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Column 270"What is the present groundwater level? It varies throughout Cardiff but is much lower underground than in many parts of Britain."
That is a lie. Groundwater is much lower underground in many parts of Britain. Water tables in any area go up and down with the rainwater. In the summer they decline and in the winter they go up. Wherever there are rivers and streams there is groundwater. There is no such thing as an average level. It is misleading to suggest that the groundwater level in Cardiff is much lower underground than in many parts of Britain.
The document is open to question, but those are the facts on which the Bill went through the other place. A report from Wallace Evans for the consultants has been quoted. It is entitled, "Groundwater investigations. Final report. First issue, April 1989." That is riddled with inaccuracies. I am not saying that the problems cannot be overcome, but there is no need for them.
Cardiff can have its development. The development corporation can have its development. Jobs can be brought to the area and houses can be built. But there is no need to block up two river mouths. It will provide only a waterscape and parking space for boats.
Penarth is one of the most beautiful spots in south Wales. Many of my constituents go there at weekends. They visit Barry and the Vale of Glamorgan. Why spoil it for the sake of providing a parking space for boats?
Dr. Kim Howells (Pontypridd) : I fully understand right hon. and hon. Members' desire to do something for the docklands of Cardiff. It is one of the most devastated areas in Wales. Moreover, it suffered badly from architectral and sociological scarring in the 1960s, when some other bright promoters had an idea about modifying the docks in a particular way. They thought that they had the answer to all the troubles of the area by putting the population there into high-rise blocks, and we are still paying the price for that innovation. That was a terrible crime against the area and I hope that the House will bear it in mind when it comes to make a decision.
I must declare a direct interest in the matter. The proposed barrage is designed to trap the River Taff that flows past my front window--after which we are all named. I know the River Taff well. As a child I swam in its loveliest tributary, the Cynon. In its upper reaches, it was a beautiful Welsh stream, barely tainted by the collieries and works above it. However, three decades later, I doubt whether many parents who live along the banks of the Taff, the Cynon, the Rhondda, or any of the other tributaries, would relish their children even playing along the banks of the river, let alone swimming in it.
The river is now filthy. Its unkempt banks are festooned with all manner of discarded materials, from sanitary ware to leaflets promoting the virtues of the poll tax. They have been carried downstream to their temporary resting places by waters that are regularly subject to large infusions of raw and partly treated sewage from the treatment plants of the Welsh water authority--which, as has already been pointed out, was appointed by Lord Crickhowell in his previous capacity as Secretary of State for Wales. He now presides over the National Rivers Authority, which is supposed to ensure that companies such as Welsh Water clean up their operations and desist from fouling our streams and rivers.
I must admit that I have little confidence in the prospect of such clean- ups while the companies and authorities
Column 271involved display more evidence of incest in their origins than did the Borgias. The so-called derogations granted to the water authorities by the Government mean that they can put off their clean-ups for considerable periods of time. Meanwhile, stinking flows the Taff, miserable are the views that it provides, and scientifically fascinating is the quality of its water and the debris that it bears down to the proposed site for the barrage.
Let us take, for example, the phenomenon of discarded doors--not normally a species associated with the flora and fauna of our rivers and streams. The Taff is rich in these aquatic phenomena. Every time that the river rises-- and in Wales it does so frequently--they float down from the fine communities of Merthyr, Aberdare and Rhondda, skipping across the flood waves of cream foam from the sewage works. The doors are evidence of the Welsh people's excellent preoccupation with the philosophy of recycling : they are often used as fences on allotments, which almost always back on to rivers. They are the only flat pieces of ground in the valleys. When the rivers rise, down come the doors ; and where do they end up? If the barrage is built, they will end up upstream of it.
I am not suggesting that the Bill's promoters have made financial arrangements with allotment holders in an attempt to use the Taff in the way in which Canadian lumberjacks use their rivers, floating timber downstream in preparation for the construction of the barrage. Discarded doors would almost certainly not be the first choice of material for a dam designed to attract well-heeled tourists and the developers of luxury apartments to the vicinity, which is the Bill's intention.
What, then, will happen to those doors? Will they congregate on the surface of the new lake, and form a benign and ecologically desirable shield that will prevent the growth of stinking algae in the waters beneath--waters befouled by the sewage and rubbish that I have described? Or will the much- vaunted Cardiff Bay anti-pollution barge suck up them up along with the rest of the muck, offload them on to a mobile cesspit and cart the whole lot out to the Bristol channel, to dump them where all the rest of Welsh Water's sewage is dumped? Some months ago, I spoke to a yachtsman at Pierhead in Cardiff about the currents that run along and through the estuaries of the Taff and Ely rivers--rivers that would be blocked by the barrage. The main problem, he told me, was not the currents, but the fear of having his hull smashed by a kitchen table.
