CORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 879-i

House of commons

oral evidence

taken before the

Energy and Climate Change Committee

A Severn Barrage?

Thursday 10 January 2013

RT HON Peter Hain, Martin Mansfield and Andy Richards

Martin Spray, Kate Jennings, Dr Simon Pryor and Martin Salter

Simon Bird, Matthew Kennerley and Professor Tim Broyd

Evidence heard in Public Questions 1-128

USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT

1.

This is a corrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.

2.

The transcript is an approved formal record of these proceedings. It will be printed in due course.

Oral Evidence

Taken before the Energy and Climate Change Committee

on Thursday 10 January 2013

Members present:

Mr Tim Yeo (Chair)

Dan Byles

Barry Gardiner

Ian Lavery

Dr Phillip Lee

Albert Owen

Christopher Pincher

John Robertson

Sir Robert Smith

Dr Alan Whitehead

________________

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Rt Hon Peter Hain, MP for Neath, British Labour Party, Martin Mansfield, Wales TUC General Secretary, and Andy Richards, Wales Secretary, Unite the Union in Wales, and President, Wales TUC, gave evidence.

Q1 Chair: Good morning. We have a very tight timetable, as you know; we have scheduled 30 minutes for this session. We have two other groups of witnesses. This is an inquiry in which there is enormous interest, so I think that itself reinforces the justification for conducting it.

Welcome to our first session. I should draw the attention of the Committee to my entries in the Register of Members’ Interests, and in that context, perhaps, Peter, I might ask if you want to do the same thing.

Mr Hain: Happy to do so. I have been working with Hafren Power, the company concerned with this. I have had a longstanding interest in the Severn estuary from when I was Secretary of State, but I have no commercial relationship with it at all.

Q2 Chair: Fine. I just wanted to get that clear. I would like to start on the question of costs, which seems, to me, absolutely central. The evidence we have had from the company suggests that a figure of £170 per kilowatt hour would be required. As you know, that is very substantially higher than almost any other renewable energy source under consideration as a potential substantial contributor to our energy needs. Why do you think we should be considering something that looks so much more expensive?

Mr Hain: When I went to see the Secretary of State for Energy about this, and the company came with me, it was very clear that this was not going to be an issue, but Hafren Power made it clear that their financial plans mean that they are not asking for anything more than offshore wind gets. In fact, if you look at the net cost, it will be substantially less, as you can see from their evidence that they provided to you, because of the flood protection savings to the nation. This is the one renewable energy project that will see considerable savings on flood protection, and that needs to be netted off, I think, in the overall bill. I am not sure about that figure, Chairman. When we have engaged with DECC, it is very clear this is not going to be obstacle, although there is a commercial negotiation to happen.

Q3 Chair: It is not really possible to net off savings of public expenditure against the costs of contracts for difference, because that cost falls directly on electricity consumers, and there will be no way of reimbursing them for a high price paid for a particular electricity source, even if it did deliver savings in some part of public spending.

Mr Hain: I understand that, and the company welcomes contracts for difference as being a better deal for the consumer. All I am saying is, if you are looking at this project in the round and its considerable benefits, which, no doubt, we will get to, from my point of view, to look at the massive savings, running to billions, in flood protection for the nation as a whole, even though you cannot net it off in quite the way that might have been supposed-you are right about that-nevertheless, you have to look at it in the round.

Q4 Chair: When the company comes to see us, which I think it is doing in about two or three weeks’ time, it will confirm that it would be happy with the strike price, which is the same as the one granted-we do not yet know what it is; we have a rough idea-for offshore wind?

Mr Hain: Yes. They are not asking for anything more or less than offshore wind, and there will be, in the end, a negotiation to be had around this. I do not see this as being a problem at all, frankly.

Q5 Barry Gardiner: Why did they put the price of £170 into their figures? Why is it out there in the public domain?

Mr Hain: Because this is a public evidence session.

Barry Gardiner: If in fact they are only asking for whatever it is that offshore wind is getting, then why don’t they say that publicly in the documents? Why do they have a figure of £170 in there in the first place?

Mr Hain: I think you should ask the company about that.

Barry Gardiner: Yes, we will.

Mr Hain: From my point of view, I am very clear that the company is not asking for anything more than offshore wind is getting, and indeed, as I say, because of the flood protection benefits, it will actually be less.

Q6 Chair: The company has said in a letter itself that its proposals are, at this stage, inchoate. They are not prepared to clarify them until they have agreement in principle from the Government that the Government will support the project. Do you think that is a reasonable approach?

Mr Hain: This is early stages, Chairman. I have only been involved in this myself for the last six months or so, and the company is very much in its early planning. This is a huge project, with massive benefits to the nation, and I think it is right that it is approaching it step-by-step, and your evidence session is an opportunity to test some of those matters, but this is a stage-by-stage approach.

Q7 Chair: But it is quite difficult-is it not?-for Ministers, or indeed for this Committee, to say in principle whether this is a good project if the details of it are not even clear from the evidence supplied by the company.

Mr Hain: I think the evidence is very clear. I think they have laid it out in a great deal of detail. This Committee has the benefit of having more detail on their plans than has ever been given before, and, as I say, you will have the opportunity to question them in detail, as you are doing so to me, and then we can move forward. But I hope we can get on to the benefits of this project, because they are massive, for the United Kingdom as a whole, and for South Wales and the South West of England in particular.

Q8 Dan Byles: I am very interested in the idea that you can say they are only asking for what offshore wind wants, yet, at the same time, we have been told that the initial contract for difference price they expect to be £170 per megawatt hour, filtering through to much lower costs further down the line, to a jam tomorrow of £20 per megawatt hour. What you are saying is simply not true. The figures the company has given us are significantly higher than the current figures that we are looking at for offshore wind.

Mr Hain: All I can say is that when I was in the meeting with the Secretary of State for Energy, with the company, it was made absolutely clear-and this is the position I have always understood from the company. It is a separate operation; I am a Member of Parliament supporting, passionately, a project that I think is in the interests of the country and the interests of renewable energy and the interests of tackling climate change, and it has enormous infrastructure and investment opportunities. It was made clear in that meeting that they are not asking for anything more than offshore wind, and in fact probably less.

Q9 Dan Byles: It is all very well saying that there are great benefits to the nation. That may well be true, but-

Mr Hain: I am talking about the strike price. They are not asking for anything more than offshore wind.

Dan Byles: I think we are going to have to explore that with the company, perhaps, when they come in front of us. That is not the impression that we have been given from the paperwork we have been shown.

Q10 Chair: Could I bring the TUC to the discussion? Would you like to tell us about your meetings with the company, and what your expectations are from all this?

Martin Mansfield: Certainly. The Wales TUC obviously is a constituent part of the UK TUC, but we have devolved responsibility for matters specific to Wales. Our interest is to ensure that any development of tidal energy on the Severn has maximum impact on particularly the Welsh, and the South West, workforce and economy, and we believe that major infrastructure investment like this is absolutely required in order to provide the economic stimulus that we need to take us out of the economic crisis we are in, particularly in South Wales. That is the interest that we take.

We have been really careful not to associate ourselves strongly with one company or one proposal. What we do is ask what has the most benefit for the Welsh workforce, for the Welsh economy? We can see, from the public pronouncements of the company, from the information received via Peter Hain, and from checking that information informally with the company, that there are certainly potential serious benefits for the Welsh economy and the Welsh workforce from this proposal. If there was another proposal with the same benefits or greater, we would be equally as supportive. If several proposals could be shown to have the same impact, we would be supportive of them, so we do not take a commercial interest or support a particular commercial proposal. What we do want to see is that this proposal, which we can see has major benefits, is not precluded from going forward because other potential proposals are there.

Q11 Chair: Peter, we will give you a chance to talk about the benefits in a moment. Just before we do that, on the legislative requirements, this is going to require a hybrid Bill, presumably. What are the public and private interests that that is going to have to reconcile?

Mr Hain: First of all, it will need a hybrid Bill because there are public interests, obviously planning issues, estuary issues, wildlife issues and so on, and there is also the actual commercial operation of operating a gigantic power station, so a hybrid Bill is the only really serious and appropriate vehicle. But there will be considerable opportunity-and I think some of the evidence that you have received is wrong in this respect-for all interested parties with a direct interest in this to be able to give evidence at both the petitioning period and also of course during the Committee stage, when there is a formal process there in which petitions can be made, evidence given, and that being considered by the Committee.

Q12 Chair: How long will that take?

Mr Hain: It depends on the Government. If the Government gives business time for it, and this cannot proceed unless the Government is prepared to make time for it in Parliament, I think it will take around a year or so.

Q13 Chair: What does the company plan by way of public consultation, given the scale of the project?

Mr Hain: They have already set up a regional committee, as they have explained to you in their evidence, and they have been engaging in regular meetings in both South Wales and the South West of England, and engaging in regular consultations with, for example, Sedgemoor Council and others involved, but, as I say, this is very early stages.

The other major consultation we have had, which I think has been referred to in evidence from the wildlife groups concerned to you, is a meeting with all of them in which they made their concerns and criticisms clear, and we have committed, I personally have committed and the company has committed, to engage with them-the Angling Trust, the RSPB and other key groups-to make sure that their concerns are at least addressed to the maximum possible extent. A number of other issues arise under that, which maybe you can question me about.

Q14 Barry Gardiner: Peter, I am sorry. I jumped down your throat earlier, so let me be nice to you now.

Mr Hain: I don’t mind what you do, Barry.

Barry Gardiner: Just set out for us, if you will, what you see as the key benefits of this scheme.

Mr Hain: First of all, it will generate fully 5% of the UK’s electricity needs. That is massive. It is the equivalent of three or four nuclear reactors and over 3,000 wind turbines. There is nothing like it on the horizon for renewable energy generation. It produces, after the initial consumer support period of whatever it is, 25 to 30 years, in line with all renewable energy, electricity 50% to 75% cheaper than coal, gas, wind or nuclear. For its lifespan, which is 120 years or more, it is a massive win for the UK. In addition, of course, it is huge in investment terms-£25 billion at least of investment-with an overall stimulus through the multiplier impact of around £70 billion, and 80% of that, the company has indicated, will be spent in the UK, which is not the case for other renewable energy-for example, wind most of which is spent abroad. It will create 50,000 jobs over a nine-year period, and it will leave a legacy of jobs for local ports, for commercial and marine and leisure activity, and a more benign sea environment in what will be 570 square kilometres of a sea lake that will go up and down on the upstream side of the barrage, so there are massive opportunities.

In addition, for jobs, from the point of view of my part of the world as a local MP, the caissons, the concrete structures, these giant edifices will be built and assembled at Port Talbot, which is a deepwater port, and then they will leave a legacy for ultra-large container ships, for probably the largest such port in the north-west of Europe. There are massive economic, renewable energy, climate change and every other sort of benefit, and then of course the flood protection issues are considerable. Indeed, 90,000 properties and 500 square kilometres will be protected from flooding. As I think the evidence has shown, there was a storm surge in 2010 that narrowly missed the Severn estuary. When it hit France, it caused $1.3 billion in damages. It will protect Bristol and Newport, Weston and the surrounding areas from those kinds of storm surges.

Q15 Barry Gardiner: Can I just take you back to the jobs issue? Of course, the 2010 study spoke of a figure of only 120 net jobs that would be created through the barrage scheme. You have given us the Hafren figure of 50,000. Without going into the detailed plans and considering all that Hafren has put down on this, how confident are you that that disparity does not exist between the 120 net jobs and the figure that you gave us of 50,000?

Mr Hain: What was previously considered in those figures, which you have fairly referred to, is an entirely different project. This is a project the like of which I have not seen, in looking at this for over 10 years as a Minister and as an MP. It operates on ebb and flow, which is much more wildlife-friendly, for example. It emulates the natural tidal flow of the Severn. It also is using different types of turbines, newly designed turbines that are being developed, which are much more fish-friendly than the old ones were, operate at a lower velocity: low-head turbines.

Barry Gardiner: Yes, but I am talking about the jobs.

Mr Hain: Yes. What I mean is, for all of those reasons, the jobs flow from the particular project and the way it is configured, and that was not on the table when the last studies that you refer to were done.

Q16 Barry Gardiner: We have had quite a bit of evidence from those in the South West, that the feeling is that their businesses and communities will not benefit in the way that you have outlined that you feel people will in Port Talbot and in your part of the world. Is it the case that there is going to be a divide here, that the economic benefits will well be in South Wales but not actually in the South West?

Mr Hain: No, it is not. It may well be that South Wales benefits a little more, because we have the steelmaking capacity at Tata Steel in Port Talbot. The port that is ideal for it is a deepwater port, the place in which the caissons will be assembled and so on. But as I think Hafren’s evidence has made clear and that all the consultations that have so far gone on and will go on are underlining, there will be massive potential benefits for turbine manufacture and assembly, for Bristol Port to take part in the shipping of millions and millions of tonnes of aggregates, and this is an 18-kilometre structure. It is huge. Whether it is Bristol Port or whether it is Newport or Cardiff, the surrounding ports upstream will all have an enormous amount of work over the nine-year construction period. Then, after that, you will have this much more benign-what I describe as a sea lake, quite different from the fearsome current of the Severn at the moment, which will also afford opportunities for new business activity, leisure activity, marine activity, which just simply is not feasible at the present time.

Q17 John Robertson: Peter, I know you do not know the technical aspects of the job, but you mentioned there nine years and 50,000 jobs. Is that from the start of construction until the end of construction?

Mr Hain: Yes. I think the company has estimated that 20,000 jobs will be directly involved in the construction and 30,000 in manufacturing and supplying of services and other goods associated with that-the multiplier effect.

Q18 John Robertson: Yes, and you talked about a year to get through planning. As you can see from today how popular this is, the planning stage is not going to be very easy, and you are probably underestimating the amount of time it will take.

Mr Hain: Quite possibly. Quite possibly, but I am simply saying what roughly it could take. What is really important with this, and of course it is generating controversy and a great deal of interest-anything that seeks change on this scale is bound to do so, and I do not resent that or in any way or sense say that it is not legitimate. It is legitimate for Bristol Port to put its point of view. It is legitimate for the Angling Trust and the RSPB to put their concerns, and then what matters is your Committee and the actual process of the hybrid Bill and the surrounding political process, particularly involving the Government, whose support is needed-not Treasury support, but other support-then this thing will come out in the round.

