HC Deb 19 December 1989 vol 164 cc284-330

Order for Second Reading read.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

I must inform the House before we begin the debate that Mr. Speaker has determined that the instruction is not being called, but it can of course be referred to in the debate.

Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker, I have looked for a copy of the Bill, but one is not available. Will one be made available before business starts?

Madam Deputy Speaker

The papers necessary for the debate are now available in the Vote Office and have been for some time.

Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You have referred to the instruction to the Committee, which I tabled but which was not accepted for debate by Mr. Speaker. You said that it will be in order to discuss it during the Second Reading debate. If the Bill is given a Second Reading, will it be in order for the Committee that might be established to consider the detail of the Bill to consider the matters referred to in the instruction?

Madam Deputy Speaker

Yes. It was because of consideration in Committee that the instruction was not selected.

9.22 pm
Mr. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

It is a pleasure to have reached this Second Reading debate, although the carry-over debate was rather like a Second Reading debate and covered much of the ground. I shall try not to repeat myself and will attempt to be brief. I am forced to be excessively brief by the requirements of the House, but I want to give the positive developments that have taken place since the carry-over debate.

The Bill is a positive measure for the environment and for people. The economic case for it has been strengthening all the time. Interest in Cardiff continues to grow, as it has since Labour-controlled South Glamorgan county council took the first and major step of faith by building the new county hall in the derelict heart of my constituency. Commitment by the private sector waits in the wings for the Bill to go through. Confidence grows with the success of the carry-over motion, and will continue to grow as time goes on.

Not only Cardiff will benefit from the barrage and the economic development that will follow its building. Thirty per cent. of the jobs created in Cardiff go to people living outside it, and I cannot believe that, in the surrounding area, the local authorities and people of the valleys will want the scheme to be defeated and its benefits lost to the region.

Mr. Rogers

I accept my hon. Friend's argument that there is always a spin-off from any development to the surrounding area. He has emphasised that the main promoters of the Bill are the Labour-controlled authorities. If that is so, why did not South Glamorgan county council and Cardiff city council consult other Labour-controlled authorities in the surrounding area? Indeed, it was only after fairly strenuous opposition from me that Mid Glamorgan and the adjacent Labour authorities were consulted.

Mr. Michael

My understanding is that there has been plenty of discourse between the different local authorities.

The economic evidence shows the benefits that will come to the whole area. The private-sector leverage for the total scheme involving the barrage is assessed at 8.9:1. That means that £1 billion of private-sector development over the next 10 to 15 years depends on the barrage being built.

The scheme has been evaluated in line with Treasury guidelines: in terms of net economic impact, which assesses benefits against costs, the barrage far outweighs a mini-barrage or no barrage at all. The comparative figures at net present value terms are plus £77 million for the barrage, minus £61 million for the mini-barrage and minus £113 million for no barrage. The Select Committee can cross-examine that evidence and consider it in detail. I give that outline because it is an overwhelming argument for building the barrage. Those economic arguments should certainly be considered in detail in the Select Committee. The Bill and the barrage are needed to achieve the full regeneration of the docklands, the region of Cardiff and south Wales.

The second important aspect relates to groundwater. Hon. Members will know that, as recently as the carry-over debate, I reserved my position on groundwater. I said that, if all the evidence pointed to serious detriment to my constituents, I would not hesitate to say that that price could not be paid for redevelopment. I have gone on a genuine search for truth, and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) has also been concerned about groundwater.

I sought the services of an independent expert of international standing. We did not just bring somebody in. I went looking for somebody who could approach the matter with complete independence and authority. I then went to the Cardiff Bay development corporation and sought its agreement to that on the basis of testing the evidence to destruction and hearing the worst, and access to all data, information and work undertaken to find the effects of groundwater levels.

The end result was the identification of Mr. Glyn Jones, who directs the postgraduate course in hydrogeology at University college London, to undertake the study. He was critical of the work done on behalf of the development corporation and exhaustive in his investigations. At the end of the day, he gave the barrage and certainly the work undertaken on behalf of the promoters a clean bill of health. He said: The consultants have certainly built in a generous safety factor which should improve confidence in the less-thanprecise calculations used for predictive purposes and outweigh any margin of error.

Mr. Rogers

My interventions are to establish facts. I have yet to be convinced either way. My hon. Friend mentioned the report by a completely independent hydrogeologist. Will it be available to hon. Members, perhaps not this evening, but at some stage? My hon. Friend will be aware that I have had reservations about groundwater reports in the past.

Mr. Michael

Yes, I can assure my hon. Friend that it is available to anybody who is interested. I have made a copy available to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West, who has a serious interest as the Member for the neighbouring Constituency. A copy of the report has been placed in the Library because it should be available to hon. Members. My hon. Friend will find it worth perusing.

Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West)

While I accept that there is no question about the academic credentials of Mr. Jones, surely they are no higher than those of Dr. Stuart Noakes, who reported in similar circumstances for the residents action groups. That was paid for by the Cardiff Bay development corporation, but commissioned by the residents action groups against the barrage and the Cardiff Bay development corporation, which together set out the terms of reference. Dr. Noakes came out with critical comments about the likelihood that studies done so far by the hydrogeologist commissioned by the Cardiff Bay development corporation did not give any guarantee against flooding. The one thing that is missing from Glyn Jones's report is any mention of the exact terms of reference.

Mr. Michael

I have undertaken to give my hon. Friend a copy of the terms of reference, and I managed to locate them this evening. My desk, like his, tends to be a minefield.

The report will be available to the Special Standing Committee, and I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West that it was done on the basis of tests to destruction, and that all the evidence and the worst possible solutions would be made publicly available. I do not accept his comparison of the expertise, but the Committee will be able to consider that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West knows that little difference was left between Dr. Noakes and the experts who acted on behalf of the development corporation, by the end of the House of Lords' consideration of the report.

I have a reference for Glyn Jones's expertise from Sir James Lighthill, the former principal of University college, London, which says: Scientists from all over the world come to study hydrogeology with Glyn Jones, returning with a master of science degree in the subject, which is internationally recognised as a guarantee of excellence and sound knowledge in this field. Other references have been taken up.

The independence of the work, which involved the testing to destruction of the available evidence, and the fact that it was overseen by me and County Councillor Peter Perkins, who represents the area nearest to the bay and has no connection with the development corporation, are assurances of the neutrality and validity of the report.

The end result of the investigation should give greater confidence than the evidence available in the House of Lords' report, when the Committee ended by giving a clean bill of health to the work done on groundwater.

Mr. Morgan

I wonder whether my hon. Friend would care to rethink one of the remarks that he made, because I think that he implied that the academic expertise of Glyn Jones is greater than that of Dr. Stuart Noakes. If he is asserting that, can he say why?

Mr. Michael

My hon. Friend may have misinterpreted what I said. There is no doubt about the pre-eminence of Mr. Jones in this field. There was hardly any gap between his assessment and that of Dr. Noakes, and the experts called upon by the Cardiff Bay development corporation at the end of the House of Lords session. However, I can assert with confidence that the Jones report is the result of the only study into all the work done to date, by a genuinely independent expert of international repute. His findings will, of course, be open to scrutiny by the Committee.

Mr. John P. Smith (Vale of Glamorgan)

Does my hon. Friend agree that, if the scheme goes ahead, we could be presented with a unique opportunity to clean up the waters of the bay and, for the first time in many decades, it will also be possible to clean up the waters of the Bristol channel?

We know that sewage outfalls into the bay will have to be redirected. Presumably they will be redirected to the existing outfalls on the coast, including those in my constituency. We have a unique opportunity to ensure that the waters of Cardiff Bay are treated, and the existing sewage outfalls are treated, and that will clean up the Bristol channel.

Mr. Michael

That is outside the scope of the Bill, but, in fairness to my hon. Friend, I agree with him that there will be an opportunity to clean up water and sewage outfalls to meet European standards, and like my hon. Friend, I have spoken to the promoters of the Bill about that. I hope that it will be pursued.

My constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan share a boundary in the south Penarth and Lavernock area. I hope that the opportunity he mentions will be taken up, and I commend it for further investigation by the Minister.

During the weekend, I met the Butetown residents. Despite the title of the group, it stressed that it is not against the barrage but wants protection to he built into the Bill. I pay tribute to the tenacious way in which it has pursued that clear objective. It raised the protection period of 20 years and sought an assurance that common law protection will remain after that time. The promoters gave that assurance clearly to the Committee of another place, but the group fears that that assurance has not been written into the Bill. I am pleased to say that, at my request, the promoters agreed this week to amend the Bill so that such assurance appears on the face of the Bill.

I have pursued several vital issues with the promoters, such as affordable homes, and the retention of existing jobs even if their relocation is inevitable. There have been detailed discussions. They have sometimes been abrasive, but they have also been positive and productive. The local authority has a similar creative relationship with the development corporation. That is not always the case in other parts of the country.

The question that has to be answered today is whether there is any reason to deny the Bill a Second Reading. The answer must be a resounding no. We have the alternative proposal by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which bears a strong similarity to the idea it launched one year previously. While it should receive fair consideration, there are obvious problems with it, to some of which I have referred. If opponents of the scheme are so confident, why do they not allow the Special Standing Committee to consider all the evidence, including information about sites of special scientific interest, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) referred? I agree that some of the matters to be considered require serious consideration.

Mr. Ron Davies

My hon. Friend referred to me and asked a question, so I must reply. The objection to the barrage is a matter of principle. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which has written to most hon. Members involved in the debate, has made it clear that the alternative it suggests does not involve the construction of a barrage. That is why the RSPB and many other conservation bodies oppose the Bill in principle.

Mr. Michael

I appreciate my hon. Friend's argument. It is something on which we have to agree to differ, as we have from the beginning.

The most vigorous campaign has been conducted by those who want to protect the natural environment. As the natural environment is one of my passionate concerns, I respect the motivation but believe that the wrong target has been selected. This is not a natural environment. It is manmade, derelict and polluted. That is what birds have adapted to. A real clean-up allied to silting would destroy an environment that suits them now.