With the Secretary of State's valleys initiative reputedly in full swing-- although I have not seen much evidence of it along the banks of the Taff and the Ely in my constituency--the Welsh will be hard at work ripping out more doors and kitchen tables for replacement than ever before. Moreover, as our standards of living improve and our food consumption increases, the laws of nature will mean--as they often do--that sewerage systems will come under even greater pressure, and the rivers will receive an even more generous gift from the Welsh water authority's sewage outfall pipes.
Perhaps I am being too pessimistic. Perhaps I should urge the Bill's sponsors to approach the Prime Minister with a view to expressing a vote of confidence in the suitability of the Taff's waters for containment behind a
Column 272barrage. My constituents would be only too glad to arrange a suitable location for the right hon. Lady to take a running jump into the Taff, and to show by that gesture that we have all worried far too much about the quality of the water in our most famous river. What better advertisement could there be for the barrage than a photograph of the right hon. Lady doing a crawl upstream towards the sites of the Abercynon and Merthyr Vale collieries, which her Government, in their great wisdom, recently closed? I shall oppose the construction of the barrage until I see that photograph--until I see the Prime Minister's running jump into our maltreated river. I, and many of my constituents, want firm gurantees and detailed timetables as to how and when the Government intend to force their incestous children--the National Rivers Authority and the Welsh water authority--to clean up the Taff and the Ely. The luxury apartments and the office blocks can wait for their shimmering lagoon, just as we in the valleys, who live along the banks of those rivers, have to wait for recognition by the Government that civil pride and environmental health take precedence over speculative profiteering.
Mr. Gwilym Jones (Cardiff, North) : It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells). He has brought back some good humour to the Opposition Benches. I was worried that the warfare breaking out was too pronounced for the good of all hon. Members. I support the carry-over motion. I have great enthusiasm for the Cardiff Bay Barrage Bill. It is an exciting proposal, but I have one great reservation about it.
The purpose of the Cardiff Bay Barrage Bill is to fulfil the Cardiff bay regeneration strategy which looks forward to the creation over 10 years of 30,000 new jobs, 3 million to 4 million sq ft of new office space, 5 million to 6 million sq ft of industrial and business units and 6,000 dwellings, about a quarter of which are intended to be low-cost housing-- most desirable in south Cardiff and Cardiff generally. I should have thought that there would be a good measure of agreement among hon. Members about such a proposal.
In general, who would not be excited by a package for which all who are involved in it are working so hard? I have been involved with the scheme for quite a long while--both before I became a Member of Parliament and since. I have sought to consider very carefully all that it involves. No Bill has ever come before the House with better or fuller local support.
That is typified by Cardiff's evening newspaper, the South Wales Echo. It has written many exhaustive articles on the subject and has shown considerable enthusiasm for the project since its inception. Its municipal editor, Mr. Michael Thomas, went to Baltimore two years ago. When he returned he wrote truthfully, I believe, when he said that he had seen Cardiff's proposed future in Baltimore and that the future worked. The South Wales Echo has provided us with the only independent, professionally conducted survey of what Cardiff people feel about the redevelopment of south Cardiff and the barrage. It shows that twice as many people are in favour of the proposed development in south Cardiff, including the barrage, as oppose it. I am afraid that I have to reject much of what the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) said, especially his implication concerning the Mafia-like activities of the
Column 273South Glamorgan county council and Cardiff city council. I should have thought that such strong criticism would have come much more naturally from me than from him. I promise him that I shall continue to criticise the South Glamorgan county council, Labour- controlled, and Cardiff city council, Labour-Liberal dominated, whenever that criticism is deserved, but on this occasion I do not believe that it is deserved. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Mr. Jones : I am glad to hear the hon. Gentleman say that. I thought that he implied that he was very critical of what they had done. It was a criticism that I could not share. I repeat my assurance that I shall criticise them as much as they deserve whenever they deserve criticism, but on this occasion I offer a tribute, on a strictly non-political basis, to the Labour and Conservative leaders of South Glamorgan county council, Lord Brooks and Councillor Gareth Neale, who have been very full-hearted and thorough in pursuing the proposal. Equally, I pay tribute to the Conservative and Labour leaders of Cardiff city council--Councillor Ron Watkiss and Councillor John Reynolds--who played important parts in the discussions. It occurs to me that three of those are on the board of Cardiff bay development corporation, as is Councillor Paddy Kitson, who has played a significant role in the considerations of this matter.
