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Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd) : I must inform the House before we begin the debate that Mr. Speaker has determined that the instruction is not being called, but it can of course be referred to in the debate.
Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly) : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You have referred to the instruction to the Committee, which I tabled but which was not accepted for debate by Mr. Speaker. You said that it will be in order to discuss it during the Second Reading debate. If the Bill is given a Second Reading, will it be in order for the Committee that might be established to consider the detail of the Bill to consider the matters referred to in the instruction?
It is a pleasure to have reached this Second Reading debate, although the carry-over debate was rather like a Second Reading debate and covered much of the ground. I shall try not to repeat myself and will attempt to be brief. I am forced to be excessively brief by the requirements of the House, but I want to give the positive developments that have taken place since the carry-over debate.
The Bill is a positive measure for the environment and for people. The economic case for it has been strengthening all the time. Interest in Cardiff continues to grow, as it has since
Labour-controlled South Glamorgan county council took the first and major step of faith by building the new county hall in the derelict heart of my constituency. Commitment by the private sector waits in the wings for the Bill to go through. Confidence grows with the success of the carry-over motion, and will continue to grow as time goes on.
Not only Cardiff will benefit from the barrage and the economic development that will follow its building. Thirty per cent. of the jobs created in Cardiff go to people living outside it, and I cannot believe that, in the surrounding area, the local authorities and people of the valleys will want the scheme to be defeated and its benefits lost to the region.
Mr. Rogers : I accept my hon. Friend's argument that there is always a spin-off from any development to the surrounding area. He has emphasised that the main promoters of the Bill are the Labour-controlled authorities. If that is so, why did not South Glamorgan county council and Cardiff city council consult other Labour-controlled authorities in the surrounding area?
Column 285Indeed, it was only after fairly strenuous opposition from me that Mid Glamorgan and the adjacent Labour authorities were consulted.
The economic evidence shows the benefits that will come to the whole area. The private-sector leverage for the total scheme involving the barrage is assessed at 8.9 : 1. That means that £1 billion of private-sector development over the next 10 to 15 years depends on the barrage being built.
The scheme has been evaluated in line with Treasury guidelines : in terms of net economic impact, which assesses benefits against costs, the barrage far outweighs a mini-barrage or no barrage at all. The comparative figures at net present value terms are plus £77 million for the barrage, minus £61 million for the mini-barrage and minus £113 million for no barrage. The Select Committee can cross-examine that evidence and consider it in detail. I give that outline because it is an overwhelming argument for building the barrage. Those economic arguments should certainly be considered in detail in the Select Committee. The Bill and the barrage are needed to achieve the full regeneration of the docklands, the region of Cardiff and south Wales.
The second important aspect relates to groundwater. Hon. Members will know that, as recently as the carry-over debate, I reserved my position on groundwater. I said that, if all the evidence pointed to serious detriment to my constituents, I would not hesitate to say that that price could not be paid for redevelopment. I have gone on a genuine search for truth, and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) has also been concerned about groundwater.
I sought the services of an independent expert of international standing. We did not just bring somebody in. I went looking for somebody who could approach the matter with complete independence and authority. I then went to the Cardiff Bay development corporation and sought its agreement to that on the basis of testing the evidence to destruction and hearing the worst, and access to all data, information and work undertaken to find the effects of groundwater levels.
The end result was the identification of Mr. Glyn Jones, who directs the postgraduate course in hydrogeology at University college London, to undertake the study. He was critical of the work done on behalf of the development corporation and exhaustive in his investigations. At the end of the day, he gave the barrage and certainly the work undertaken on behalf of the promoters a clean bill of health. He said :
"The consultants have certainly built in a generous safety factor which should improve confidence in the less-than-precise calculations used for predictive purposes and outweigh any margin of error." Mr. Rogers : My interventions are to establish facts. I have yet to be convinced either way. My hon. Friend mentioned the report by a completely independent hydrogeologist. Will it be available to hon. Members, perhaps not this evening, but at some stage? My hon. Friend will be aware that I have had reservations about groundwater reports in the past.
Mr. Michael : Yes, I can assure my hon. Friend that it is available to anybody who is interested. I have made a copy available to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West, who has a serious interest as the Member for the neighbouring Constituency. A copy of the report has been placed in the Library because it should be available to hon. Members. My hon. Friend will find it worth perusing.
Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West) : While I accept that there is no question about the academic credentials of Mr. Jones, surely they are no higher than those of Dr. Stuart Noakes, who reported in similar circumstances for the residents action groups. That was paid for by the Cardiff Bay development corporation, but commissioned by the residents action groups against the barrage and the Cardiff Bay development corporation, which together set out the terms of reference. Dr. Noakes came out with critical comments about the likelihood that studies done so far by the hydrogeologist commissioned by the Cardiff Bay development corporation did not give any guarantee against flooding. The one thing that is missing from Glyn Jones's report is any mention of the exact terms of reference.
The report will be available to the Special Standing Committee, and I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West that it was done on the basis of tests to destruction, and that all the evidence and the worst possible solutions would be made publicly available. I do not accept his comparison of the expertise, but the Committee will be able to consider that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West knows that little difference was left between Dr. Noakes and the experts who acted on behalf of the development corporation, by the end of the House of Lords' consideration of the report.
I have a reference for Glyn Jones's expertise from Sir James Lighthill, the former principal of University college, London, which says :
"Scientists from all over the world come to study hydrogeology with Glyn Jones, returning with a master of science degree in the subject, which is internationally recognised as a guarantee of excellence and sound knowledge in this field."
Other references have been taken up.
The independence of the work, which involved the testing to destruction of the available evidence, and the fact that it was overseen by me and County Councillor Peter Perkins, who represents the area nearest to the bay and has no connection with the development corporation, are assurances of the neutrality and validity of the report.
The end result of the investigation should give greater confidence than the evidence available in the House of Lords' report, when the Committee ended by giving a clean bill of health to the work done on groundwater.
Mr. Morgan : I wonder whether my hon. Friend would care to rethink one of the remarks that he made, because I think that he implied that the academic expertise of Glyn Jones is greater than that of Dr. Stuart Noakes. If he is asserting that, can he say why?
Column 287Mr. Jones in this field. There was hardly any gap between his assessment and that of Dr. Noakes, and the experts called upon by the Cardiff Bay development corporation at the end of the House of Lords session. However, I can assert with confidence that the Jones report is the result of the only study into all the work done to date, by a genuinely independent expert of international repute. His findings will, of course, be open to scrutiny by the Committee.
Mr. John P. Smith (Vale of Glamorgan) : Does my hon. Friend agree that, if the scheme goes ahead, we could be presented with a unique opportunity to clean up the waters of the bay and, for the first time in many decades, it will also be possible to clean up the waters of the Bristol channel?
We know that sewage outfalls into the bay will have to be redirected. Presumably they will be redirected to the existing outfalls on the coast, including those in my constituency. We have a unique opportunity to ensure that the waters of Cardiff Bay are treated, and the existing sewage outfalls are treated, and that will clean up the Bristol channel.
Mr. Michael : That is outside the scope of the Bill, but, in fairness to my hon. Friend, I agree with him that there will be an opportunity to clean up water and sewage outfalls to meet European standards, and like my hon. Friend, I have spoken to the promoters of the Bill about that. I hope that it will be pursued.
My constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan share a boundary in the south Penarth and Lavernock area. I hope that the opportunity he mentions will be taken up, and I commend it for further investigation by the Minister.
During the weekend, I met the Butetown residents. Despite the title of the group, it stressed that it is not against the barrage but wants protection to be built into the Bill. I pay tribute to the tenacious way in which it has pursued that clear objective. It raised the protection period of 20 years and sought an assurance that common law protection will remain after that time. The promoters gave that assurance clearly to the Committee of another place, but the group fears that that assurance has not been written into the Bill. I am pleased to say that, at my request, the promoters agreed this week to amend the Bill so that such assurance appears on the face of the Bill.
I have pursued several vital issues with the promoters, such as affordable homes, and the retention of existing jobs even if their relocation is inevitable . There have been detailed discussions. They have sometimes been abrasive, but they have also been positive and productive. The local authority has a similar creative relationship with the development corporation. That is not always the case in other parts of the country.
The question that has to be answered today is whether there is any reason to deny the Bill a Second Reading. The answer must be a resounding no. We have the alternative proposal by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which bears a strong similarity to the idea it launched one year previously. While it should receive fair consideration, there are obvious problems with it, to some of which I have referred. If opponents of the scheme are so confident, why do they not allow the Special Standing Committee to consider all the evidence, including information about sites of special scientific interest, to which my hon. Friend the
Column 288Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) referred? I agree that some of the matters to be considered require serious consideration.
