LONDON, England, Thursday December 31, 2015 – A trip to Barbados while the worst storms in decades caused flooding in Britain has put the head of Britain’s Environment Agency (EA) under scrutiny, and he is expected to face tough questions about it next week.
Sir Philip Dilley returned to the UK yesterday, after a two-week holiday that earned him media criticism and a summons to appear before the committee of MPs that appointed him as EA chairman. He will have to answer questions on the agency’s response to the floods and his decision to go to Barbados at the time he did.
When he took up the job as EA chairman, Sir Philip had criticized his predecessor for his tardiness in visiting the flood hit Somerset Levels in 2013. He said the response in a flooding crisis should be to “show great interest and turn up in your wellingtons very early on”.
But instead of doing that, The Telegraph newspaper reported, he was “basking in 30°C sunshine in the Caribbean at his holiday home near the world famous Sandy Lane Resort”.
When he returned to the UK yesterday, Sir Philip visited some of the areas in northern England affected by the floods.
Responding to questions from journalists – who were waiting outside his home earlier in the day – about his holiday and whether he felt Barbados was the best place to be given the flooding back home, Sir Philip said he had been “in very close contact with a whole number of people” and “everybody can’t be everywhere at the same time”.
“I think we’ve been very effective and efficient in what we’ve been doing,” he added.
The environment committee is expected to question Sir Philip next Wednesday.
Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick said Sir Philip would open himself up to “all manner of questions”.