Arctic Ocean, but the information it obtains will provide answers to some long-standing questions.

VISIONS is studying how oxygen atoms leave Earth’s atmosphere under the influence of the aurora. Most of the atmosphere is bound by Earth’s gravity, but a small portion of it gets heated enough by the aurora that it can break free, flowing outwards until it reaches near-Earth space. The atoms that form this wind initially travel at about 300 miles per hour — only one percent of the speed needed to overcome gravity and leave Earth’s atmosphere.

The principal investigator for VISIONS, Goddard’s Doug Rowland is providing images while the team prepares for launch.

VISIONS is a partnership between NASA Goddard and the Aerospace Corporation of El Segundo, Calif. The sounding rocket motors and payload support systems are provided by NASA Wallops Flight Facility, including NSROC, the NASA Sounding Rocket Operations Contract. The Poker Flat Research Range is operated by the University of Alaska under contract to NASA.

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NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission.

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Supermassive Black Opening Sagittarius A * (NASA, Chandra, 02/08/12)
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< img alt=" credit rating record" src=" https://www.credit-report-online.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/6848492783_ca58cef99e.jpg" size=" 400"/ > Image by NASA’s Marshall Area Flight Center
This photo from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory shows the facility of our Galaxy, with a supermassive great void called Sagittarius A * (Sgr A * for brief) in the facility. Using periodic observations over a number of years, Chandra has detected X-ray flares about daily from Sgr A *. The flares have actually additionally been seen in infrared data from ESO’s Large Telescope in Chile.

A brand-new research study offers a possible explanation for the strange flares. The idea is that there is a cloud around Sgr A * having hundreds of trillions of planets and comets, which have actually been stripped from their parent celebrities. The panel on the left is a picture containing almost a million secs of Chandra observing of the region around the great void, with red representing low-energy X-rays, eco-friendly as medium-energy X-rays, as well as blue being the highest possible.

A planet that undergoes a close experience with an additional object, such as a star or planet, can be thrown right into an orbit goinged towards Sgr A *, as seen in a collection of artist’s illustrations starting with the top-right panel. If the planet passes within regarding 100 million miles of the great void, about the distance between the Planet as well as the Sun, it would certainly be torn right into items by the tidal forces from the great void (middle-right panel).

These pieces would then be evaporated by friction as they pass through the hot, slim gas flowing onto Sgr A *, just like a meteor heating up and glowing as it fails Earth’s environment. A flare is created (bottom-right panel) and at some point the remains of the planet are ingested by the black hole.

Another planetary system example for this kind of occasion has recently been reported. About when every three days a comet is destroyed when it flies right into the warm ambience of the Sun. So, regardless of the significant differences in the 2 environments, the destruction price of comets as well as asteroids by the Sunlight and Sgr A * may be similar.

Very long monitorings of Sgr A * will certainly be made with Chandra later on in 2012 that will offer important new details concerning the regularity and also brightness of flares and need to assist to test the version recommended right here to discuss them. This job has the possible to understand the capability of asteroids and also worlds to form in the rough setting of Sgr A *.

Credit scores: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MIT/ F. Baganoff et al.; Images: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss.

Review entire caption/view extra photos: < a href=" http://www.chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2012/sgra/index.html" rel=" nofollow" > www.chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2012/sgra/index.html Inscription credit: Harvard-Smithsonian Facility for Astrophysics. Learn more about Chandra:.

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p.s. You could see all our Chandra pictures in the Chandra Team in Flickr at: < a href=" http://www.flickr.com/groups/chandranasa/" > www.flickr.com/groups/chandranasa/ We ‘d like to have you as a member! _____________________________________________. These main NASA photographs are being
provided for magazine by news companies and/or for personal use printing by the subject( s) of the pictures. The photographs may not be used in materials, advertisements, items, or promotions that at all suggest approval or recommendation by NASA. All Pictures made use of need to be attributed. For info on use legal rights please see:< a href=" http://www.nasa.gov/audience/formedia/features/MP_Photo_Guidelines.html" rel=" nofollow" > www.nasa.gov/audience/formedia/features/MP_Photo_Guidelin … Mandeville Canyon Fire Scorches 55 Acres< img alt=" credit report" src="

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> LAFD At 12:46 PM on Sunday Could 28, 2017 the L.a Fire Department battled a growing brush fire in the Mandeville Canyon. This Significant Emergency situation action( over 158 LAFD firemans plus aiding companies) came to a head at over 55 acres. The fire was avoided from harming any kind of frameworks and no injuries were reported. The reason was established to be accidental. LAFD Incident 052817-0686. Image Usage Permitted via Creative Commons- Credit: LAFD Photo|Eric French. Connect with us: LAFD.ORG|Information| Facebook |< a href=" http://instagram.com/losangelesfiredepartment" rel=" nofollow" > Instagram |< a href=" http://www.reddit.com/r/LAFD/new/ ” rel=” nofollow “> Reddit|Twitter: @LAFD< a href=" https://twitter.com/LAFDtalk" rel =" nofollow" > @LAFDtalk 3 Thanks for Kokanee< img alt=” credit history report