The promoters have offered major investment in alternative feeding grounds. Nature will adapt to a cleaner, healthier Cardiff bay. The human inhabitants will benefit from a cleaner, healthier environment. It is they, the people of the communities with high unemployment and a poor environment who need the benefits that the Bill and the barrage would bring to their job prospects, their future and their environment. It is for their sakes that I urge the House to give the Bill a Second Reading, so that it can receive the detailed scrutiny of a Special Standing Committee.

9.33 pm
Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West)

I am grateful for this opportunity to pursue the questions initiated, after a fashion, by the carry-over motion. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) said, a great deal has happened since that motion was passed. I want to draw attention to some of the new material.

We meet within seven days of the 10th anniversary of the last major flood of the River Taff, which runs through my constituency. On 26 December 1979, a major flood almost caught a large audience of children at Chipperfield's circus in my constituency. They narrowly escaped with their lives into the offices of the Transport and General Workers' Union in Cathedral road in which both my hon. Friend and the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) and I have our constituency offices—[HON. MEMBERS: "On the fourth floor!"] The children were taken to the mezzanine floor.

Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport, East)

It is worth pointing out that the Transport and General Workers Union is wholly in favour of the Bill.

Mr. Morgan

I was not aware of any vote on the issue by the Transport and General Workers Union which sponsors me and my hon. Friend and, of course, the Leader of the Opposition.

In my surgeries I am still dealing with compensation cases which have not yet been completed since that flood 10 years ago. I hope that the House will understand just how badly scarred are the residents of the low-lying areas of my constituency—Riverside, Pontcanna Canton and Leckwith from the past flooding.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

Will my hon. Friend explain the reasons for that flood and the previous one, which have nothing to do with the Bill?

Mr. Morgan

I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) thinks that he knows the answer to that question, but I think that it is wrong. He thinks that the flood was caused by the inrushing tide coinciding with water coming down the river, but that is not the case. It was caused by human error in the operation of the flood prevention warning.

Mr. Flynn

I thought that.

Mr. Morgan

He did think that. My constituents are worried that human error can still occur and that, if there was a barrage, the consequences would be even more catastrophic than they were in 1979. Trauma still affects the elderly people in the low-lying parts of my constituency which were flooded in 1979 and 1960. Some people still come to my surgery to untangle the compensation cases, and even when the compensation right has not been contested by the city or county council, compensation has still not been paid in full. This is 10 years, less one week, later. That is why my constituents are extremely concerned about the effect on them of anything that alters the water regime to lock the water in, rather than letting it out.

Mr. Michael

I have frequently said that I understand the impact of those events on the inhabitants of my hon. Friend's constituency. Does he not accept that this has little to do with the actual or likely effects of the Bill and the development?

Mr. Morgan

I wish that were true. My hon. Friend has already adduced the names of various distinguished and, as he calls them, pre-eminent, academics such as Mr. Glyn Jones, who has assured him about the groundwater conditions in his constituency. Although I was not consulted about that exercise, I think that, for reasons best known to him, my hon. Friend believes that it also applies to my constituency. If my hon. Friend is interested in the views of pre-eminent academics, he will also be aware of the views of other pre-eminent academics, such as Dr. Gordon Saunders, also of London university, who say that this will increase the flooding risk. That is not only Dr. Saunders's view, but that of Dr. Stuart Noakes, who is at least as well, if not better, academically qualified and has more practical experience because he lives in south Wales and is more familiar with the flood risk to the low-lying terrain in the four wards of my constituency.

Mr. Michael


Mr. Morgan

I shall give way to my hon. Friend at the rate of once every 10 seconds.

Mr. Michael

Does my hon. Friend accept that Dr. Saunders's evidence cannot be tested because it has not yet been given?

Mr. Morgan

That is a mysterious definition. If my hon. Friend had read the local newspapers, he would have seen Dr. Saunders's views which they gave, in extenso, making it clear that this was the view of an academic who has an equal, if not greater, right to be regarded as a pre-eminent academic to the one whose evidence my hon. Friend used. My hon. Friend cannot come to the House and pick and choose which academics he wants us to believe. If he thinks that Mr. Glyn Jones is some sort of God from the sky, a Roger Quittendon type of figure, whom everyone in Wales must bow down to and accept without further reference to other academics who do live in or come from south Wales, he is asking an awful lot.

Three major academics—Dr. Saunders, Dr. Noakes and Dr. Miles—all believe that the research done so far by the development corporation into the barrage and its effects on flooding is deeply flawed and inadequately researched. No hon. Member would gainsay the fact that those three are also extremely distinguished engineering experts on underwater geology.

Mr. Michael

I contest that. It is only sensible to allow the Select Committee to consider the comparative qualifications of the different people and the evidence that they give.

Mr. Morgan

I wonder whether my hon. Friend might allow me some sort of intermission so that I can continue my speech. If he contests the principle that they are pre-eminent academics, he must say why—[Interruption]. Now my hon. Friend is suggesting that he does not contest that. It is nonsense. Perhaps he would allow me to proceed for, shall we say, 20 seconds?

Three matters have altered substantially since the carry-over motion. The first is the production of the "Living Waterfront" alternative by the Save the Taff Consortium, which is a combination of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and other naturalist bodies, together with the residents action groups against the barrage. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth said that the alternative was produced by the RSPB. It was not. The person who designed the scheme was a member of a residents action group against the barrage. The Save the Taff Consortium is a unique conjunction of conservation bodies and residents action groups against the barrage. It would be wrong to give the impression, as my hon. Friend did, that it entirely emanated from the RSPB.

The second change relates to grants from the EEC. We must allay any fears that the Opposition are opposed to persuading the Welsh Office to spend more public money in Cardiff, in the three Glamorgans, in Gwent, in Wales or in the United Kingdom. We are in favour of the spending of strategically designed sums of public money intended to engender more public and private investment. However, the Bill is the wrong way to do it.

The EEC determination will be rubber stamped tomorrow. However, I am sure that the Minister will confirm that it has already been taken. South Wales will be short of regional development funds. The four counties of industrial south Wales and the industrial part of Dyfed will have to manage on very short rations from the EEC for the next three years. Only £50 million will be available for four and a half counties of industrial south Wales. It is a cut of at least a half in what we usually have. The amount will have to be made up by the Welsh Office, because otherwise we shall be short of development money. Extra public money will have to go into the Butetown link.

I hope that Conservative Members will not accuse us of being churlish about the offer by the Welsh Office and the Treasury to spend public money on this scheme. We have much better ideas for what should be done with public money. The "Living Waterfront" scheme is a better barrage and our ideas for spending public money will produce far more jobs than would the sterile barrage idea. We are pro-development and pro-environment.

Some 550 people attended a meeting in the city hall at Cardiff to launch the "Living Waterfront" scheme. I thought that it was mad to book the main assembly rooms. I expected only the front three rows to be filled. In fact, the hall, which holds 800 people, was more than five eighths full. It was a most impressive gathering—a combination of conservationists and anti-barrage residents groups.

We must understand those critical factors. Industrial south Wales will be short of public money for development. A report by Coopers and Lybrand pleads the case for the Butetown link being given European regional development fund and Welsh Office support through transport supplementary grant or by an extra grant, through the back door, to the Cardiff Bay development corporation, which would pay it to South Glamorgan. The report makes it clear that there would be development in Cardiff bay if the Butetown link is built. That is far more important than anything that the barrage is likely to contribute.

There is absolutely no other way of interpreting the statement in paragraph 549 of the report. After interviewing people in the property development industry, the writers of the report said: A majority of interviewees not yet committed to investment would still consider investment in the wider area if there was no barrage. Remember, the report is talking about property developers.

However, this would significantly influence the timing and scale of their investment, the quality and value of activity and their choice of location either within the Bay or elsewhere. None of them interviewed would invest without improvement in road links in the Bay area. The Butetown road link is the critical factor. That will not now get an EEC grant, and that will leave South Glamorgan either with a shattering level of poll tax in the coming few years or it will be necessary for the Welsh Office to up the level of grant to South Glamorgan because that road is now estimated to cost £116 million, making it easily the most expensive county highway project ever launched in Wales.

A grant of at least £25 million over and above the normal 50 per cent. transport supplementary grant is now necessary to replace the lost European regional development fund grant. I will not now go into the reasons why we lost that grant; that is a debate for another place and time.

Not only Coopers and Lybrand say that the barrage is not as important as other essential factors. For example, in the December 1989 issue of Housing magazine there is an interesting quotation from Barratt's south Wales general manager, Mr. Melhuish: Barry Melhuish, Sales Director of Barratt, South Wales, confirms this. 'Our development is planned as a waterside development"'— he was referring to the Windsor Quays development on Ferry road— 'which can cater for the barrage happening or not happening.' He says, 'We are proceeding without a care for the barrage.' Not only is Barratt's saying that. It is now as plain as a pikestaff. During the summer, Sam Pickstock of Tarmac South Wales said that he did not intend to wait for the barrage and that his investment decisions had nothing to do with whether the barrage went ahead—and that was the view of the largest housing developer in Britain.

With industrialists, the CBDC has become a dirty word. The CBDC has sterilised development for the last two years in the area of the old East Moors steelworks. Indeed, during the summer, things got so bad that the Welsh Office issued a warning to the CBDC to the effect that it must get its act together.

It is not unfair to say that the CBDC has, in Cardiff's case, been the biggest job destroyer since the Luftwaffe. In the middle of last year, AA Insurance Services was launching a project which would have brought an additional 500 jobs to Cardiff, but as a result of being messed about by the CBDC, that development went to Newcastle.