Q19 John Robertson: Do you have any idea how much this whole project will cost?

Mr Hain: The company says it will cost around £25 billion, and they have also said no Treasury money is required. That is very different from previous projects. The last one that I had any involvement with and was put to the Government required £600 million, I think, of Treasury money, which is out of the question, and why should that be given for a private power station, in any case? The costings have been laid out. It is of massive benefit to the British economy at a time when that is needed.

Q20 John Robertson: I accept what you are saying, in that respect. My problem with all this is the amount of time it will take from start to finish, plus obviously the cost, no matter who is paying for it, will be great. You have said this is new technology in the case of the turbines. How much testing has gone on in this new technology? Any new form of energy that I know always overruns when it starts to get put into operation.

Mr Hain: The sooner we can get the green light from the Government in principle to support the project, also to provide parliamentary time for it-those are the main things that are needed; as I say, no Treasury support is needed-then we can get on with it. It may be that some of this takes a bit longer to get right. For example, one of the things that the company has offered, and I am certainly very keen on ensuring that this happens, is that the wildlife groups are involved in the testing of the turbine technology to check that its claims to be fish-friendly do stand up, so that there is an open-door approach in that respect. This may take a little more time, but in the meantime, the clock is ticking on climate change. The clock is ticking on our ability to meet our legal renewable energy obligations as a country, and the clock is ticking on the creation of thousands of jobs.

Q21 John Robertson: Yes. There is no doubt there are a lot of questions that the company is going to have to answer. I wonder if I could ask the TUC something. You are not exactly all singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to trade unions on this subject, are you?

Martin Mansfield: I think there has been some concern raised, particularly in the media, about potential impact on Bristol Port jobs. We were concerned, as a trade union, from previous proposals that there was a provable impact, potentially, on jobs in Bristol Port, and that is why we were not so vociferous in support of previous barrage proposals. We understand from the company and from the published information that those concerns could be put to rest by this proposal. I understand the Unite the Union branch at Bristol Port provided evidence. Obviously, Unite is also represented here, Unite Wales as part of the Wales TUC, and as part of our evidence to this Committee. What we certainly want to see is the best potential impact from any investment on future jobs and future investment, while maintaining the protection of existing shipping and existing jobs in Bristol Port. It is very important to us that the company explicitly shows that the impact on Bristol jobs will not be negative.

Q22 John Robertson: You will appreciate that someone like myself-who is a trade unionist, and I do worry about the jobs side of it-my great fear is that while this will take many years to come to fruition, the knock-on effect it will have into the economy of the area, which will be disruptive. No matter what you say, it will be disruptive. Have you looked into that? Have you done an assessment of what kind of problems it could cause, and how you are going to help the people at the other end, shall we say, and up the Bristol Channel a bit more, to keep employment?

Martin Mansfield: What we have said in our evidence to the Committee is that we seek to have robust, evidence-based decision making. We want to see full public consultation. We are not necessarily, as I said, supporting one proposal over another, and we would expect any proposal to prove the net impact of its proposals on jobs, but also on future sustainable jobs, supply chains and UK procurement, and that is why we are very supportive of this proposal. The idea that you ensure that 80 %-odd of your investment has direct impact on UK jobs within South West England, Wales or wider in the UK, and also there is future legacy, particularly for Port Talbot dock and for potential manufacturing. Of course, we have recently only lost 600 jobs at Tata Steel in Port Talbot. We are very keen to ensure that steelmaking remains a feature of South Wales, and this would assist that.

Q23 John Robertson: My last question is on the 50,000 jobs, which sounds to me to be incredible. Then, knowing as I do-I am chair of the nuclear energy group in Parliament and how we can create 9,000 jobs to go to nuclear power stations-I cannot for the life of me work out how you can have 50,000 jobs for this. I just do not. They must be including the guy who sweeps the street. It just does not seem credible.

Martin Mansfield: They are taking the multiplier effects from previous investments, but we are not here to support what the company is proposing. We are here to say, "Please do not allow this proposal-"

John Robertson: We appreciate you are there to answer questions, and I am trying to help you.

Martin Mansfield: Yes, and we are keen to have that public consultation, that public involvement. What we do not want to see is this proposal not being able to go forward because it is being bogged down in why we can’t do something significant, rather than why we should.

Chair: Mr Richards, did you want to come in on that last point?

Andy Richards: I have to say that from the Wales TUC point of view, and certainly the Unite the Union in Wales point of view, we have looked at these proposals in view of the significant opportunity it creates for real economic and social regeneration in Wales. As the General Secretary, Martin Mansfield, has pointed out there, the previous proposals by the previous groups certainly did give us some cause for concern, and gave cause for concerns among our union members working in Avonmouth docks. These proposals, we are content, allay those fears. It is on that basis that we are supporting them.

Mr Hain: Could I just add briefly, if I may, Chairman, that on the jobs front, I think it would be to the benefit of everybody if the initial exploratory conversations that are taking place, I understand, between the company and Bristol Port executives were extended, and that there is a win-win here for Bristol Port, for Port Talbot, for everybody concerned, if people get involved in a proper discussion, commercial negotiation, if that is necessary, rather than firing off shots from the sidelines? I do not think that is in the interests of Bristol, and certainly not in the interests of this whole project, which is of enormous benefit in every possible way to the UK and the South West and South Wales.

Andy Richards: Could I also say that as the general council lead on manufacturing, all of the companies that I am dealing with across Wales are quoting the huge, costly energy costs at the moment as being an inhibitor towards inward investment projects. It really is a major issue among companies in Wales. As I say, we have to plan for the future. That is the way that Wales TUC is looking at it. This would form part of a balanced energy policy that we have, which includes nuclear, coal and other technologies.

Q24 Sir Robert Smith: Peter, you mentioned about the ports and the balanced argument. Have you yourself looked at the concerns about how the locks would impede the flow of traffic up the river, and how the location of the potential deepwater port might not fit in with the infrastructure afterwards?

Mr Hain: Do you mean for Bristol, that is?

Sir Robert Smith: Yes.

Mr Hain: I have seen Bristol’s evidence. There would be minimum delay to shipping because the locks would be operating. There is already a delay to shipping up the estuary because ships have to wait to move upstream for the appropriate tide. It is not like this is just an open sea that you can come in and out of the port as you like, as it were. I do not understand, and I am open to persuasion, being a reasonable person, why there is this degree of criticism from the Bristol area, because shipping will not be affected. It will pass through without any charge. In many other respects, there will be extra job opportunities for Bristol Port of the kind that I have already described. This can be a win-win for all the ports. I do not think it is sensible to frame this debate in terms of Bristol Port versus Port Talbot Port. That is not very helpful to either port. What we need to do is get the maximum benefit for both. The benefit for Port Talbot is huge obviously; the benefit for Bristol will be considerable as well.

Q25 Albert Owen: Can I remind the Committee of my membership of the All-Party Group on the Severn Barrage? Can I ask the TUC from a Welsh perspective what lobbying they have done of the Welsh Government and what is the Welsh Government’s view on this, because although energy is a reserve matter here in Westminster, economic development is a devolved issue? Are they supportive of it and are they supportive for the similar reasons to what you have said today?

Martin Mansfield: We are members of the Welsh Government’s Council for Economic Renewal. We raise all these economic strategic matters through that. That is chaired by the First Minister with the full involvement of the Economic Minister and involves the CBI and others. That is the forum we use to discuss these matters. We have talked in strategic terms about the need for renewable energy as part of a mixed energy, including nuclear, and we particularly talked about the need for any non-devolved investment so the Welsh arm of that would be co-ordinated by Welsh Government so that we can ensure the maximum impact does occur. So we do get those knock-on benefits from the major investment there is.

Q26 Albert Owen: Are you aware if the Welsh Government have made representations at all to the UK Government on this issue?

Martin Mansfield: We believe there has been supportive representation, but obviously it is a non-devolved matter.

Q27 Albert Owen: The other question I have for Peter. You mentioned other potential benefits-flood defences, for instance. Have you considered-as many in the past and as a Minister in the past-road links between South Wales and the South West of England? Do you think this could be part of the mix and make a stronger case for it because you will be more aware than anybody about the problems of the Severn Bridge and various other crossings?

Mr Hain: The Severn Tunnel?

Albert Owen: The Severn Tunnel, yes.

Mr Hain: The company has made clear that if there is any desire on the part of Government either for a road link or a rail link or both, the construction would allow for that.

Q28 Albert Owen: But who would drive that? That is the important part. Is it going to be the UK Government or is it going to be part of a plan for Wales that will improve the socio-economic benefits of that area?

Mr Hain: It would have to involve the South West of England and South Wales being part of that. But the company, rightly in my view, said, "Look, the Severn Barrage itself is enough of a project to undertake on its own," and as you can see from the interest in this issue it is controversial and there are criticisms of it. Those need to be aired and the outcomes resolved. To take on then the whole argument over a rail link and a road link, but if the Government said, "We would want the construction to take place in such a way that allowed for that in the future," which personally I think is sensible if Network Rail wanted to take that option, the Severn Tunnel obviously is an old tunnel, as the only rail access directly to South Wales then that should be in the frame. Similarly, a road link would as well.

Chairman, I know we are running out of time, I am happy to answer questions as long as you want me to, is it possible to just address briefly the wildlife issues that I know you are interested in or are we going over the timeframe?

Chair: I will let the session run on a bit longer because it is quite valuable for us what we are doing at the moment.

Q29 Albert Owen: Just to finish on that. Will the TUC be making representations on transport issues?

Martin Mansfield: We certainly support improved transport links between England and Wales. Our major priority has always been the major commercial economic links east-west rather than links north-south within Wales because we see the economic benefit of that. We think it would be a wasted opportunity if there is major construction going ahead without the UK Government working with the Welsh Government to improve transport links.

Q30 Barry Gardiner: Peter, the Natura 2000 designation means that site had to be designated on scientific evidence and one can only undesignate by going to Europe and providing alternative provision. The original barrage was going to lose 45% of the mudflats and salt marshes that were available to birds. The new proposal is only for 60% less than that but that is still 27% of a loss of habitat, so what interests me is what work has the company or has any group done on providing the alternative habitat that would be necessary to designate to be able to get this taken out of Natura 2000?

Mr Hain: That clearly will be necessary and you are quite right to raise it, not so much as an objection but as a necessary part of moving forward on this and there have already been discussions of a preliminary kind with the RSPB on the kind of habitat compensation that could be available and the company said, I think, that £1 billion has been allocated in its financial plan towards creating a compensatory habitat. So that is a very significant investment. Again, as another example why this particular project by Hafren Power is completely different from previous ones that are seen as civil engineering projects alone and a power station project, Hafren Power said you have to address the ecological issues from the outset.

Q31 Barry Gardiner: If you do not get it de-designated, you cannot do it?

Mr Hain: Of course, in terms of complying with the European directives and so on, but also in terms of addressing the real concerns that wildlife groups have. If I could just make this point-the configuration of the turbines and operating on ebb and flow, which is very different from the past projects, with the latest bidirectional turbine technology that is being developed as well, does mean that the Severn estuary tide is much better simulated than ever before.

I just also want to make this point. The coastal management plan has forecast a loss of habitat, around 10% to 20%, over the coming decades from this area as a result of global changes. That is going to happen anyway. This is not a choice between the status quo and the scenario post-barrage. The status quo is changing all the time. There has been a catastrophic decline in the iconic Dunlin wading bird, for example, as a result of all sorts of issues, including global warming. So the issue is how to make sure that this is as wildlife friendly as possible.

Q32 Barry Gardiner: Yes, I have no doubt that Hafren wish to make it wildlife friendly. That is not the issue that I am trying to probe here. The real issue, it seems to me, goes back to John’s question about timescale because given that it is designated, given that it has to be undesignated and given that that process has to go through Europe, it means that you have to be sure on that point first before you can proceed. We all know that getting something undesignated in Europe is a very difficult and time-consuming business. Therefore, I wonder sort of timescales you factored in to the project and what additional costs may therefore be added to the project as a result of that?

Mr Hain: The £1 billion the company have allocated in broad terms indicates a serious commitment to address them. That is a massive chunk of money. They are well aware, as I am of course, that you have to comply with the directive and that will take the normal time that it takes in Europe. But these things can go in parallel; it is not a question of one step at a time. You need to move these things along in parallel.

Q33 Barry Gardiner: It is right, though, that there is nowhere else that Natura 2000 has been undesignated, has there? We are trailblazing here in a sense.

Mr Hain: Possibly, but again, I am sure the European Commission and others in Brussels will take a view that the renewal energy benefits of this, the climate change benefits of this are so significant that this has to be looked at in a particular way.

Q34 Barry Gardiner: Within the light of Natura 2000 that is not possible, one cannot do an environmental offset in that way. You cannot look at the wider social costs.

Mr Hain: But you can do it more urgently.

Barry Gardiner: It has to be done on a scientific basis and that is why you have to identify the alternative.

Mr Hain: Of course.

Q35 Dr Whitehead: Peter, bearing in mind that you have already emphasised the bidirectional nature of the turbines and the compatibility of those turbines to work on an ebb and flow basis, unlike the previous proposals that were discussed by Government in 2010, why is there a need for a barrage at all?

Mr Hain: Because it is the most efficient way of harnessing the massive power-the second largest, I think, tidal rise and fall in the world-of the Severn estuary.

Q36 Dr Whitehead: The turbine technology described is essentially tidal stream technology and is not water retention technology. The previous barrage arrangements were that water would be retained upstream by a barrage. That would then be released in a controlled way for the turbines to drive 50% of the time. The advantage of the proposals that you are suggesting now are that the turbines are bidirectional and therefore do not require water retention, and therefore do not require a barrage.

Mr Hain: They do require a barrage.

Q37 Dr Whitehead: They require maybe a tidal reef or emplacements or islands for such turbines but they do not, as far as I can see, require a continuous barrage in order to operate. Am I completely mistaken in that?

Mr Hain: It really depends whether you want to harness the power of the Severn estuary to its full potential or not. The Severn Barrage, everybody agrees, is the only way of harnessing that full potential. Through a reef or lagoons, or even scattering marine current turbines around the sea bed, or even wave power-which is not really appropriate in this setting-you do not get anything like the amount of power that you get from a barrage. There will be 1,026 of these bidirectional turbines.

