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Mr. Michael : My hon. Friend makes a good case for the virility of the Labour party in being able to debate issues strongly in local communities in south Wales, and he is right to emphasise that. The Labour county council took the initial risk of the investment to build the new county headquarters and Atlantic wharf. They took that risk at an early stage and everything else has followed from that investment. That is why the scheme has been described as a Labour initiative.
Mr. Davies : If it was that much of a risk, I am sure that those concerned would have been surcharged by now by the district auditor. We appreciate what my hon. Friend says and we applaud what south Glamorgan has done. But it is not south Glamorgan's scheme. It is Nick Edwards' brainchild and those hon. Members who were here before 1987 know what Nick Edwards was about. He was concerned with the exploitation of the environment in his involvement in multinational mining companies. As far back as 1972 he was christened "Globtik Nick" because of his involvement in attempts to improve the marine environment in west Wales, when his companies were polluting our natural environment. He has now opted out, and is chairman of the National Rivers Authority.
I believe that the barrage will fail, and perhaps we should make it clear that our objective is to kill it. Let no
Column 261one be in any doubt about that. I believe that it will be discredited as the measure proceeds through Parliament, and I shall ensure that every possible method of objection is used during its passage through the House. I believe that either the funding will be withdrawn and it will be seen to be unrealistic, or that in two or three years' time a Labour Government will withdraw funding from the scheme. Whatever happens tonight and whatever happens to the Bill, the barrage will never be built.
If the barrage is built, it will go down in history as a monumental folly. In the 1960s the experts told us that we could solve our housing problems by building high-rise intensive developments on green field sites in the valleys of south Wales. Not one Member who represents the valleys could fail to give examples of such estates to show how we now recognise the mistakes that were made in the 1960s. The experts told us then that that was the way to regenerate. Indeed, for the past 30 years the so-called experts have been telling us about the importance of nuclear power. We now recognise what a monumental folly nuclear power has been. The barrage is the latest instalment in that series of mistakes.
I urge hon. Members to ask themselves, as they vote on this issue, how they will justify to future generations--we are all family people--giving support to a scheme which took an area classified as having the highest environmental value and destroying it to create at best a lake of dubious value for no economic justification, simply to provide glitzy housing, which is how the scheme is described by the South Glamorgan promoters. The chief executive of South Glamorgan has gone on record as saying that the scheme is about glitzy housing. Presumably the philosophy is that we could have the barrage and the lake, and then the developers could arrive to build Barratt and Wimpey homes, thereby providing glitzy housing so that the yuppies can flood into Cardiff, live in those nice little houses looking over the lake and thereby bring economic regeneration to the heartland of Cardiff.
How shall we justify that to generations yet unborn, when the price that we are having to pay for it is the destruction of a vital part of our environment? Such beliefs have no values other than those of materialism. They have no objectives other than consumption. They consider no obligation to the wider community and they recognise no responsibility to future generations. That is why we oppose the motion.
There has been no evaluation of the environmental costs. My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells) and I have intensive quarrying interests in our constituencies. When we are told about the environmental impact of the scheme, we are entitled to ask where the materials for it will come from. Clearly, they will come from our constituencies. The developers will rip the heart out of Garth woods, another site of special scientific interest, to get the building materials they need. They will rip the heart out of the limestone and sandstone quarrying areas of the valleys to construct the barrage.
Dr. Kim Howells (Pontypridd) : Could that be the reason why Mid- Glamorgan has refused permission for the quarrying company in question to extend its quarry, whereas South Glamorgan council has deferred making a decision on the quarry, possibly until the end of this and similar debates?
Professor Pearce had a message for us when he presented his report to the Government in the summer. I would be happy for the barrage scheme to be evaluated along the lines of the principles which Professor Pearce suggested. There would then be an evaluation of the true environmental costs. It would put a value on the energy consumption of such a scheme, on the raw materials used and on the alternative projects that could be developed. If the barrage was being provided for reasons of overwhelming national importance or even overwhelming regional importance, or if there were proven reasons for the regeneration of Cardiff, we would have to consider our position. However, the arguments for the barrage are specious. It is simply to provide an opportunity for glitzy housing and we are entitled to say, "Look at the environmental costs."