” src= “https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8488/8199861243_9af326f26c.jpg” width=” 400″/ > Image by< a href=" http://www.flickr.com/photos/52133016@N08/8199861243" > USFWS Pacific Image Credit report: Roger Tabor, USFWS. Ebright Creek is the website of a remediation

job focused on enhancing stream and also spawning habitat availible to the Lake Sammamish Kokanee. Have a look at the Komo 4 information record on this sucess. bit.ly/ TKuGhM To see these kokanee when they began out as fry, click here
: http://bit.ly/RuOj12 For a video on the Kokanee rearing project, have a look at: bit.ly/ PprFHs To discover exactly how you can” maintain the salmon returning”, go to the Pals of Issaquah Salmon Breeding ground:< a href=" http://www.issaquahfish.org "rel= "nofollow" > www.issaquahfish.org Read the original article at 1. usa.gov/ XxRBp8 as well as discover a variety of factors affecting wild and breeding ground
fish as well as various other aquatic resources at:< a href=" http://the-fish-files.blogspot.com/ "rel=" nofollow" > the-fish-files. blogspot.com/

Wonderful Credit report Report Online images

Some cool credit report online images:

Bristol Harbour Alien
credit report online
Image by TaylorHerring
A series of paranormal videos released on YouTube and alien events in Bristol this week, were revealed today to be part of an elaborate marketing stunt by UKTV’s entertainment channel, Watch.

The guerrilla campaign was created to launch to launch ‘The Happenings’, an audacious new illusion series featuring master magicians ‘Barry and Stuart’, a new show from the producers of Derren Brown.

watch.uktv.co.uk/shows/the-happenings/

The various videos, which feature paranormal and strange occurrences, have accumulated over 1m views since they appeared on the popular online video sharing network over the last four months.

The latest installment of the elaborate social media campaign saw the appearance of a giant, bioluminescent ‘alien’ creature in Bristol this week.

Bristolians took to social media to report a 15ft, squid-like E.T. pulsing beneath the water in the city’s harbour.

Photo Credit: Matt Devine (Editorial Use Only)

I Wake Up Screaming (1941) … “Should I Do It?” To Women Who Struggle with Porn-Driven Sex (July 2, 2011) …item 2.. The I-Don’t-Wanna-Use-Lube Blues — I don’t want to depend on KY for the rest of my sex life. (October 3, 2011) ..
credit report online
Image by marsmet525
The answer to the question “Should I do it?” is simple: No one has an obligation to another person, no matter what level of commitment in a relationship, to participate in any sexual activity that causes pain, discomfort or distress.

People can discuss desires honestly and be open to sexual exploration, yet be clear about what crosses the line and is not acceptable.
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…..item 1)…. Ms. Magazine blog … msmagazine.com/blog

You are here: Home / Life / “Should I Do It?” To Women Who Struggle with Porn-Driven Sex
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img code photo … Etching by Daniel Hopfer (c. 1470-1536) of “The Lovers,” from Wikimedia Commons

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“Should I Do It?” To Women Who Struggle with Porn-Driven Sex
July 2, 2011 by Robert Jensen

msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2011/07/02/%E2%80%9Cshould-i-do-…

Usually I address my writing about pornography to men, who are the majority of the consumers of sexually explicit material. But after a recent conversation with a woman friend, I was reminded of how often women who raise concerns about the sexism of pornography are discounted as being overly sensitive, prudish or unable to see things objectively. Since I’m a man, you can be assured–of course!–that I am not overly sensitive or prudish, and that I’m completely objective. So, if you are a woman who is struggling to get your partner to understand your concerns about pornography, I suggest you send this essay to him with a note at the top that says, “It’s not just women who think pornography is sexist.” Then add a note at the bottom that says, “You shouldn’t have had to hear it from a man to take me seriously.”

First, to give credit where credit is due: Everything I know about pornography I learned from women or discovered because of the feminism I learned from women. From the feminist anti-pornography movement that emerged in the 1970s and ‘80s, I learned to critique the system of male dominance and my own place in it. So, there is little that is original in this essay, but much that is important to keep saying.

When I present the radical feminist critique of pornography in public, I am often approached afterward by women with some version of this question:

….My husband/boyfriend/partner wants me to do [fill in the blank with a sex practice that causes pain, discomfort or distress for the woman]. I love him, and I want to be a good partner. Should I do it?

The “it” can be anything, but common requests include ejaculating on her face, anal sex, a threesome with another man or woman, rough sex or role-playing that feels inauthentic to her. Again, not all women reject those practices, but for many they are unwanted.

The answer to the question “Should I do it?” is simple: No one has an obligation to another person, no matter what level of commitment in a relationship, to participate in any sexual activity that causes pain, discomfort or distress. People can discuss desires honestly and be open to sexual exploration, yet be clear about what crosses the line and is not acceptable.

Because I’m a man, women sometimes assume I can also provide a simple answer to their next question, “Why does he want to do that to me?” There is a simple, though not pleasant, answer rooted in feminism: In patriarchy, men are socialized to understand sex in the context of men’s domination and women’s submission. The majority of the pornography that saturates our hyper-mediated lives presents not images of “just sex,” but sex in the context of male dominance. And over the past two decades, as pornography has become more easily accessible online and the sexual acts in pornography have become more extreme, women increasingly report that men ask them to participate in sex acts that come directly from the conventional male-supremacist pornographic script, with little recognition by men of the potential for pain, discomfort or distress in their women partners.

