I should have come home earlier from Barbados, admits floods chief


The chairman of the Environment Agency has said he wished he had returned earlier from a Christmas holiday in Barbados to help deal with flooding in northern England.

Sir Philip Dilley has faced criticism for holidaying in the Caribbean over Christmas while more flooding hit parts of England, and for a statement put out by the Environment Agency suggesting he was at home with his family.

Sir Philip told MPs on the parliamentary Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that he was in Cumbria during the flooding in the county caused by Storm Desmond in early December.

He said the severity of subsequent flooding became apparent on Boxing Day, and he was in regular contact with senior staff at the Environment Agency.

He started to look at options for returning on December 27, and flew back on December 29, arriving on December 30.

"Could I have come back earlier by one or two days, with hindsight do I wish I had? Yes. But I don't feel guilty of leaving it many weeks," he said.

"In hindsight it would have been better if I'd come back as soon as I could," he admitted and said it was "one of my biggest regrets" that the focus on him had detracted from what really mattered - the people who were affected.

He denied that staff had advised him not to go away over the Christmas period and took responsibility for the statement put out by the Environment Agency that said he was at home, when he was in Barbados.

"I saw it, I approved it, it's my problem," he told MPs, adding that he had a family home in the Caribbean, and worked from there.

His absence had not detracted from the Environment Agency's performance, he said, but admitted the communications effort could have been better.

And he said he would learn lessons from the events.