GOVERNMENT Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, has said dredging will be "ready to start" from the end of March depending on the pace at which floodwater recedes.

Mr Pickles, who is departmental secretary for Communities and Local Government, was speaking today in a Westminster debate on flooding in the House of Commons.

In his statement to the House, Mr Pickles said: "The government has announced that the dredging of the Somerset Levels will be ready to start from the end of March, providing water levels drop.

"Dredging will take place in a 8 kilometre section from where the Tone and the Parrett rivers meet.

"It's not a miracle cure but it recognises that mistakes were made and needed to be changed.

"Sometimes the state should say sorry, and that's exactly what we've done."

The Secretary of State also used his speech "to reiterate that every resource is available to local communities affected. 

"We will keep providing whatever immediate practical support and assistance is needed, whether that's extra pumps and sandbags, military support on the ground, or emergency funds for local councils."

Taunton Deane MP Jeremy Browne and Ian Liddell-Grainger, MP for Bridgwater, Minehead and Exmoor, both put questions to Mr Pickles regarding the "long-term task of clearing up the floods."

Mr Browne, Liberal Democrat, asked: "Will he (Eric Pickles) be able to provide reassurance to my constituents that the A361, which is the principal road from Taunton into the middle of Somerset, will be passable once the floodwater has receded, because the nervousness among many of my constituents is that even when the water has dissipated, the state of the road will mean that they will not be able to travel along it."

Mr Pickles responded: "The Rt Hon. Gentleman obviously recognises the problem with the road being submerged for some time - particularly with potholes, the surface will rise. 

"But we will be looking at that, and clearly it's very important, and of national importance, that's the road is put back into operation as quickly as possible."