The third, and most challenging, question is: “Why can’t he understand why I don’t want that?” The strength of sexual desire plays a role, but here the answer is really about the absence of empathy, the lack of an ability to imagine what another human being might be feeling. Pornography has always presented women as objectified bodies for male sexual pleasure, but each year pornography does that with more overt cruelty toward women. The “gonzo” genre of pornography, where the industry pushes the culture’s limits with the most intense sexual degradation, encourages men to see women as vehicles for their sexual pleasure, even depicting women as eager to participate in their own degradation.

After more than two decades of work on this subject, I have no doubt of one truth about contemporary pornography: It is one way that men’s capacity for empathy can be dramatically diminished.

To make this point in talks to college and community audiences, I often suggest that “pornography is what the end of the world looks like.” By that I don’t mean that pornography is going to bring about the end of the world, nor do I mean that of all the social problems we face, pornography is the most threatening.

Instead, I mean that pornography encourages men to abandon empathy, and a world without empathy is a world without hope.

This is why pornography matters beyond its effects in our private lives. Empathy is not itself a strategy for progressive social change, but it is difficult to imagine people being motivated to work for progressive social change if they have no capacity for empathy. Politics is more than empathy, but empathy matters. Empathy is a necessary but not sufficient condition to do work that challenges the domination/subordination dynamic of existing hierarchies–work that is crucial to a just and sustainable future.

For women who want to communicate their need for sexual integrity to partners, and for men who want to transcend the pornographic imagination and empathize with their partners, the feminist critique offers a critique of male dominance and a vision of equality that can help. Instead of turning away from the unpleasant realities about how pornography is made, rather than ignoring the inhumanity of the images, rather than minimizing the effects of men’s use of pornography–we should face ourselves and face the culture we are creating.

As long as we turn away from that task, the pornographers will continue to profit. We need ask what their profits cost us all.

Etching by Daniel Hopfer (c. 1470-1536) of “The Lovers,” from Wikimedia Commons
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…..item 2)…. Ms. Magazine blog … msmagazine.com/blog

You are here: Home / Health / The I-Don’t-Wanna-Use-Lube Blues
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img code photo … Liquid Personal Lubricant

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The I-Don’t-Wanna-Use-Lube Blues
October 3, 2011 by Heather Corinna

msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2011/10/03/the-i-dont-wanna-use-…

Q: Why don’t I produce enough natural lubricant during sex? There is nothing wrong with me physically. I’m 34 now, but I’ve always been like this! I’m envious of women that talk about how wet they get. Men always ask me why I don’t get that wet. I feel like something is wrong with me. I don’t want to depend on KY for the rest of my sex life. There has to be a solution other than use lubes!!!! From my understanding there are glands near the entrance of the vagina that are supposed to produce lube to help the penis enter the vagina. I don’t think mine work!!! Doctors just say use lube. Help!!!

Every now and then, when I find this concern in my inbox–essentially, this notion that wanting or needing an additional lubricant is some kind of personal failure, or that going without one has some sort of elevated status–I just sit here and scratch my head. Because I see people getting really upset over something they don’t have to.

I certainly get women having issues about vaginal dryness: that’s common, particularly when we’re talking about vaginal sex and heterosexual women. (And I’d put little stock in what a guy tells you about it per his previous female partner; let’s listen to what women have to say for themselves.) But the idea that people are constantly flooding the bedroom with vaginal lubrication every time they have sex just isn’t based in reality.

I also get why people have the idea sex should somehow be movie-screen seamless all the time, at any time, without making any adaptations–there are a lot of sources that enable those unrealistic ideas. But in fact, women’s pleasure during partnered sex, particularly as something separate from men’s pleasure, is something that has really only started to be widely addressed in the last 100 years. Historically and even now, a whole host of sexual norms based primarily on cultural ideas of men’s ideas and wants have meant that a lot of women have had a lot of not-at-all pleasurable sex.

Sexual lubricants are nothing even remotely new. They couldn’t always be purchased in stores, but for as long as people have been having genital sex, people have used all manner of things as a sexual lubricant: butter, oils, honey, saliva, animal fats and guts–you name it, if it’s slippery, it’s probably been used as a lube.

Here’s the part I don’t get: If a lubricant makes sex feel better, why not use it?

There are likely any number of things you do in your life that aren’t “natural” or organic. It’s likely that not all of your clothes are homemade ones created with organic fibers, for instance, and that you eat foods with preservatives or flavor enhancers. I might better understand this attitude about lube coming from die-hard naturists, but more often than not, I’d say that the women who send me lube worries are fine with every other aspect of their lives being less-than-100-percent-organic.

Let’s take this idea about “natural” sex to its logical conclusion. That would also mean going without most methods of birth control, protection from sexually transmitted infections or reproductive health care. Heck, it would mean not using the Internet to ask me this question in the first place. I think it’s reasonable to presume, then, that if and when a vagina is not lubricated enough, or at all, then one could conclude that the “natural” thing is for vaginal entry to just be uncomfortable or painful. And that maybe then, it’s “natural” for some kinds of sex you want to engage in for the sake of pleasure not to be pleasurable at all.

And I just don’t buy that way of thinking.