That is one reason why the CBDC has become a dirty word, although we could also quote in graphic terms Mr. Mike McGrane of Paul's Industrial Services, one of the major employers in the bay, with 400 jobs involved. When the predecessor of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth, the former Prime Minister, now Lord Callaghan, was opening some premises, Mr. McGrane said: The main problem with Cardiff Bay is that I have always failed to get a response. Their development people have been courteous and helpful, but I believe their hands have been tied. I honestly cannot understand the motives of the Bay. It is also worth pointing out that as a local firm, we have never been asked to submit a tender for any of the work being carried out for them. How can they say that this is for the benefit of local businesses? It is interesting to note what Lord Callaghan said. On this occasion he was opening new premises, and the Cardiff Bay development corporation had already said that those premises would have to be knocked down. Lord Callaghan said: I shall never forget this day. Never before have I been asked to unveil a plaque for a building that was going to be knocked down. That is the present state of affairs. The job-creation agency set up by the Government is destroying jobs before reaching the job-creation stage.

Mr. Michael

My hon. Friend is quoting a series of examples which are not open to proper debate in the House. Indeed, it would be wrong for us now to debate those individual examples. Will my hon. Friend take it from me that 4 have been involved with a number of problems of concern to individual firms?

Mr. Morgan

I have the details of the examples with me.

Mr. Michael

I am aware of the circumstances to which my hon. Friend referred. I assure him that I take an interest in firms in my constituency, and I feel better placed than he is to say that he is grossly overstating the case.

Mr. Morgan

I find it difficult to understand how I can be grossly overstating the case when I am quoting what has been said by major employers.

The question, then, concerns the competence of the Cardiff Bay development corporation, something which grievously worries my constituents. Since the carry-over motion, the development corporation and the county council have attempted to correct the incorrect map that they signed. When we debated the motion, I was told that the issue of the incorrect map was a minor one, that all would be put right and that everyone would be happy. My constituents, however, are still extremely unhappy about the compensation map signed in error by Lord Elibank.

Lord Elibank has since signed a new plan, which has been displayed in certain public places—the city hall, the county headquarters and Baltic house, the corporation's headquarters. Lists have been sent out to local residents affected by the change in the line of the plan, telling them, "We are very sorry that we put your house on the wrong side of the line; we have now corrected our mistake." There is still a mistake, however.

The corporation told me about one further change that it had made, but it has also made further uncovenanted changes involving nine houses in Severn grove, Nos. 63 to 81. Those houses have still been omitted from a list in which—according to the original plan put before the House of Lords—they should have been included. The intent of Cardiff Bay and the co-promoter, South Glamorgan, is still being defeated. At 7 pm today, I was given a press release by Pontcanna Residents Against the Barrage, which has studied the plans most diligently. I am told that its secretary had the two maps in front of her, and saw that the large one did not tally with the small one that had been distributed to everyone.

The corporation's competence is in doubt on two counts: the destruction of jobs, and the failure to get the compensation maps right. Compensation is a major issue in my constituency, as I am sure that it is in Cardiff, South and Penarth. Tenants probably have not received letters at all, simply because they were addressed to "The Resident"—one resident per house—meaning that those in bedsit-land would not receive the information. That may be why the Woolwich Building Society is to publish tomorrow a survey of house price changes in south Wales up to the year 2000. According to tonight's edition of the South Wales Echo, the report—which I have not read—comments that concern about flooding may well cause the price of houses in low-lying parts of Cardiff to lag behind that of houses in other parts. The Bill, however, contains no proposals for changes in property values that penalise residents of low-lying areas.

Among the academics who have studied the geological aspects of the case, there are those who believe that there is nothing to worry about—for instance, Mr. Jones, mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth, and Mr. Roly Edwards, who works for Cardiff Bay and is a consultant to Wallace Evans and Partners—and three who believe that there is a great deal to worry about: Drs. Saunders, Miles and Noake, who are all extremely distinguished in their field. What marks out the opponents of the barrage, however, is their familiarity with geological conditions in south Wales.

I am in no position to judge who is pre-eminent, but it is surely more than a coincidence that the practical but highly qualified academics who are worried about flooding and groundwater were either born and brought up in south Wales or worked there—or both. That is not true of Mr. Jones or Mr. Edwards, who are not so well acquainted with the unusual geological and water conditions there. The level of rivers can rise dramatically following rain in the Beacons and the valleys, and when the great Atlantic depressions sweep across for three weeks, followed by a final great downpour, the river flow is strongly affected.

Mr. Rogers

I am sure that hon. Members are bored with the ping-pong battle between the consultant geologists. I am an engineering geologist by profession, and quite frankly I am completely bored with it. I do not claim any pre-eminence; all I can do is read the report that was financed by the Cardiff Bay development corporation. On table 6.1, Wallace Evans listed nine potential hazards in the area. It takes into account some hazards and discounts others. A closer reading of the part of the report that discounts the hazards shows that the consultants for the corporation cannot dismiss them completely, so it will become a matter of conjecture between the so-called experts because they are dealing with marginal hazards that have been acknowledged. It is as simple as that.

Mr. Morgan

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) who is academically, geologically and politically pre-eminent. I hope that he will be satisfied with my decision to leave geology and turn to environmental matters. I wish to depart from the chambers of the Royal Geological Society and turn to water quality, which has already been mentioned by my hon. Friends the Members for Newport, West, for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) and for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Smith).

One question that has emerged since we last debated the Bill is how to clean up the waters of the Taff beyond the stage at which all the sewage is treated without locking rich nutrients into the lake that would be formed behind the dam. I am told that the only way to do that would be to do what is done in parts of Germany, as most of Germany is landlocked—phosphate stripping.

Phosphate stripping is a major exercise which requires a large area of land, so it would have to be done somewhere in my constituency or that of the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr Grist)—somewhere in Blackweir or Pontcanna fields. It would require a very extensive acreage for a large double treatment works so that the water entering the bay was cleaned of all the rich nutrients from the treated sewage from the Cynon valley, the Rhondda that is trapped at Cilfynydd and elsewhere at other sewage treatment works.

That would create a very major problem. It is not in the proposals of the CBDC or the Welsh water authority. It has not been costed or designed and it is not on offer to us, so we must assume that the water entering the lake would be extremely rich in nutrients from treated sewage.

Is there a way to prevent untreated sewage from forcing its way into the Taff on a massive scale? Last week, during the heavy rain, we all went down to check on the Taff and we saw a massive wave of plastic bags, council house doors, and sanitary items, as described by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells) so graphically the last time we discussed these matters. The only way to get rid of that would be to have rainwater drains in the valleys so large that they would be something like 10 ft above the road.

The flashiness of the rivers in south Wales in response to heavy rain is such that the rainwater goes straight into the river on a colossal scale because there is no soil cover on the sides of the valleys as the trees were all cut down for pit props during world war one. There is no way of coping with that. We shall always have that problem. In every heavy rain storm during the winter, untreated sewage will be forced into the river and trapped in the bay and the lake, making the lake extremely unsightly and microbiologically hazardous for anyone brave enough to think of immersion or occasional immersion sports.

Finally, the residents have every right to remain extremely concerned about their future happiness and security in their homes. They are deeply cynical about the way in which they have been treated over the past 10 years by the city council and the county council in respect of flood compensation claims. They do not, therefore, always believe what authority tells them. We might say that they should believe what authority tells them and that the scheme will reduce flood danger, but they know that academic opinion on the subject is divided.

People will naturally play safe and say that if all the academics had told them that the scheme would reduce the risk from flooding, they would believe them, but as the academics are split 50:50 and the experts who live in south Wales have said that we must be careful about the scheme because it could make matters worse, it is natural that those of my constituents who live in low-lying areas which are prone to flooding and who have experience of flooding will say that they do not want the scheme and that they do not think that it will he good for their environment. Whatever is good for the environment must not mean 4 ft of dirty floodwater from the Taff in their ground floor premises every 20 years.

It is all very well for people to say that the CBDC is staffed by experts and has the most expensive consultants that money can buy. Let us never forget that the Titanic was built by professionals, whereas Noah's Ark was built by inspired and very committed amateurs.

10.5 pm

Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelli)

It may seem trite to say so, but the Bill seeks to build a barrage. If one looks at the long title to the Bill, it is also intended to build a lagoon at Wentlloog. I understand, from reading the evidence in the other place and from listening to what has been said tonight, that if the Bill does not become law, the development of the dockland area in Cardiff will still go ahead. It is not the purpose of any of us who oppose the barrage to oppose such a development. I concede readily that the development may be of a different form, and that it may be at a slower pace, but no one has argued that there will be no development.

There have been various objections, which I shall merely mention because I am not competent, as the Member for Llanelli, to deal with them. They are matters for my hon. Friends who represent Cardiff constituencies. One objection is that the barrage scheme will have a bad effect on the local community and there is the danger of flooding. There are also environmental problems, including problems for bird life, and the question of public subsidy. I have read the reports of the previous debate in this House and the debates in the other place, and the evidence that was given to the House of Lords Select Committee. It is surprising that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) and other hon. Members did not mention the public subsidy. We deserve to know about it and I hope that the Minister will realise that he has a duty to tell us about it.

The Welsh Office issued a press release on 11 December this year which, in effect, boasted about the £100 million to be paid to the development corporation out of Government money over a period of three years, as I understand it. We were not told in the press release what the money would be spent on or what part of the Welsh Office budget the money would come from. I hope that we shall be told tonight what the money will be spent on, where it will come from and how much there will be. Apparently, the private sector can put in £8 for every £1 of public sector money. Let us be told how much the public sector will put into what is, in effect, a private venture.

All those objections are valid, but I should like to widen the debate a little and to concentrate on some other aspects of the scheme. To me and to some of my hon. Friends—I am sorry to say this in respect of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth—this scheme seems, as do so many others of its kind, to epitomise much of what has been wrong about 10 years of Thatcherite Britain. The scheme will contribute little, if anything, to primary production. It is concerned with consumption, not with production. It is about property, up-market housing, shopping malls, leisure and tourism.