Councillor Paddy Kitson stood for re-election in May. His ward and the one alongside are the wards most affected by the proposals. When he stood for election as the Labour candidate, as did his neighbour, they were opposed by anti-barrage candidates. Although I would not have voted for either of the Labour candidates, they were re-elected with resounding majorities even against the anti-barrage candidates, the Conservative candidates and the other candidates who stood against them. That is a significant demonstration of how local people feel about the role of their local councillors in the project and the worth of the barrage project and the redevelopment of south Cardiff. Mention has been made of the involvement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and his predecessor, and their support for the proposal. It is commendable and even admirable that Secretaries of State have been prepared to devote so much time and interest to giving their fullest support to such a proposal. Cardiff should be very grateful that they have supported all our efforts. I should add that perhaps the founding fathers of the proposals were my predecessor and the predecessor of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael), Lord Callaghan and the late Michael Roberts. Their views on this matter were probably the original catalyst for the redevelopment of south Cardiff. By no means would I take credit for the project as solely a Conservative idea. The Labour party, Lord Callaghan and everyone else in Cardiff had been involved right from the beginning. It is an excellent example of political parties coming together to achieve real benefit for the capital city of Wales.
While I am seeking to pay tribute to those who have worked so hard, it would be entirely inappropriate not to mention those who have been involved on the professional side, particularly the chief executive of South Glamorgan
Column 274county council, Mr. Michael Boyce, Mr. Iwan Humphreys and all the other officers of South Glamorgan county council, as well as Mr. Geoffrey Inkin and Mr. Barry Lane of the Cardiff Bay development corporation.
The relationship between the development corporation, the local authorities and everyone else involved has been a good one. That has been most important. It is quite right that the project was entrusted to a development corporation as the most appropriate way of moving forward. That said, it was inevitable that there should be some conflict and even dramatic moments in the press, but all has been happily resolved and the good relationship has been continuing. It has been marked particularly by a willingness to accommodate every point of view and every possible problem that has been raised. South Glamorgan county council and Cardiff Bay development corporation have taken the lead in trying to identify the problems that have arisen with the south Cardiff redevelopment and the barrage proposal. The most comprehensive technical studies have been carried out and their findings have been met by a willingness to respond properly.
A particularly important clause is clause 12, which contains most important provisions for homes and for owners of property which might be affected by changes in the groundwater in Cardiff. The Cardiff flood action committee was equally inspirational in suggesting that such an important clause should be included in the Bill. That suggestion was immediately met, or anticipated, by a ready response from the promoters of the Bill.
The Bill provides for redevelopment with the barrage as its central feature. The barrage is fundamental for it brings about the greatest change to the landscape of south Cardiff. The mudflats at low tide are not an attractive feature. We have a rare opportunity to repair the effect of industrial change. How often we have to put up with industrial change and decay marking our landscape. The mudflats at Cardiff bay were created by the construction of Cardiff docks 150 years ago. The barrage will end those ugly and unattractive mudflats.
The barrage is a green proposal. Friends of the Earth opposed a marine development at Porthcawl because it did not include a barrage such as that proposed for south Cardiff. Its contention at the inquiry was that a barrage is essential to meet the forthcoming problems of the greenhouse effect.
Every possible attempt has been made to measure the worth of the barrage. In 1986, the Cardiff Bay development corporation commissioned Peat, Marwick, McLintock to carry out an independent appraisal of what the barrage can best be expected to achieve, not simply on a barrage or no- barrage basis but including the middle course of a mini-barrage. Peat, Marwick, McLintock estimated, on the best basis, that having no barrage as part of the south Cardiff redevelopment would attract £523 million of investment, that a mini-barrage would attract £607 million, but that the barrage would attract £1,051 million of private investment. It further estimated that no
Column 275barrage would generate 12,700 jobs, that a mini-barrage would generate 14,950 but that the barrage would generate 22,150 jobs. Peat, Marwick, McLintock sought to measure that by comparing the amount of public sector capital being invested with private investment. No barrage would produce a ratio of private investment to public sector investment of 4.6 : 1, a mini-barrage would produce a ratio of 4.8 : 1, and the barrage 8.9 : 1. It next sought to calculate the net value of the proposal for the Cardiff area. No barrage would lead to greater expenditure than return and a loss of £61 million and a mini-barrage would lead to a loss of £113 million. The only positive return that it could identify was for the barrage, producing a return of £77 million. The study also showed similar declines in the residential sector, offices, industrial and business use and retail. It could even measure reduced achievement in the categories of leisure and open spaces, although the mini -barrage proposal produced less open space than no barrage.
