Ministers keep a low profile after Royal criticism of their handling of flood response

River defence barriers are put in place as the river Avon in Bristol. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

No sign of Owen Paterson tonight.

As Prince Charles' words ring in the ears of ministers in Westminster, the Environment Secretary won't go before our cameras.

Nor will his junior ministers.

Dan Rogerson was next to Own Paterson in the House of Commons as he answered questions on the floods yesterday.

The floods minister, Dan Rogerson was actually in Somerset today.

Not that we were told. ITV News happened to spot him on his return to London.

Would we have liked an interview with him? Of course. But they wouldn't even tell us where he was.The government's emergency committee, COBRA, met again tonight over the weather threat (more heavy rain is expected tonight and tomorrow).

But ministers did not meet in person. They held a "teleconference" meeting.

Convenient. It meant that Owen Paterson or the Environment Agency bosses were in no risk of bumping into one of our TV crews on their way to or from.

What are we to read into it all?

That the government knows it's on the back foot. But it simply can't risk a public confrontation with a member of the Royal Household.

Today the Prime Minister again called the situation "unacceptable." But if it's unacceptable - who made it so?

The unprecedented rain did. Of course.

But the people of the Somerset Levels will tell you the response from Environment Agency has been "unacceptable" and the government cuts to its budgets have not helped.

Nor did the decision before the floods not to dredge the rivers they wanted dredged.

So how has a Royal visitor made it to the flood-hit area but the Environment Agency top team has not?

The Prince of Wales arrives in Muchelney in Somerset. Credit: Jack Hill/The Times/PA Wire

Lord Chris Smith, chairman? No visit since the floods.

Paul Leinster, chief executive? No visit since the floods.

But don't expect that will last. I predict they will be there within days. I am told a visit is imminent.

Although if I were them, I'd take some protection.

The views expressed by Prince Charles today - are matched by those of farmers and homeowners in the flood hit area.

But you can be sure their words will be much less diplomatic than their royal visitor.

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