Those are all no doubt good and worthy when they are the by-product of the fruits of production in a healthy economy. Such projects may be very worthy in France, Germany, Scandinavia, Japan and other countries with strong economies, but they are not something to boast about or to embark upon in the Britain of the late-1980s and 1990s, given our weak industrial base. Britain cannot afford them, and south Wales, with an even weaker industrial base, can afford them even less.

The scheme is all too familiar and predictable. Most of us know the syndrome, although perhaps on a smaller scale. First, one finds a consultant. The very word "consultant"—especially if one puts the word "management" in front of it—strikes awe and terror in many people's hearts and minds. Once one has found a consultant, he goes away and looks into the matter I am sorry to say that very few of these guys have much imagination. They follow fashion and they are good at drawing up Bills, but they lack imagination. I have not seen a Leonardo da Vinci among them so far.

The fruits of the consultants' work are predictable. In this case, we have a barrage, or a lagoon, or a lake: it does not really matter what one calls it. As Cecil B. De Mille might have said, "You've got to get water, and plenty of water." That is where they start; then they put little boats on the water and build houses round it. Once they have done that, they need a golf course. After all, these hard-working consultants have to have a break between one report and the next. Then, if they can, they make a ski slope, which might be very difficult in Wentlloog.

Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)

Come to Merthyr. We have a fine ski slope there.

Mr. Davies

Indeed, but my hon. Friend does not have a lagoon.

I suppose that we could have a water ski slope in Wentlloog. I am sure that the corporation, whose representative must be listening to the debate, could come up with some sort of ski slope.

If one pays a little bit extra, one can also get a park for rare breeds of animals, such as Jacob sheep, or whatever. In Llanelli some time ago, it was suggested that land that used to be employed for a modern steelworks that was destroyed in the early phases of Thatcherism—in the early 1980s—could be used as a park for pink pigs. Luckily, with their well-known wit and sense of the ridiculous, my constituents managed to laugh that bit of consultancy out of town.

Mr. Ron Davies

What was their colour?

Mr. Denzil Davies

They were pink.

Mr. Ron Davies

Well, most of them are.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Oh, dear!

The Bill is not about water but about residential and commercial property. No doubt somewhere in the pretty plans there will be a few sites for factories, just to satisfy those of us old-fashioned enough to believe in production and manufacturing. But most of the property will be residential or commercial because residential and commercial land values in that area are far higher than land values for factories, and it is easier to borrow on the basis of those higher land values.

Most of the properties will be housing; not any old housing, oh no! I have read the evidence from the other place and the Select Committee report, and I know that it will be up-market housing for the professional classes. The Select Committee gave the game away. If there is no barrage, we are told, there will still be about 2,700 houses, but unfortunately very few of them will be "of high quality". That means that they will be houses for the working classes, and that, of course, will not do. So—hey presto!—we have a barrage. Then we are allowed 5,000 houses, and three quarters of the 5,000 houses will be of "the highest quality". That means houses for the professional classes.

We have not heard any economic analysis. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth did not mention any economic benefits and there has been no study of them. Presumably, the "trickle down" theory applies. If houses are built for surveyors, stockbrokers, solicitors, lawyers and accountants, their expertise, wealth and everything that they contribute will trickle down and irrigate the land and the economy all around them. That is the theory, but I do not believe it and the history of south Wales during the past 10 years does not show that it happens. Indeed, despite all these wonderful developments, income per head of population in Wales during the past 10 years has fallen dramatically.

Housing in Britain is heavily subsidised. In my opinion, it is too heavily subsidised, but we could debate that matter on another occasion. Although it is heavily subsidised, the money that the Welsh Office will put into this project may not go directly into housing. However, it will be spent on roads, sewers and other ancillary matters needed for house building. In effect, the £100 million will be a subsidy to private sector housing—and to up-market private sector housing at that. If money is available for housing, I, and I am sure most of my hon. Friends, can think of better places and better ways of spending it.

Mr. Gareth Wardell (Gower)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that a quarter of the housing that is to be provided will be low-cost housing for first-time buyers and that that will be of tremendous benefit to people in Cardiff?

Mr. Davies

I said that three quarters of the housing would be high-quality housing, so on that basis presumably one quarter will be low quality. About 25 per cent. of the housing will be for the low-quality end of the market—[Interruption.] Yes, my hon. Friend cannot deny that—

Mr. Wardell

It will be low-cost housing.

Mr. Davies

Well, "low cost" and "low quality" sometimes go together—[Interruption.]—but not always.

During the past 10 years, one third of Britain's manufacturing industry and base has disappeared. Probably more than one third of our industrial base has disappeared in south Wales and we may never get it back. Britain has a balance of payments deficit of £20 billion. We have an inflation rate of 8 per cent. and interest rates of 15 per cent. During the past 10 years, money has been poured into property development in the residential and commercial sectors, causing the kind of inflation that we now have and contributing to the high interest rates that are crucifying manufacturing industry.

If the property companies that are to be part of the development examine the cost of borrowing the money that they will need for the development, I wager that they will find that the average cost of the interest is far below the best or market rate of interest when amortised over the life of the property. Although small engineering companies, small foundries and small machine tool companies pay interest at 16, 17 or 18 per cent., pension funds or property companies pay nothing near that rate.

However, without the manufacturing concerns, the foundries or machine tool shops, all these developments will wither on the vine and eventually become white elephants. As for jobs, we know the kind of jobs that will be produced by the development. They are part-time, low-paid jobs. That is what we have suffered from in south Wales during the past 10 years.

In conclusion, the building of the barrage is a product of the excesses and profligacy of Thatcher Britain during the 1980s—of the borrowing and reborrowing on property. I do not know whether the Bill will become law, but if the provisions are enacted in 1990, the building will no doubt begin in 1990. However, the boom is over and the excesses will have to be paid for. I do not know whether the country will be prepared to pay in the early 1990s for the excesses of the 1980s. I do not know whether it will be prepared to pay for this development and, whether or not the Bill goes through, I suspect that we shall not be able to pay for this development.

10.18 pm
Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

My qualification for speaking in the debate is that I spent the first 30 years of my life living in Grangetown, an experience that few, if any, hon. Members will have shared. I have a passionate interest in the area and a desire to see its improvement.

I can speak about Llanelli with the same authority with which my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) spoke about Cardiff—nil. He clearly does not understand the effect that the Bill will have on a great circle of working-class homes that are already there. The area of Channel view, the Marl, Avondale road, the Hamadryad and going round to Splott has for several generations been shunned and despised by Cardiff.

We hear talk of Cardiff bay. When I was a boy I knew all about Tiger bay, but I had never heard of Cardiff bay. It has suddenly been presented as an area that is desirable and unique. It is unique in some ways. It is a vast mud slum surrounded by refuse tips. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds finds it beautiful. I know that distance lends enchantment to the view. We know that Cardiff bay looks attractive from Caerphilly, and from Scunthorpe it looks magnificent.

Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe)

Does my hon. Friend accept that I have had letters from people who live in the area who share the view of the environmentalists that the bay is not only important environmentally but should be built into the city—that it is part of the city's heritage and should be developed and improved? I accept my hon. Friend's points, but does he accept that if the barrage were scrapped, the money could be diverted to enhancing the area so that we could have the bay, the birds and the improvements?

Mr. Flynn

I shall come to that point. My hon. Friend is a member of the ruling body of the RSPB, whose president comes from Iceland. From Iceland, Cardiff bay looks as beautiful as the Bay of Naples. It looks wonderful. When we previously debated the matter, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) complained bitterly that if the barrage is constructed the water will not be blue. But even the Bay of Naples is not blue. The Bristol channel is brown. Roath park in the centre of Cardiff is an ugly green colour, but it is acceptable and many of us use such areas with pleasure for recreational purposes. The only chance of the water becoming blue is if there is an outbreak of blue-green algae, which is the great threat to the barrage and could result in toxins being released.

But the great lesson here is not in the pessimism and the hundreds of reasons that people can think up why the project will go wrong. Rather we should look at the environmental crime that has been committed in Cardiff over the years. When I was a boy I used to swim in the River Taff from Penarth road bridge. The water there was not blue or brown, it was black, but it has improved enormously since. The crime is not that we shall create a lagoon that will be polluted; the crime is that we have allowed such pollution to continue all these years. The need to clean up the Rivers Taff and Ely must be part of the construction of the barrage.

I worked in the area for many years. I have walked from Grangetown to Victoria wharf. Such a slum of industrial buildings would never have been allowed in any other part of the city. Many people have come from elsewhere and they are playing on the fears of the people of Cardiff. I remember the two great floods and the terror and squalor that they caused. We must avoid a recurrence, and the issue of groundwater must be properly investigated. However. I understand that attempts—not made on a basis of fact—have been made to arouse people's fears. It is a shame that emotions should have been aroused so unnecessarily.

We have heard a great deal about birds and about the great environmental offence that is about to be committed. My hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) said that for the first time a national body is to destroy an entire site of special scientific interest. It is interesting to consider just how many SSSIs there are. They already number more than 5,000, and the figure is rapidly approaching 7,000. There will be a time when 10 per cent. of the whole land area of the country will be designated as special.

We are talking here about the estuary of the Taff and the Rhymney—not about the estuaries of the Mawdduch Towry, or Tawe, or about various magnificent other estuaries in Wales. One could argue a case for preserving them.

Mr. Gareth Wardell

Does my hon. Friend agree that when an SSSI is designated, great care must be exercised not to make that action counter-productive? In my constituency, there is an SSSI at Broughton, which has been designated so that the tide can come in and erode the cliff face. It is taking away a farmer's land so that a glacial till is exposed and the public can view it. One must remember that a farmer's livelihood is just as important as the facility to view a glacial till.

Mr. Flynn

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's intervention.

How many SSSIs have been destroyed or threatened in the past few years? I can tell the House that the figure is nearly 300, so such occurrances are not unusual. The areas in question were not significantly special.

There has been a great deal of debate about the various species of birds on the barrage site. They include dunlins and redshanks. Is it not amazing that, since the time of the archaeopter, and through millions of years of evolution, birds have managed to survive in myriads of species, shapes and colours—all without the help of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Birds?