That was an independent and persuasive appraisal. The economic case for the barrage is overwhelming, and it will be of much benefit to south Wales. We know from current studies that one third of the jobs in Cardiff are for commuters, most of whom live in the valleys. That is bound to be reflected in the new jobs created by the south Cardiff development. It will lead not to prosperity confined to Cardiff but to prosperity and worth for all south Wales.
In Cardiff and in the House tonight, many concerns have been expressed, such as concern about flooding. We in Cardiff all remember the flooding in 1979, when large parts of Cardiff were badly affected. Earlier in the 1960s there was flooding further afield that affected parts of my constituency in Gabalfa and Llandaff North. Time after time, it has been shown that the cause of flooding is the combination of heavy rain swelling the rivers and flowing down to Cardiff and meeting a high tide from the sea. Research shows that the barrage would assist in flood prevention because it would break the link between a high incoming tide and heavy rain flowing down the river. The concern about flooding is not a valid reason for not further pursuing the barrage.
The House of Lords Select Committee considered the quality of the water to be impounded behind the barrage and, in its kindly way, concluded that some of the more extreme suggestions--which we have heard again tonight--were unduly pessimistic. I suggest that hon. Members should look at the water at Atlantic wharf, if they have not already done so. That is an example, beside the new headquarters of South Glamorgan county council, of exactly the kind of water that will be present behind the barrage. It is not blue water, but we do not have blue water in Cardiff at the moment. It is not as bad as some of the water elsewhere, and it certainly defies the criticism that has already been made.
Mr. Morgan : Is the hon. Gentleman aware that lorryloads of algae had to be removed in early September from the Atlantic wharf water because the combination of sunlight warming the water and the high percentage of treated sewage coming down the river in the summer
Column 276resulted in algal blooms and that that would occur on a much larger scale in the much greater impounded waters of the bay.
Mr. Jones : The hon. Gentleman is right to point out that fact. As we all know, the waters behind the barrage will be properly managed, with all the appropriate technology. I think that the hon. Gentleman is confirming what can happen when there is proper management, while at the same time disabusing us of the idea that there will be a polluted lagoon behind the barrage.
Groundwater is another major concern. There is a general measure of agreement on this matter. It is another example of the willingness of the Cardiff Bay development corporation to respond to all the problems. Appropriate provision for a protected property area is made in clause 12, but the clause goes beyond that matter. I am happy to see that my constituency of Cardiff, North is provided for in the Bill. It has been pointed out to me that the provision goes much further--in fact worldwide. It has been said that any citizen, anywhere, could make a claim to the Cardiff Bay development corporation that he had somehow suffered because of the creation of the barrage. That is certainly much further than a general provision in legislation.
The hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers), who is not in the Chamber, strongly criticised the leaflet published by the Bill's promoters. He suggested more than once that the leaflet contained lies and that the statement that groundwater did not rise was not true. I am not a geologist. I have to listen to what the hon. Gentleman says, but I am afraid that he does not convince me. I imagine that there must be percolation of groundwater, but surely groundwater must still obey the laws of gravity. As he said in his example, groundwater can emerge from a mountain, but that is because gravity causes the water to flow down inside the mountain. I have not seen mountains in south Cardiff.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) was critical of the technical evidence before the House of Lords Select Committee. I understand that experts for the promoters and for the groundwater petitioners were called and that their evidence showed that there was only one matter of disagreement between them--that there had not been an opportunity within the period of the study to measure what happened during three or four days of heavy rain. Both groups of experts agreed that, even if the contention of the groundwater petitioners were true, there would be no effect beyond the protected property area, and that there was no need to extend it.
The House of Lords Select Committee fully considered this matter. I concur with the provisions which are outlined in the leaflet and the practical responses in terms of infilling and insulation. It is little wonder that the Select Committee's report said :
"The Committee concluded that Clause 12 does provide a comprehensive set of measures to deal with the effects of rise in groundwater and that the procedures embodied in the Clause were fair."
