|Previous Section||Home Page|
Mr. Michael : I accept that this is a matter about which my hon. Friend feels passionately, which is why he has such a concentrated approach to it. His passion carries him a little too far. It is a little surprising that the RSPB discovered the tremendous importance of this area of Cardiff bay only when a development was suggested. It did not give it such importance in its previous publications. My hon. Friend undermines his case by overstating it.
The RSPB has not suddenly found Cardiff bay. It was the subject of designation as a site of special scientific interest in 1979. Nobody objected to that then.
In 1979 South Glamorgan included Cardiff bay in its structure plan as a site for nature conservation, so the conservation case is well established. No one argued against development prior to Nick Edwards's brainchild in 1986 because until then he had not had his brainchild. It was not until 1986 that anyone suggested that Cardiff bay should be developed.
My hon. Friend for Newport, West grossly exaggerated his views when he tried to dismiss the idea of designations of sites of special scientific interest. He tried to suggest that because there were 5, 000 such sites one did not really matter. He should look carefully at those 5,000 sites, although not individually. Some 1,000 of them are sites of
Column 307scientific geological interest. My hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell) made a telling point about that and there was a great deal of merit in his case.
The other sites are designated not by whim, not because someone simply says, "This is a nice site, let's designate it." They are based on strict, objective, scientific criteria. Those SSSIs that are estuarine and therefore have particular importance for migrating birds number only 48. My hon. Friend cannot say that there are 5,000 when there are only 48.
I resist the development of SSSIs to the extent that they would be destroyed, for the first time, by Government action. It sets a precedent. My hon. Friend was right to say that we are resisting it because it is the first one. I must ask him--and it is a rhetorical question ; I do not want an answer and I will not give way to him--if we do not resist the first one, when do we start to resist? Will it be an arbitrary figure? Will it be the fifth, the 10th or the 48th? Will we destroy them all? If so, what is the point of designating SSSIs?
We have a moral obligation, which I believe to be overriding, although I understand that others may think differently. It is my view that our natural heritage has been handed down from those who went before, and it is our responsibility to conserve for those who come after. I freely admit that that is my own, perhaps idiosyncratic, view. Others may take a different view. However, even if they reject the moral argument, they cannot reject the constitutional argument. They cannot reject our statutory responsibilities to protect our SSSIs.
We have international obligations. The SSSI in Cardiff bay is part of the Severn estuary, which is a candidate for designation under our commitment to Ramsar--the treaty under which we have international obligations. We are internationally obliged under article 3 of the treaty to ensure the wise use of our wetlands. Article 4 states : "Each contracting party shall promote the conservation of wetlands and waterfowl by establishing nature reserves on wetlands whether they are included in the list or not."
We are free and willing signatories to that treaty. I defy anyone to say how the construction of the barrage across the mouths of the Taff and Ely rivers and the creation of this midge-ridden polluted lake, destroying an SSSI, is a wise use of our wetlands.
The EEC directive on the conservation of wild birds requires the protection of species and especially of migratory birds. It makes it clear that, in the case of irreconcilable conflict, the legal obligation of member states is to give priority to ecological needs. Article 2 of the treaty does not say that there shall be a balance but that priority shall be given to ecological needs. For that reason, if the Bill reaches the statute book, that will not be the end of the matter. We will find ourselves before the European Court of Justice charged with a breach of article 2.
Mr. Flynn rose
Mr. Davies : I sat patiently while my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West made his case and I did not attempt to intervene. He has been absent--for reasons that I appreciate--for a large part of my speech. I trust that he appreciates that I, too, am entitled to make my speech without interruption.
I believe that the Bill flouts our legal obligations to conservation, that it defies logic in the matter of groundwater and the question of water quality and that the promoters of the measure are making a gross error of
Column 308judgment in believing that the barrage will be a positive factor in the redevelopment of Cardiff docklands. I hope that the Bill will fail tonight and that, if it does not, it will fail during its passage through Parliament.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Ian Grist) : I thought it might be helpful, after that extremely deeply felt speech by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) if I gave the House a brief summary of the Government's attitude to the Bill. The Government have a substantial interest in the objectives of the Bill, as the intention is 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, which commissioned the initial studies into the proposal.