It is normal for women to sometimes not be wet enough for comfort and pleasure throughout all of a sexual endeavor; and for some women, it’s normal all or most of the time. We do have glands which produce vaginal lubrication when we are aroused, but how much we produce tends to depend on a lot of different factors: Not only does lubrication vary from woman to woman, but we won’t always produce the same amount every day, every year, every decade, in every relationship or in every sexual situation. How lubricated we are also is related to our fertility cycle and the chemical changes in our bodies: When we’re most fertile, our cervical mucus is very thin, fluid and slippery. During pregnancy, women often have increased amounts of vaginal discharge.

Vaginal dryness can also occur for other common reasons, including: medications (such as contraceptives, antidepressants or allergy medicine); smoking; health issues (like diabetes, hysterectomy, pregnancy, yeast or bacterial infections, sexually transmitted infections or allergies); dehydration; cancer treatments; low or decreased libido; not having sex as often as you’re used to; menopause or perimenopause; stress, fatigue, depression or anxiety; and chemical sensitivities to things like detergents.

But for people your age, the most common reason for vaginal dryness is a plain old lack of high sexual arousal or desire: not being as turned on as you could be. Sometimes, we’re just not feeling it with a partner. It’s also possible what you think is a lot of sexual arousal may not be so much after all–it may just be the most you’ve experienced so far, and as your life goes on and you have new attitudes and experiences, you may well discover you can be a lot more aroused.

So, what would I suggest as a plan of action for persistent vaginal dryness that’s got you so upset and doesn’t seem to be about a health issue?

…1)..See if using lube helps, and if so, use it when you need to. Not using lube, or feeling frustrated and disgruntled about using lube, are only going to be more ways to keep yourself from self-lubricating (stress inhibits arousal, after all). Alternately, take a break from the kinds of sex where you don’t feel lubricated enough.

…2)..See a health care provider who is a full-time sexual healthcare provider, not a general family doctor.

…3)..Do the best you can to be honest with that provider and fill them in on your health history–as well as the current status of your relationship and how you feel about your sexuality and sex life–in as much depth as possible.

…4)..Try what they suggest, be that a switch in a medication, a visit to a nutritionist, more masturbation, talk therapy, drinking more water, really only having sex when you are VERY aroused and that’s what you want, taking some time away from intercourse or, most likely, using lubricant as needed. Your doctor may even suggest using a vaginal lubricant daily, even if you aren’t having sex that day.

…5)..In the midst of all of this, whatever the result, take a look at your own body image, sexuality and gender issues. If you have ideas like that being dry sometimes isn’t feminine or womanly, like you’re “less of a woman” because you’re not dripping wet 24/7, or that something is wrong with your body for most likely functioning normally, see if you can’t work on ditching those ideas. It might help to remember that not all women have vaginas in the first place: Being a woman or feminine isn’t only about body parts.

Of course, if you just do NOT want to use lubricants, you don’t have to. That is likely to make some kinds of sex, or sex sometimes, less pleasurable or more uncomfortable. It also can mean things like winding up with UTIs or other infections more frequently. But if you feel better with those risks, you get to make that choice. Again, at times when you’re not lubricating, you also have the option of simply not having the kinds of sex where you need lube added, such as oral sex.

But it shouldn’t crush your ego to need or want lube, any more than it should crush your ego to need or want a haircut, salt on your food or to live in a decent neighborhood. Adding something to increase our enjoyment has nothing to do with our self-worth or with “succeeding” at sex. And using lubricant–whether it’s a need or a want–or being dry sometimes does not make a woman any less of a woman, does not make anyone less sexy, does not mean something is wrong with your body or your sexuality. Is a man not a man because he isn’t erect on demand or all the time? No? (Hint: Your answer should be no.) Well alrighty, then.

Speaking of men, I get letters from men saying they don’t like wetness. I get the same letters when it comes to dryness. However, I can’t recall a single time when I have ever gotten a letter from a man who has a problem with using lube himself or with a partner (perhaps in part because plenty of men use it for their own masturbation). So, when I hear someone tell me what “men” love, it’s always filtered by the knowledge that there are no absolutes with anything to do with sex. People of all genders like and dislike many different things.

Lube feels good. I don’t know about you, but one big reason I engage in sex is to feel good. That strikes me as perfectly harmonious. I don’t feel like I’m failing in any way when my partners and myself are feeling really good and sex rocks.

Obviously, you get to make up your own mind here and make your own choices. But I’d suggest that no matter what choice you make, an attitude adjustment on this stuff–not just on lubricant, but on not comparing oneself to other women and on realistic ideas about sexuality and the way your body functions–is going to benefit you. Most of what I hear in letters like this is that the attitudes expressed and the stress they create are getting you down far more than the issue of lubrication. And I’d say it’s certainly natural to change our attitudes or ideas for the sake of a healthier sexuality and self-esteem and a sex life we enjoy more.

Adapted from a post originally published at Scarleteen.com.

Have a sex, sexual-health or relationships question you want answered? Email it to Heather at sexandrelationships@msmagazine.com. By sending a question to that address, you acknowledge you give permission for your question to be published. Your email address and any other personally identifying information will remain private. Not all questions will receive answers.

Photo from Fickr user Lil’ Latvian under Creative Commons 2.o.
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Image from page 227 of “Sport and travel in the northland of Canada” (1904)
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Image by Internet Archive Book Images
Identifier: sporttravelinnor00hanb
Title: Sport and travel in the northland of Canada
Year: 1904 (1900s)
Authors: Hanbury, David T. [from old catalog]
Subjects: Hunting Inuit language
Publisher: New York, The Macmillan company London, E. Arnold
Contributing Library: The Library of Congress
Digitizing Sponsor: The Library of Congress

View Book Page: Book Viewer
About This Book: Catalog Entry
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Click here to view book online to see this illustration in context in a browseable online version of this book.