I have a great reservation--on which I find myself in some measure of agreement with the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies)--about the future of wading birds. In 1986, I expressed my concern in the House for the future of the site of special scientific interest. It is true that the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology has reported on the Taff-Ely estuary and has determined that it is not a site of international significance. The Royal Society for the
Column 277Protection of Birds, in its last publication, "The Complete Book of British Birds"--which was to celebrate 100 years of the RSPB--made no mention of the Taff-Ely estuary. The Institute of Terrestrial Ecology has said, however, that the site is of national significance. It has 1.2 per cent. of the British population of redshanks and dunlins. There is a risk of permanent loss and a need for compensation. The SSSI is part of the Severn estuary SSSI, and while it is only 1 per cent. of the area, it includes 10 per cent. of the birds. The RSPB has told me that there are approximately 8,000 to 10,000 wading birds in the Taff-Ely estuary, and that the area is particularly significant for its redshank population. Redshanks are declining elsewhere in the United Kingdom, but thankfully, not in the Taff estuary, where the population of about 1,500 is staying firm. I am glad that compensatory measures have been proposed in the Bill. That is an innovation which might be worthy of development elsewhere. They involve some 50 acres of land, at a cost of £3.5 million.
I understand that there will be discussions between the promoters of the Bill, the Nature Conservancy Council and the RSPB. Filling the barrage will take some weeks, and I hope that their discussions will also include the best time to fill the barrage, so that the best transition can be achieved.
My great regret is that no one can guarantee how effective the compensatory features will be. I greatly regret the likely loss of birds and the fact that we have to choose between the present and an uncertain future. I fervently hope that there will be progress towards a target of no loss.
So much time, effort and money has been put into the Bill that it would be a great tragedy if the motion were not passed this evening, and all that work were wasted. The important issues which must be given further consideration deserve to be put before a Select Committee of the House. I am confident that any new feature will be fully considered and that all those features we already know about will continue to have the fullest consideration. I hope that we can move forward, because I believe that the future is exciting. 9.26 pm
Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend) : I have given a great deal of consideration to the Bill and to whether to support the carry-over motion. I made a final check with the National Rivers Authority this afternoon, and I feel that the information it gave me negated one of the principal reasons for building the barrage.
I did not intervene in the speech of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Jones) when he mentioned the independent opinion poll. It was commissioned by the South Wales Echo, which has supported the barrage from the beginning and so is hardly a disinterested observer. A fine opinion poll has been conducted in Cardiff, where 423 people were interviewed, 190 from the affected area, spanning an age range of between 18 and 70-plus, which parallels the age structure of the population. Just over 50 per cent. were women. The outcome of that survey was that fewer than 7 per cent. favoured the barrage, 36 per cent. wanted the area to be cleaned up and landscaped, 27 per cent. thought that there should be further development with an emphasis on a wildlife site, 48 per cent. were in favour of a smaller barrage and 13 per cent. selected other options.
Mr. Flynn : My hon. Friend suggests that there is a groundswell of opinion against the barrage. A number of candidates in recent elections stood on an anti-barrage platform. Can my hon. Friend say how many were successful? He has suggested that the South Wales Echo was partial in the poll which it published. How independent are the people who published the poll which he has mentioned?
Mr. Griffiths : I shall make no comment on the partiality of the people I mentioned, as I believe--the same is true of the Echo --that they have their own commitment and selected their sample in good faith. I do not think that that is an issue. I think my hon. Friend knows that it is rare for one issue to dominate an election, whether people stand for a political party or as independent candidates. I shall move on to some of the substantive points. I oppose the private Bill procedure in principle. One reason for that is that projects carried through under the private Bill procedure are automatically excluded from the rigours of European Community directive on environmental assessment, so a proper environmental impact assessment based on the EC criteria cannot be made. I have been approached on the matter several times and I was first approached on it when I was the Member of the European Parliament for South Wales, a constituency that includes Cardiff. I was especially struck by a letter from a friend who is an engineer and describes himself also as an angler, conservationist and ratepayer of Cardiff. He made several salient points about the whole scheme, and was especially upset that the promoters should have gone ahead with the Bill before they had completed the studies that were necessary to ensure that they could overcome the concerns expressed when news of the project first came to light. My friend mentioned problems such as environmental pollution, sedimentation build-up and difficulties for migratory fish, which I should have liked to deal with in detail on other occasions when I had more time.