The Government believe that the key to the redevelopment of the Cardiff bay area is the construction of a barrage across the harbour mouth. The range of quality developments which will arise from this will benefit not just Cardiff and the people who live and work in the bay area, but also the economy of south Wales generally. The image and perception of Wales worldwide will also be transformed. The Government carefully considered the wide-ranging and detailed studies of the economic, technical and environmental issues involved. We accept that the environmental considerations must be weighed against the great economic, recreational and other benefits expected to arise from a barrage, and concur with the view that the economic case for the barrage is very strong, a view shared by the Committee in the other place.
Indeed, it is the intention, once the barrage is in place, for the development corporation to carry out as part of the development the highest -quality environmental improvements and to create, with conservation groups, a superb freshwater, wildlife and natural habitat within the bay area.
The Government have already made plain their commitment to providing grant in aid to enable the barrage to be built if Parliament agrees the legislation. As a further demonstration of our commitment to this proposal, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales announced on 11 December that he was making £31.5 million available to the Cardiff Bay development corporation next year, and that, over the next three years, Government funding would total £100 million, bringing the total amount given, or announced, to date to some £150 million. Beyond that, we will ensure that sufficient funding will be made available to enable the corporation to carry through its task.
Mr. Rowlands : At last we are receiving an official statement about the public expenditure consequences of the Bill. The Minister spoke of the Government's commitment of £150 million and went on to speak about further amendments. We should not permit this stage of the measure to pass until we have teased out of him his estimate of the total of public and Welsh Office expenditure, and from which vote it will come.
Mr. Grist : I do not think that that is entirely germane to the proposal for a barrage, but capital costs of some £84.78 million are shown in the financial memorandum accompanying the Bill, and those are the costs for which parliamentary approval is being sought. There are, of
Column 309course, additional costs for sewerage diversion, environmental matters and so forth, which bring the amount to £113 million. The total cost to the development corporation is estimated--as the hon. Gentleman said in his last speech--to be some £402 million. He will appreciate that the multiple of private investment expected to follow that makes the operation very feasible.
Mr. Grist : There will be transport grant funding for the Bute link ; the rest will come out of the general Welsh Office block Vote, which is in the hands of the Secretary of State. [Interruption.] It is Welsh Office money. The hon. Gentleman has read the evidence given to the Committee in the other place.
That is why I believe that the House should agree to refer the Bill to a Standing Committee.
Column 31111.6 pm
expenditureconsequences of the Bill. When we last debated it, we tried to tease the information out of the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael). I was mildly disappointed that, in opening today's debate, my hon. Friend made no reference to the public expenditure consequences. It took some time for us to extract from the Minister the information that the amount involved will be over £400 million.
Mr. Michael : Perhaps I can help ; I was seeking to help the Minister on the same point. I referred to the public expenditure implications, but I must point out tht the £402 million mentioned by the Minister includes some £219 million which would be required without the barrage--the primary distributor road, for instance. We should be specific about which developments are barrage-related, and we would need the PDR irrespective of the barrage.
Mr. Rowlands : I am grateful to my hon. Friend : further teasing is producing more estimates and qualifications. It is about time. My hon. Friend mentioned none of this in his opening speech ; he did not come clean with the House or with his colleagues. Even if that £200-odd million is deducted, however, we are still left with a £200 million public- expenditure Welsh Office grant for the scheme. As has already been said, the matter is no longer one of local concern ; it has profound public expenditure implications for the Principality as a whole.
Let me prompt my hon. Friend to interrupt my spech again, in the hope of teasing out further information. In our last debate on the Bill, I mentioned operational losses of £652,000. How will that amount be paid?
Mr. Michael : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for posing his questions. I assure him that it is not a case of "teasing out" ; the figures are in the public domain, and I am quoting from documents that my hon. Friend has read and from which he too has quoted. The operational cost of the barrage and the inland bay are estimated at £1.1 million annually in the November 1988 figures, with expected revenues growing over time to a total of £0.475 million, leaving a deficit of £0.642 million. That is a little over half a million pounds. It is only fair to put it in perspective. The maintenance of Cardiff's parks--an expense that we do not begrudge--costs about £3 million annually. So the cost of the project is not as excessive as my hon. Friend suggests.
Mr. Rowlands : That is extremely interesting. The scheme is supposed to have enormous benefits and tremendous consequences for the development of the city. All that private money is to pour into it, yet the public-- through the Welsh Office and the ratepayers or poll tax payers of South Glamorgan county council--will pick up the losses. That is the only conclusion I can draw.