It is now being claimed that every possible bird habitat must be protected in aspic and left unchanged. The fact is that great changes are occurring anyway. Ports and industrial areas are closing and are being recolonised by birds. A particular feature of an estuary is that it is always changing. Cardiff bay has already changed enormously because dredging has stopped there. The area alters every year because of the growth of the salt marsh.

Birds are very robust. I remember one area being changed for the benefit of farmers, who seemed to reign supreme in these matters, in Gwent. A huge area at Collister pill was drained and the habitat of many thousands of birds was destroyed. They could no longer breed because the wetland had disappeared. Without the help of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the species concerned migrated to a wholly artificial, manmade ash pond a few miles away and happily multiplied in numbers. They found new feeding grounds on an area outside the Usk estuary.

Mr. Morley

Does my hon. Friend accept that the habitat of which he speaks is very different from that of Cardiff bay and that there is no comparison between the two? Does he acknowledge that there is a scientific case that in North and South America, as well as in Europe, many species of birds and animals are on the decline? As my hon. Friend rightly says, habitat changes are occurring, but unfortunately they are for the worse, not the better. To take out Cardiff bay would place even more stress on the habitat and hasten the decline of many species that has already begun.

Mr. Flynn

My hon. Friend gives a clue to the true purpose behind the RSPB campaign. It is interested not in Cardiff or the bay but in the estuaries around our coast, and it is using Cardiff bay as an example. It knows that the population of dunlin and redshank is not unique. There are probably millions of dunlins in the world; there is no threat to them. If there is precious birdlife, one has to go to Bridgewater bay to find it.

The RSPB is campaigning and putting Cardiff's prosperity at risk because it wants to fight the line at Cardiff. It knows that if it can win its case in a bay as ugly as Cardiff's, it can fight and win in the Mawddach estuary, the Towy estuary and other beautiful estuaries.

Mr. Rogers

I am listening to my hon. Friend with amazement. Speeches have been made about the development of the bay and its usefulness to the people of Cardiff and the surrounding area. My hon. Friend's outlandish attack on people who are genuinely concerned about conservation does the argument no good. He should consider the far more serious issues rather than making this silly attack.

Mr. Flynn

My hon. Friend will have an opportunity to make his own speech.

One of the fauna that exists in great numbers on the marl and foreshore of Cardiff bay is the rat. If one wants to see a living waterfront, one should go to certain areas—I shall not name them now—at high tide, when rats come over the sea walls. They are welcomed by the children of the area who trepan them with hammers. The rat is not regarded as an attractive animal, and because we do not have pictures of it painted by Peter Scott on our dining room walls it has no sentimental appeal. The environmental movement here is based on animals that are attractive.

When the presentation of the barrage was made, many conservationists and others came to Cardiff to fight the test case. The national press and its photographers were invited. I feel sympathy for Mr. Neil Libbert, a gifted photographer whose work I have followed for many years. His challenge was to present Cardiff bay as an attractive place. He had to turn down the F stop on his camera to fade into the shadows, and soft focus the squalor that surrounds it to present an attractive picture.

Cardiff bay is the least beautiful part of the city. Of course details must be discussed at length, but hon. Members should not be misled by the extravagance of the arguments of people who live many miles from Cardiff. There is a need to beautify the bay, and I hope that at this stage hon. Members will discuss the Bill, then sort out its detail in Committee and make a decision on Third Reading.

10.33 pm
Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly)

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) will read his speech carefully when it appears in Hansard tomorrow. I know that he has a sense of humour and that occasionally he likes to be deliberately provocative, sometimes with the objective of catching the odd headline. He referred quite specifically to me in his speech. I think that his remarks were very silly, offensive and unfounded. I am sure that he did not intend any personal affront, but I hope that on reflection, having read his speech carefully, he will want to withdraw some of his wilder statements.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West is the only hon. Member who has spoken in favour of the Bill, apart from my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael), who moved the Second Reading.

Two tasks face those who promote or support the Bill. The first is to justify the construction of the barrage. No hon. Member so far has made any attempt to justify its construction. The second is to justify the destruction of a site of special scientific interest. My hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West poured scorn on the whole ideal of conservation, and he will regret that tomorrow. He mocked those of us who are concerned about our natural heritage. This proposal will entirely destroy an SSSI. I am prepared to accept that, where an overriding national interest is involved, those of us who normally rate conservation issues most highly would have to recognise that conservation came second. If there is an overwhelming national case to justify the destruction of an SSSI, it has not been made this evening.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth talked only in the broadest terms about the redevelopment of Cardiff. I will tell him and my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West until I am blue in the face that we entirely support the redevelopment of Cardiff dockland, but we question the wisdom of constructing a barrage and the idea that it will somehow facilitate or accelerate the reconstruction of our dockland. The House of Lords examined that in minute detail and it is abundantly clear to those who have read their reports that that case has been stripped away. There is no economic case.

Mr. Michael

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Davies

I shall make my speech. My hon. Friend will find another opportunity.

What happened in the House of Lords is a matter of record—

Mr. Michael

On that point?

Mr. Davies

I would prefer not to give way to my hon. Friend. He made his speech and I have many points to make. If he seeks to intervene merely to reinterpret what has already been said, I must tell him that I am not in the business of saying that my interpretation is better than his or that my experts are better than his. That is a matter of opinion. If he seeks merely to challenge me on matters of opinion, it would be better if I could make my speech in my own way.

Mr. Michael

The House of Lords Committee was convinced on evidence that the economic case was sound and investment prospects good. It accepted the need for the barrage. If there is alternative evidence, the details should be brought before the Select Committee and argued there. If, in stating a different view from mine, my hon. Friend is sincere in his belief, as I am sure he is, it is appropriate not to oppose the Second Reading, but to allow the Bill to pass to a Select Committee where the difference of view can be properly explored in great detail.

Mr. Davies

My hon. Friend is wrong on all counts. I am opposing the Bill as a matter of principle because I believe that the construction of the barrage is wrong. It is no good my hon. Friend saying that we should refer the Bill to a Select Committee. I am opposed to the construction of the barrage. I hope that he understands that. I referred to the evidence presented to the House of Lords Committee, not to the conclusion drawn by four or five geriatrics after considering the evidence.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not make disparaging references to Members of the other place.

Mr. Davies

I was wrong to make that remark and if I caused any offence, I withdraw it wholly and without reservation. That shows the danger of giving way.

My hon. Friend is wrong on many counts. The evidence presented to the House of Lords Committee stripped away the arguments for the barrage. If their Lordships in their wisdom decided not to accept that evidence, it is not a matter for me. I read the evidence that way presented and I hope that my hon. Friend understands that. Some time ago we debated a carry-over motion, and it was abundantly clear during that debate that there were four principal objections to the Bill: the conservation case, the argument about water quality, the question of the groundwater level and the water table, and the economic case—which my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) supported in a powerful speech.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth said that the case for the barrage has been strengthened since that debate. However, my understanding is that what has happened in Cardiff since we had that debate does not strengthen the case.

The weekend after we debated the carry-over motion, a river in my constituency was subject to the grossest pollution. Given the geography of the valleys, and the juxtaposition of industry, commerce and the waterways, it is an undisputable fact that there will inevitably be flooding and there will be occasions when pollutants and toxins get into the water.

At present the Rhymney river flows out to the Severn, but if similar pollution occurs in the Taff or the Ely when we have a barrage, what will be the consequences? Instead of the natural system, whereby the toxins are flushed out to sea and can be diluted and broken up by sunlight and seawater, they will be pounded up behind the barrage.

We have been told that the National Rivers Authority will have a mysterious way to ensure the maintenance of water quality. It will have a big oxygenating plant, and it is going to turn the whole of the lagoon—1.8 hectares—into a bubble bath. It will pump oxygen through to burn off all the nutrients.

People who live in the valleys know about the everyday consequences of pollution, and that is one of the reasons that we have fears about the arguments on water quality.

In the summer, the South Wales Echo was one of the most fervent allies and advocates of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth. It ran a campaign, calling Cardiff the dirtiest city in the United Kingdom. The city council and South Glamorgan county council could not keep the streets clean. Yet now they tell us that they will use new technology and all the marvellous modern methods that have never been tried before, to maintain water quality in 1.8 hectares of man-made lake. That stretches my incredulity, if not that of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth.

We were told in the previous debate that the experts had been called in. Hydrogeologists and geologists have looked at the groundwater conditions in Cardiff and they say, "Don't worry. There is nothing to worry about. The thousands of homes that are potentially jeopardised will be okay, the groundwater will not rise, it will not cause flooding, and if it does there will be compensation."

On 12 December I came across an article in the South Wales Echo referring to the Celtic Bay hotel. It is the hotel to which hon. Members were invited for a free weekend so that they could see the marvels of Cardiff bay. Many of us did not attend. It should be noted that the advisers of the development corporation would have been the experts who advised the hotel. The article reported: Cardiff's new Docklands Celtic Bay Hotel was flooded last night for the third time. An urgent meeting with the architects and builders was called after carpets were ruined in the basement bar and Health Suite. The flooding of the hotel, opened in July, has followed high tides and heavy rain causing the water-table to rise. If heavy rain and high tides make the water table rise, what will pounding all the rivers and creating an artificial lake do?

The article continued: South Glamorgan Fire Service were called to the £3 million hotel today and used suction machines to clear the basement. General Manager Mr. Essex said, 'We are becoming masters at coping with it.' My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth has to explain to thousands of people in Cardiff how they will have the resources of the county council and the South Glamorgan fire service to hand all the time and whether they will become masters at dealing with flooding.

Mr. Michael


Mr. Davies

I shall not give way.

Mr. Michael

That is irresponsible and misleading.

Mr. Davies

I wish to make another point on winch my hon. Friend may like to comment.