However, I shall deal in a little detail with water quality. It seems that one of the main reasons why the barrage was mooted originally was to provide an area that would not only look nice, but would be a centre for water sports. Such a target is now impossible. When I contacted the National Rivers Authority this afternoon to find out its feelings about the barrage, it told me that although it would be possible to meet the E. coli coliform standard of the EC directive on bathing water quality, there would be huge problems with the microbiological quality of the water and specifically, the organism called leptospira, which carries Weil's disease which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) mentioned earlier, is a killer. As a result, the National Rivers Authority, in conjunction with the environmental health department of Cardiff city council, has made it clear that it will allow no water contact sports in the lagoon created by the barrage.
Furthermore, when I questioned the experts at the National Rivers Authority, they said that there would be a problem in providing a reasonable quality of water that would even look acceptable, although it would not be safe for anyone to fall into it. Although the Bill provided for a scheme for water sports, there are question marks over the times of flooding. It has already been said this evening that the Taff and its tributaries tend to rise very quickly so that there are problems about the boom and the other provisions that are intended to take out debris and the sewage that makes its way down the river. I remind the
Column 279House that a sewage mains under the Taff once burst and for a time raw sewage flowed down the river. The problems of coping with the River Taff in spate and of removing the debris mean that the measures might not deal effectively with the problem.
Mr. Rogers : I assure my hon. Friend that raw sewage already enters the tributaries feeding the lagoon. The Welsh water authority is not renewing the trunk sewer systems in some of the valleys, so raw sewage enters the river.
I do not oppose the development of Cardiff docklands but, with all the problems associated with providing a lagoon, the purpose of which is no longer relevant because water quality is not right, I hope that we shall throw out the carry-over motion and ask the promoters, if they must come back with a new scheme, to do so without the barrage. 9.35 pm
Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe) : I am the only non- Welsh Member to have spoken so far in the debate. I wish to speak because I am an elected member of the council for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. I have taken a close interest in the matter, as has the society, which is Europe's largest voluntary organisation concerned with the matter. It has members in every constituency.
I have another reason for wishing to speak, which has nothing to do with the promoter of the Bill or the people behind it. The procedure on private Bills is a corrupt system which should be ended. The matter would be better dealt with by a public inquiry in Cardiff than by the House.
Normally, I would not wish to become involved in any issue that is mainly the concern of the people of Cardiff but, as has already been said, the bay is of national significance because of its value for wildlife and conservation. It is to that aspect that I shall address my remarks.
I accepted a kind invitation from the Cardiff Bay development corporation to meet it in Cardiff. I must add that I travelled there at my own expense, during my holidays. While I had a meeting with my hon. Friends the Members for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) and for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan), my wife and family were let loose in Cardiff, which was of more benefit to Cardiff city centre than to me. I had an opportunity to see the problems at first hand, so I speak as someone who has taken the trouble to go to Cardiff and talk to the corporation to hear both sides of the argument.
Conservative Members spoke about mud, and my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth said that mud in Cardiff stinks. It may stink now, but that is caused by the sewage outfalls and effluents in the rivers Taff and Ely. Those effluents will be trapped behind the barrage if it is constructed. The scheme could be a potential asset to the city if the money for the barrage went instead to clean up the bay, landscape the area and maximise its attraction to wildlife.
I was taken down to look at the mud. The visit was carefully timed, so that I could see the vast expanses of mud at low tide. My guides said, "Just look at that." I
Column 280thought that it was an attractive sight, but I accept that not everyone would share my view. I noted that there was a substantial housing development in Penarth dock. It was popular and the houses had sold well, even though they overlooked the mudflats. While there may be people who would not want to buy a house overlooking mudflats, many people would be delighted with the ever-changing scenery of a tidal estuary with the tide coming in and out, the ebb and flow, the birds' moods and the call of birds on the wing, which are all attractive. Some developers have made it clear that they do not need the barrage in order to build homes and attract inward investment. Some of the figures that have been quoted have been mathematical rather than relating to reality.
The displacement of bird species from Cardiff bay is of national importance to a number of species, particularly redshanks, dunlins and knots. It is not true to say that those species can simply move out of Cardiff bay and find a nice vacant mudflat in the Severn estuary. Those feeding areas are already occupied and would not take any more feeding species. The birds would either displace the species that are there already or, even worse, by competing for food in a reduced feeding area, ensure that none of the species on those feeding grounds would get enough energy. If there was a cold snap during the winter, it would be likely that large numbers of species would be unable to survive.