Q38 Dr Whitehead: Yes, I understand that, but is the proposal therefore to retain water?

Mr Hain: I am sorry; you are trumping me on your expertise here, Alan. The tide will flow in and the turbines will turn and then there is an element when the tide is almost frozen and then it comes back out again.

Dr Whitehead: That is what happens to the tides anyway.

Mr Hain: Exactly.

Dr Whitehead: So you do not need a barrage in that case, do you?

Mr Hain: You cannot harness it; you cannot create this giant sea lake that goes up and down upstream of the barrage and you cannot get that power by just scattering-I do not know in what way you would otherwise get anything like a fraction of the power.

Q39 Dr Whitehead: This is particularly aimed at the context of a number of the environmental industry issues. If, for example, you had an incomplete barrage, which enables you to emplace your turbines in the way that you have described but was not a fully holding barrage across the whole of the Severn then in terms of sea lanes to ports, for example, in terms of estuary tide and ebb and flow, the impacts will be very different than is being suggested for a full barrage. Therefore, the question of discussion on the impacts on the environment and impacts on industry would take a very different colour. Has Hafren considered this, do you know?

Mr Hain: I think they have considered all these options. Indeed, they discuss it in the evidence they have given to you, and explain why the alternative technology is maybe appropriate for elsewhere around our coasts-wave power, tidal streams and so on, for example. But if you want to harness the full power of the Severn, and this is the issue, there is only one way of doing that and that is the Severn Barrage. If you want to go for lagoons, they will perhaps produce a third of the power of the Severn Barrage. They will also, by the way, be very obstructive. Lagoons are no easy answer to this. The alternative technology produces tiny fractions, reefs and fences and the rest of it, as well as having considerable disbenefits in their own right. This is the only way of getting that full tidal power.

Q40 Dr Whitehead: So the starting point of the Hafren proposal is that you have a full barrage and you then look, as Barry has mentioned, at the potential environmental mitigation that follows from that?

Mr Hain: You design it in; you do not just treat it as any other business item.

Q41 Dr Whitehead: For example, you have locks at either end. While I take the point that the Severn is unlike Southampton-there is not 24-hour operation in terms of tide-but nevertheless, among other things, the suggestion from the port authorities is that that would even so impede very substantially the traffic of vessels to and from the port.

Mr Hain: I do not recognise that reality at all, but my advice to the port in the friendliest terms would be to speak to Hafren Power and establish a proper agreement to make sure that your concerns are met. There is absolutely no reason why they cannot be.

Q42 Dan Byles: Peter, you said everybody agrees that the only way to maximise the potential is through a barrage, but in fact the discussion paper Bristol Channel Energy: A Balanced Technology Approach that has been put forward by Regen South West, with the support of the Bristol City Council, has said that the barrage will produce 8 GW but that an alternative balanced multi-technology approach including a combination of tidal wave and wind technology could produce double the amount-14 GW of energy.

Mr Hain: I do not recognise that comparison at all. The company has put forward clear reasons why the Severn Barrage is the only way of harnessing its full potential. If you want to bring wind into it, well that is apples and pears-isn’t it?-you are not comparing like with like.

Q43 Dan Byles: It is about maximising the potential to generate clean energy from the resource available in that area.

Mr Hain: I am in favour of wind turbines where they are appropriately sited, but I think what we are talking about here is do we harness this fantastic power, natural energy- and also make our energy supply much more secure, Chairman, and not so dependent on fossil fuels and foreign imports of energy-and bring over the longer term the price of energy in respect as delivered by the barrage massively lower than anything we are capable of producing at the present time.

Q44 Dan Byles: Do you think it would make sense for the Government before perhaps giving a go ahead for the barrage to conduct a full cost benefit analysis of all the options for utilising the resources in the region? That the danger is going ahead with one project like the barrage that is so big is that it would obviously shut down other potential options. I know that you have said you think this is the best of all the options, but I am not convinced that has been fully explored yet.

Mr Hain: Dan, I think this is has been studied to death. There has been the Sustainability Commission, there have been assessments by the Government and elsewhere, we can carry on researching to our heart’s content for decades to come; meanwhile we are not meeting our climate change objectives; meanwhile we are not anywhere near achieving our renewable energy capacity. This island is blessed with natural renewable energy in abundance and we are simply not harnessing it. So my view is we have to think big, act big and grasp this opportunity, which is why I am so passionate about it. To forego it by just getting bogged down in endless assessments that are not, in the end, going to enable you to duck the decision is a mistaken approach, it seems to me.

Q45 Christopher Pincher: Can I just come back to the environmental and wildfire assessment? I think we all recognise that Hafren would want to make the barrage environmentally and wildlife friendly, but as a member of the All-Party Group for Angling I am a little bit sceptical about that, and I wonder if you are also sceptical of Hafren’s assertion that the turbines will result in 100% survival rate for all types of fish. Do you think that claim is correct?

Mr Hain: This has to be tested and you are right to be sceptical.

Q46 Christopher Pincher: Would you be sceptical of such a claim that 100% of all fish types would survive the barrage? No fish will be hurt in the building of this barrage and its operation.

Mr Hain: I can’t be certain about that. Of course I can’t, and I am not sure that Hafren have made that set in concrete as well. What they said-

Q47 Christopher Pincher: We will certain their test evidence later.

Mr Hain: Yes, I am sure you will, and quite rightly so. But what we said to the Angling Trust for example in the initial meeting that we held in October is, "You come and advise us on what it needs to do." To be fair their position has not been, "No, never" to this project, they approach it-without putting words in their mouth, as they explained to me-from a critical sceptical standpoint waiting to be convinced in return for which the company is saying, and I am saying, "Let’s work with you to make sure that this is as fish-friendly as possible and then you make a decision in the end as to whether, bearing in mind the enormous advantages in terms of renewable energy, tackling climate change and any effect on the wildlife what the overall balance is." I think the overall balance will be this is a project that should go ahead.

Q48 Sir Robert Smith: I think we have covered mostly what I wanted to ask about. Just to go back and reinforce, if you had a more incremental approach with reefs and lower impact technology obviously you would have less mitigation to worry about. You would not possibly get the same amount of power out of the system, but you would still be making a contribution from the system without having the same impact on the environment that the other impacts?

Mr Hain: If you are saying you are going to harness a fraction of the power that the barrage will provide, then if that is your objective, go for another technology. My point is this is natural power that in the long term will produce incredibly cheap electricity for the UK, which is an important advantage, and has many other benefits of flood protection, a more benign environment for other activity and so on.

Q49 Sir Robert Smith: There is debate on the flood protection because obviously the impact downstream of the barrage could be worse as a result of it acting as a barrier to a surge.

Mr Hain: I have not seen anything that convinces me that that will be the case, but, no doubt, you will test that argument later on in your deliberations. On the contrary, I think there are considerable flood protection advantages from the barrage and they have also said-and they mention this in their evidence-that in addition to the flood protection that the barrage itself will provide they are prepared to build as part of the cost of the whole scheme the Bridgwater bund that will protect the Somerset levels. That is like a mini barrage alongside. That is of great benefit as well. The Somerset levels are very vulnerable.

Q50 Dr Lee: In 2005, I was a candidate in Blaenau Gwent and I remember looking at the remains of the Ebbw Vale Steelworks, which was closed in 1978, and I thought to myself, "Well, nothing has come back." I just wonder whether Welsh public opinion in terms of this barrage, in terms of jobs, in terms of heavy industry, the sort of jobs that the Welsh people I met down there wanted to have, for their sons to have and their grandsons to have, is fully behind this, particularly in the environmental sense that has been alluded to, because ultimately when it comes to it that is key-isn’t it?-that the public opinion is behind.

Mr Hain: Yes.

Dr Lee: I would suspect it probably is because of my experience of accruing my 816 votes in 2005.

Mr Hain: For which you deserve a medal, I might add.

Dr Lee: But it is a serious point that you see the scars of heavy industry having collapsed in Wales over two or three decades and something needs to replace it, and I wonder what part this plays and to what extent you have engaged the public on it for that reason.

Mr Hain: My colleagues will perhaps add to this but I have found almost universal support across Wales for this project and a great deal of excitement in it because it will provide highly skilled, well-paid jobs, over the nine plus years of construction and beyond. So in that sense there is a great deal of excitement. Public opinion is not universally in favour. Friends of the Earth Cymru have expressed opposition, for example, but overall I think there is massive support for it and I think there is a lot of interest and support in South West England as well.

Q51 Ian Lavery: You are obviously very much in favour of this-

Mr Hain: You got that impression, did you?

Ian Lavery: £34 billion project but there seems to be a lot of resistance, in fact it could be described as hostility, towards such a project, even looking at some of the faces behind you. Every time one of you says something there has been a different view expressed on people’s faces-quite amusing, to be honest with you. Mr Pincher mentioned the fact that you must give a guarantee, for example, that there cannot be one fish killed during the whole process. If that is the case, this is unlikely to happen. Why is there this hostility? Why is there this resistance from people perhaps on both sides of the barrage?

Mr Hain: I was involved in the anti-apartheid struggle, I had a lot of hostility in that, I can tell you. In my experience, when you are trying to do something major and transformative-because this is a transformative project economically, environmentally, in renewable energy terms, in tackling climate change-of course you get reservations. People do not like change. People are entitled to question the project. Wildlife groups are entitled to put their point of view. They are important concerns and their concerns have to be met and any undesirable impacts mitigated to the greatest possible extent, as I said earlier. Then you make a decision on it. I have made mine, and I hope the Government will back it as well.

Andy Richards: What is not humorous is the level of unemployment in Wales, particularly youth unemployment. That is not humorous at all; there is no joy you can find in that. Your question was posed as to what level of public support there would be. Our indications are that there would be significant public support for this project, not just in the construction phase but also the spin-off phases into the manufacture and supply chain and so on for the provision of the jobs. If we can get past the scaremongering and the useless detail that this project has been surrounded by-as Martin has pointed out, there may be other projects-and deal with what are the actual benefits, deal with the facts of it, I hope that the opposition that is being voiced isn’t being voiced based on parochial future business interests because if it is that there are no drawbacks on this, if there are no ill effects upon the Port of Avonmouth, if there are no ill effects upon the wildlife, what is the opposition based on? It is very interesting. But from our point of view, as a Wales TUC, as trade unionists-and, by the way, as parents that want to see young people have something better than we had-we are supporting this particular project, the proposals we have on the table at the moment, Chair.

Chair: Thank you very much. I might just confirm that I also fought a seat in South Wales in 1974. Amazingly, there was a recount, but I did come second. The recount was to save my deposit. Thank you very much for coming in. It is has been a very useful session.

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Martin Spray CBE, Chief Executive, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Kate Jennings, Head of Site Conservation Policy, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Dr Simon Pryor, Natural Environment Director, National Trust, and Martin Salter, National Campaigns Co-ordinator, The Angling Trust, gave evidence.

Q52 Chair: Thank you very much for waiting. We are now about half an hour over time, so I will try and be more disciplined in this section, but thank you very much for giving evidence today. Can I start by asking if you would just like to tell the Committee what you think the likely effect of a shore-to-shore barrage would be on the estuary and the surrounding area? Kate, did you want to say something to start with? We had a request from you to have a very brief introduction.

Kate Jennings: Thank you, Mr Chairman. It was just an opportunity to introduce ourselves as four NGOs, three of whom have had some engagement to date with Hafren Power and their supporters, and as such have had an opportunity to consider our concerns and those have been provided as a briefing to the Committee, so you can see our shared viewpoint as well as hear the representations from the individual organisations. So that is the Angling Trust, the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and the RSPB. We are joined today by National Trust, who prior to today have not had a chance to engage.

Chair: Fine, okay.

Kate Jennings: Should I move on to your question?

Chair: If you would.

Kate Jennings: So in terms of impact on the estuary of barrage construction, I think the place to start is with the geomorphology, as to what it will do to the shape and sediment of the estuary. The changes would be fundamental. The habitat loss would be substantial as has already been described, and I think it is significant to note that habitat loss at the point of construction-the 27% to which Barry Gardiner referred-would, based on the evidence from good comparator sites, be likely to be a small proportion of the problem. You would expect the estuary to evolve, to try to change its shape in response to barrage construction over time, which would result in on-going erosion and loss of intertidal habitat. That is significant because of what it means in terms of the intertidal habitat, the loss of that habitat and the features it supports, like the internationally important populations of birds. It is also very significant in terms of the implications for flood risk and, as I am sure the Committee is aware, the Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study, when it looked at a barrage, demonstrated a net increase in flood risk associated with barrage construction from Cardiff to Weston rather than a decrease. There is a thing about storm surges and there is also a thing about fluvial flooding and erosion of flood defences, and that is all related to geomorphology.

Martin Salter: Can I come in on that, Chairman, from the Angling Trust point of view? Some 25% of the salmonoid habitat in England and Wales is contained in the Severn catchment. The salmon and sea trout fishery alone in two of the tributaries of the Severn, the Wye and the Usk, is worth £10 million to the Welsh economy. When people start talking about jobs, they should remember there are a lot of businesses that are dependent on angling tourism, bed and breakfast, tackle sales. One of the largest community organisations in Merthyr Tydfil is the local angling club, who have serious concerns about the Severn Barrage and its impact on recreational fishing in particular. When people start talking about jobs and impacts on the economy, there is a serious downside to these proposals because, as we will draw out later and have put in our evidence, the existence of the Severn Barrage, as constructed using old technology and non-fish-friendly turbines, threatens to completely wipe out the migratory fish runs on the Severn in any sustainable manner.

Dr Pryor: Just to pick up on the thread that was being discussed earlier about the claims that are being made. On first reading-we are new to engage with this-there are very appealing looking claims and predictions, but we don’t have the evidence, we don’t have a lot of substantiation there, so I am afraid we stand back from it and approach it from the point of view of first principles and experience. First principles, if you look at the Severn estuary, it is a huge, very complex, very dynamic ecosystem and the hydrology, the geomorphology, the ecology are all very much interdependent, and if we intervene in a very major and quite heavy-handed way, we can expect unintended consequences. I think all the evidence I have seen, and I am not alone here, leaves us not really convinced we know enough to predict with accuracy what will happen.