The economic argument has been the subject of debate in south Wales. It has been proved that pumping public money into the bay development is a way to put a premium on private investment and that it will be ripped off by the private sector. We know the role being played by the erstwhile Nicholas Edwards, now Lord Crickhowell, as director of Associated British Ports in 160 acres of prime development land. Cardiff city council has played sweetheart with the development corporation and the Secretary of State.

The South Wales Echo reported on 16 December: City hit by £40 million cut in budget. All council schemes in Cardiff—from house repairs to leisure projects—are threatened by a massive Government spending cut which will almost certainly mean loss of jobs. It is the end of the capital building programme in Cardiff. If there is a case to be made for the regeneration of Cardiff—and there is—it must be based on decent homes for the people who already live there. It must be based on investment in manufacturing industry, in infrastructure, in hospitals and in leisure centres and recreation facilities. That is the type of investment that is needed. Instead, Cardiff bay gets money and the city council gets a £40 million cut in budget.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth may be tempted to say, as might others who live in Cardiff, that these are internal matters and that hon. Members from outside the area should not involve themselves in it. My response is that the promoters decided to come to the House to ask parliamentary permission. They put the Bill in our court. Secondly, I must state in the strongest possible terms that all of us have a right to comment on a projected development which threatens our natural heritage. That natural heritage does not belong to Cardiff city council, or to Glamorgan, or to Cardiff bay or to my hon. Friends from Cardiff. It is part of our national natural heritage, and we all have a responsibility to ensure that it is safeguarded.

The overwhelming objection to the development must be that raised on conservation grounds. My hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West who I am glad to see has returned to the Chamber, suggested that only people from outside and the RSPB are objecting. The local groups who are objecting on only conservation grounds include the Severn Estuary Conservation Group, the Glamorgan Wildlife Trust, the Cardiff Naturalists' Society and the Cardiff branch of Friends of the Earth.

The national bodies which oppose the plan are the RSPB, which has more than 600,000 members, the Royal Society for Nature Conservation and, most critically of all, the Government's own nature conservation advisers, the Nature Conservancy Council. They are the prime objectors to the Bill and have petition No. 1 against it. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth may have dismissed the local bodies, and he may want to dismiss the RSPB, but he should not dismiss the NCC. I do not think that he would want to do that.

I can do no better than quote what the RSPB has written, although I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) will develop this line of argument. I want to stress in the strongest possible terms the importance of the combined estuary of the Rivers Taff and Ely of between 5,000 and 8,000 waders and wildfowl. It is the most important estuary within the greater Severn estuary. My hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West should remain for a while.

Ian Prestt, the director general, of the RSPB said: Cardiff bay is one of Wales' most prestigious natural assets holding 5–8,000 birds each winter including dunlin, redshank, shelduck, teal and knot. Many of these birds travel thousands of miles from as far away as Iceland, Greenland and Siberia to winter on Cardiff's ice-free bay. The birds depend on this bay for their survival. We have an international responsibility to protect it. When my hon. Friend makes his throwaway remarks about people from outside daring to criticise or people from as far away as Iceland making comments about our responsibility for nature conservation, he should understand that we all have responsibility for migratory birds. We cannot draw artificial natural boundaries around them and say, "Cardiff has this responsibility," or, "Wales has that responsibility," or, "Britain has that responsibility."

We all have a common responsibility because these winter residents are the summer breeding population in the rest of—

Mr. Flynn


Mr. Davies

Let me finish my sentence and then I shall give way.

These birds are our responsibility during the winter when they are our residents and they are the responsibility of the north Atlantic breeding areas during the summer.

I shall give a final quote from the RSPB and then I shall give way to my hon. Friend who, I think, referred to the president of the RSPB, Magnus Magnusson, when he talked about Iceland. Commenting on the "Living Waterfront" scheme, the RSPB's president said: Acceptance of the Development Corporation's proposals would be a major tragedy for South Cardiff. The alternative `Living Waterfront' scheme will enhance the living and working conditions of the local people while maintaining the wildlife interest. Unlike the barrage it will not cause problems such as poor water quality, insect nuisance, flooding and the destruction of a nationally important site for birds. I shall give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West and if my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth is so agitated I shall then give way to him, but after that I want to continue my speech and come to a fairly early conclusion.

Mr. Flynn

I apologise for leaving the Chamber but, as my hon. Friend knows, I have a deep interest in the terrible events in Romania being revealed by the hour. That was why I was absent from the Chamber.

There has been a serious environmental analysis of what is likely to happen when the barrage is built. Is my hon. Friend aware that there are still huge areas of changing mudflats that will remain outside the barrage, on which the birds can grow, multiply and on which they now nest? They will be able to use the vast hundreds of square miles that exist in the estuary. How much land outside the barrage is being used by the dunlins and redshanks?

Mr. Davies

By definition, birds that overwinter in this country do not nest here in the summer. When my hon. Friend considers the nature of his question, he will find its answer in his own remarks.

Mr. Michael

I accept that this is a matter about which my hon. Friend feels passionately, which is why he has such a concentrated approach to it. His passion carries him a little too far. It is a little surprising that the RSPB discovered the tremendous importance of this area of Cardiff bay only when a development was suggested. It did not give it such importance in its previous publications. My hon. Friend undermines his case by overstating it.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

My hon. Friend should try a bit of charm.

Mr. Davies

My hon. Friend suggests that I should try a bit of charm, but given the company that surrounds me, my natural charm is pressed.

The RSPB has not suddenly found Cardiff bay. It was the subject of designation as a site of special scientific interest in 1979. Nobody objected to that then.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Nobody knew.

Mr. Davies

My hon. Friend sometimes lets his tongue get him into trouble. He said that nobody knew.

In 1979 South Glamorgan included Cardiff bay in its structure plan as a site for nature conservation, so the conservation case is well established. No one argued against development prior to Nick Edwards's brainchild in 1986 because until then he had not had his brainchild. It was not until 1986 that anyone suggested that Cardiff bay should be developed.

My hon. Friend for Newport, West grossly exaggerated his views when he tried to dismiss the idea of designations of sites of special scientific interest. He tried to suggest that because there were 5,000 such sites one did not really matter. He should look carefully at those 5,000 sites, although not individually. Some 1,000 of them are sites of scientific geological interest. My hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell) made a telling point about that and there was a great deal of merit in his case.

The other sites are designated not by whim, not because someone simply says, "This is a nice site, let's designate it." They are based on strict, objective, scientific criteria. Those SSSIs that are estuarine and therefore have particular importance for migrating birds number only 48. My hon. Friend cannot say that there are 5,000 when there are only 48.

I resist the development of SSSIs to the extent that they would be destroyed, for the first time, by Government action. It sets a precedent. My hon. Friend was right to say that we are resisting it because it is the first one. I must ask him—and it is a rhetorical question; I do not want an answer and I will not give way to him—if we do not resist the first one, when do we start to resist? Will it be an arbitrary figure? Will it be the fifth, the 10th or the 48th? Will we destroy them all? If so, what is the point of designating SSSIs?

We have a moral obligation, which I believe to be overriding, although I understand that others may think differently. It is my view that our natural heritage has been handed down from those who went before, and it is our responsibility to conserve for those who come after. I freely admit that that is my own, perhaps idiosyncratic, view. Others may take a different view. However, even if they reject the moral argument, they cannot reject the constitutional argument. They cannot reject our statutory responsibilities to protect our SSSIs.

We have international obligations. The SSSI in Cardiff bay is part of the Severn estuary, which is a candidate for designation under our commitment to Ramsar—the treaty under which we have international obligations. We are internationally obliged under article 3 of the treaty to ensure the wise use of our wetlands. Article 4 states: Each contracting party shall promote the conservation of wetlands and waterfowl by establishing nature reserves on wetlands whether they are included in the list or not. We are free and willing signatories to that treaty. I defy anyone to say how the construction of the barrage across the mouths of the Taff and Ely rivers and the creation of this midge-ridden polluted lake, destroying an SSSI, is a wise use of our wetlands.

The EEC directive on the conservation of wild birds requires the protection of species and especially of migratory birds. It makes it clear that, in the case of irreconcilable conflict, the legal obligation of member states is to give priority to ecological needs. Article 2 of the treaty does not say that there shall be a balance but that priority shall be given to ecological needs. For that reason, if the Bill reaches the statute book, that will not be the end of the matter. We will find ourselves before the European Court of Justice charged with a breach of article 2.

Mr. Flynn


Mr. Davies

I sat patiently while my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West made his case and I did not attempt to intervene. He has been absent—for reasons that I appreciate—for a large part of my speech. I trust that he appreciates that I, too, am entitled to make my speech without interruption.

I believe that the Bill flouts our legal obligations to conservation, that it defies logic in the matter of groundwater and the question of water quality and that the promoters of the measure are making a gross error of judgment in believing that the barrage will be a positive factor in the redevelopment of Cardiff docklands. I hope that the Bill will fail tonight and that, if it does not, it will fail during its passage through Parliament.

11.1 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Ian Grist)

I thought it might be helpful, after that extremely deeply felt speech by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) if I gave the House a brief summary of the Government's attitude to the Bill. The Government have a substantial interest in the objectives of the Bill, as the intention is that the cost of building the barrage will be met by the development corporation with the assistance of grant in aid provided by the Welsh Office, which commissioned the initial studies into the proposal.

The Government believe that the key to the redevelopment of the Cardiff bay area is the construction of a barrage across the harbour mouth. The range of quality developments which will arise from this will benefit not just Cardiff and the people who live and work in the bay area, but also the economy of south Wales generally. The image and perception of Wales worldwide will also be transformed.

The Government carefully considered the wide-ranging and detailed studies of the economic, technical and environmental issues involved. We accept that the environmental considerations must be weighed against the great economic, recreational and other benefits expected to arise from a barrage, and concur with the view that the economic case for the barrage is very strong, a view shared by the Committee in the other place.

Indeed, it is the intention, once the barrage is in place, for the development corporation to carry out as part of the development the highest-quality environmental improvements and to create, with conservation groups, a superb freshwater, wildlife and natural habitat within the bay area.