It is also likely that migrating birds which are travelling through the Cardiff bay area would be unable to feed adequately to build up their body fats for the migration. The mortality rate in the species could be greater than the present population.
A paper written by M. E. Moser, entitled "Importance of UK Estuaries for Waders and Wildfowl", bears out these points : "For example, the numbers of redshanks on the firth of Clyde crashed during the 1980s, probably as a result of a decrease in the available food resources. There have been massive declines in bartailed godwits, knots and dunlins on the Cheshire/Welsh Dee estuary".
When there is already a decline in species because of loss of feeding grounds and habitat, we cannot displace birds from Cardiff Bay and expect them to survive.
I pay tribute to the development corporation and to the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth, who is genuinely concerned about these conservation aspects. The Bill's promoters deserve some credit for taking these matters seriously and trying to meet the genuine points which have been put forward by the conservationists. The Wentloog proposal is interesting and radical in terms of providing an adequate alternative feeding ground. Unfortunately, at the moment there is insufficient information to determine whether it will be completely successful. I am not sure whether the enormous resources would be available to protect a site of this sort from the inevitable silting.
I realise that time is short, and this is a debate on the carry-over motion. If there is a Second Reading debate, I should like to expand these points. In terms of the carry-over motion, arguments from people such as me, conservation organisations and development corporations hinge purely on the barrage. The promoters should consider taking the Bill back to concentrate on the developments which we all support. The regeneration is
Column 281imaginative and practical for Cardiff, but we do not need a barrage ; by abandoning it and transferring resources, we could create an even better and more successful scheme.
Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney) : Any hon. Member who speaks in a debate on a private Bill which appears, at least in its title, to be a local Bill, has to justify his or her intervention. There is one basic reason for an intervention : if the Bill has broader, national implications. My hon. Friends the Members for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) and for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) and other hon. Members who have spoken against the Bill have already shown that the significance and importance of this Bill transcends its apparently local character.
There has been an amazing omission in this debate and in much of the evidence taken in the other place. Another reason why the Bill is not just a local one is its huge and significant public expenditure consequences, which have not been explained tonight. That is why I reacted so violently when the Minister rose and sat down in 30 seconds flat, simply saying that the Bill would have substantial expenditure consequences for his Department. The House is being asked to pass a carry-over motion on a Bill whose public expenditure consequences have not been explained. I make no criticism of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael), who has enough to deal with in promoting the Bill and opening the debate on the motion, but except in one sentence, he did not mention public expenditure. As a valleys Member, I have a vested interest in knowing the overall sums, where the money will come from, what proportion will be paid by the ratepayers of south Glamorgan or of the city council and what proportion will come from the national purse--that is, the Welsh Office and its various agencies and bodies.
Mr. Michael : These are matters of considerable detail, and in coming to a conclusion, we should discuss the expenditure and match it with the benefit that will result. However, should not these matters be properly investigated by the Select Committee?
Mr. Rowlands : I am afraid that I cannot agree with the way that my hon. Friend has minimised the argument, by saying that all this can be dealt with in Committee. When public Bills are introduced, their financial implications are spelt out from the start. Attached to the original Cardiff Bay Barrage Bill was a financial memorandum, which contained the first information about expenditure that we were given. It is not attached to the Bills that we have now--it seems to have been taken off. It said :
"The Secretary of State for Wales and the Secretary of State for the Environment have said in a joint report to Parliament that it would be the Government's intention that the cost of the barrage as at present estimated would be met by the Development Corporation with the assistance of a grant- in-aid provided by the Welsh Office." In other words, this will be publicly funded by the Welsh Office. It continued :
"The expenditure on construction of the proposed works is estimated at £82,230,000. The expenditure on the acquisition of lands and easements for the works is estimated at £2,550,000.
We know that the initial public expenditure implications of the Bill, according to the financial memorandum, will be about £85 million. However, that is misleading
Column 282because in the cross-examination of the promoters of the Bill in the other place, the figures turned out to be very different. There is an admission that a high level of public expenditure in the barrage site is essential to the scheme. The Minister, the promoters and certainly Tory Members, who have strong views about public expenditure, have to justify this level of expenditure. What is the expenditure to be? The cost of the barrage is estimated to be £113 million plus. Presumably, that will be substantially funded by the Welsh Office. Perhaps the Minister will intervene now and tell us what portion of that £113 million will be funded by the Welsh Office, as opposed to the county council or local government.