Turning to our experience, the National Trust manages a lot of fluvial and coastline management. So often things don’t turn out how you expect and a very minor intervention can lead to unintended consequences. Changes are quite far distant as well, and the far field effects have been raised. I think we don’t know enough to contest the claims at this stage, there is not enough information there but we do have enough experience to know to be very wary, particularly around the value of compensatory habitats.

Martin Spray: Chairman, can I add to that on behalf of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust whose iconic headquarters has been on the banks of the Severn at Slimbridge since 1946. It was put there by Peter Scott because of the unique nature of that entire estuary system and Severn system, and that is recognised globally, not only in Europe. The point I would like to make is I think we are facing a lot of the problems that we are here in the UK and around the world because we have gone about things wrongly in the past and we have disrespected the natural environment on which we fundamentally depend. This represents such a massive investment and such a massive change to this estuary that I think we do need far greater information. We have to get a little cleverer about how we address the environment. There is no doubt in my mind about the potential for energy generation in the Severn-absolutely no doubt at all. It is quite clear, it is the second highest tidal range in the world, but I think we have to come up with very environmentally acceptable, sensible and sustainable solutions.

Q53 John Robertson: I hear what you are saying and I don’t disagree with a lot of the things that have been said, but, let’s be honest, I have heard the exact same thing about climate change and all the things you are talking about could already be included in a presentation that you have done prior to anybody even talking about the Severn. Is that not true?

Martin Salter: Can I make a point on that, John? We are natural supporters of renewable energy. You are not looking at a bunch of half-crazed climate change sceptics here. We are in favour of green solutions, for goodness sake, but what we are saying is it has to be balanced against environmental considerations because this is an incredibly important habitat, both for wildlife and for activities upon which jobs depend.

Q54 John Robertson: With respect, Martin, and I know you have sat on this side asking the questions, but I hear what is being said and suddenly I hear stalling coming in to try to hold things up, "More information required. We don’t have enough of this; we don’t have enough of that." It is being used by people who just, in effect, don’t like change. Is that not a fact?

Martin Spray: Not in our case it isn’t, no. I would argue that, yes, we do have to solve the climate change issue. We do need more renewable energy generation without any doubt at all, but I don’t think we should do that by, at the same time, causing ourselves even more problems by disrupting the natural environment further. We should be looking for much more sustainable and sensible solutions.

Martin Salter: John, you have tempted me here. Kate, myself and a lot of the same organisations that are part of this coalition, are part of the joint paper that we put towards you, are part of the Thames Tunnel Now Coalition-a £4.4 billion project to clean up the Thames, which is a massive civil engineering project. We are on the side of infrastructure investment where it benefits the environment.

John Robertson: I am only putting the other side of this.

Q55 Chair: Returning to the question of storm surges and flooding upstream where Hafren have claimed that there will be actual benefits, I get the impression from what you have said you dispute their assessment.

Kate Jennings: We currently have no detailed information on the Hafren Power proposals from which to dispute their assessment, so all we can base our evidence on is the findings of the Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study. What that found was that of course building a wall across the estuary will provide protection against a storm surge, and that is one sort of flooding and that would be a benefit. There are other forms of flood risk. One of the two significant ones here is fluvial flood risk, and managing that relies on the ability to get water out of the Severn. That is largely reliant on gravity outfalls, so holding water back behind a barrage will compromise that and you will have tide-locked drainage at times. We don’t know how much because we don’t have the details of the proposal.

The other issue is about the robustness of the flood defences. As I described, based on experience in places like the Bay of Fundy in Canada and the Eastern Scheldt in the Netherlands, we would expect to see an on-going loss of intertidal habitat following construction of a barrage. Loss of intertidal in front of defences exposes the defences to wave action throughout the tidal cycle and the Environment Agency estimated, as part of the Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study, that that would result in not only increased flood risk but also substantially increased flood risk costs to maintain existing defences. The conclusion from the Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study was that when you added all those bits together the net effect was an increase in flood risk upstream rather than a decrease.

Q56 Chair: How about the Somerset levels? They say they might build an additional bund or something to protect the Somerset levels.

Kate Jennings: To be honest, it is too early to make any comment about that at all because until and unless we understand the impacts of the main barrage and what that would look like and how that would affect existing flood defences, I don’t feel it is really appropriate to comment.

Q57 Ian Lavery: For the record, what sort of impact do you think such a barrage will have on the wildlife habitat in the estuary and in particular the birds and the fish?

Martin Spray: A lot of the birds are migratory in the winter and they come there because of the exposed mudflats and saltmarsh that is along that river system. That contains a lot of invertebrates that feed the birds. If we are going to be losing 27% of that and probably less exposure for less time, it is going to affect the invertebrates and therefore it is going to affect those birds. It is going to change the system. It is very hard to say by how much or in what way at the moment because a lot more research needs to be done on that one.

Kate Jennings: We can get an idea of scale from the Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study, which for birds identified significant adverse effects on the populations of 30 species, that this would constitute an adverse effect on at least five special protection areas, so European sites, not just the Severn but another five, and potentially would have serious effects on a total of 96 European protected sites for birds. That was looking in the UK only, not at other sites elsewhere on the flyway. So in particular the impacts on bird populations extend far beyond the Severn itself because of the migratory nature of many of those birds.

Martin Salter: In terms of fish, there are 83 species of fish recorded in the Severn estuary. It is an incredibly dynamic habitat, both for migratory fish and freshwater fish upstream of the intertidal zone and obviously as a nursery area for bass and many other important sea fish. There are five Annex II species. These are the highly protected species under the Habitats Directive. They are the twait shads, the lamprey and the salmon. There are 11 BAP protected species. That is the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. That includes high-value species like sea trout as well as a whole range of sea species. Potentially the barrage could be devastating. Peter talked as if it was a good thing that the turbines would be operating 24/7. That is 24/7 fish mincing. At least with the previous proposals there was some respite for fish seeking to migrate. I am sure we will come on to questions later about turbine technology and the rest of it, so I won’t spend time on that now, but the impact could be absolutely devastating on the commercial fishery, on the recreational fishery and on highly protected habitat.

Q58 Ian Lavery: Martin, would you like to say a little bit more about the mortality rates and the behaviour of fish because of the turbines being present in the barrage?

Martin Salter: Certainly. Can I first say that if you don’t want to listen to us-and I am sure you do-look at the Environment Agency, the body charged with providing environmental advice? This was almost alluded to in Chris’ response. The Environment Agency have said and put on the record that Hafren Power have claimed to the media that the scheme is fish-friendly. The Environment Agency say, "We have many years of experience, employ some of the leading experts in this area and are not aware of any turbine designs which would allow the safe repeated passage of fish through a barrage on the scale proposed." Frankly, claims that these turbines are fish-friendly are absolute guff, they really are. The study that Hafren Power refer to is an Idaho study that talked about salmon smolts going downstream. Fish migrate both ways. Turbines of a speed above 6 to 7 metres per second, that is tip speed, are lethal to migrating fish. The Hafren Power proposal is for a turbine tip speed of 9 metres per second. How on earth can they come in front of a Select Committee or make the press statements that we saw yesterday and claim that these are fish-friendly turbines? They are simply not.

Ian, you asked about some of the specifics of what happens to fish when they go through a turbine. One of the biggest problems, of course, is you get a disorientation. These stocks of salmon and sea trout in particular are genetically unique. They return after a year or two at sea to the rivers of their birth. If the flow patterns have been altered radically in those rivers they quite often will not run the river at all and if they don’t run the river they don’t spawn and you start to see a wipe-out of that genetically unique population. That is the first thing.

Coming through the turbines themselves, there is obviously the strike, the fish mincing, which can be pretty serious. There is rapid pressure flux where you get a pressure flux between high and low pressure blades. That affects particularly larval fish, particularly small fish. It can destroy their swim bladders and basically kill them. There is a thing called cavitation that forms vapour pockets of low pressure that, again, can have really serious impacts on small fish.

On top of that you have issues like a lack of gradation in salinity, so the fish literally hit salt water very quickly as a result of the build-up behind the barrage. That can cause confusion and in some places cause mortality. You have sedimentation build-up. You are not talking about a clean estuary. Hafren Power compare La Rance barrier-a totally fictitious comparison, totally different tidal flows, totally different water. Anyone who has driven over the Severn bridge will see tens of millions of tonnes of sediment moving down that estuary. At a high spring tide, it can be as high as 10 million. We are estimating the Severn estuary this year is going to move something like 100 million tonnes of sediment. Not only is that going to deposit in the Bristol Channel, possibly on vital spawning areas, but it creates a very turbid and murky environment. How on earth are fish supposed to negotiate turbines, or even find where the fish passages are, in an environment like that?

This is a very serious proposal that could have a devastating impact on Britain’s most popular participatory sport. The idea that there is overwhelming support for this for a sport like mine, which has something like 3 million participants, that generates £3.5 billion for the economy, is worth 37,000 jobs, is a factor that has to be built into any assessment of these proposals. Frankly, a lot of the arguments that have been put forward by Hafren Power are nothing more than spin.

Q59 Ian Lavery: What about the loss of the intertidal mudflats and the salt marshes? We touched on it before, and I think you were all present with the first panel. What level of compensatory habitat would be required to make up for the loss of that? I think Peter Hain mentioned something in the region of £1 billion. I am not sure what he actually meant by it.

Kate Jennings: Hafren Power have put on the record that they have £1 billion available as a compensation budget. For us, the issue is that the legal requirement is the provision of like-for-like habitat, so you should replace the thing that you have lost, and compensation ratios are normally higher than one-to-one. When you make a new habitat, which is what you would need to do, there are a whole bunch of things-there is uncertainty about how well it will work, there are time lags for habitat to develop to something of value. If you are talking about a compensatory area, that would be at least as large as the area of habitat lost. Until we have some detail on this barrage proposal, we don’t know what it is that we would be compensating for because we don’t have any assessment of the scale of impact. We keep talking to you about the Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study impact assessment because that is all we have to go on at the present time. So until and unless we know what that requirement looks like, it is very hard to know if any given budget or any given package of proposals would be adequate. I think an important point to make is that in compensatory terms provision of intertidal habitat, habitat for birds, is theoretically possible. Whether or not it is practically deliverable is a whole other thing. The fish again here is the massive issue, because this requirement applies to fish, too. Given the likely scale of impact on the fish, we are talking about creation or restoration of 25% of the salmon habitat in England and Wales-

Martin Salter: It has never been done in the world.

Kate Jennings: It is hard to imagine how that is achievable.

Q60 Ian Lavery: Hafren Power claim that the calmer waters of the barrage would increase wildlife diversity due to the decreased turbidity, greater light penetration and dissolved oxygen levels. I am not sure if you agree with that, but in any event are there any potential benefits to the wildlife habitat of such a barrage?

Kate Jennings: There are a few points to make here. In nature conservation terms, what is important about the estuary is its unique characteristics and the habitat and species that it supports. From a moral but also a legal point of view the focus has to be on the impacts on those. What comes after is a separate issue. That said, we are concerned because those claims that are made are unsubstantiated. There are two specific things to say about that. Those assertions are largely based on evidence, and I use that term loosely, from the La Rance Barrage in the south of France. This is a very small barrage built in the 1960s in an estuary that is a flooded ria, so it is a rocky river valley. It is not a sediment-rich estuary; it is a very different kettle of fish, if you will excuse the pun, from the Severn estuary. Not only is it a completely different system, when that barrage was constructed they used coffer dams, so they entirely separated estuary from sea for three whole years while they built the thing, so the original ecosystem was destroyed before the barrage was ever built. There was no pre-construction monitoring, so we don’t have an ecological baseline, and post-construction monitoring of this barrage, built in the 1960s, began in the 1980s, so there is no evidence of what the scale of impact was at La Rance. We don’t know what the ecosystem was like before. Things like some of the fish-friendly claims again come from La Rance where, as far as I am aware and having discussed this with the EDF manager of the La Rance Barrage at La Rance, there is not any evidence of what happens to the fish in the turbines at that barrage. There is concern that those assertions are based on that experience.

The final thing to say is that assumes that the estuary reaches a new equilibrium; that having constructed the barrage it kind of settles down. Experience in the Eastern Scheldt, where they built a storm surge barrier in the 1980s-this is the site that the Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study identified as the best comparator for a Severn Barrage-is they have found that 30-odd years after construction that estuary shows absolutely no sign of reaching a new equilibrium, so it is still attempting to change its shape and its morphology in response to the construction of the barrier. It is still losing intertidal habitat. They think it will go on losing habitat for at least a century, so the idea that the Severn will reach any rapid equilibrium of any kind-clearer water, muddier water or whatever-does not seem realistic based on the evidence.

Q61 Albert Owen: I wanted to pursue a couple of issues with the National Trust. What do you think the effect of this proposal would be on the coast, the countryside and heritage sites? Have you done any assessment on that?

Dr Pryor: Yes, we have certainly given it considerable thought. It is quite easy from a distance to think about the Severn estuary as an expanse of mudflats, industrial development and perhaps struggling seaside resorts, but the majority of the landscape and seascape there is essentially a very natural system and a really valuable expanse of open space, fresh air and places to experience nature that is accessible to an awful lot of people. It is highly visible and the barrage will carve right across the estuary and that will be seen from the Mendips and from many other protected landscapes-Exmoor, Quantocks, the All Wales Coast Path, the extension of the South Wales Coast Path. It is going to completely change the atmosphere and the experience from those places.

If I can zoom in on one property we own on behalf of the nation at Brean Down. I went there for the first time last summer and it is an unreal, unexpected and quite a magical experience. There is a rocky promontory sticking right out into the estuary. You suddenly find yourself walking on the most wonderful calcareous grassland with an amazing display of wildflowers. You have peregrines in the air above you and you walk right out into the estuary. We call it one of the natural piers and it is just like the Victorian pier experience. You suddenly get an immersion of the estuary and a different perspective on the coastline. Add to that several miles of sandy beach there, with all the seaside amusements you could want, and it is not surprising that a third of a million people a year go to this tiny place, Brean Down. That is the precise landfall, as far as we can see, for the southern end of the barrage.

Q62 Albert Owen: Did you, as an organisation, have similar objections against the Cardiff Bay Barrage and have you been able to do assessments there on your membership of how many people from that area are members and go there? I remember a similar argument against the Cardiff Bay Barrage on heritage and sites that would be damaged and yet it has regenerated that area and there are probably as many members of the National Trust that work and live there and benefit from the surrounding area.