Mr. Ron Davies : My hon. Friend referred to me and asked a question, so I must reply. The objection to the barrage is a matter of principle. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which has written to most hon. Members involved in the debate, has made it clear that the alternative it suggests does not involve the construction of a barrage. That is why the RSPB and many other conservation bodies oppose the Bill in principle.
The most vigorous campaign has been conducted by those who want to protect the natural environment. As the natural environment is one of my passionate concerns, I respect the motivation but believe that the wrong target has been selected. This is not a natural environment. It is manmade, derelict and polluted. That is what birds have adapted to. A real clean-up allied to silting would destroy an environment that suits them now.
The promoters have offered major investment in alternative feeding grounds. Nature will adapt to a cleaner, healthier Cardiff bay. The human inhabitants will benefit from a cleaner, healthier environment. It is they, the people of the communities with high unemployment and a poor environment who need the benefits that the Bill and the barrage would bring to their job prospects, their future and their environment. It is for their sakes that I urge the House to give the Bill a Second Reading, so that it can receive the detailed scrutiny of a Special Standing Committee.
Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West) : I am grateful for this opportunity to pursue the questions initiated, after a fashion, by the carry-over motion. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) said, a great deal has happened since that motion was passed. I want to draw attention to some of the new material.
We meet within seven days of the 10th anniversary of the last major flood of the River Taff, which runs through my constituency. On 26 December 1979, a major flood almost caught a large audience of children at Chipperfield's circus in my constituency. They narrowly escaped with their lives into the offices of the Transport and General Workers' Union in Cathedral road in which both my hon. Friend and the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) and I have our constituency offices--[ Hon. Members :-- "On the fourth floor!"] The children were taken to the mezzanine floor.
In my surgeries I am still dealing with compensation cases which have not yet been completed since that flood 10 years ago. I hope that the House will understand just
Column 289how badly scarred are the residents of the low-lying areas of my constituency--Riverside, Pontcanna Canton and Leckwith from the past flooding.
Mr. Morgan : I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) thinks that he knows the answer to that question, but I think that it is wrong. He thinks that the flood was caused by the inrushing tide coinciding with water coming down the river, but that is not the case. It was caused by human error in the operation of the flood prevention warning.
Mr. Morgan : He did think that. My constituents are worried that human error can still occur and that, if there was a barrage, the consequences would be even more catastrophic than they were in 1979. Trauma still affects the elderly people in the low-lying parts of my constituency which were flooded in 1979 and 1960. Some people still come to my surgery to untangle the compensation cases, and even when the compensation right has not been contested by the city or county council, compensation has still not been paid in full. This is 10 years, less one week, later. That is why my constituents are extremely concerned about the effect on them of anything that alters the water regime to lock the water in, rather than letting it out.
Mr. Michael : I have frequently said that I understand the impact of those events on the inhabitants of my hon. Friend's constituency. Does he not accept that this has little to do with the actual or likely effects of the Bill and the development?
Mr. Morgan : I wish that were true. My hon. Friend has already adduced the names of various distinguished and, as he calls them, pre- eminent, academics such as Mr. Glyn Jones, who has assured him about the groundwater conditions in his constituency. Although I was not consulted about that exercise, I think that, for reasons best known to him, my hon. Friend believes that it also applies to my constituency. If my hon. Friend is interested in the views of pre-eminent academics, he will also be aware of the views of other pre-eminent academics, such as Dr. Gordon Saunders, also of London university, who say that this will increase the flooding risk. That is not only Dr. Saunders's view, but that of Dr. Stuart Noakes, who is at least as well, if not better, academically qualified and has more practical experience because he lives in south Wales and is more familiar with the flood risk to the low-lying terrain in the four wards of my constituency.
Mr. Michael rose --
Column 290it clear that this was the view of an academic who has an equal, if not greater, right to be regarded as a pre- eminent academic to the one whose evidence my hon. Friend used. My hon. Friend cannot come to the House and pick and choose which academics he wants us to believe. If he thinks that Mr. Glyn Jones is some sort of God from the sky, a Roger Quittendon type of figure, whom everyone in Wales must bow down to and accept without further reference to other academics who do live in or come from south Wales, he is asking an awful lot. Three major academics--Dr. Saunders, Dr. Noakes and Dr. Miles--all believe that the research done so far by the development corporation into the barrage and its effects on flooding is deeply flawed and inadequately researched. No hon. Member would gainsay the fact that those three are also extremely distinguished engineering experts on underwater geology.