Mr. Denzil Davies : My hon. Friend makes an extremely cogent point. It seems that losses will be £500,000 in the first year. Does my hon. Friend have any idea where that money will come from? Will it come from the Welsh Office or will it be raised through the poll tax? Mr. Michael rose--
Mr. Michael : I am seeking to help my hon. Friend with answers to these questions. The maintenance of parks in Cardiff--which we properly consider to be an important matter of public expenditure--is of the order of £3 million. We are talking about a little more than £500,000 for the maintenance of the lake and the inland water area. I suggest to my hon. Friend that we use the term "subsidy" when we do not approve of something, but we say "expenditure on maintenance" when we do.
Mr. Rowlands : We are simply trying to discover the facts. Again my hon. Friend has not answered the question. I understand that the barrage will be owned by the Cardiff Bay development corporation. Will the corporation pay the operating cost or will it be paid by the community charge payers of South Glamorgan?
Mr. Michael : Initially, the corporation will fund the running costs. After its dissolution, it is intended to create a fund from assets to enable the successor body to pay for operating costs. Again, I refer only to what is public knowledge and is in the documents to which my hon. Friend has referred. One cannot deal with every detail. These matters have been open and available to my hon. Friend. There is nothing new in what I am saying today.
Mr. Rowlands : It is not a matter of detail, but one of considerable public consequence and concern. We now know that the Welsh Office will underwrite the capital expenditure . We all know about the concept of competing for resources. Ministers constantly tell us that the Welsh Office does not have a bottomless purse. Therefore, that money is coming from the same purse that could be paying the Welsh Development Agency to clear derelict land in Merthyr Tydfil or Rhymney or to finance other developments in other parts of the Principality. Therefore, we are rightly entitled to challenge the use of those public resources, as they come from one central budget that we share and for which we compete with Cardiff and other communities.
Mr. Rowlands : That is fascinating. Does it mean that the Cardiff Bay development corporation is likely to pay back any part of the £400 million to come out of Welsh Office funds? I invite the Minister to reply to that perfectly reasonable question.
Let me ask the Minister again. He just got up and said that the Cardiff Bay development corporation will be able to raise money because it will sell houses and assets and develop its land. Does that mean that, if there is a nice large surplus, it will come back to the Welsh Office and pay off the £400 million initial investment? Are we talking about a pump-priming exercise which will be repaid to the Welsh Office, or can it be described as a £400 million grant for what is basically a private development?
Will the Minister answer the question? As he has not risen from his seat, we must make the simple assumption that the £400 million is all grant and that if the CBDC
Column 313earns lots of money as a consequence of the scheme, the money will not come back to the Welsh Office. That is the simple lesson to draw from our series of exchanges.
Having indentified an important issue, I must explain that I intend to vote against the Bill, because it is a matter of priorities. I do not share the priorities of some hon. Members, and I believe that other communities have an equal, if not greater, right to challenge the levels of expenditure, which make the valleys initiative of the Secretary of State look like meagre rations.
I want to underline a point that I made last time I spoke on the Bill, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth did not respond tonight. I refer to a previous experience, when I had the privilege to serve Cardiff, North. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies), in a forceful speech, underlined the point about consultants. Consultants have a vested interest in grandiose schemes. The nature of their thinking--and sometimes of their fees--is based on the sum total of the scheme that they propose. There is an inherent tendency for consultants to produce grandiose schemes.
Cardiff has several times suffered from such proposals. It suffered when Ravenseft and Land Securities came along to build a huge addition to the centre of Cardiff, combined with the destruction of houses with the building of a hook road. Everybody in the city talked about the jobs that would flow from that and how Cardiff would become a great metropolitan centre if only we built that enormous shopping development and the hook road to feed it. I am grateful that, as a result of a switch in public opinion and the strength of resistance to those proposals--
I am grateful that those grandiose schemes were swept away. Cardiff is such a beautiful city now because it has grown organically. It has grown out of the existing centre and by rejecting the grandiose schemes.
Mr. Rowlands : No, because I have responded to my hon. Friend in a series of exchanges and I want to make a couple of brief points. The city grew out of organic development from the existing centre. Much of what is now being proposed has the approach of those grandiose schemes of 20 years ago. To turn our backs on such schemes and to create a sensible, civilised development out of the existing dockland area would be a better choice than the scheme that is proposed in the Bill.