Text Appearing Before Image:
ng theirsole sustenance. The older women were tattooed on the face in themanner common amongst all the Huskies I have comein contact with. They were also tattooed on the hands,wrists, and the lower part of the arm in a manner that Ihad not seen before. The men wore their hair either cropped very short,convict fashion, or it was left long with only a small, M3 144 THE NORTHLAND OF CANADA circular, closely-cropped patch on the crown. In this theydo not differ from the Huskies of Hudson Bay. Themen all had large stomachs, but this is characteristic ofthe whole of the Eskimo tribes, and probably results fromtheir eating enormous quantities of meat at one time. With the exception of a few strings of beads, traded onone of their journeys on the Ark-i-llnik River, the womenwore no articles of personal adornment, but their deer-skin clothes were ornamented with strips of white deer-skin worked in between that of a darker colour. Sealskinappeared to be used only for making footgear. <2=iar^

Text Appearing After Image:
Tattooed hand and arm. Their habitations, both iglus and deerskin tents, wereclean and well looked after. One naturally expected theusual strong smell of the seal-oil lamp, which is keptburning day and night to melt ice for drinking-water. Bows and arrows, and spears tipped with native copper,were their weapons in hunting deer. A special kind ofspear was used for harpooning seals. Stone kettles andstone lamps were their only cooking utensils. At thistime, being out of seal meat, they were living on oil andblubber, a diet that evidently agreed well with them. Ki-li-nek-meut was the name of this tribe. Another tribe, further east, near King Williams Land,I fancy, was known by the name of Net-ti-ling-meut.About this latter tribe I was told terrible tales. Theywere reported to be very bad men, and very savage ; butthis I do not credit. I was informed that in the previouswinter, food being very scarce, murder and cannibalism OGDEN BAY TO MELVILLE SOUND 145 had been the order of the day. Su

Note About Images
Please note that these images are extracted from scanned page images that may have been digitally enhanced for readability – coloration and appearance of these illustrations may not perfectly resemble the original work.

Cool Free Annual Credit Report images

A few nice free annual credit report images I found:

The Ragged School Union Festival Monday May 6th 1895 at Queen’s Hall, Langham Place, London
free annual credit report
Image by Jelltex
Ragged Schools were charitable schools dedicated to the free education of destitute children in 19th century Britain. The schools were developed in working class districts of the rapidly expanding industrial towns. In 1844, the Ragged Schools Union was established to combine resources throughout the country, providing free education, food, clothing, lodging and other home missionary services for these children.[1]
The Ragged School movement grew out of recognition that charitable and denominational schools were not beneficial for children in inner-city areas. Working in the poorest districts, teachers (who were often local working people) initially utilised stables, lofts, and railway arches for their classes. There was an emphasis on reading, writing, arithmetic, and study of the Bible. The curriculum expanded into industrial and commercial subjects in many schools. It is estimated that around 300,000 children went through the London Ragged Schools alone between 1844 and 1881.[1]
There is a Ragged School Museum in the East End of London that shows how a Ragged School would have looked – it is housed in buildings previously occupied by Dr Thomas Barnardo.

Several different schools claim to have been the first, truly-free school for poor or ragged people. For many of the destitute children of London, going to school each day was not an option. There was no such thing as free education for everyone. From the 18th century onwards, Ragged Schools were few and far between. They had been started in areas where someone had been concerned enough to want to help disadvantaged children towards a better life.[2]
In the late 18th century, Thomas Cranfield offered free education for poor children in London. While he was a tailor by trade, Cranfield’s educational background included studies at a Sunday school on Kingsland Road, Hackney. In 1798, he established a free children’s day school, located on Kent Street near London Bridge. By the time of his death in 1838, he had established 19 free schools that provided services for children and infants living in the lower income sections of London. These opportunities and services were offered days, nights, and on Sundays, for the destitute children of poor families throughout London.[3][4]
John Pounds, a Portsmouth shoemaker, provides one of the earliest well-documented examples of the movement. When was 12 years old, Pounds’ father arranged for him to be apprenticed as a shipwright. Three years later, he fell into a dry dock and was crippled for life. Unable to work as a shipwright, John became a shoemaker and by 1803 had his own shop in St Mary Street, Portsmouth.
In 1818, John Pounds, known as the crippled cobbler, began teaching poor children without charging fees. He actively recruited children and young people to his school. He spent time on the streets and quays of Portsmouth making contact and even bribing them to come with the offer of baked potatoes. He began teaching local children reading, writing, and arithmetic. His reputation as a teacher grew and he soon had over 40 students attending his lessons. He also gave lessons in cooking, carpentry and shoemaking. Pounds died in 1839.