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) rose --
Mr. Cryer : I assure my hon. Friend that the Bill has not gone unnoticed in Bradford. A constituent of mine who is a member of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has urged me to examine the Bill. She is also concerned about the environmental impact of the Bill upon birdlife in her area. Perhaps my hon. Friend will comment on that because she has expressed great anxiety in cogent terms. [Interruption.]
I should like to put on record the view of the RSPB :
"The RSPB, and other wildlife conservation bodies including the Glamorgan Wildlife Trust and the Royal Society for Nature Conservation, are opposed to the barrage proposal since it will permanently flood the intertidal lands that provide important feeding grounds for 5,000-8,000 wild birds which regularly use Cardiff Bay in Winter.
Cardiff Bay is of high wildlife importance and has been notified, by the Nature Conservancy Council, as a Site of Special Scientific Interest under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
In biological terms, the bay is an integral part of the wider Severn estuary which is of international importance for shelduck, redshank, knot and dunlin and meets the criteria for protection under the European Community Directive on the Convervation of Wild Birds and the Ramsar Convention on the Conservation of Wetlands." Therefore, we are talking about a site of special scientific interest. This is the first occasion since the Wildlife and Countryside Act was passed that we have had a Government-sponsored scheme that will destroy, in its entirety, a site of special scientific interest-- [Interruption.] I can hear my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) muttering away. As I said, this is the first time that a Government-sponsored scheme has proposed the destruction of a site of special scientific interest in its entirety. I am concerned because there may be other such proposals in the future.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth might say that, although it is a site of special scientific interest, there are overriding conditions and therefore we must sacrifice it. If we do not object to this proposal, hon. Members will not be able to object to the next one or the one after that. The principle must be established that a site of special scientific interest is just
Column 263that. We do not assess it--that decision is made by the Government's specialist advisers--so who are we to say that we should sacrifice this site? If we do so, we will have to be prepared to sacrifice all the others.
Mr. Michael rose--
We have international responsibilities towards wildlife. We all hold up our hands in horror at the destruction of the rain forests in South America. We all make the case for the preservation of the African elephant and we argue for the wilderness of Antarctica. However, if we expect others in this world of ours to recognise their responsibilities, we have to recognise ours.
Our islands have a unique environment. We have broad ice-free estuaries which offer a unique opportunity to the migrating wildfowl throughout the north Atlantic. That is our contribution to international conservation. If we want to argue that others should fulfil their responsibilities, we must put our hands on our hearts and recognise our international responsibilities. We are bound by our commitment to Europe and an international convention to protect this area, yet we are proposing to destroy it to build glitzy housing.
habitat--Collister Pill in Magor--was destroyed by drainage patterns. The birds in the Severn estuary found alternative habitats. Does my hon. Friend agree that the relative population of the birds in the estuary--I understand that it is less than the bird population in Chichester harbour-- is light? There are big mud flats and wetlands on both sides of the estuary and the birds, which are more robust in finding alternative habitats than has been suggested, would find them. My hon. Friend is taking a pessimistic view of the likely result.
Mr. Flynn rose--
If the Bill is passed and the barrage is constructed, we will be removing a habitat and would kill the migratory wildfowl that depend on the harbour just as surely as if we were shooting or poisoning them. The irony is that if we were shooting or poisoning them, there would be uproar.
Mr. Flynn rose --
Column 264I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the view of the Nature Conservancy Council. It is independent and objective. It petitioned against the Bill when it was presented to the House in 1987, and it is now further resolved in its objections to it-- [Interruption.] Hon. Members should go away and find out the facts. The Nature Conservancy Council is opposed to the Bill because it thinks that we are abdicating our international responsibilities.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth introduced the motion, he suggested that both South Glamorgan and the development corporation would look for an alternative site. I understand that they have done that, but I have to destroy that hope in case hon. Members might think it a possibility. They are proposing to scoop out the lagoon up the estuary from the bay. It is only 10 per cent. of the size of the tidal mudflats that will be destroyed. Given the habitat around the margins, in terms of providing alternative feeding grounds it will be virtually useless. There are two other considerations. No one yet knows how to construct alternative feeding grounds. They will be unable to construct the unique environment that currently exists in the bay. It is washed at high tide and drained by two rivers bringing in high levels of nutrients to fertilise the mud and provide the invertebrates on which the birds will live. They do not know how to do that. They say that we should maintain it. In practice, that means that every year or two someone will come along--presumably in a JCB-- to scoop out the mud, dump it in the Severn estuary and say to the birds, "There's your environment back." It is nonsense to suggest that. If South Glamorgan or the development corporation are serious about providing alternative habitats, they must come up with something better than what has been proposed so far.