Mr. Morgan : I wonder whether my hon. Friend might allow me some sort of intermission so that I can continue my speech. If he contests the principle that they are pre-eminent academics, he must say why-- [Interruption]. Now my hon. Friend is suggesting that he does not contest that. It is nonsense. Perhaps he would allow me to proceed for, shall we say, 20 seconds?
Three matters have altered substantially since the carry-over motion. The first is the production of the "Living Waterfront" alternative by the Save the Taff Consortium, which is a combination of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and other naturalist bodies, together with the residents action groups against the barrage. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth said that the alternative was produced by the RSPB. It was not. The person who designed the scheme was a member of a residents action group against the barrage. The Save the Taff Consortium is a unique conjunction of conservation bodies and residents action groups against the barrage. It would be wrong to give the impression, as my hon. Friend did, that it entirely emanated from the RSPB. The second change relates to grants from the EEC. We must allay any fears that the Opposition are opposed to persuading the Welsh Office to spend more public money in Cardiff, in the three Glamorgans, in Gwent, in Wales or in the United Kingdom. We are in favour of the spending of strategically designed sums of public money intended to engender more public and private investment. However, the Bill is the wrong way to do it.
The EEC determination will be rubber stamped tomorrow. However, I am sure that the Minister will confirm that it has already been taken. South Wales will be short of regional development funds. The four counties of industrial south Wales and the industrial part of Dyfed will have to manage on very short rations from the EEC for the next three years. Only £50 million will be available for four and a half counties of industrial south Wales. It is a cut of at least a half in what we usually have. The amount will have to be made up by the Welsh Office, because otherwise we shall be short of development money. Extra public money will have to go into the Butetown link.
Column 291I hope that Conservative Members will not accuse us of being churlish about the offer by the Welsh Office and the Treasury to spend public money on this scheme. We have much better ideas for what should be done with public money. The "Living Waterfront" scheme is a better barrage and our ideas for spending public money will produce far more jobs than would the sterile barrage idea. We are pro-development and pro-environment.
Some 550 people attended a meeting in the city hall at Cardiff to launch the "Living Waterfront" scheme. I thought that it was mad to book the main assembly rooms. I expected only the front three rows to be filled. In fact, the hall, which holds 800 people, was more than five eighths full. It was a most impressive gathering--a combination of conservationists and anti- barrage residents groups.
We must understand those critical factors. Industrial south Wales will be short of public money for development. A report by Coopers and Lybrand pleads the case for the Butetown link being given European regional development fund and Welsh Office support through transport supplementary grant or by an extra grant, through the back door, to the Cardiff Bay development corporation, which would pay it to South Glamorgan. The report makes it clear that there would be development in Cardiff bay if the Butetown link is built. That is far more important than anything that the barrage is likely to contribute.
There is absolutely no other way of interpreting the statement in paragraph 549 of the report. After interviewing people in the property development industry, the writers of the report said : "A majority of interviewees not yet committed to investment would still consider investment in the wider area if there was no barrage."
Remember, the report is talking about property developers. "However, this would significantly influence the timing and scale of their investment, the quality and value of activity and their choice of location either within the Bay or elsewhere. None of them interviewed would invest without improvement in road links in the Bay area."
The Butetown road link is the critical factor. That will not now get an EEC grant, and that will leave South Glamorgan either with a shattering level of poll tax in the coming few years or it will be necessary for the Welsh Office to up the level of grant to South Glamorgan because that road is now estimated to cost £116 million, making it easily the most expensive county highway project ever launched in Wales.
A grant of at least £25 million over and above the normal 50 per cent. transport supplementary grant is now necessary to replace the lost European regional development fund grant. I will not now go into the reasons why we lost that grant ; that is a debate for another place and time.
Not only Coopers and Lybrand say that the barrage is not as important as other essential factors. For example, in the December 1989 issue of Housing magazine there is an interesting quotation from Barratt's south Wales general manager, Mr. Melhuish : "Barry Melhuish, Sales Director of Barratt, South Wales, confirms this. Our development is planned as a waterside development' "-- he was referring to the Windsor Quays development on Ferry road-- " which can cater for the barrage happening or not happening.' He says, We are proceeding without a care for the barrage.' "
Column 292Not only is Barratt's saying that. It is now as plain as a pikestaff. During the summer, Sam Pickstock of Tarmac South Wales said that he did not intend to wait for the barrage and that his investment decisions had nothing to do with whether the barrage went ahead- -and that was the view of the largest housing developer in Britain.