I want to answer the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth made about the "rippling" effect. He does not realise how much the concept that our development is a rippling effect from a marina in Cardiff, spreading to Merthyr Tydfil, to Rhymney and to Tredegar, is now resented in the heads of the valleys communities.
We reject that idea on two grounds. First, we do not believe that it would happen.
The major rippling effect was a result of the enormous development of coal and iron from the valleys, which built Cardiff and created the great docklands and ports from which coal, iron and timber were exported. That was the original rippling effect, which came from the valleys. We do not believe that the development that my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli so eloquently described will ripple up in the same way to create jobs and investment for the people of Merthyr Tydfil or the heads of the valleys.
We not only do not believe in such a development, but we do not want it. We have spent the past 15 to 20 years fighting for a countervailing economic centre. We do not want a rippling effect from Cardiff up ; we want to build an alternative economic development around the heads of the valleys. As my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli said, we want that to be based on the real contribution that it can make to the industrial regeneration not only of our own communities but of the Principality and of Britain. That will not be achieved by giving enormous sums of public money to build a marina in south Cardiff.
This is not the first occasion on which we have fought against a grandiose scheme such as this. We opposed the whole idea of an equally grandiose scheme at Llantrisant. The whole project was based on the so-called rippling effect. We were told that, if only that new town was built at the bottom of the valleys, our problems would be solved ; we should only have to travel as far as Llantrisant. Now we are told that we must travel to south Cardiff for our jobs and investment. We do not want to be told that.
We rejected the principle when we rejected the Llantrisant new town scheme. We should reject the principle when it is advocated by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth in support of the Cardiff Bay Barrage Bill. We do not want a rippling effect from a lagoon or pool in south Cardiff ; we want to develop our own alternative economy, and we need a large amount of public expenditure to do that. I believe that we are competing for the same resources as the Bill, so naturally I oppose it.
Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda) : I am completely in favour of the scheme to develop the Cardiff docklands, but, like many of my hon. Friends, I oppose the development of a barrage, because there is only one reason why such a development is required. One tragedy of this debate is that Welsh Members on different sides of the argument are becoming more and more polarised, with the argument getting more bad-tempered as we proceed.
Mr. Rogers : Yes, we have had some very bad-tempered speeches, and it is no good running away from the fact. My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) was not bad-tempered at all, but other speakers have been very bad-tempered. I see no reason for that. I deeply regret the way in which the debate has developed. Let us consider the history of the project. I see that the Minister is smiling. It is a pity that he could not have
Column 315smiled a little more during his speech and given us a few figures instead of trying to defraud the people of Wales of the money by putting it into the new outfit set up by his previous boss, Lord Crickhowell. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) said in the letter that he sent out on 7 November : "At this stage my plea is a simple one : Here we have Labour initiative".
He was eliciting the support of Labour Members, of course. But that was not true.
Mr. Rogers : No. I am more concerned about Conservative Members and what they are about, because they want different things from us. In answer to Paul Foot, Lord Crickhowell, who is now chairman of the National Rivers Authority--[ An hon. Member :-- "Smiling in the Gallery."] I cannot refer to people in the Gallery.
Lord Crickhowell said :
"There is hardly a conflict of interest. The position is that, on my instruction, anyone at the National Rivers Authority giving advice on Cardiff Bay must not refer to me."
I am sure that the noble Lord would not want to waste his time in the Gallery listening to our speeches. Who would want to waste his time here this evening? We are told that he is not interested in the barrage, that he does not care about it and that he wants to stand away from it because, of course, he must not have an interest. In fact, he has interests, but not as a public guardian of the cleanliness of rivers or of the pollution of the environment. His interest is as a director of Associated British Ports, which owns 160 acres in the Cardiff bay area.
However, he is not the only one who has a financial interest in the development of the scheme--
Mr. Michael rose --
Mr. Michael : I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that the consideration that guided Labour county councillors and city councillors in favouring the scheme and, in the case of the county councillors, in promoting the Bill was based on long deliberations and their sincere belief that it will benefit the area and the environment and enhance the job opportunities of the children and grandchildren of the area.