I conclude by expressing the hope that the argument
Mr. Davies : I could continue for a long time. The hon. Gentleman intervened earlier and I replied to his point. He did the House a discourtesy, however, by leaving his place. I can do without his churlish interjections from his seat below the Gangway on the Government Benches.
I do not want to turn the debate into a valleys versus Cardiff confrontation. I know that all my hon. Friends who represent constituencies in the valleys oppose the Bill, and I hope that they will have the opportunity to speak against it.
Mr. Davies : I shall not give way to my hon. Friend. I do not wish to be discourteous to her, but she represents a constituency a long way from the areas that will be affected by the Bill. I know that she has a long family tradition in my constituency, but she knows that in this place we represent the constituents who elect us. We speak for the people who elect us, not the people whom our fathers or forefathers represented.
Column 265time. I worked in Cardiff and I worked at Cardiff bay at the Hamadryad hospital. I saw the environment in which people worked. I do not forget. My memory is long. I am proud of Cardiff and I hope that the Bill will be carried. I want Cardiff to be a city of which we can all be ecstatically proud.
Mr. Davies : I was right in my initial judgment not to give way to my hon. Friend. She presented us with an interesting anecdote, but nothing more. As I said, we represent the constituents who elect us. I accept that my hon. Friend has a history of contact with the south Wales valleys, but she represents an English constituency and she must speak for that constituency.
Mr. Davies : Be quiet, Llin, and give the rest of us a chance. I do not want to turn the discussion into a valleys versus Cardiff argument. I recognise that Cardiff is the capital of Wales, and we respect Cardiff as the regional capital. It is the regional economic and financial capital for us in the valleys. We want it to prosper and we shall support any measures that will allow the regeneration of derelict uplands and bring renewed prosperity to the valleys. It is folly, however, to believe that that can be done at the expense of our natural heritage. To believe that is to make a monumental mistake, but that is what the Bill proposes. Those issues have not been addressed in the Bill's passage through Parliament. That is why I believe that we should call a halt to this nonsense.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Ian Grist) : The House will appreciate how much I, as a Cardiff Member, should like to participate in the debate. In the circumstances, I think that it would be more helpful if I were briefly to state the Government's position.
The Government have a substantial interest in the Bill's objectives, as it is the intention that the cost of building the barrage will be met by the development corporation, with the assistance of grant in aid provided by the Welsh Office. The proposal clearly raises many important economic, technical and environmental issues, and these have given rise to understandable concerns that will need to be considered properly and carefully. The best way of doing that is surely to allow the Bill to proceed to the new Session.
Mr. Rowlands : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister intervened as a Minister of the Crown and not as a Cardiff Member. He stated that the Government and his Department have a substantial interest in the Bill, inasmuch as the Department will produce the grant for the development corporation. The Minister has not told us anything about the cost implications for central Government expenditure. Surely he has a duty to the House to make an estimate of the cost implications. It is a matter of considerable concern.
Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda) : I would be sad if hon. Members should interfere, in a sense, in what is essentially a discussion between colleagues in south Wales and introduce bad temper. We are anxious to resolve an honest difference of opinion that affects our constituencies in different ways. We do not need lessons from anyone on how we relate to Cardiff. Those of us who live in valley constituencies have recently had to undergo dramatic experiences as a result of the contraction of the coal industry. We are most anxious, therefore, that all schemes in south Wales that will provide jobs are undertaken.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) was right when he said that many people travel from the valley communities into Cardiff. Indeed, the wealth of Cardiff was built on valley constituencies. That was done at the time when the father of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding) was the branch secretary of the Penallta colliery. As a miner and union official, he contributed substantially to the well-being of my village, which is where my hon. Friend was brought up. That is one example of why we do not want a bad- tempered discussion.