With industrialists, the CBDC has become a dirty word. The CBDC has sterilised development for the last two years in the area of the old East Moors steelworks. Indeed, during the summer, things got so bad that the Welsh Office issued a warning to the CBDC to the effect that it must get its act together.
It is not unfair to say that the CBDC has, in Cardiff's case, been the biggest job destroyer since the Luftwaffe. In the middle of last year, AA Insurance Services was launching a project which would have brought an additional 500 jobs to Cardiff, but as a result of being messed about by the CBDC, that development went to Newcastle. That is one reason why the CBDC has become a dirty word, although we could also quote in graphic terms Mr. Mike McGrane of Paul's Industrial Services, one of the major employers in the bay, with 400 jobs involved. When the predecessor of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth, the former Prime Minister, now Lord Callaghan, was opening some premises, Mr. McGrane said :
"The main problem with Cardiff Bay is that I have always failed to get a response. Their development people have been courteous and helpful, but I believe their hands have been tied. I honestly cannot understand the motives of the Bay. It is also worth pointing out that as a local firm, we have never been asked to submit a tender for any of the work being carried out for them. How can they say that this is for the benefit of local businesses?"
It is interesting to note what Lord Callaghan said. On this occasion he was opening new premises, and the Cardiff Bay development corporation had already said that those premises would have to be knocked down. Lord Callaghan said :
"I shall never forget this day. Never before have I been asked to unveil a plaque for a building that was going to be knocked down." That is the present state of affairs. The job-creation agency set up by the Government is destroying jobs before reaching the job-creation stage.
Mr. Michael : My hon. Friend is quoting a series of examples which are not open to proper debate in the House. Indeed, it would be wrong for us now to debate those individual examples. Will my hon. Friend take it from me that I have been involved with a number of problems of concern to individual firms?
Mr. Michael : I am aware of the circumstances to which my hon. Friend referred. I assure him that I take an interest in firms in my constituency, and I feel better placed than he is to say that he is grossly overstating the case.
The question, then, concerns the competence of the Cardiff Bay development corporation, something which grievously worries my constituents. Since the carry-over motion, the development corporation and the county council have attempted to correct the incorrect map that
Column 293they signed. When we debated the motion, I was told that the issue of the incorrect map was a minor one, that all would be put right and that everyone would be happy. My constituents, however, are still extremely unhappy about the compensation map signed in error by Lord Elibank.
Lord Elibank has since signed a new plan, which has been displayed in certain public places--the city hall, the county headquarters and Baltic house, the corporation's headquarters. Lists have been sent out to local residents affected by the change in the line of the plan, telling them, "We are very sorry that we put your house on the wrong side of the line ; we have now corrected our mistake." There is still a mistake, however.
The corporation told me about one further change that it had made, but it has also made further uncovenanted changes involving nine houses in Severn grove, Nos. 63 to 81. Those houses have still been omitted from a list in which--according to the original plan put before the House of Lords--they should have been included. The intent of Cardiff Bay and the co-promoter, South Glamorgan, is still being defeated. At 7 pm today, I was given a press release by Pontcanna Residents Against the Barrage, which has studied the plans most diligently. I am told that its secretary had the two maps in front of her, and saw that the large one did not tally with the small one that had been distributed to everyone.
The corporation's competence is in doubt on two counts : the destruction of jobs, and the failure to get the compensation maps right. Compensation is a major issue in my constituency, as I am sure that it is in Cardiff, South and Penarth. Tenants probably have not received letters at all, simply because they were addressed to "The Resident"--one resident per house-- meaning that those in bedsit-land would not receive the information. That may be why the Woolwich Building Society is to publish tomorrow a survey of house price changes in south Wales up to the year 2000. According to tonight's edition of the South Wales Echo, the report--which I have not read--comments that concern about flooding may well cause the price of houses in low-lying parts of Cardiff to lag behind that of houses in other parts. The Bill, however, contains no proposals for changes in property values that penalise residents of low-lying areas. Among the academics who have studied the geological aspects of the case, there are those who believe that there is nothing to worry about--for instance, Mr. Jones, mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth, and Mr. Roly Edwards, who works for Cardiff Bay and is a consultant to Wallace Evans and Partners--and three who believe that there is a great deal to worry about : Drs. Saunders, Miles and Noake, who are all extremely distinguished in their field. What marks out the opponents of the barrage, however, is their familiarity with geological conditions in south Wales. I am in no position to judge who is pre-eminent, but it is surely more than a coincidence that the practical but highly qualified academics who are worried about flooding and groundwater were either born and brought up in south Wales or worked there--or both. That is not true of Mr. Jones or Mr. Edwards, who are not so well acquainted with the unusual geological and water conditions there. The level of rivers can rise dramatically following rain in
Column 294the Beacons and the valleys, and when the great Atlantic depressions sweep across for three weeks, followed by a final great downpour, the river flow is strongly affected.
