HC Deb 23 March 1987 vol 113 cc11-2
12. Mr. Colvin

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he has carried out a study of the economic impact on South Wales if the Severn barrage were constructed.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

A study of the potential regional effects of a Severn barrage is being undertaken as part of the £4.2 million programme of advanced investigations and site studies announced last July by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy.

Mr. Colvin

I am sure that all hon. Members are pleased to hear that news. I believe that the House will agree with me that the sooner the studies are completed and the barrage is built, the better. Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a threat to an economic and social asset in Wales if the barrage and the seven other smaller barrages on estuaries and rivers are built? That threat relates to fishing. What provision has my right hon. Friend made for migratory fish stocks to be catered for if the Severn barrage and the other smaller barrages for electricity generation are constructed?

Mr. Edwards

It is quite a good idea to carry out the studies before we decide whether the the barrage should be built. Certainly, the studies will address important conservation matters, including fish stocks. In much smaller schemes elsewhere in Wales we have made provision for salmon passes. They can sometimes be a matter of controversy, as we discovered in north Wales, where such a scheme has been criticised on environmental grounds. Therefore, the proper way to proceed is through the inquiries that my right hon. Friend has launched.

Mr. Terlezki

Is my right hon. Friend able to tell me what the financial impact on the barrage would be if a road were to be built over it?

Mr. Edwards

Clearly that is one of the possibilities, but the consideration of this proposition is at a very preliminary stage, and we had better decide whether to go ahead with the barrage before we decide whether there is to be a road on it. As my hon. Friend is fully aware, we are committed to proceeding with the work on a second Severn crossing, irrespective of any decision about a barrage.

Mr. Ron Davies

Does the Secretary of State acknowledge that not only fish stocks but other wild life are likely to be threatened by the proposed barrage? Will he confirm that his Department is aware that the Severn estuary is a site of international importance for nature conservation, and will he give a guarantee that any proposed development of the barrage will at least ensure that environmental considerations are given full weight?

Mr. Edwards

I am aware of the facts to which the hon. Gentleman refers, and I have no doubt that the studies that I have mentioned will take those facts very fully into account.