It must be accepted that there are valid objections to the Bill. I am in favour of the development of south Cardiff and the docklands. There are no ifs and buts about that. However, it is utterly beyond me to understand why a barrage has to be built. If a minor barrage were built near the Hamadryad hospital, for example, extra land would be available to add substantially to what is in the docklands, but the building of the proposed barrage would not add one acre on which factories or offices could be built. It would provide mooring spaces for boats in a marina. A knock-on effect on the valleys was mooted at one stage, but I cannot visualise many people from the Rhondda rushing to park their boats in a marina in Cardiff.
After all, we are Barry boys. When I was a young kid, the best trips I had were one from the chapel and one from the club down to Barry. I suppose that from now on the people from Rhondda will be going to Cardiff to sail their boats from the Marina. If an argument can be advanced that there is a shortage of mooring places in south Wales, I shall support the Bill on that basis. That argument is not advanced, but many others are.
I began to be interested in the Bill when I was invited to attend a symposium of the Institution of Civil Engineers. As an engineering geologist, I received the accompanying technical document with personal interest. I went to the symposium and met a finely collected bunch of people. The previous Secretary of State for Wales, Lord Crickhowell, was there as a sort of appointee. He held forth and entertained us extremely well. I am not complaining about that. Towards the end of the meeting I got up and asked what I thought were reasonable technical questions. Thereafter I was assailed for daring to speak out against the project. I was accused of being valley-minded. Some people who have left the valleys think that that
Column 267means small-minded, but we who live in the valleys with our great traditions of culture take pride in being called valley minded. I thought that something wrong was going on, so I asked the Cardiff Bay development corporation some questions. Before ever there was any talk about birds or the RSPB, I wrote to the corporation in all good faith asking about the surveys. Back came the answers : they were not finished. I asked about groundwater and hydrological surveys ; they were not finished either. The geological surveys had not been finished. In other words, the whole civil engineering part of the Bill was predicated on surveys that had not been carried out or had been inadequately carried out.
I would not object to carrying over the Bill if my fears had been satisfied, but they have not been. To be sure, a comprehensive report was done by paid consultant geologists or civil engineers. These independent experts have driven a horse and cart through some of the arguments, which do not stand up to examination.
I began to become a little suspicious about what was driving the motor, so I thought I would take a look at the engine. Then I received an invitation as, I am sure, did other hon. Members. I remember when Associated British Ports brought in a Bill and laid on a champagne supper for Conservative Members who bothered to turn up to support the company. The promoters of this Bill have gone further. Any hon. Member who would like to visit Cardiff can be looked after and can stay the weekend there at the expense of the promoters.
Mr. Rogers : The company has written to every Member for Parliament offering to pay their expenses while in Cardiff. This puts the validity of the Bill in question. I am sure that none of my hon. Friends would be a party to such corruption, although I do not know about Conservative Members, who take a slightly different attitude to these matters.
I am not against the development of Cardiff docklands
Mr. Barry Porter : If this is all as daft as the hon. Gentleman says, does it not follow that most of the members of Cardiff city council are daft and incompetent, that South Glamorgan county council is daft and incompetent and that at least half of his hon. Friends who represent south Wales are daft? I find that terribly difficult to believe.
Mr. Rogers : I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has links with Associated British Ports, but I am worried about his interests in this matter--it is rather unusual for him to be here at this time of night.
I have reservations about some of the people involved with the Bill. For instance, Lord Crickhowell was the initial promoter of the scheme, and his peculiar position in all this has already been described by my hon. Friends. He browbeat the county council and the city council by telling them that they were going to have this urban development corporation--with or without local government representation. It is only fair to point out that it took what was on offer. Then the noble Lord became the chairman of the the National Rivers Authority. One of the problems about
Column 268the barrage is that it could lead to pollution in a quantity that no one has yet properly surveyed. The Taff and Ely rivers drain in behind the barrage, the Taff combining with the Rhondda and other tributaries. These are two of the fastest rising rivers in the United Kingdom.
I am not a civil engineer or hydrologist, but I have been involved in such schemes and I know enough to realise that there are doubts about whether this scheme, as proposed, will allow the pollution to be taken away. Lord Crickhowell is a director of Associated British Ports, which is strange, when we consider that the main beneficiaries of the scheme and the main land owners in Cardiff bay are not the local authority--Labour-controlled or otherwise--or the people of Cardiff but Associated British Ports, which owns at least 160 acres. So the previous Secretary of State, Lord Crickhowell, originally promoted the scheme, then became chairman of the National Rivers Authority and is also a director of Associated British Ports. If he carries on in these circles he might well disappear--if he does, I suggest that the seagulls mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) may help him to do it.