After Pounds’ death, Thomas Guthrie wrote Plea for Ragged Schools and proclaimed John Pounds as the originator of this idea. Thomas Guthrie started a ragged school in Edinburgh and Sheriff Watson established another one in Aberdeen. In 1844, Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury formed the Ragged School Union and over the next eight years over 200 free schools for poor children were established in Britain.[4]
In 1841, Sheriff Watson established another school in Aberdeen, Scotland. His methods were different from his colleagues. Unlike the efforts of Pounds, Cranfield, and Guthrie, Watson used compulsion. Watson was frustrated by the number of children who committed a petty crime and faced him in his courtroom. Rather than sending them to prison for vagrancy, Watson established a school for boys. As a law official, the sheriff arrested the vagrant children and enrolled them in school.[4]
The Industrial Feeding School opened to provide reading, writing and arithmetic. Watson believed that gaining these skills would help the boys rise above the lowest level of society. Three meals a day were provided and the boys were taught useful trades such as shoemaking and printing. A school for girls followed in 1843.[5] In 1845, the schools were integrated. From here, the movement spread to Dundee and other parts of Scotland, mostly due to the work of the Rev Thomas Guthrie of Edinburgh.
Thomas Guthrie was an early promoter of free education for working class children. He started what appears to have been the first Scottish free school for the poor. In 1860, he published a volume containing his three pamphlets concerning Ragged Schools entitled Seedtime and Harvest. Thomas Guthrie is often quoted as the founder of the Ragged Schools of Scotland. His first introduction to the idea of Ragged Schools was in 1841, when he was the Parish Minister of St. John’s Church in Edinburgh. On a visit to Anstruther in Fife, he saw a picture of the cobbler’s room of John Pounds in Portsmouth, who had started teaching ragged children free of charge in his shop in 1818. In 1844, the movement spread to England, with the establishment of the London Ragged School Union under the chairmanship of Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury.

In April 1844, Locke, Moutlon, Morrison, and Starey formed a steering committee to address the social welfare needs of the community. On 11 April 1844, at 17 Ampton Street off the Grays Inn Road, they facilitated a public meeting to determine local interest, research feasibility, and establish structure. This was the birth of the Ragged Schools Union.[1][4] In 1944, the Union adopted the name "Shaftesbury Society" in honour of the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury. In 2007, the Society was merged with John Grooms, taking the new name of Livability.
The term Ragged School was introduced by the London City Mission. In the beginning, many of the schools were started by churches, and were staffed by volunteers. The growing number of children made it necessary to have paid members of staff. Beginning in 1835, the Mission hired staff missionaries and recruited lay agents to assist the poor with a wide range of free, charitable help ranging from clothing to basic education.[2]
Mr Locke of the Ragged School Union called for more help in keeping the schools open. Many petitions for funding and grants were made to Parliament to assist with educational reform. He asked the government to give more thought to preventing crime, rather than punishing the wrongdoers. He said the latter course only made the young criminals worse.[1][2]
In 1840, the Mission used the term "ragged" in its Annual Report to describe their establishment of five schools for 570 children. In the report, the Mission reported that their schools had been formed exclusively for children "raggedly clothed". The children only had very ragged clothes to wear and they rarely had shoes. In other words they did not own clothing suitable to attend any other kind of school.

Several people volunteered and offered their time, skills, and talents as educators and administrators of the Ragged Schools. Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury was one of Britain’s greatest social reformers, whose broad-ranging concerns included education, animal welfare, public health and improving working conditions.
In 1843, Lord Shaftesbury became the president of the Ragged Schools. He used his knowledge of the schools, the refuges, and his understanding of the living conditions among low income families to pursue changes in legislation. He served as the president of the Ragged School Union for 39 years. In 1944, the Union adopted the name "Shaftesbury Society", in his honour. Shaftesbury maintained his commitment to the Ragged Schools and educational reform until his death in 1885.

In 1843, Charles Dickens began his association with the schools and visited the Field Lane Ragged School.[7] He was appalled by the conditions, yet moved toward reform.[8] The experience inspired him to write A Christmas Carol. While he initially intended to write a pamphlet on the plight of poor children, he realised that a dramatic story would have more impact.
Dickens continued to support the schools, donating funds on various occasions. At one point, he donated funds, along with a water trough, stating that it was "so the boys may wash and for a supervisor"! (from a letter to Field Lane). He later wrote about the school and his experience there in Household Words. In 1837, he used the area called Field Lane as a setting for Fagin’s den in his classic novel, Oliver Twist.

By 1844, there were at least 20 free schools for the poor, maintained through the generosity of community philanthropists, the volunteers working with their local churches, and the organisational support of the London City Mission. During this time, it was suggested that it would be beneficial to establish an official organisation or society to share resources and promote their common cause.
In 1844, the Ragged Schools Union started with about 200 teachers. With articles in publications like the Chambers’ Journal, the support and patronage of Lord Shaftesbury, and the organisational abilities of those working with the Union, Ragged Schools became better known. There was a massive growth in the numbers of schools, teachers and students. By 1851, the number of educators would grow to include around 1,600 persons. By 1867, some 226 Sunday Ragged Schools, 204 day schools and 207 evening schools provided a free education for about 26,000 students.[1]
The 7th Earl of Shaftesbury served as chairman for 39 years. During his tenure, an estimated 300,000 destitute children received a free education. The free school movement became respectable, even fashionable, attracting the attention of many wealthy philanthropists. Wealthy individuals such as Angela Burdett-Coutts gave large sums of money to the Ragged Schools Union. This helped to establish 350 ragged schools by the time the 1870 Education Act was passed.[9] As Eager (1953) explains, "He gave what had been a Nonconformist undertaking, the cachet of his Tory churchmanship — an important factor at a time when even broad-minded (Anglican) churchmen thought that Nonconformists should be fairly credited with good intentions, but that cooperation (with them) was undesirable".