Mr. Rogers : I am sure that hon. Members are bored with the ping- pong battle between the consultant geologists. I am an engineering geologist by profession, and quite frankly I am completely bored with it. I do not claim any pre-eminence ; all I can do is read the report that was financed by the Cardiff Bay development corporation. On table 6.1, Wallace Evans listed nine potential hazards in the area. It takes into account some hazards and discounts others. A closer reading of the part of the report that discounts the hazards shows that the consultants for the corporation cannot dismiss them completely, so it will become a matter of conjecture between the so-called experts because they are dealing with marginal hazards that have been acknowledged. It is as simple as that.
Mr. Morgan : I am very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) who is academically, geologically and politically pre- eminent. I hope that he will be satisfied with my decision to leave geology and turn to environmental matters. I wish to depart from the chambers of the Royal Geological Society and turn to water quality, which has already been mentioned by my hon. Friends the Members for Newport, West, for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) and for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Smith).
One question that has emerged since we last debated the Bill is how to clean up the waters of the Taff beyond the stage at which all the sewage is treated without locking rich nutrients into the lake that would be formed behind the dam. I am told that the only way to do that would be to do what is done in parts of Germany, as most of Germany is landlocked--phosphate stripping.
Phosphate stripping is a major exercise which requires a large area of land, so it would have to be done somewhere in my constituency or that of the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr Grist)--somewhere in Blackweir or Pontcanna fields. It would require a very extensive acreage for a large double treatment works so that the water entering the bay was cleaned of all the rich nutrients from the treated sewage from the Cynon valley, the Rhondda that is trapped at Cilfynydd and elsewhere at other sewage treatment works.
That would create a very major problem. It is not in the proposals of the CBDC or the Welsh water authority. It has not been costed or designed and it is not on offer to us, so we must assume that the water entering the lake would be extremely rich in nutrients from treated sewage.
Is there a way to prevent untreated sewage from forcing its way into the Taff on a massive scale? Last week, during the heavy rain, we all went down to check on the Taff and we saw a massive wave of plastic bags, council house doors, and sanitary items, as described by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells) so graphically the last time we discussed these matters. The only way to get rid of that would be to have rainwater drains in the valleys so large that they would be something like 10 ft above the road. The flashiness of the rivers in south Wales in response to heavy rain is such that the rainwater goes straight into the river on a colossal scale because there is no soil cover on the sides of the valleys as the trees were all cut down for pit props during world war one. There is no way of coping
Column 295with that. We shall always have that problem. In every heavy rain storm during the winter, untreated sewage will be forced into the river and trapped in the bay and the lake, making the lake extremely unsightly and microbiologically hazardous for anyone brave enough to think of immersion or occasional immersion sports.
Finally, the residents have every right to remain extremely concerned about their future happiness and security in their homes. They are deeply cynical about the way in which they have been treated over the past 10 years by the city council and the county council in respect of flood compensation claims. They do not, therefore, always believe what authority tells them. We might say that they should believe what authority tells them and that the scheme will reduce flood danger, but they know that academic opinion on the subject is divided.
People will naturally play safe and say that if all the academics had told them that the scheme would reduce the risk from flooding, they would believe them, but as the academics are split 50:50 and the experts who live in south Wales have said that we must be careful about the scheme because it could make matters worse, it is natural that those of my constituents who live in low-lying areas which are prone to flooding and who have experience of flooding will say that they do not want the scheme and that they do not think that it will be good for their environment. Whatever is good for the environment must not mean 4 ft of dirty floodwater from the Taff in their ground floor premises every 20 years.
It is all very well for people to say that the CBDC is staffed by experts and has the most expensive consultants that money can buy. Let us never forget that the Titanic was built by professionals, whereas Noah's Ark was built by inspired and very committed amateurs.