ENERGY Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has defended the Government’s “reasonable response” to Storm Arwen, as he revealed it took three days to start taking action on power outages in Scottish homes.

Winds of 100mph caused widespread disruption, uprooted trees and damaged power lines, cutting the electricity supply from November 26, with the north of England and north-east of Scotland particularly badly affected.

More than 200,000 homes were left without power, with outages lasting for 10 days in some areas.

In the wake of the mass power cuts, Kwarteng (below) described the delay in reconnecting the electricity supply as “completely unacceptable” and agreed to launch a review into the energy network’s resilience, alongside one being carried out by the regulator, Ofgem.

The National:

He revealed there was a three-day delay in the government's response to the energy supply crisis to some homes while ministers determined the severity of the situation. 

Kwarteng said: "The storm happened on the Saturday, we had to ee where we were on the Monday, on the Tuesday we started engaging with other stakeholders - particularly the distribution network operators [DNOs] - to see what their issues were. 

"There were some communication issues with some of the DNOs, because in some early instances, they were underplaying the extent of the damage."

Giving evidence to Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee on Tuesday morning, Kwarteng criticised the communication of some energy network operators, suggesting they had been “underplaying the extent of the damage” when estimating when power would return to people’s homes.

Pete Wishart, the committee chair, said a Cobra meeting should have been called immediately after the storm hit and accused the government response of lacking urgency.

Wishart said: "We knew the impact of the storm and the damage it had created once it got to Scotland on the Saturday morning. 

"At that point, it should have been apparent to the UK government that urgent action was required. 

"The expectation was that Cobra would be called.

"If this was a national emergency that would have been the best way to deal with it. 

"A statement was delivered in the House of Commons on the Tuesday, three days after the storm had hit the UK.

"If urgent action was required you would expect that to be delivered urgently - there wasn't any sense this was the case at all."

He also said the deployment of troops to support communities happened rapidly once military assistance had been requested, but rejected the idea that their involvement should have happened sooner.

“It was an extreme event and in any extreme event you have to take at least a couple of days to see what the full extent of the damage was and then, once we had worked that out, I think we acted with a great deal of speed,” Kwarteng said.

He added: “You can always act more quickly and with more expedition, but I think given where we were in the moment, I think it was a reasonable response.”

But, challenged about lengthy delays in restoring power to some homes, Kwarteng said: “In this day and age in a country like ours, power outages of more than three days are unacceptable really, we can’t pretend, we can’t sugarcoat that.

“I apologise to everybody who had that hardship and I think we could do a lot better.”

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Kwarteng was asked directly by committee member Mhairi Black if he thought climate change would risk events like Storm Arwen becoming more frequent but he dodged the question.

Black said: “I welcome the fact that the minister appreciated the devastation Storm Arwen caused in Scotland, and seemed to confirm that the government will accept, and work to improve any failures identified in the coming Ofgem and government reviews.”

It seems obvious to me that given the current climate crisis the government should be considering whether these kinds of storms will become more frequent or likely.

"Unfortunately, the minister did not give the impression that this was being seriously considered.”

Asked about how quickly the military was called upon, Kwarteng said: “It’s not the job of an army to deal with every civil contingency as they arise.

“I think we have a very good system where we rely on local knowledge, local responsibility, and where the local resilience fora make a request, that request is acceded to.

“I wouldn’t want to live in a country where the military took decisions on deployment willy-nilly. I don’t think that that makes any sense.

“We have to rely on local intelligence, we’re a democracy, we’re not a military authority or authoritarian Government.”