Dr Pryor: I can’t give you detail of what happened in the past, I am afraid, but I would say we are very strong on investment in renewable technology. We have over a hundred schemes under way. We are investing millions, if not tens of millions of pounds, in renewable energy generation.

Q63 Albert Owen: Would you, as an organisation, support any of those in the Severn estuary?

Dr Pryor: We would. We would be very interested in pursuing and exploring the detail of a range of the other technologies and we felt the Regen South West document that was mentioned earlier set out this range. We are actually exploring them ourselves. We are installing a marine heat source pump at Plas Newydd. Far from being NIMBYs, we do want to construct renewable energy generation in our backyard. We would be very keen to-

Albert Owen: Marine turbines?

Dr Pryor: Absolutely. We are very keen to work with partners, very keen to do it ourselves. I think the problem is that one single solution of one huge barrage we fear is putting all the eggs in one basket and sacrificing a very important bit of recreational space for a lot of people.

Q64 Albert Owen: Is that universal as far as other schemes? I know we are coming on to technology.

Kate Jennings: I think it is shared. Just coming back to your Cardiff Bay Barrage point, the RSPB was another organisation that opposed that scheme. We were unconvinced by some of the arguments used, such as that the birds would go elsewhere, and had concerns about the compensatory habitat. Provided we manage that habitat, it is brilliant habitat. It is bad compensation. It does not replace what was lost and research after that scheme has shown that birds that used that area died. They did not go anywhere else; they died. I think it is useful to get that on the record.

In terms of the other technologies, we are absolutely committed to the deployment of renewable energy as part of attempts to decarbonise the economy. I guess one of our concerns around the current proposal is it seems to be such a high-risk option from every point of view, from an investor point of view, from a flood risk point of view, from an environmental point of view. We feel that an option that maximises energy output, while minimising all those other risks as a way of starting a process of looking at how much energy we can get out of the Severn, in line with the approach advocated by the South West Regen report, is absolutely the way to go. You were asking about individual organisational commitment. Certainly, the RSPB has had dialogue with one of the technologies-the Severn Embryonic Technology Scheme looked at under the Tidal Power Feasibility Study-to see if we could host some of their prototypes. There is a very active commitment in the organisations here.

Martin Spray: Can I add to that, Chairman? As a citizen with a vested interest in UK plc, I think there are great opportunities here for us to become real world leaders and develop technologies that we can export and sell across the world, which are also going to help solve a more global issue. It can present an extraordinary opportunity to the UK.

Q65 Dr Lee: It is pretty evident that you are not in favour of this proposal. Yesterday, I met with David MacKay and a few others about the 2050 calculator that is on the DECC website with regard to working out how we are going to generate our energy in the future, how we are going to save and how we are going to meet all of our decarbonisation targets. Clearly, you are against this proposal, so do you go to your organisations, which have big memberships, particularly the RSPB, and say, "Okay, we are going to be against this."? But the reality is that when we looked at the calculator, the take-home message yesterday was that we have to build some nuclear reactors. That was the take-home message from looking at that calculator. I could not see any other way. You could argue how many but certainly at least 10, maybe 20. Two or three of the nuclear reactor sites are in the Severn estuary area. Are your organisations in favour of nuclear power? If they are not in favour of this, I would say you are going to have to be in favour of something, because realistically we are going to have to generate our energy in some form or other. It strikes me that nuclear is an interesting one because of the fact that there are currently three sites, I think, on the Severn. We possibly would need more. Would you be supportive of there being more, or do you think your membership would also say, "Not in my backyard."?

Martin Salter: Certainly not from the Angling Trust point of view. I am given to understand there are angling clubs in nuclear power plants. From my own point of view, Phillip, I did the hairy lefty thing many years ago and was opposing nuclear power. I did a complete volte-face, along with John and the others I think. Nuclear power provides a safe form of energy and the technology has moved on it to enable it to be a lot safer than it was. I think that is the point with this. The thing that unites almost every submission that you have had, certainly from this coalition, is our clear recognition of the potential of the Severn estuary. As Martin said, it is the second largest tidal range in the world. What we object to-and this is coming back to the point that Alan was teasing out of Peter Hain-is this is old technology, this is failed technology that didn’t work in La Rance; it is causing all sorts of problems in the Bay of Fundy and at the Eastern Scheldt. This is turning a river estuary that is supposed to be there into a pond and claiming that it is environmentally friendly. I am sorry, this does not add up, but there are a lot of other technologies that are emerging that will have the potential to harness that power. They will cause disruption but not on this scale.

Chair: Martin, you are a witness at this one and not-

Martin Salter: Yes, sorry. I was answering the question.

Q66 Albert Owen: But I would like to know from other members of the panel-I am sure Phillip would as well-what technology they do support. I think that is a legitimate line of questioning.

Chair: Martin, you are no longer a hairy lefty; you are in favour of nuclear power?

Martin Salter: Yes.

Q67 Albert Owen: You know my constituency. I have nuclear power, marine turbines potential and wind turbines, and I get the same groups objecting against all three technologies, and that is quite frustrating. That is what we are trying to tease out of you as a panel. You are united against this, but what are you in favour of?

Martin Salter: We love offshore wind farms, as fishermen.

Q68 Albert Owen: Do you? Not all fishermen do. That is an interesting point because I get more objections from the fishing community on offshore wind development than any other group.

Martin Salter: Commercials.

Albert Owen: Well, they are fishermen. Would you like to tell us?

Martin Spray: On the subject of membership, I think probably every organisation will recognise you are going to get mixed views in your membership on any issue of any controversy. I think that is very healthy and it is up to the organisation to lead. We are faced with some very tricky problems. This is the reason for this meeting here today.

Q69 Chair: Are you in favour or against nuclear power?

Martin Spray: What I am saying is we would not see that as a long-term solution.

Chair: So you are not in favour of nuclear power?

Martin Spray: But it is fair to say that from a carbon point of view in maybe the short term it might be something that we have to do. That would be my answer, so it is a reluctancy, let’s put it that way.

Q70 Dr Lee: I think that is unrealistic, with respect. RSPB?

Kate Jennings: I think it is fair to say this is an issue that, looking at the calculator and the other information currently available, is under review. There are some things that we are clearly in favour of. For example, we have no problem with a lot of onshore wind provision where appropriately sited. It surprises many to know that the RSPB only object to 7% of wind farm proposals in which we engage, which is in turn a small proportion of the total. But we recognise this is a massively challenging area. We are working very closely with the offshore wind industry, and we know that some of allocations of areas for offshore wind development and the absence of information about what is out there in terms of all kinds of sensitivities, environmental, good connections, all kinds of things, cause complexities there. We recognise the pinch and I think it is fair to say that, while this is a deeply contentious issue among members of all organisations like ours, we have to keep our positions on those under review.

Dr Lee: I would encourage you to find a policy soon, I really would.

Dr Pryor: The National Trust’s position is to try to solve our own challenges ourselves, in the sense that we have a large land holding with 700 miles of coastline, so we are very actively exploiting and developing opportunities within the full range such as onshore wind at the micro scale. We have objected to some offshore wind, but we would not object if it was in the right place and if it was genuinely offshore. We believe hydro offers great potential and we have active schemes being developed there. PV panels on our buildings, on our land, tidal stream flow, wave, marine heat source; we are exploring and investing in all of those. We are doing all of those at our own properties, which are highly sensitive, and we are doing them in ways that can be accommodated within that constraint, so working within the environmental capacity and trying to get positive outcomes from that and in ways that people appreciate and enjoy them. We believe that by pursuing a whole range of those options - just the argument used for Regen South West - we can achieve the level of renewable generation that we need.

Q71 Chair: But specifically on the question about nuclear power, because Dr Lee is quite right, if you look at the calculator, if you say no to the barrage, you are all against that, you are going to have some other very big contributor. If there is a nuclear power station proposed on land adjacent to the National Trust land will you say yes or no?

Dr Pryor: We have expressed concerns before about that, about specific extensions to nuclear power plants.

Chair: The problem for us is that we have to look at the evidence, and the evidence is quite clear that an awful lot of low-carbon electricity generation is needed very urgently indeed. If the NGOs, for the best of reasons-we respect your views and the difficulty you have with membership, just like we have with constituents-all line up against almost every suggestion-we find you are opposing some onshore wind, you are opposing some offshore wind, you don’t like a solar farm, you don’t like nuclear power, you don’t like the Severn Barrage-there is not a hope in hell we can get anywhere near the targets to which you have all signed up.

Q72 Dr Whitehead: To some extent on that line, although we could have discussions on nuclear I guess, the proposals that are put forward as they stand at the moment talk about calmer, clearer waters and impact on tourism being very positive. How do you assess that in terms of things such as wetlands and attraction for tourism as it stands at the moment? What is the sort of balance that you would see there?

Martin Spray: I can only speak from the point of view of Slimbridge, which has been there since 1946 and has attracted millions of visitors over the years. We get about a quarter of million a year there. A lot of those people come to see the very special birdlife that exists because of the nature of the Severn. Again, there will be an impact. It is difficult to say exactly to what extent that would be at this time. That is just one example, because we happen to run that one. I can’t necessarily speak on behalf of others.

Q73 Dr Whitehead: At the risk of appearing to be advocating a particular solution, presumably solutions that did not impound substantial amounts of water or altered tidal flows significantly would preserve that habitat, in your view?

Martin Spray: Yes. If it has less impact on the natural environment of the estuary then of course it is going to be beneficial, but I don’t want to talk just about Slimbridge. It is the whole of the Severn system that is vitally important.

Q74 Dr Whitehead: Martin, in your presentation you came close to sounding as if any marine current turbine or tidal flow turbine would be the end of the fish population. Is that your position?

Martin Salter: No, I don’t think that is fair, Alan. I gave specific data about tip speed on turbines, and what is being put forward as fish-friendly by Hafren Power is a tip speed that has been proven by peer-reviewed scientific evidence to be fatal to fish. But I do think there is huge potential for things like tidal reefs and for marine turbines.

Q75 Dr Whitehead: So can we be clear, you are not advocating the end of the marine current turbine industry in the UK?

Martin Salter: No. I would like the statement that they are fish-friendly to become true.

Q76 Dr Whitehead: Is it the case, for example, with the salmon migration that it is not random across the Severn estuary?

Martin Salter: No. There are very distinct patterns of migration across the estuary. We know very little about it, but if you mess about with it, you dump sediment in different places, you can disorientate a genetically unique population so it does not run the river.

Dr Whitehead: Salmon going up the Usk, for example, they are going to the north of the-

Martin Salter: That is correct.

Dr Whitehead: Not in the middle, for example?

Martin Salter: No. They all have different migratory patterns for the different catchments, yes.

Kate Jennings: I think it is fair to say that the NGOs-certainly those who have had the chance to engage in this so far-are not naïve enough to think that you can extract tidal power from an estuary without having an impact, and our position is not that we are opposed to any project that would have an impact. We are opposed to a project that would have an impact on the scale that we suspect the Hafren Power development would. What we have said is a key test for Hafren Power, or for any other proponent of a barrage, is if you can bring impact within the realms of what is practically compensatible to preserve the integrity of the fish populations, of the habitat, we think that is an absolute key test for acceptability.

Martin Spray: Can I give you an example of this? We have been very involved with offshore wind farm planning proposals and helping through our research there to make sure that they are going to be sited in the place that is the most environmentally acceptable from the point of view of seabird populations and migratory species. Again, it is looking imaginatively, sensibly and scientifically at the issue and coming up with the right solution.

Q77 Dr Whitehead: What I am trying to tease out a little is what exactly it is that you are finally and irreconcilably opposed to. Is it any form of power generation across the Severn that has any impact on habitat? Is it a barrage that impounds water on one side and perhaps irrevocably changes the habitat, particularly in terms of silt, on the far side? Is it a partial barrage that has a different onflow to some extent? Is it tidal lagoons that change the habitat locally? What is your tipping point in opposition?

Kate Jennings: I think that is quite hard to define simply because there are so many uncertainties about what a structure in this system would do and the uncertainties about the ecological baselines, so how do fish move through the Estuary. I think that means at one extreme we can say that we are deeply sceptical that any shore-to-shore barrage can proceed in a manner that would be acceptable. What we favour is the approach advocated by South West Regen, where you start with a smaller scale development seen as part of an incremental process, because if you start with something that is big enough to be meaningful in energy generation terms but that limits environmental risk, that is a better place to start. Also, we would see a fundamental prerequisite for that kind of development being a requirement on it that it provides a test facility for other technologies, so that we can work out how much further we can go.

Q78 Dr Whitehead: For example, one particular tidal reef proposal for not a full barrage suggests that not only would it not be a full barrage but it actually would be located further out in the channel, which would have benefits as far as sediment is concerned, for example, but of course it would have different landings. Presumably the argument that Dr Pryor put forward about the particular landing that there is on the present proposal for the barrage would be replicated by the view from Minehead, for example.

Dr Pryor: Yes. Brean Down happens to be SSSI and so on, but I think there is a wider point there. If we invest in a diversity of technologies, initially at a small scale, it gives greater opportunity to refine, to iterate, to improve, to reduce their impacts, to improve their efficiency. I think it is just that very simple concept of investing in one huge barrage, one huge fixed set of technology, compared with the scope to explore half a dozen different solutions, each of which can be developed and improved, and find the one that is fitting and working best across different places in the estuary, exploiting the full potential, but also a great potential for replicating those and extending them. As I say, from the Trust’s point of view we would love to see technology developed and applied in the Bristol Channel that we could then extend and apply elsewhere around the coast.

Martin Salter: Can I respond to the challenge you have set us, Alan, which is what would inform our support? We have signed up to the same things that you have signed up to as parliamentarians, the Water Framework Directive, the Habitats Directive, the Ramsar Convention, the Natura 2000 sites. Every single piece of legal advice, every single piece of assessment says that this scheme, as currently configured on the basis of what we know about it, drives a coach and horses through those important environmental protections that this Parliament has signed up to, that the previous Government signed up to, the current Government has signed up to. It is not going to be possible to provide a compensatory habitat under the Habitats Directive. It is not going to be possible to comply with the Water Framework Directive. What is proposed at the moment is a lawyers’ charter.