That is not the end of it. That is only a small proportion of the total public expenditure consequences of the Bill. Again in the evidence presented in the other place, we are told that in addition to the £113 million--not the £85 million in the financial memorandum--there is a land reclamation cost of £15 million. I have an interest in land reclamation schemes because my constituency has, I believe, the largest concentration of derelict industrial land, certainly in Wales and probably in the United Kingdom as a whole. There will also be depollution costs of £60 million and combined road schemes costing another £118 million.
Therefore, the total possible public expenditure consequences of the Bill, about which not one word has been said this evening and not a single figure given by the Minister, are of over £400 million. That is what, in another place, the promoters agreed were the total barrage plus infrastructure costs of the scheme.
The Minister is in dereliction of his duty to the House by not giving that information. Indeed, one principle upon which the parliamentary system was founded was the scrutiny and accountability of public funds. If there was no other case for opposing the carry-over motion, sufficient reason would be that until the Minister comes to the Dispatch Box to tell us what proportion of that £400 million-plus will be funded by central Government, as opposed to what might be raised by the ratepayers of South Glamorgan, the Bill should not proceed. It is all very well for local authorities to promote big, important schemes--we have all been party to this and have argued for and promoted them--but if the funds are to come not from local government, but from central Government, interest in the measure must transcend the boundaries of any one local authority. This is a matter of national interest. It is certainly of interest to the Principality to know where that £400 million-plus will come from.
I turn now to a point about which we have heard nothing. Again, I do not in any way blame my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth for this because he had a lot to explain at the beginning of the debate, and in the numerous interventions, cross-references and points of order, he might have overlooked telling the House this other fact. Despite the amazing appendix on the barrage's tremendous economic benefits, in City terms, the evidence that was submitted to the other place on the operating costs of the barrage estimated that the revenue from the barrage--the fees or whatever--will amount to £475 million, whereas the costs of operating the barrage will be £1.1 billion. Even according to the promoters, there will be a net operational loss of £652 million. Who will fund that? Will it be funded by the ratepayers or will the Welsh Office make an on-going contribution?
Column 283The Government want to carry over a Bill with capital expenditure consequences of more than £400 million and to include a net £600 million operating cost on top, yet we still do not know what proportion of that will be paid from central Government funds. We have been told that Parliament has already thoroughly investigated the scheme and that the Bill has come down to us with the blessing of their Lordships. I have looked through the 16 volumes of evidence to try to find the answers to the questions that I have asked and which the Minister has failed to answer about the contribution from central Government funds. The best that one can find in the evidence is an exchange between Mr. Geoffrey Inkin, who I think is the chairman of the corporation, and the cross- examiners. At one point, the chairman of the inquiry asked Mr. Inkin :
"Do I understand that £250m will come straight from Government funding and the £150m will come from increased land values?" The answer was :
"No, £75m £125m. Is the sum, to be precise."
Well, £75 million to £125 million is certainly a precise sum. Mr. Inkin's answer continued :
"One is talking about a total sum of public funding of something of the order of £300m £350m. There are additional sources of funding, but relatively minor key."
To the next question of
"That makes up the balance between £300m and £350m and the £400m?" Mr. Inkin replied :
"Much of the balance of about £75m is in fact to go towards the cost of the peripheral distributor road which comes out of transport supplementary grant to the County Council. We may make a subscription on a proportion."
That is supposed to be the lucid evidence, given under cross-examination, that results in the Bill being given the blessing of their Lordships. As far as I can tell, that was the sum of the evidence covering the public expenditure implications of the Bill. For no other reason, I beg hon. Members not to agree to the Bill being carried over, certainly not until we are given an effective assessment--a real financial memorandum--showing the true cost of the measure to the public and particularly to the national purse. Perhaps the most telling argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth--at any rate, in his view--was that we must not oppose major developments in view of the effect that our action might have on jobs and the future of the city. When reading the evidence given in this matter--I was in the Private Bill Office--I discovered that the chief counsel for South Glamorgan county council was a long-standing adversary of mine, a wealthy gentleman named Peter Boydell, probably the country's No. 1 planning QC.
The last time I saw Mr. Boydell in action was when he was advocating a grandiose city centre development for Cardiff. I was reminded of all the arguments that we heard, back in the late 1960s, when I was active--hon. Members will agree that I acted effectively--in opposing that grandiose scheme. Almost identical arguments to those now being adduced for the barrage scheme were made on that occasion, including the attempt to blackmail us into believing that more jobs were at stake, that the proposed hook road would solve the urban traffic problems of the