The Government have already made plain their commitment to providing grant in aid to enable the barrage to be built if Parliament agrees the legislation. As a further demonstration of our commitment to this proposal, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales announced on 11 December that he was making £31.5 million available to the Cardiff Bay development corporation next year, and that, over the next three years, Government funding would total £100 million, bringing the total amount given, or announced, to date to some £150 million. Beyond that, we will ensure that sufficient funding will be made available to enable the corporation to carry through its task.

Mr. Rowlands

At last we are receiving an official statement about the public expenditure consequences of the Bill. The Minister spoke of the Government's commitment of £150 million and went on to speak about further amendments. We should not permit this stage of the measure to pass until we have teased out of him his estimate of the total of public and Welsh Office expenditure, and from which vote it will come.

Mr. Grist

I do not think that that is entirely germane to the proposal for a barrage, but capital costs of some £84.78 million are shown in the financial memorandum accompanying the Bill, and those are the costs for which parliamentary approval is being sought. There are, of course, additional costs for sewerage diversion, environmental matters and so forth, which bring the amount to £113 million. The total cost to the development corporation is estimated—as the hon. Gentleman said in his last speech—to be some £402 million. He will appreciate that the multiple of private investment expected to follow that makes the operation very feasible.

Mr. Rowlands

We have now agreed that the total cost will be some £402 million. What proportion of that will be paid out of Welsh Office funds, and under which vote?

Mr. Grist

There will be transport grant funding for the Bute link; the rest will come out of the general Welsh Office block Vote, which is in the hands of the Secretary of State. [Interruption.] It is Welsh Office money. The hon. Gentleman has read the evidence given to the Committee in the other place.

That is why I believe that the House should agree to refer the Bill to a Standing Committee.

11.6 pm

Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)

I am grateful to the Minister, and apologise for twice interrupting him. At last we have been given some indication of the enormous public expenditure consequences of the Bill. When we last debated it, we tried to tease the information out of the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael). I was mildly disappointed that, in opening today's debate, my hon. Friend made no reference to the public expenditure consequences. It took some time for us to extract from the Minister the information that the amount involved will be over £400 million.

Mr. Michael

Perhaps I can help; I was seeking to help the Minister on the same point. I referred to the public expenditure implications, but I must point out tht the £402 million mentioned by the Minister includes some £219 million which would be required without the barrage—the primary distributor road, for instance. We should be specific about which developments are barrage-related, and we would need the PDR irrespective of the barrage.

Mr. Rowlands

I am grateful to my hon. Friend: further teasing is producing more estimates and qualifications. It is about time. My hon. Friend mentioned none of this in his opening speech; he did not come clean with the House or with his colleagues. Even if that £200-odd million is deducted, however, we are still left with a £200 million public-expenditure Welsh Office grant for the scheme. As has already been said, the matter is no longer one of local concern; it has profound public expenditure implications for the Principality as a whole.

Let me prompt my hon. Friend to interrupt my spech again, in the hope of teasing out further information. In our last debate on the Bill, I mentioned operational losses of £652,000. How will that amount be paid?

Mr. Michael

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for posing his questions. I assure him that it is not a case of "teasing out"; the figures are in the public domain, and I am quoting from documents that my hon. Friend has read and from which he too has quoted.

The operational cost of the barrage and the inland bay are estimated at £1.1 million annually in the November 1988 figures, with expected revenues growing over time to a total of £0.475 million, leaving a deficit of £0.642 million. That is a little over half a million pounds. It is only fair to put it in perspective. The maintenance of Cardiff's parks—an expense that we do not begrudge—costs about £3 million annually. So the cost of the project is not as excessive as my hon. Friend suggests.

Mr. Rowlands

That is extremely interesting. The scheme is supposed to have enormous benefits and tremendous consequences for the development of the city. All that private money is to pour into it, yet the public—through the Welsh Office and the ratepayers or poll tax payers of South Glamorgan county council—will pick up the losses. That is the only conclusion I can draw.

Mr. Denzil Davies

My hon. Friend makes an extremely cogent point. It seems that losses will be £500,000 in the first year. Does my hon. Friend have any idea where that money will come from? Will it come from the Welsh Office or will it he raised through the poll tax?

Mr. Michael


Mr. Rowlands

I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth, who is seeking to intervene yet again, is about to tell us.

Mr. Michael

I am seeking to help my hon. Friend with answers to these questions. The maintenance of parks in Cardiff—which we properly consider to be an important matter of public expenditure—is of the order of £3 million. We are talking about a little more than £500,000 for the maintenance of the lake and the inland water area. I suggest to my hon. Friend that we use the term "subsidy" when we do not approve of something, but we say "expenditure on maintenance" when we do.

Mr. Rowlands

We are simply trying to discover the facts. Again my hon. Friend has not answered the question. I understand that the barrage will be owned by the Cardiff Bay development corporation. Will the corporation pay the operating cost or will it he paid by the community charge payers of South Glamorgan?

Mr. Michael

Initially, the corporation will fund the running costs. After its dissolution, it is intended to create a fund from assets to enable the successor body to pay for operating costs. Again, I refer only to what is public knowledge and is in the documents to which my hon. Friend has referred. One cannot deal with every detail. These matters have been open and available to my hon. Friend. There is nothing new in what I am saying today.

Mr. Rowlands

It is not a matter of detail, but one of considerable public consequence and concern. We now know that the Welsh Office will underwrite the capital expenditure. We all know about the concept of competing for resources. Ministers constantly tell us that the Welsh Office does not have a bottomless purse. Therefore, that money is coming from the same purse that could be paying the Welsh Development Agency to clear derelict land in Merthyr Tydfil or Rhymney or to finance other developments in other parts of the Principality. Therefore, we are rightly entitled to challenge the use of those public resources, as they come from one central budget that we share and for which we compete with Cardiff and other communities.

Mr Grist

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the development corporation will be raising money through sales of capital assets and land and will be arranging part of the financing.

Mr. Rowlands

That is fascinating. Does it mean that the Cardiff Bay development corporation is likely to pay back any part of the £400 million to come out of Welsh Office funds? I invite the Minister to reply to that perfectly reasonable question.

Let me ask the Minister again. He just got up and said that the Cardiff Bay development corporation will be able to raise money because it will sell houses and assets and develop its land. Does that mean that, if there is a nice large surplus, it will come back to the Welsh Office and pay off the £400 million initial investment? Are we talking about a pump-priming exercise which will be repaid to the Welsh Office, or can it be described as a £400 million grant for what is basically a private development?

Will the Minister answer the question? As he has not risen from his seat, we must make the simple assumption that the £400 million is all grant and that if the CBDC earns lots of money as a consequence of the scheme, the money will not come back to the Welsh Office. That is the simple lesson to draw from our series of exchanges.

Having indentified an important issue, I must explain that I intend to vote against the Bill, because it is a matter of priorities. I do not share the priorities of some hon. Members, and I believe that other communities have an equal, if not greater, right to challenge the levels of expenditure, which make the valleys initiative of the Secretary of State look like meagre rations.

I want to underline a point that I made last time I spoke on the Bill, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth did not respond tonight. I refer to a previous experience, when I had the privilege to serve Cardiff, North. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies), in a forceful speech, underlined the point about consultants. Consultants have a vested interest in grandiose schemes. The nature of their thinking—and sometimes of their fees—is based on the sum total of the scheme that they propose. There is an inherent tendency for consultants to produce grandiose schemes.

Cardiff has several times suffered from such proposals. It suffered when Ravenseft and Land Securities came along to build a huge addition to the centre of Cardiff, combined with the destruction of houses with the building of a hook road. Everybody in the city talked about the jobs that would flow from that and how Cardiff would become a great metropolitan centre if only we built that enormous shopping development and the hook road to feed it. I am grateful that, as a result of a switch in public opinion and the strength of resistance to those proposals—

Mr. Michael

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Rowlands

No, because I have given way fairly to my hon. Friend.

I am grateful that those grandiose schemes were swept away. Cardiff is such a beautiful city now because it has grown organically. It has grown out of the existing centre and by rejecting the grandiose schemes.

Mr. Michael

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Rowlands

No, because I have responded to my hon. Friend in a series of exchanges and I want to make a couple of brief points.

The city grew out of organic development from the existing centre. Much of what is now being proposed has the approach of those grandiose schemes of 20 years ago. To turn our backs on such schemes and to create a sensible, civilised development out of the existing dockland area would be a better choice than the scheme that is proposed in the Bill.

I want to answer the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth made about the "rippling" effect. He does not realise how much the concept that our development is a rippling effect from a marina in Cardiff, spreading to Merthyr Tydfil, to Rhymney and to Tredegar, is now resented in the heads of the valleys communities.

We reject that idea on two grounds. First, we do not believe that it would happen.

Mr. Flynn

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Rowlands

I want to make my point. I sat and listened patiently and I did not interrupt any hon. Member, so I intend to make my final comments in my own way.

The major rippling effect was a result of the enormous development of coal and iron from the valleys, which built Cardiff and created the great docklands and ports from which coal, iron and timber were exported. That was the original rippling effect, which came from the valleys. We do not believe that the development that my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli so eloquently described will ripple up in the same way to create jobs and investment for the people of Merthyr Tydfil or the heads of the valleys.

We not only do not believe in such a development, but we do not want it. We have spent the past 15 to 20 years fighting for a countervailing economic centre. We do not want a rippling effect from Cardiff up; we want to build an alternative economic development around the heads of the valleys. As my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli said, we want that to be based on the real contribution that it can make to the industrial regeneration not only of our own communities but of the Principality and of Britain. That will not be achieved by giving enormous sums of public money to build a marina in south Cardiff.

This is not the first occasion on which we have fought against a grandiose scheme such as this. We opposed the whole idea of an equally grandiose scheme at Llantrisant. The whole project was based on the so-called rippling effect. We were told that, if only that new town was built at the bottom of the valleys, our problems would be solved; we should only have to travel as far as Llantrisant. Now we are told that we must travel to south Cardiff for our jobs and investment. We do not want to be told that.