The people of Cardiff want jobs, and it is certain that my constituents will also work in the project, but there is plenty of land where the dockyards are now. The vice-chairman of the development corporation, Lord Brooks, and I go back many years, to the time when the docklands consisted of a vibrant community of mixed races and cultures. He has been closely associated with the area and wants to develop it in the same way as does my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael). We do not disagree. I do not think that jobs going to Cardiff will be taken from the valleys.
Mr. Michael : Does my hon. Friend agree that the House of Lords Select Committee accepted the economic argument for the necessity of the barrage ; that the NRA accepts that its job is to ensure that the water quality is adequate and meets the requirements of the Bill ; and that for that reason the Bill should be carried over so that these matters can be tested properly in Committee?
Mr. Rogers : Because the Bill is in such a bad state, it should be taken away and brought back. It is riddled with holes and inaccuracies. The Select Committee was very worried about the pollution from foul, untreated sewage and industrial effluents deposited in the bay by the rivers Taff and Ely. Swimming will be banned. Not so long ago someone fell off a raft in the middle of the Taff and died of Weil's disease, which is associated with rats' urine. That sounds like a case for the NRA. If the National Rivers Authority is so worried about pollution after the barrage is built it is about time it became worried now because there are already great problems of pollution.
I have grave doubts about the need for the scheme. The only argument in favour of the barrage is that it will provide a waterscape to attract business and housing--in other words, we cannot have a factory in south Wales unless we provide a marina ; we cannot have houses unless we provide a marina. The Government continually say that they are doing wonders for the south Wales economy and have attracted new industries to it. But the Cardiff barrage has not yet been built, so why is it needed?
How much capital funding will be put into the Welsh Office? Will the Minister give us an assurance that that capital funding will come from the Government and not be
Column 269taken out of the allocation for Wales? If the barrage, which will provide a marina for yuppie boats, means that we cannot have vital infrastructure developments in the valleys where in some parts unemployment stands at 80 per cent., I will vote against the Bill all the way. However, if the Government intend only to finance infrastructure development in the dockland area, I will support it. The Bill's promoters sent Members of Parliament a leaflet entitled "Groundwater. The Facts". That is a ridiculous parody of the facts. For example, it says :
"Groundwater does not rise above ground level so cannot flood streets and open spaces."
That simply is not true. Groundwater does rise above surface level. That is how springs come out of the side of mountains. Groundwater does come to the surface. The intersection of the water table and the surface means that water will issue. If the groundwater is raised sufficiently, it will cause flooding. The leaflet is nonsense. That is why the report commissioned by the development corporation is itself technological nonsense.
The leaflet goes on to ask :
"Will the barrage increase the risk of flooding?"
We should not forget that we are talking about thousands of ordinary people. My hon. Friends the Members for Cardiff, South and Penarth and for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) may argue about whose homes will be flooded, but I will vote against any measure that will flood just one home. In my constituency, because of the precipitate nature of water run-off, people are affected by flooding, and when filthy water and sludge goes into a house and destroys a home it is a traumatic experience for the people who live there. If thousands are affected, there will be a thousand traumatic experiences. We should bear that in mind. It is not a matter of saying that only a few people or a few birds will be affected.
Although there will be no floods, a flood warning scheme will be set up. The leaflet says that the
"Flood Warning Scheme will allow swollen rivers to be let out to the sea without adversely affecting water levels in the rivers." There has been a reasonable estimate that the level of waters feeding into the barrage area will rise by at least2 ft. The north end of Cardiff, west Cardiff and Cardiff Arms park have had substantial flood prevention schemes over the years because of the problems of flooding, but there will now be flooding from below, not necessarily from surcharge over the river banks.
Mr. Michael indicated dissent.
The leaflet says that if a person's basement becomes damp, it can be filled in and a new damp-proof floor will be provided.
Mr. Michael rose --
Mr. Rogers : No, I shall not give way. [Interruption.] It is all right for my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) to mutter away. I am reading the promoters' hand-out. I shall pass it to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth later.