Q79 Barry Gardiner: That is a perfect cue in really, because that is exactly what I wanted to talk about. I think you have given a very comprehensive explanation, if I can put it this way, of your biodiversity concerns. What I want to focus your attention on now, though, is much more the legal process of how one goes about complying with the Habitats Directive. There is a four-stage process here, isn’t there? If you want to do anything on a Natura 2000 site you have to show that you can mitigate your impact, first of all, and if you cannot mitigate you then have three further points of compliance. One is that there is no alternative that is less damaging, and I would like your comments on that. Two is that it is of imperative reasons of overriding public interest. The third is that compensatory measures can be taken to ensure that the conservation site is protected.

Now, you have talked about the impact on wildlife. You have talked about the impact on the fish species, on the bird species, and other species. Of course, it talks about "the site". It is not just a wildlife directive. It is a habitat directive. Therefore, there seems to me a very fundamental question here, which is that given that everybody acknowledges that the reason this is such an amazing site for renewable energy, which I support and would wish to see go ahead, the reason for that is that it is a unique site. In fact, it is the second largest range in the world. How is it possible to protect the habitat? How is it possible to protect the site? Those are the questions that I would like you to address; those issues about how one would comply with those different stages of annulling the Habitat Directive and moving forward to the point of compensatory measures.

Kate Jennings: I think the way you have asked the question nicely illustrates the complexity of doing that in this case. I should say to start with that the purpose of the Habitat Directive is not to stop development; it is to ensure that wherever possible development is compatible with the wildlife interest. There are cases of development in the UK, which have passed in some cases fairly smoothly through the tests you have outlined.

In this case, it is very challenging. As you say, the first test is whether or not there will be an adverse effect on the integrity of the site; whether it will be damaged seriously in the long term. The onus is to mitigate, to avoid or reduce those effects wherever possible. That can be done through design and through siting. Obviously, in this case, a full barrage shore to shore resulting in the kind of scale of intertidal habitat loss, there is no way you can mitigate that.

Then, an adverse effect on a site, there are the three tests that you described. We know there are alternative technologies; we know that they are at varying stages of development compared to the more conventional technologies that Hafren Power described, but the test would be whether there are less damaging alternatives to the full barrage and that would seem a challenging test. I should point out these tests are sequential as well, so you have to get through each one to get to the next.

Imperative reasons of overriding public interest looks at whether, if there are no less damaging alternatives, the development should nonetheless proceed. Were proposals to come forward that were the least damaging alternative, then the contribution to decarbonising the economy of a significant renewable energy development might well pass that test.

Q80 Barry Gardiner: It seems to me that is the test that is passable, if any of them are.

Kate Jennings: Yes, exactly. The final test is: can compensation be secured to ensure the integrity of the Natura network? That is the point at which you acknowledge damage to the site, because it cannot be avoided. The development can only be consented if that compensation can be secured. I think in our discussion already about the scale of intertidal habitats that we are talking about, some of the fish issues, the question of whether or not you could secure adequate compensation if you had made it through the other tests is uncertain and unlikely.

Martin Salter: On the fish point of view, no one has ever successfully tried to recreate salmon and sea trout migratory fish habitat on this scale. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Barry, was a work of fiction and I think Hafren Power proposals should be considered as such.

Q81 Barry Gardiner: Thank you for that. Let us now move into the hypothetical. We have done that before as well with "What would you do if they built a nuclear power plant in your back yard?", but let us do it this way. If this project were deemed to comply with EU legislation, one of the criticisms that you have made of it is that you have not seen adequate workings and details. If it were deemed to comply with EU legislation, following all the EIAs and everything Europe would go through on this, would you support it?

Martin Salter: Yes, speaking from the Angling Trust’s point of view. We believe that the legislation that is currently in force actually provides adequate protection. It gives us the bar that proposals have to meet. It is against that bar that this has to be tested; not against my opinion, their opinion, our collective opinion, but the bar that this Parliament has signed up to. I am very satisfied with the integrity and rigorous nature of that bar.

Kate Jennings: We share our view with the findings of the Sustainable Development Commission when they looked at potentials for a Severn barrage and they said that the Habitat Directive test, which we have just discussed, should be seen as a litmus test for sustainable development and we would support that wholeheartedly. If a development passes those tests, following robust and rigorous assessment, then it should proceed. As we have said, we are deeply sceptical that this one could do that.

Martin Spray: I think, given the challenges we face, it would be irresponsible not to go down that line actually.

Barry Gardiner: Dr Pryor, slightly different.

Dr Pryor: Exactly, but proudly so, because our remit, indeed our statutory purpose, goes beyond that. It is for the preservation of places of historic interest and natural beauty for the enjoyment of the nation in perpetuity. While we would absolutely support and require that test, we would also have an eye to the impact on that development in terms of people’s enjoyment of this amazing natural ecosystem there.

Q82 Barry Gardiner: Let us cut to the quick here. Are there things that you believe Hafren Power could do that would make this acceptable in your eyes?

Dr Pryor: Potentially, yes, I think.

Q83 Barry Gardiner: Have you set out what those criteria are?

Dr Pryor: No.

Barry Gardiner: Why not and when will you?

Dr Pryor: It is curious when one of our concerns is about the process. We only saw the detail as the result of the evidence presented to the Committee. We are absolutely not agreed that we are going to oppose this. We have just said we are expressing strong concerns. A barrage could work. We would rather explore it in the light or in the context of all the other marine renewables that have potential there, but we have certainly not ruled out a barrage.

Barry Gardiner: Thank you.

Martin Salter: Can I just say, we have submitted last night a key concerns paper, key challenges for Hafren Power, which has gone to the chairman and I think has been circulated to you, Kate put it in? That represents the collective view of five people with six key points in there, challenges that need to be met.

Q84 Barry Gardiner: Would you please outline for the Committee precisely what those are?

Kate Jennings: Okay.

Chair: Briefly; we are very much over time.

Kate Jennings: Okay. The first is a full assessment of the nature and scale of the environmental impact of the proposal. That needs to be subject to peer review. That will mean two things. It means developing understanding of some of the baseline things like, "How do fish move through the estuary?" and also detail on things like turbine design, which to date as far as we are aware are not decided or available. In order to achieve that full impact assessment, we need the technologies to have been developed and adequately tested, and they need to be tested in conditions which reflect those found in the Severn.

Environmental impacts must, as already described, as a minimum be demonstrated to be within the realms of what it is practically possible to compensate for on a like-for-like basis. It must be demonstrated that those measures can be secured and can be delivered in advance of loss. That is a point that you touched on earlier. An impact on jobs, land drainage, flood risk, along with the cost of compensatory measures, will need to be factored into an analysis of the economic viability of the project as a whole.

Q85 Barry Gardiner: Can you just clarify one final point and that is that this must be like-for-like and it cannot be equal value? Any of the arguments that we heard earlier about, "Well, it would have these other beneficial effects" are absolutely null and void, not in terms of general consideration, but in terms of overturning the directive.

Kate Jennings: Yes, so the Commission’s guidance and case law on this point is entirely clear. The wording of the directive talks about the integrity of the network. As part of the Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study, this issue of equal value was looked into and there was a fairly clear conclusion that that was unworkable and would indeed contravene the requirements of the directive.

Barry Gardiner: Thank you.

Q86 Sir Robert Smith: We have already explored in quite a lot detail the potential of alternative proposals for the estuary and also the impact of other proposals in other parts of the world. I just wondered though from the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, you mentioned hosting a visit by South Korean Government to look at turbine proposals.

Martin Spray: Yes, it is a guy from the Prime Minister’s office in South Korea who was with us for two years and was looking at comparisons, because we are two nations that are obviously very interested in tidal power generation. I would argue that the Koreans have probably been more aggressive about their developments than we have in the past, but one interesting outcome of that is that the Korean Government has recently looked at five major schemes and have rejected four of them on the basis of environmental grounds. That was certainly a change of direction from the Korean Government.

Chair: That is very helpful. Thank you all very much indeed.

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Simon Bird, Chief Executive, Bristol Port Company, Matthew Kennerley, Associated British Ports Port Director, South Wales, and Professor Tim Broyd, Engineering the Future, gave evidence.

Q87 Chair: Good morning. I am sorry you have had to wait a bit, but I am sure you will appreciate that we wanted to explore some of the issues and they may have been of interest to you as well. Thank you for coming in. Could I begin by asking how you think a barrage would affect navigation to and from the Bristol port and the ports in South Wales that take in the estuary?

Simon Bird: Thank you, Chair. If I may start that-Simon Bird, the Chief Executive of Bristol Port-could I just go back to something that Peter Hain said at the beginning of taking evidence where he talked about consultation with us in the port? I first became aware of the revised Hafren proposals in a meeting with the Chief Executive of North Somerset council, who told me he had been invited to a meeting with Hafren with Elizabeth Haywood, Peter Hain’s wife, back in the summer. There seemed to be a flurry of press statements picked up by the media in South Wales and, indeed, South West England that alerted us that there was something coming up on the radar so to speak.

We had a meeting with the then Chief Executive of Hafren Power in mid-September, which Elizabeth Haywood attended. At that meeting, they could give us no details; they had no details and were at the very early stages of the proposal. Two months later, she wrote to me, which is the letter we submitted with the evidence, and used the word that the project was still inchoate, as you described earlier, again with no detail. That is as recently as mid-November.

We are pleased that this Committee is looking at this as a project. We are pleased the evidence has come forward, but all we are able to look at is what Hafren has submitted to this Committee as way of background to the proposal. Again, as you heard from other people, that evidence is very flimsy in detail. There is no detail there on some of the assertions that have been made. To answer the specific question you raised, if we look at Severn Tidal Power, which again has been referred to as where a lot of detailed evidence has been, the key impact upon us, Bristol Port-and Matt will talk for himself-is the loss of depth of water upstream from the barrage. Severn Tidal Power identified that we could be losing potentially two metres of water, a metre off high water and a metre in terms of increased sedimentation as the erosion and the siltation, again as you heard from earlier people, builds up around the estuary. In looking at some of the data that Hafren Power has pushed out with its ebb and flow turbines, that actually could be increased. As the high tide level is reduced by an additional metre, that could be a much higher figure than two, perhaps approaching three metres, of loss of water upstream of the barrage.

From a Bristol Port perspective, we are one of the UK’s national deep sea ports. We handle some of the largest vessels coming into the UK; 60% of our trade is in vessels of greater than 70,000 tonnes deadweight, which come with arrival draught of greater than 13 metres. Losing that amount of water off the tide will mean that those vessels will typically only get in on 20% of the tides throughout the year; on 80% of the tides large vessels will be unable to come into the port with that loss of high water. The loss of high water is probably a killer for us.

On the increased siltation, we heard again from our colleagues earlier that the estuary is very dynamic. It has a lot of suspended sediment in it. You take the energy out of the estuary, where does the sediment reappear? So little work has been done on that. We, as a port, operate 24/7 dredging. We use contract dredging to help us keep our lock entrances clear. We move typically five metres of mud outside our lock entrance. The geomorphology of the estuary means that we and others do not fully understand it, but certainly the evidence under Severn Tidal Power would show loss of depth of water and increased sediment will affect the navigation and entrance of vessels coming into Bristol Port.

Matthew Kennerley: I can add to Simon’s concerns. What Simon has talked about is obviously a concern for South Wales. Just going back to his first point, yet again lack of consultation and real detail about the project and its effects is something that needs to be addressed. The water depth is an issue for both Cardiff and Newport, which are ports upstream of the barrage and would be contained within that water area. Our ports there, while not handling the same sized vessels that Bristol handles, are very much associated with business that heads off into the Midlands and other parts of the UK’s manufacturing base, as well as local traffic.

Just to highlight the concern here, cargo will move from ports for a very small change in overall shipping costs, freight costs. The sort of things that we are talking about here affect the freight rate because you cannot load as much cargo on in order to access a particular depth of water. As the freight rate goes up, then other ports around the UK become more competitive to handle that particular business and we will see a steady loss of trade to the likes of Liverpool or the Tees or wherever else that is not constrained by this type of facility. That is the nub of it in terms of the economic balance in terms of the way the cargo is moved.

Loss of water is a key one. The other thing that can affect the overall cost of the vessel journey is obviously the transit through the locks. At the moment, vessels arriving into the Severn to go to Newport, Cardiff and Bristol can make their own transits up there. There was a comment that this is a tidal movement. Yes, of course it is a tidal movement. When you have 14.5 metres of range, those movements have to be carefully planned, particularly for the deep-draughted vessels around arrival times, and so on. What we have at the moment is those vessels can go concurrently with each other. Our concern is that, with another set of locks to go through, you are going to end up with a convergence of a number of large vessels in the case of Bristol, and a range of vessels from 40,000 deadweight down to 2,000 or 3,000 deadweight in the ports that I am responsible for.

Not only that, you have vessels trying to get out of the impound at the same time, so huge concerns there from a ship owner’s perspective. You have the risk of an extra lock, which they do not like doing. You have extra tug interaction; again, something that they try to avoid. You have the time of transit, and I question whether 40 minutes is really realistic, certainly in the case of some of the larger vessels. You have the issue of risk of having to put a vessel through the lock and the potential delays that are associated with a possible queuing arrangement. All of that in future, when somebody is pricing a cargo to come into South Wales, will be priced into the freight rate.

So again, you are getting erosion in terms of our overall competitiveness, so very serious concerns in terms of immediate access. We also have very serious concerns in terms of the other navigational issues, as Simon has already touched upon, dredging, which are already governed by detailed legislation and powers, and licencing regime. There is a potential for channels to be silted that currently we do not have any licences to dredge. Again, there are further environmental questions about those types of activities.

All in all, a major concrete obstruction in the middle of the River Severn is going to have major consequences for any ports upstream of that.

Q88 Chair: In the light of what you say, are there any measures that could be taken to enable business as usual for your ports to continue if the barrage was built? If there are, what would they be?

Simon Bird: As Matt has said, the suggestion that locks in the barrage downstream of the port could be put in to enable vessels to come and go to the port, we have seen no details of that from Hafren. We saw under Severn Tidal Power some dimensions of lock sizes. They were two very large locks. Yes, you could put locks in there. As Matt has said, the increase in terms of the tug costs, pilotage costs, dredging costs-because there will be silt build-up there-who will manage the to and fro of the vessels, who will set the commercial priorities? At the end of the day, at the present time, vessels come up. They turn left to Matt or right to me. Never the twain shall meet so to speak. Someone has to manage that.