The success of the Ragged Schools definitively demonstrated that there was a demand for education among the poor. In response, both England and Wales established school boards to administer elementary schools. However, education was still not free of fees. After 1870, public funding began to be provided for elementary education among working people.
School boards were public bodies created in boroughs and parishes under the Elementary Education Act of 1870 following campaigning by George Dixon, Joseph Chamberlain and the National Education League for elementary education that was free from Anglican doctrine. Members to the board were directly elected, not appointed by borough councils or parishes. As the school boards were built and funded, the demand for Ragged Schools declined. The Board Schools continued in operation for 32 years. They were abolished by the Education Act of 1902, which replaced them with Local Education Authorities.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragged_school

JAXPORT Gallery Opening Reception: Transformation Through Transportation by Cathedral Arts Project
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6.24.12
"When our class visited JAXPORT, we were able to see and learn about many new and unfamiliar things. For each student different things sparked interest or inspiration. Some were inspired by the rail cars and train tracks, some the marsh land while others were inspired by the ships and cranes. Students sketched that which inspired them and discussed the subject of this inspiration with each other.

We brought each of our individual experiences and inspirations into the classroom and what emerged was an overarching idea of textures, shapes and patterns that were a part of the many sights. In order to highlight these textures and patterns, the students created printmaking blocks by carving their designs into foam sheets. They then used a traditional printing process to print these blocks into the pieces you see on display. With this process, the image can be printed multiple times.

Earlier in the year, our class studied Origami, the Japanese traditional art of paper folding. During this study we created paper cranes (birds). With the upcoming JAXPORT show, we wanted to honor the birds and wildlife of JAXPORT and the marsh lands that surround it while also highlighting their environmentally conscious practices by creating paper cranes using old annual reports given to us by JAXPORT. We created some on unpainted paper and some paper we painted with watercolor paints, then created the cranes. We wanted these to seem like they were a flock of birds flying through the gallery.

As a final art piece of our class and a culmination of our JAXPORT experience, the students were able to create an art piece about JAXPORT using acrylic paint and a "reverse color" painting technique in order to create more depth and interest in the art piece."

Laurie Brown, Cathedral Arts Teacher

The vision at Cathedral Arts is for every child to have access to a well-rounded, arts-rich education that endows his or her spirit with the imagination, self-confidence and strength of character that inspires great leadership and a will to succeed. Cathedral Arts provides twice-weekly after-school and summer programs in dance, music, drama and visual arts to 1,450 students throughout Jacksonville each year. Areas of instruction include ballet, West African dance, drumming, violin, chorus, acting, painting, sculpture and ceramics.

For additional information and/or images, please contact Meredith Fordham Hughes by email or by phone at (904) 357-3052.

About JAXPORT Gallery
Located on the first floor of JAXPORT Headquarters, the Gallery features local artists rotating on a bi-monthly basis. JAXPORT Gallery is open during normal JAXPORT Headquarters hours and admission is free. Learn more about JAXPORT and the Arts.

Photo credit: JAXPORT, Meredith Fordham Hughes

Credit Report

A few nice credit score images I found:

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Credit Report Tiles, Perfect for articles on Credit Reports, Credit Reporting, Credit Scores.

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NYC Times Square, “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” 1951
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The 1951 science fiction film classic, "The Day the Earth Stood Still," won a Golden Globe award and in 2008, was ranked as Number 5 on American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the Sci-Fi genre.

Film synopsis, via Wikipedia:
"The Day the Earth Stood Still" (a.k.a. "Farewell to the Master" and "Journey to the World") is a 1951 black-and-white American science fiction film from 20th Century Fox, produced by Julian Blaustein, directed by Robert Wise, that stars Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe, and Sam Jaffe. The screenplay was written by Edmund H. North, based on the 1940 science fiction short story, "Farewell to the Master" by Harry Bates. The score was composed by Bernard Herrmann.
 
In "The Day the Earth Stood Still," a humanoid alien visitor named Klaatu comes to Earth, accompanied by a powerful eight-foot-tall robot, Gort, to deliver an important message that will affect the entire human race.
 
In 1995, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Film trivia, via IMDb:
One of the reasons that Michael Rennie was cast as Klaatu was because he was generally unknown to American audiences, and would be more readily accepted as an "alien" than a more recognizable actor. Studio head Darryl F. Zanuck had shown the script to Spencer Tracy, who was eager to play the role. Producer Julian Blaustein objected, saying that the audience would have numerous expectations about the character upon seeing an actor of such repute emerging from the flying saucer. Blaustein knew that Zanuck had the ultimate control, and if he insisted, Blaustein would either have to resign, or make the movie in an unsatisfactory way. Fortunately, Zanuck agreed, and Rennie was cast instead.
 
Bernard Herrmann used two Theremins to create his creepy score, one pitched higher, the other lower, making this one of the first films to feature a largely electronic score. The musical score by Herrmann was what inspired Danny Elfman to be a composer.
 
To increase the sense of reality, some of the most famous broadcast journalists of the time were hired to do cameos as themselves. These included Gabriel Heatter, H.V. Kaltenborn, and Drew Pearson.
 