Mr. Rogers : I agree completely with my hon. Friend. The motives of most of the Labour county, district and city councillors could not be questioned in any way. But when the scheme was initially put forward, Nicholas Edwards, the then Secretary of State for Wales, now Lord Crickhowell, did not give the city or county councils any
Column 316options. He said, "Either have the urban development corporation or have nothing." Naturally, having been blackmailed, the county and city councils accepted the situation. They acted, as many of us have as county and district councillors over the years when we participated in decisions, because they genuinely thought that they would bring a benefit. I am sure that the development of Cardiff bay will be of great benefit to the people who live in the area. But over and above all that, there is something rather smelly about this. There has been a lot of talk about pollution, but there is something rotten about this business. There is something incestuous about it--too many people are involved. Apart from Lord Crickhowell, someone else has been extremely interested in our debate tonight. The chairman of the urban development corporation was the slight unsuccessful Tory candidate for the constituency of Ebbw Vale in 1979. There is a saying in Wales--coined by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan)--"Lose a deposit and gain a quango." All that anyone has to do in Wales is to lose a seat and he or she can then become chairman of a quango or some other body. The same principle was exercised by the former Secretary of State for Wales, when the motto was "Leave a seat, gain a quango and several directorships on the way." An enormous number of conflicts of interest are involved.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth will convey to his friends who spoke on the conservation issue, such as the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn), who has now left the Chamber, that I am sorry that this debate has been used to attack conservation principles and the principle behind the designation of sites of special scientific interest. At least the Minister said that his Department had balanced the environmental hazards against the economic benefits and had concluded that the economic benefits were more important. That is a good, honest statement and it is a pity that we have not heard more honest statements tonight
Many people outside the Chamber will consider what has been said tonight and will wonder what the Labour party's attitude is towards green issues. The performance on this was scandalous. I have told the hon. Members concerned that I would refer to them. It was scandalous that the principles of SSSIs should be attacked. They were established after a great deal of discussion and investigation, and after a great deal of opposition from many sources. It would be a tragedy if SSSIs were to disappear. We are nibbling at the margins of our special wildlife areas. God knows, south Wales has had enough pollution.
Mr. Michael : I said that it was right that the Select Committee should consider SSSIs in the light of the other factors involved. The natural environment is one of my passionate concerns and I respect the motivation behind the opposition. But the wrong target has been selected. I am not rubbishing the environmental considerations : I am simply saying that their application in this case is wrong.
Column 317Mr. Rogers : My hon. Friend must not take this too personally. I was not referring to him. If he mentioned the matter it was not in an objectionable way, attacking the principle of conservation or the establishment of SSSIs, and I do not include him in my comments. But this is the nub of the problem. Someone came up with the scheme and ever since it was mooted all that we have done is to try to shoehorn all the facts to fit the scheme. What my hon. Friend does not understand is that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) said, we are concerned with a point of principle. We would support a scheme for the development of Cardiff bay if there was no barrage. An alternative has been suggested--the one for the living waterfront. The estuaries and the mouths of some of the fastest flowing rivers in the United Kingdom do not need to be dammed up. We have seen from the plans and the maps that very little land accrues from the construction of the barrage compared with constructing a containment around the present dock area and getting rid of the mess, to which my hon. Friends the Members for Cardiff, West and for Cardiff, South and Penarth referred.
I do not see why we cannot all be on the same side. There is no reason why the barrage has to be built. I am sorry, there is one reason--the profit, greed and selfishness of people who will not live there and who have no real link with the industrial development of south Wales but who are simply interested in making a substantial profit from the people of Cardiff and the other people of south Wales. That is where the real interest lies in this matter. Even the literature sent to us today by my noble Friend Lord Brooks of Tremorfa says that the scheme will only create a lake. It may be a good lake or a bad lake--I do not want to go into that argument--but it need not be there. Factories will not be built in the middle of the lagoon or the bay. There need be no conflict at all. A simple containment on the east side of the estuary would give all the land that is required for the regeneration of the area. It would not have one of the 16 problems that have been identified by the opponents. Why does the Cardiff Bay development corporation have to be so entrenched in its attitude that it is not prepared to accept that? Even if the scheme is considered by a Select Committee, the removal of the barrage will still not be proposed because its purpose is to provide a place for people to park their boats.
My constituents may criticise me. As you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have a majority of almost 31,000, and at the last election 35,000 people voted for me. I am sorry to say that that majority will probably go rapidly downhill at the next general election, because my constituents will complain, "Look here, Rogers. You stopped me from mooring my boat at Cardiff." They will turn away from me and I shall lose all their support.