Mr Hain said this morning all that will be free. We noted that. On a 120 year barrage, that is a lot of money. It is not just the lock entrances, but the approach channels would need to be deepened. If we are losing that amount of water behind the barrage, we would have to have the approach channels and indeed the locks, entrance to our locks and ABP locks lowered in order to continue to handle the vessels we handle. Whether that is practical or not to do all that and continue with the business we currently have, I do not know.

Matthew Kennerley: On behalf of the South Wales ports, I would say we have looked at in the past widening and deepening our locks in order to be able to compete with ports like Bristol. When you actually get down into the detail of this, setting aside the costs, we estimated it could be-this was work that was done probably 10 years ago-£100 million to widen Newport lock. You have to think about the constraints that you are working with on the ground and the fact that, to do a project like that, you are going to have to close the port for maybe one or two years. In that time, you can say goodbye to probably most of your customers. Then trying to get them back is an impossibility. The concept of trying to modify what we have, I have, again, very strong reservations about and we are dealing with old structures in a lot of these ports as well. Newport lock entrance was opened in 1909 or something like that, so we are dealing with structures that we do not sometimes have a full history on and in a regime where things were done very differently than they perhaps are now. Again, there is a huge amount of risk in undertaking any types of those activities.

Professor Tim Broyd: If I may add please just a couple of sentences of clarification, I am here representing Engineering the Future, which is an alliance of the major UK engineering institutions and professional bodies, led by the Royal Academy of Engineering. We have no stance for or against the Severn barrage. What we do have a concern in is that decisions, and particularly decisions of a national significance, are informed by the best possible engineering advice at the time.

With that in mind, I think that my two colleagues on the witness bench have very valid concerns that need to be treated very seriously. Just a couple of points on that: it is a shame there was such a mass exodus just before the engineers came up, as it were.

Chair: We are on public record. Do not worry.

Professor Tim Broyd: It usually happens halfway through when I am speaking, but not before. There were comparisons made earlier with the Eastern Scheldt. I think it is potentially a total red herring. I visited the Eastern Scheldt when it was part way through construction during my own PhD in the mid to late ’70s. That was designed and developed using such modelling techniques that were available in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Just imagine, if you are old enough, what sort of car you were driving at that time and how that compares with today, and so on. The world has changed. Our ability to understand and forecast things is substantially better now, but it is not easy.

Some work has been done. A lot more work needs to be done on the detailed modelling of the Severn estuary and particularly in areas close to major shipping movements. Two particular areas need to be, I think, followed through much more than they have been before. One is just the basic topography of the estuary, if you like the 3D shape of the estuary bed. The modelling work that has been done to date has been based on putting together bits of information and guessing the rest. The second thing is that much more work is needed on the nature of sediments and the sediment movements. Now, the evidence suggests at the moment that the vast majority of sediment in the Severn estuary is held in suspension by high water current speeds and that there is a strong possibility that a lot of this will drop out if behind the barrage speeds get lower.

That in itself will not lead to much greater accretion or erosion. What will have a much more fundamental difference, or potentially, is where the morphology, where the sediments in the estuary end up, and to do that, a much better understanding of the current, the status quo at the moment, and the physical structures of sediments, is needed.

Q89 Chair: Just put this in the context of the wider economy of South Wales and the South West. What effects do you think this is likely to have? Is there a sort of blight effect that there is a danger even before the go-ahead was given for this project, that might have some effect on your businesses?

Simon Bird: Well, that is without doubt. Bristol Port employs 500 people directly against Severn Tidal Power. The Welsh Assembly Government did the economic work on that and said that we generate direct employment for 7,500 people. We are a national deep sea port supplying cargoes that go from Bristol right up to the North-East of England, Scotland, and all parts of the UK. Talk of a barrage is unhelpful.

Typically, our business is long term. I am sure it is the case with Matt as well. We have long-term leases, long-term agreements with people, which could be 10 or 20 years plus. When they come up to be renewed, they will look again at the economic case. They look at the points that Matt has made in terms of the changing freight rate, the changing costs of getting cargo in or getting cargo out of Bristol, which will affect the economics of whether the project goes ahead or the commercial terms are renewed. You know from our evidence we have a deep sea container terminal that was fully consented by the Government two years ago that will bring further deep sea container capacity into the UK on the west coast where it is required. That economic case and that business case, which were approved by the Government, were done without a barrage being in front of it. The depth of water we had at Avonmouth and the design we had there means that the largest container ships can come up unimpeded on 90% of the tides. They are not queuing waiting for the tide to get to the top. They can come up and go. It is a very important part of the economics of that container movement.

Q90 John Robertson: If that would retain the 7,500 jobs if there is no barrage built, would there be a growth in jobs anyway? Have you calculated what the difference would be in terms of job creation?

Simon Bird: We have not done that work at the moment. Perhaps we or the LEP in the South West should be doing. Certainly, Bristol is an area of growth. Again, it is a matter of fact that it is one of the regions that is growing substantially with distribution, with national companies setting up in the Bristol area and in the Severnside area adjacent to the Avonmouth Port, there is a lot of new investment down there with companies setting up warehousing, distribution and adding value to those products before they go out into the country.

Q91 Barry Gardiner: Professor Broyd, the studies that you are talking about of both the profiling of the bottom and also the sedimentation flows and what would be likely to happen, over what period of time would such a study need to take place in your opinion to be reliable and the basis for future prediction?

Professor Broyd: There is a difference in time and effort obviously. So, if you are looking at the basic-

Barry Gardiner: Yes, but there are also climatic changes that you would have to account for, and the seasonal changes that one would have to account for.

Professor Broyd: Yes. My guess is that a period of two to three years might be necessary.

Barry Gardiner: Thank you.

Professor Broyd: It is not six months, and it should not take 10 years.

Q92 Barry Gardiner: Indeed. That is what I imagined, but I just wanted to get it on the record. Mr Kennerley, you have spoken about the depth of draught and the problems, the very real commercial problems that that would create for the port. This is a question jointly to you, in effect: what would the possibility be, what would the feasibility be of gouging the bottom of the river such as to allow the ULCCs that currently access the port to continue to do so? I take all the points you have made about bottlenecks and increased costs of tugs and so on, but I just wanted to address that specific issue around draught.

Matthew Kennerley: Well, it is possible to dredge channels and I am not completely familiar with the geomorphology of those particular routes at the moment. There is not any channel dredging currently taking place in the Severn estuary in terms of the common channels that are used by vessels. Most of the dredging that is done is around the port entrances and the very close port approaches where channels are maintained in order to enable that access. So, channel dredging is feasible but on the scale of what might be required, you wonder how practical that is and how cost-effective that would be. I do not have an answer for you in terms of what that would be.

Q93 Barry Gardiner: But some sort of feasibility work on that would need to be done to accommodate some of those questions.

Matthew Kennerley: It would definitely need to be done to understand that dynamic, and particularly in relation to the big vessel access going up to Bristol as well as the handy-sized ships going to Newport. But I think the big issue there is, while you may get access and be able to dredge and what have you, you still have the problem of adapting the port entrances to accommodate that draught with a lower high water, which is a huge engineering undertaking in itself.

Q94 Albert Owen: Mr Kennerley, you are responsible for Swansea and Port Talbot as well.

Matthew Kennerley: That is right, yes.

Q95 Albert Owen: You have heard the earlier evidence session. Do you recognise the advantages that could come to the port of Port Talbot, in particular, but also Swansea?

Matthew Kennerley: In terms of business displacement, and I am talking about the on-going business, there is a greater risk that the on-going displacement does not feed into ports further west. It is more likely to feed into ports further north and north-east that are also competing for transit business through into the Midlands and the other major centres of conurbation.

Q96 Albert Owen: Particularly during the construction period?

Matthew Kennerley: During the construction period, there is no doubt about it. The ports that I am responsible for, bearing in mind their proximity and their access, would benefit from a construction of this type.

Albert Owen: Sure.

Matthew Kennerley: There is no denying that. That is something that we would very much welcome. I am responsible for running five successful ports at the moment, and what I am more concerned about is that we are running five successful ports in 20 years’ time and that we do not have, once we have this barrage in place, a constant bleed of business then following that.

Q97 Albert Owen: No, I appreciate that and you are looking specifically at this point.

Matthew Kennerley: Can I make one more point? There has been reference to Port Talbot, and I just want to make the point here that the reference to Port Talbot in the first session, I understand, is not the existing Port Talbot harbour. It is the creation of a new harbour three or four times bigger than Port Talbot to the west of Port Talbot.

Albert Owen: But close to Port Talbot?

Matthew Kennerley: So just for clarity there and make sure everybody understands that.

Q98 Albert Owen: Yes, within the region is mainly what I am talking about, and what I am saying is if there is going to be an expansion of offshore wind and various other renewables associated, the ports are going to have a bonus in the United Kingdom.

Matthew Kennerley: Yes, absolutely.

Albert Owen: This project could bring advantages to the region of South Wales through some of their ports, whether they be new facilities or existing facilities.

Matthew Kennerley: It could do, yes. I cannot deny that at all and we are already engaged, I have to say, from a port perspective, in some of these other technologies, and we are already talking about what opportunities there might be-for example, feeding into the Atlantic Array Offshore Wind Farm that has been gathering pace and going through its preliminary planning process now. We believe that our facilities can play a major role in helping to achieve those renewable objectives and we are very much attuned to that. But at the same time we need to think about the longer-term prospects, as well as the impact on jobs that could come through a longer-term erosion of business.

Q99 Albert Owen: I understand that. Do you see advantages for the renewable sector and offshore wind in particular and the barrage of the integrated transport system to the ports as well?

Matthew Kennerley: Yes, absolutely. They are obviously nodes of interchange with good connectivity, rail access. We have the marine access and good access to roads. So, yes, we recognise all those advantages. But I think it is also worth saying that ports are not just interchanges. We are now very much integrated into primary, secondary and value-added manufacturing processes, and they are recognised both by the Welsh Government and the UK Government generally, in the National Ports Policy statement that came out last year, as being key elements to the strategy of driving growth and investment. We have a much broader role to play in the economy, rather than just being transit points. Hence the figures that you see in the report here that demonstrate the number of jobs and economic impact that those ports are responsible for.

Simon Bird: Could I just make a point on Port Talbot?

Albert Owen: Yes.

Simon Bird: Peter Hain talked about the caissons being manufactured in Port Talbot. The Severn Tidal Power Study looked at that and I think it said that there would be lack of capacity in Port Talbot to manufacture all the caissons that are required. In fact, there would be leakage, about 76%, away from the region because the region could not absorb it. Peter Hain’s assertion about the deep sea container terminal, I think Matt would agree with me even though we are competitors, Port Talbot being 80 miles west of Bristol, it may have deep water but the economics of moving cargo-a container in this case-from a load port on a vessel through the port to the point of where the container is devanned, Port Talbot will not stand up economically for the shipping lines to back that.

Albert Owen: What will not stand up, the current facility?

Simon Bird: Port Talbot as a location for a deep sea container terminal. We spent four years in Bristol going through the application process and getting approval. We understand the market very well. As a geographical location, I really do not think for Port Talbot the economics will stack up.

Q100 Albert Owen: But if it was to go ahead-let us just say that scenario was to go ahead-and Port Talbot is not, where would the manufacturing take place? It would probably be on continental Europe and just floated in.

Simon Bird: It could well be yes.

Q101 Albert Owen: So, would it not be an advantage to develop the ports around South Wales?

Simon Bird: Well, that is South Wales and not me.

Albert Owen: No, I will ask you both. You wanted to intervene in this discussion, so I am going to ask you some questions.

Simon Bird: No, I am very happy to. Let us look at what ports do.

Albert Owen: I know what ports do. I have worked in one and I live in one.

Simon Bird: Ports play a role in terms of logistics and economics. So we are meeting an economic need. We are moving cargoes to where they are needed or we are exporting cargoes from where they have been manufactured. So the costs are very clear.

Q102 Albert Owen: I understand, but my question to your colleague and competitor was, and to you, that if it does not get done in the South Wales region and this project was to go ahead, it could get done in Europe and they would be floated in, and rather than manufacturing jobs, they would just be assembly jobs. So there is a case to looking at the manufacturing in this country.

Simon Bird: But it has not been, has it? That detail is needed.

Q103 Albert Owen: No. That is why £60 million was given a few years ago to develop the UK ports, because we were losing to continental ports and to ports around the world. So you cannot have it both ways. You cannot say, "We want to invest in ports," but then say, "Yes, well it is not good enough because it is down the road from me."

Simon Bird: I am not familiar with the £60 million. We did not receive any.

Albert Owen: No, there was £60 million given by Government to ports as a missing link to help with offshore development.

Matthew Kennerley: It was through investment for manufacturing in ports rather than actual port developments, but, yes, I do take the point. Clearly, if this thing were to go ahead, then obviously as commercial organisations, we want to benefit from that. I also recognise your point about legacy values as well, but I do agree with Simon that I do not think the proposed development of a deep sea container terminal in that part of the world is going to be something that is particularly marketable. But there might be other legacy uses that could come from such a development, there is no denying that.

Albert Owen: Thank you.

Q104 Sir Robert Smith: I think all the questions I had have been dealt with, but just for the record, you are saying any of the impact in the short term of the work for the barrage, from your point of view, would not compensate for the disruption and the loss in the long term?

Matthew Kennerley: That would need to form part of the overall consideration, yes. That is the concern that we lose the long-term jobs and the current jobs and this point about blight and the process-

Sir Robert Smith: The long-term nature of contracts.

Matthew Kennerley: Yes, but we are dealing with business now. As Simon mentioned earlier, we are looking into some 20 or 25-year contracts that require significant investment and, therefore, that duration to amortise those investments. The decisions we are making now are reaching that far ahead and with a threat of possible disruption to what those vessel capabilities are, then some of these opportunities may not come to fruition.

Simon Bird: There has been a port in Bristol since Roman times. Avonmouth was built in 1890. Portbury was built in the late ’70s, early ’80s. By then, our deep sea container terminal will come on stream at the right time. As vessels get larger, you need to build bigger facilities to handle those. So we have been around an awfully long time. Being involved in the construction of a barrage that has a finite time. At the end of that period, the workers building that will disappear. No, it is not attractive. Being involved in the supply of aggregate that would - possibly the barrage coming on - that would kill our larger ship business, no it is not attractive.