To give the appearance of seamlessness to the space ship, the crack around the door was filled with putty, then painted over. When the door opened, the putty was torn apart, making the door seem to simply appear. To depict the seamless closing of the ship and its ramp, they just reversed the film of the shot of the ship’s ramp and door appearing
 
In line with the film’s Christian allegory, Klaatu adopts the name "Carpenter" when hiding out from the authorities. Robert Wise hadn’t considered the Christian implications until it was pointed out to him several years later.
 
Patricia Neal has admitted in interviews that she was completely unaware during the filming that the film would turn out so well, and become one of the great science-fiction classics of all time. She assumed it would be just another one of the then-current and rather trashy flying saucer films, and she found it difficult to keep a straight face while saying her lines.
 
The Army refused to cooperate after reading the script. The National Guard had no such qualms and gladly offered their cooperation.
 
The crowds were made up of local government employees, including some from the FBI offices, who were asked to participate in the film. No releases were required of employees.
 
Writer Edmund H. North was a former army officer who wrote the script in response to the proliferation of nuclear weapons during the Cold War.
 
Doubles were used for Klaatu and Bobby in long shots of them walking around Washington, DC. In reality, none of the principal cast ever went to Washington, and the scenes with Klaatu and Bobby at the Lincoln Memorial and at Arlington Cemetery were shot in front of background screens using footage shot by the second unit crew in Washington, DC.
 
Although he was already signed to play the Einstein-like Professor Barnhardt, the studio wanted to remove Sam Jaffe as a result of the political witch hunts that were then underway. Producer Julian Blaustein appealed to studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck. Zanuck allowed Jaffe to play the role, but it would be Jaffe’s last Hollywood film until the late 1950s.
 
The role of Gort was played by Lock Martin, the doorman from Grauman’s Chinese Theater, because he was extremely tall. However, he was unable to pick up Helen because he was so weak and had to be aided by wires (in shots from the back where he’s carrying her, it’s actually a lightweight dummy in his arms). He also had difficulty with the heavy Gort suit and could only stay in it for about a half hour at a time.
 
The phrase "Klaatu barada nikto" has become a popular phrase among sci-fi fans over the years and has been featured in other movies, such as "Army of Darkness" (1992).
 
The scene of the large crowd fleeing the saucer area after Gort appears is all too obviously "sped up" film, making the shot look unnatural. The reason for the sped up film effect was explained by director Robert Wise in an interview. It seems that, despite much pleading and cajoling from him, the crowd of inexperienced extras portraying the saucer onlookers simply wouldn’t move away from the saucer quickly enough to look panicky and convincing. After several takes, Wise finally had to move on with filming and reluctantly allowed the scene to be "sped up" in post production, knowing that the end result would probably look strange.

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A credit agency collects credit information about a business or an individual. They then assign a value to their credit which indicates the worthiness of the credit. A high score means they have good credit while a lower score means their credit has problems that must be addressed for the score to improve.

What Is a Credit Report and Why Is It Important?

Your credit report is a compilation of information about the way you handle debt. It includes information about how much debt you’ve accumulated, how you pay your bills, where you live, where you work, whether you’ve filed bankruptcy, and whether you’ve had a home foreclosed or vehicle repossessed. If it sounds like your credit report contains a lot of information, that’s because it does.

How Does Information Get On Your Credit Report?

Credit reports are maintained by businesses known as credit bureaus or credit reporting agencies. Companies that you do business with have agreed to send your debt information to credit bureaus who then update that information in your credit report. Most of your credit card and loan accounts are updated on your credit report monthly.

Some businesses don’t update your credit report until you’ve been seriously delinquent on your payments. For example, your cable bill isn’t automatically included in your credit report, but if you fall more than six months behind on your payments, the bill might be listed on your credit report as a debt collection. It is important to fix credit items that are derogatory, because these are going to bring down your overall score.

What Type of Information is Included In Credit Reports?

Credit reports include basic identifying information like your name, address, and place of employment.

Your credit report contains detailed information about your credit cards and loans. For credit cards, your balance, credit limit, account type, account status, and payment history are all included on your credit report. Loan balances, original loan amount, and payment history appear on your credit report.

Public records like bankruptcy, foreclosure, repossessions, and tax liens are listed on your credit report. You should file a credit dispute to challenge the accuracy of any item you believe is in error.

Credit reports include a list of businesses that have recently checked your credit history either as a result of an application you made or a promotional screening.

You Can (and Should) Check Your Credit Report

You should order your credit report at least once a year to make sure the information listed on it is correct. If you suspect you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you should monitor your credit report more frequently. You can order your credit report in a few ways: for free through a website the government set up for that purpose, for free via a promotional offer, or by purchasing from one of the three credit bureaus.

Credit reports include a list of businesses that have recently checked your credit history either as a result of an application you made or a promotional screening.

Why Your Credit Report is Important?

A variety of businesses check your credit report to make decisions about you. Banks check your credit report before approving you for credit cards and loans, including a mortgage or auto loan. Landlords review your credit report to decide whether to rent to you. Some employers check credit reports as part of the application process. Your credit report affects many parts of your life, so it’s important that the information included is accurate and positive.

If you find that you have bad credit listings on your report it is important to correct these listings immediately. You can do this yourself or you can hire a professional credit repair service to work on your behalf.

For more about how you can repair your credit and clean credit from your credit files with the bureaus by filling a credit dispute visit us.

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