Professor Broyd: May I just make a comment on this, on some of this and not wishing to antagonise the two gentlemen on my right? But increasingly in the UK we are understanding that you cannot look at any one aspect of infrastructure without looking at the system around it; that infrastructure is and needs to be considered as a system of systems. This is pretty much why Infrastructure UK was set up a couple of years ago, to look at the five main economic areas of infrastructure-energy, transport, waste, water and ICT. Now, some of these, the topics here and in earlier parts of the session, where there were questions about the potential for transport links across a barrage, more recently here the question of whether Port Talbot is in the right place or whatever, I think arguably those sorts of things have a national significance that need to be considered nationally and you cannot really talk about extending a port facility without looking at transport links and other types of links around it.

Q105 Sir Robert Smith: Presumably, if you are doing transport links across the barrage, you are altering the shipping movements through the barrage because you cannot drive across a barrage at the same time as a ship is coming through.

Professor Broyd: You can make arrangements for that, certainly. You can one way or another.

Q106 Chair: As you have just mentioned national considerations, while we obviously understand and will take account of the regional effects here and, of course, the effects on individual businesses that you are robustly defending, to the extent that displacement simply took place to another part of the UK, whether that is further north or further east in terms of trade, from a national point of view that is a more neutral consideration. This project is so large, it has to be viewed, to some extent, on its national impact. If we concluded that this offered good value in terms of a substantial low carbon energy source and a degree of diversification, if we were satisfied that although there might be an adverse effect on certain individual businesses or even regions but nationally there would be no overall loss, that would obviously be a consideration that we would have to take into account.

Simon Bird: You see in our evidence the fact we are making a point: we are a national port. The cargoes we handle are being handled and distributed nationally whether it is coal, aviation fuel, animal feed, cars, whatever. The business that is displaced from my port I do not think will go to another UK port. These are very large vessels having very large bulk cargoes and we and Immingham-another ABP port in the North East-are the only ports capable of handling that size of vessel. So yes, Immingham could if it had the capacity. It is very busy now. I think we would see a lot of leakage to the continent and it would come back in smaller ships to east coast ports.

Matthew Kennerley: Delivering less value into the economic picture.

Q107 Dr Whitehead: Could I just briefly clarify that in terms of the cost-benefit to ports of what would happen with a full barrage? If you had a partial barrage that did not fundamentally interfere with the routes to your ports, firstly, is it in your understanding that such a thing is possible, and secondly, were that to be the case, would that change your view on the advantages of having the manufacturing and assembly associated with that partial barrage located in and around your facilities?

Simon Bird: We are not against Bristol Port looking at ways to harness the power in the Severn estuary and the Severn Tidal Power project threw up a number of options, including a Severn Cardiff-Weston barrage. But there are other schemes that have been referred to by Regen South West earlier today. There are a number of schemes that are out there that are perhaps at the same stage or further advanced in terms of the technology that we have heard about this morning on ebb and flow. But I understand your specific question on a particular barrage across the estuary. The issue that will concern us, one would have a potential funnel effect on the tide and current going through a much smaller area would need to be assessed for its impact on ship handling and ship manoeuvrability. Could you still have those very largest vessels coming in, depending on where the gap was in the estuary? Of course, whatever you do in the estuary, in terms of taking energy out, you will alter the geomorphology, so there will be another issue of sediment and silt build-up that will drive an issue in terms of dredging. We are open to look at schemes that fundamentally do not kill our business. There are other schemes out there that need to be developed alongside this Hafren one.

Q108 Albert Owen: I have a series of engineering questions that are quite technical for me to even ask but I am sure they are going to take some time to answer. But they are important at this stage and you touched on some of them earlier on. Do you feel that the barrage, as proposed in the project that we are talking about, from an engineering perspective, is probably the best that will maximise the most electricity and therefore be in the national interest for producing the most renewable source from that particular area?

Professor Broyd: I prefer to answer a question that is not about maximisation of electricity but optimisation of the scheme, if I can put it that way. I was a member of the expert panel used by DECC a couple of years or so ago to assess five different schemes, and there were three barrage schemes and two tidal lagoon schemes. We also looked briefly at reefs and tidal fences. Of those, the only one-and it was pretty much head and shoulders above the rest for any return on investment at all-was the barrage along the line, the type of line that Hafren are suggesting. Other schemes were less viable. They certainly produced less power. But of course a barrage itself, and again harking back to what has been said earlier today, does not prevent other types of renewable energy being tapped within the regions. Wind power and tidal power and heat source, heat pump power are perfectly mutually compatible. In fact, there is a synergy between them, almost certainly given the way that the high voltage grid in the region would have to be modified anyway.

Q109 Albert Owen: I do want to stick with how much electricity is generated, if I may, and from a technical side. You are saying that a barrage would be the better one because of intermittency of the other schemes? Is that one of the reasons?

Professor Broyd: No, just because for the other barrage schemes addressed generally the vastly reduced power output was vastly reduced

Simon Bird: At a lower cost.

Professor Broyd: Yes, but the multiplier was different as well, so it is not just the same percentage benefit.

Q110 Dr Whitehead: Could I just clarify on that particular point? I believe, as you say, the study of 2010 looked at five proposals and at that point, tidal reef, tidal fences, as you say, were not worked up but were looked at by the study briefly and, indeed, did not feature in the final report to any great extent.

Professor Broyd: Correct.

Q111 Dr Whitehead: So, would it be fair to say that you did not look at those?

Professor Broyd: Not with the same rigour, no. I would also say that we did not examine there the potential for a very low head turbine system as is being proposed now because-

Dr Whitehead: Two-directional turbines?

Professor Broyd: Yes, we were looking at bulb turbines and mainly a generating-

Q112 Dr Whitehead: One of the items of evidence put forward to us in writing suggests that, admittedly a different location, a non-complete barrage could produce more power than is proposed by the present Hafren suggestions. Did that come out at all in your discussions?

Professor Broyd: No. I could not comment on that because I have not seen it. To be honest, it is a bit like-if I were to lower, to get to a point of frivolity or flippancy, but when you buy a computer, there is always going to be a more powerful one coming out in a couple of years’ time, but how long do you delay and when is it worth it?

Q113 Albert Owen: Can I just ask again, the scheme as we know it could produce 5% of the energy needs of the United Kingdom? Do you recognise that figure?

Professor Broyd: Yes, I do.

Q114 Albert Owen: Okay. So how would that be integrated into the existing energy system? How do you see the modelling; how do you see that happening?

Professor Broyd: The thing about tidal power is that it is totally reliable. It is driven by the moon, or 90% by the moon and 10% by the sun. It is driven by gravity. It is always going to be there as long as the moon is there. So there is a totally reliable, totally forecastable driver to it. It wanders around the day a bit though because a tidal period is 12 hours 25 minutes or whatever, so one day is nearly an hour later than the previous day and that can lead to generation in what are currently quite inconvenient time periods. No one really wants that much energy at three in the morning, apart from my sons who are out wherever they are. I think the main thing I would suggest here is that you do not look at how it might be used now, but you look how it might be used in 10 to 15 years’ time, where we ought to be able to treat our grids a lot smarter. We are almost certainly going to have a significantly larger number of electric vehicles, and so on, which will need charging overnight and we would increasingly get the potential and the capacity for even domestic white goods to time themselves when power is available and cheap rather than when, at the moment, we want to switch them on.

Q115 Albert Owen: What about the practicality of storage?

Professor Broyd: Practicality of storage, there are a number of schemes in their infancy. At the moment I think the best option would be-if we really were getting more base load power than you wanted-just to stop the barrage generating. Let the turbines free wheel.

Albert Owen: Yes, but 10 or 15 years ahead.

Professor Broyd: 10 or 15 years ahead, I still think that managing the-

Albert Owen: Okay, 30 years ahead when we all have electric cars.

Professor Broyd: No, managing demand is always going to be the best way because you get significant losses with storage.

Q116 Albert Owen: Then final point, you heard the views of the other panels of witnesses that we had with regards to flood and the possible advantages and, in some cases, disadvantages. What is your view, as an engineer, on that?

Professor Broyd: My view as an engineer is I do not understand it. To my mind a barrage will give more or less full protection for areas within the barrage and something that is a bit counter intuitive, a measure of protection for about 10 kilometres down either bank outside the barrage and that is because of the dynamics of the estuary and the movement. The area of land-and of course you will not get any wave or large roller type wave flooding in.

Q117 Albert Owen: So you have not done any modelling on this yourself?

Professor Broyd: Not myself.

Albert Owen: No, but you have seen it?

Professor Broyd: I have seen it. The guy who has done a lot of this modelling and his team, Professor Roger Falconer at Cardiff University, I have known and intermittently worked with for over 35 years. He has the best centre in the UK and it is world-reputed. The area of land roughly defended by a barrage would be about equivalent to the Isle of Man. It is about 500 square kilometres.

Q118 Albert Owen: What impact would that have on sea levels?

Professor Broyd: I beg your pardon, sorry?

Albert Owen: The climate change would happen naturally anyway so you would look to build-

Professor Broyd: Yes, the indications are perhaps that there are three-quarters of a metre added of sea water rise, sea level rise by the end of the next century, so the barrage will have an ameliorative effect on that, certainly upstream and, to a measure, downstream as well.

Albert Owen: Thank you very much for that. I understood all your answers by the way.

Q119 John Robertson: Professor, one of your colleagues, Professor Lovelock, many years ago said, "I can only tell you about the science; I couldn’t tell you about anything else". So would that be a fair assessment of your contribution here?

Professor Broyd: I do not know. I am not sure I can tell you about the science. Ask me and I will see. I promise not to talk beyond my levels of competence.

Q120 John Robertson: Well, that would likely be well beyond mine. Do not worry about that. We heard a lot about wildlife and you just answered my colleague’s question there, but are there any engineering interventions available today, or even within the short-term future, that might be able to help with the mitigation of the impact on wildlife?

Professor Broyd: The simplest, and it is not simple, would be a question using the material dredged from beneath the caissons and shipping channels or whatever to create compensatory inter-tidal ground.

Q121 John Robertson: We talked about the EDF La Rance facility and how things have moved on since then.

Professor Broyd: The only lesson that can be learnt from La Rance in this context is that the turbines and the power generation system used are extremely reliable. La Rance has been going now for 50 years. As far as I understand it, it has never had a major refit, let alone a replacement of kit and the EDF people who run it are extremely happy with it.

Q122 John Robertson: That is quite interesting. Hafren Power claim that their new turbine design is low risk, minimal pressure changes in turbulence, aiming for 100% survival of all species of fish and so on. From the knowledge that you have of this kind of turbine, does this turbine they have meet the same?

Professor Broyd: I cannot comment. I have not seen details really. The one thing I can comment on perhaps is a suggestion made by someone along the group before us here, that you can quite often get cavitation in turbines. That is really small areas of vacuum that have formed and then explode suddenly. I doubt that would happen at all. If you get that happening, then you are going to put the integrity of the machinery seriously at risk.

Q123 John Robertson: So your knowledge of what they call a very low head contoured rotating turbine design, do we need more information on this?

Professor Broyd: Yes, I think these need to be independently verified and tested at an appropriate time, quite possibly or probably including some small-scale trials. That means either full-scale turbines in a small-scale-but not across the Severn, or smaller 1:5 or whatever scales.

Q124 John Robertson: My last question is basically, and this is really looking into the future, and that is a project like this could be seen in larger scale or even slightly smaller scale throughout the world. Do you think there is an export demand there?

Professor Broyd: Potentially, all right. The way I look at it is this, tidal power barrages are in their infancy across the world. There are, however, already an increasing number of flood defence barrages and the two can certainly be combined. Now, we know that the world demand for power and, in particular, electrical power is going to increase significantly over the next few decades; partly this is because of the increase in world population and partly it is because of the quite natural and understandable desire of people in what I guess we used to call the developing world to better themselves, if I can say that without being patronising or prejudicial. We know there is also likely to be a significant attraction in seeking new power sources that are clean, reliable and would help mitigate climate change impact, so combined, perhaps, with flood defences. I think there are likely to be increasing opportunities, and however fanciful, I would say that in the 1950s and early 1960s the UK led the world in the civil use of nuclear power generation and we totally lost it. We potentially have an opportunity to get the world market in this and to retain it for a while.

Q125 John Robertson: Can I ask one question? It is a question I wanted to ask in connection with one my colleague asked. Albert asked about the integration into the network. How much do you think it would cost for the barrage to be connected up to the National Grid? Do you think there would be a lot of work to be done?

Professor Broyd: The National Grid, they reckon, is between £2 billion and £2.5 billion. As I understand it, the way that is handled commercially at the moment is that that cost is taken by National Grid up to the point where a scheme is being built but if the scheme is never finished, then there is a requirement for the developer to pay back to Grid their costs, so there is a need for some sort of insurance or surety there.

John Robertson: Okay.

Q126 Barry Gardiner: Professor Broyd, I did not understand your remark about cavitation. Can you just elaborate on that?

Professor Broyd: Well, only that if a piece of machinery is-I don’t know-do you suffer cavitation? I will say suffer cavitation.

Barry Gardiner: Ships propellers suffer cavitation all the time.

Professor Broyd: Then sooner or later, they are going to create damage. There will be damage. There will be pit-holing within the metalwork, and so on. So it is certainly not good practice to have a piece of machinery operating in an environment in which cavitation will occur.

Q127 Barry Gardiner: I thought you said that you did not think that they would be subject to cavitation.

Professor Broyd: That is why I do not think they will be subject to cavitation. It will be off design limits. Sorry, can I put it a better way?

Barry Gardiner: Sorry, I may just be being very dense here.

Professor Broyd: Okay. Let us try another approach. The turbine equipment almost certainly will be designed so that there is no cavitation within its normal operating regime. So if you get cavitation, then it is a failure in design or it is being operated significantly out of design intent. I think it is a red herring, not a fish.

Q128 Barry Gardiner: So can you comment then on the propensity of the proposed turbines to suffer cavitation? Are you able to comment, professionally, on the propensity of the turbines to suffer cavitation?

Professor Broyd: As a matter of principle, turbines are designed not to suffer cavitation. So if it is happening, something has gone wrong.

Chair: We have probably reached the end of this unless there is anything else you wanted to say. We are grateful to you for coming in and this has been a useful session for us, but we have quite a lot more work to do.

Prepared 4th February 2013