We rejected the principle when we rejected the Llantrisant new town scheme. We should reject the principle when it is advocated by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth in support of the Cardiff Bay Barrage Bill. We do not want a rippling effect from a lagoon or pool in south Cardiff; we want to develop our own alternative economy, and we need a large amount of public expenditure to do that. I believe that we are competing for the same resources as the Bill, so naturally I oppose it.

11.22 pm
Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)

I am completely in favour of the scheme to develop the Cardiff docklands, but, like many of my hon. Friends, I oppose the development of a barrage, because there is only one reason why such a development is required. One tragedy of this debate is that Welsh Members on different sides of the argument are becoming more and more polarised, with the argument getting more bad-tempered as we proceed.

Mr. Rowlands


Mr. Rogers

Yes, we have had some very bad-tempered speeches, and it is no good running away from the fact. My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) was not bad-tempered at all, but other speakers have been very bad-tempered. I see no reason for that. I deeply regret the way in which the debate has developed.

Let us consider the history of the project. I see that the Minister is smiling. It is a pity that he could not have smiled a little more during his speech and given us a few figures instead of trying to defraud the people of Wales of the money by putting it into the new outfit set up by his previous boss, Lord Crickhowell. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) said in the letter that he sent out on 7 November: At this stage my plea is a simple one: Here we have Labour initiative". He was eliciting the support of Labour Members, of course. But that was not true.

Mr. Michael

It was.

Mr. Rogers

No. The barrage was the brainchild of Nicholas Edwards, the former Tory Secretary of State.

Mr. Michael

It was not.

Mr. Rogers

It was the Tory Secretary of State who proposed it.

Mr. Michael

My hon. Friend is misrepresenting the position.

Mr. Rogers

I shall certainly not attack my hon. Friend or add to the bad-temperedness of the debate.

Mr. Michael

My hon. Friend is trying hard.

Mr. Rogers

No. I am more concerned about Conservative Members and what they are about, because they want different things from us. In answer to Paul Foot, Lord Crickhowell, who is now chairman of the National Rivers Authority [AN HON. MEMBER: "Smiling in the Gallery."] I cannot refer to people in the Gallery.

Lord Crickhowell said: There is hardly a conflict of interest. The position is that, on my instruction, anyone at the National Rivers Authority giving advice on Cardiff Bay must not refer to me. I am sure that the noble Lord would not want to waste his time in the Gallery listening to our speeches. Who would want to waste his time here this evening? We are told that he is not interested in the barrage, that he does not care about it and that he wants to stand away from it because, of course, he must not have an interest. In fact, he has interests, but not as a public guardian of the cleanliness of rivers or of the pollution of the environment. His interest is as a director of Associated British Ports, which owns 160 acres in the Cardiff bay area.

However, he is not the only one who has a financial interest in the development of the scheme—

Mr. Michael


Mr. Rogers

I was certainly not referring to my hon. Friend, but I give way to him.

Mr. Michael

I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that the consideration that guided Labour county councillors and city councillors in favouring the scheme and, in the case of the county councillors, in promoting the Bill was based on long deliberations and their sincere belief that it will benefit the area and the environment and enhance the job opportunities of the children and grandchildren of the area.

Mr. Rogers

I agree completely with my hon. Friend. The motives of most of the Labour county, district and city councillors could not be questioned in any way. But when the scheme was initially put forward, Nicholas Edwards, the then Secretary of State for Wales, now Lord Crickhowell, did not give the city or county councils any options. He said, "Either have the urban development corporation or have nothing." Naturally, having been blackmailed, the county and city councils accepted the situation. They acted, as many of us have as county and district councillors over the years when we participated in decisions, because they genuinely thought that they would bring a benefit. I am sure that the development of Cardiff bay will be of great benefit to the people who live in the area.

But over and above all that, there is something rather smelly about this. There has been a lot of talk about pollution, but there is something rotten about this business. There is something incestuous about it—too many people are involved. Apart from Lord Crickhowell, someone else has been extremely interested in our debate tonight. The chairman of the urban development corporation was the slight unsuccessful Tory candidate for the constituency of Ebbw Vale in 1979. There is a saying in Wales—coined by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan)—"Lose a deposit and gain a quango." All that anyone has to do in Wales is to lose a seat and he or she can then become chairman of a quango or some other body. The same principle was exercised by the former Secretary of State for Wales, when the motto was "Leave a seat, gain a quango and several directorships on the way." An enormous number of conflicts of interest are involved.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth will convey to his friends who spoke on the conservation issue, such as the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn), who has now left the Chamber, that I am sorry that this debate has been used to attack conservation principles and the principle behind the designation of sites of special scientific interest. At least the Minister said that his Department had balanced the environmental hazards against the economic benefits and had concluded that the economic benefits were more important. That is a good, honest statement and it is a pity that we have not heard more honest statements tonight—

Mr. Michael

Will my hon. Friend give way on that point?

Mr. Rogers

Yes, in a minute when I have finished this point about conservation.

Many people outside the Chamber will consider what has been said tonight and will wonder what the Labour party's attitude is towards green issues. The performance on this was scandalous. I have told the hon. Members concerned that I would refer to them. It was scandalous that the principles of SSSIs should be attacked. They were established after a great deal of discussion and investigation, and after a great deal of opposition from many sources. It would be a tragedy if SSSIs were to disappear. We are nibbling at the margins of our special wildlife areas. God knows, south Wales has had enough pollution.

Mr. Michael

I said that it was right that the Select Committee should consider SSSIs in the light of the other factors involved. The natural environment is one of my passionate concerns and I respect the motivation behind the opposition. But the wrong target has been selected. I am not rubbishing the environmental considerations: I am simply saying that their application in this case is wrong.

Mr. Rogers

My hon. Friend must not take this too personally. I was not referring to him. If he mentioned the matter it was not in an objectionable way, attacking the principle of conservation or the establishment of SSSIs, and I do not include him in my comments.

But this is the nub of the problem. Someone came up with the scheme and ever since it was mooted all that we have done is to try to shoehorn all the facts to fit the scheme. What my hon. Friend does not understand is that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) said, we are concerned with a point of principle. We would support a scheme for the development of Cardiff bay if there was no barrage. An alternative has been suggested—the one for the living waterfront. The estuaries and the mouths of some of the fastest flowing rivers in the United Kingdom do not need to be dammed up. We have seen from the plans and the maps that very little land accrues from the construction of the barrage compared with constructing a containment around the present dock area and getting rid of the mess, to which my hon. Friends the Members for Cardiff, West and for Cardiff, South and Penarth referred.

I do not see why we cannot all be on the same side. There is no reason why the barrage has to be built. I am sorry, there is one reason—the profit, greed and selfishness of people who will not live there and who have no real link with the industrial development of south Wales but who are simply interested in making a substantial profit from the people of Cardiff and the other people of south Wales. That is where the real interest lies in this matter.

Even the literature sent to us today by my noble Friend Lord Brooks of Tremorfa says that the scheme will only create a lake. It may be a good lake or a bad lake—I do not want to go into that argument—but it need not be there. Factories will not be built in the middle of the lagoon or the bay. There need be no conflict at all. A simple containment on the east side of the estuary would give all the land that is required for the regeneration of the area. It would not have one of the 16 problems that have been identified by the opponents. Why does the Cardiff Bay development corporation have to be so entrenched in its attitude that it is not prepared to accept that? Even if the scheme is considered by a Select Committee, the removal of the barrage will still not be proposed because its purpose is to provide a place for people to park their boats.

My constituents may criticise me. As you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have a majority of almost 31,000, and at the last election 35,000 people voted for me. I am sorry to say that that majority will probably go rapidly downhill at the next general election, because my constituents will complain, "Look here, Rogers. You stopped me from mooring my boat at Cardiff." They will turn away from me and I shall lose all their support.

Mr. Morgan

Does my hon. Friend realise that it is not part of Government policy to give yachts to the working-class people of the Welsh valleys, knowing that they would only keep coal in them?

Mr. Rogers

That just goes to show that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West is out of touch. We used to keep coal in our yachts, but today there is no coal left to keep.

From the wonderful pictorial representation of the area included in the map circulated today by my noble Friend Lord Brooks of Tremorfa, the deputy chairman of the urban development corporation, it is obvious that the living waterfront proposals would provide sufficient development. There would be no problem constructing a link road across the scheme. The Minister could indulge himself and spend all the money that he never seems to have available for other purposes, by building a link road across the existing swamp or another one.

I shall vote against the scheme because I am not convinced that it is needed. If the urban development corporation is prepared to amend the scheme by removing the barrage, leaving sufficient land and other resources to regenerate the southern part of Cardiff, and to provide even the 30,000 jobs that have been mooted, the proposal would have my complete support, and not one of my right hon. and hon. Friends would vote against it.

I hope that my plea will reach the ears of the urban development corporation and of Associated British Ports, and that they will reconsider the matter and return with an amended scheme. I would not oppose any money being spent in south Wales. God knows, it needs money and jobs to counterbalance the tremendous decline in industry suffered under the present Government. The Government have ravaged south Wales and the mining communities, and there has been no investment. If the Government are prepared to put money into the proposal, I am prepared to support it—but only if they get rid of that damned barrage.

11.33 pm
Mr. Alan W. Williams (Carmarthen)

Representing Carmarthen, I have none of the first-hand knowledge that has been evident in many of the excellent speeches made this evening. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) said, if the proposals mean that public money will come to Wales, I can guarantee that my constituency, and many others in Wales, could do with that money just as much as Cardiff.

As I support the Severn barrage, where does that place me in respect of the Cardiff barrage? I was surprised by many of the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn), but my support for the Severn barrage is purely on energy grounds. Although it may create an environmental disaster for bird life, that must be set against the terrific energy that could be produced.

About 7 per cent. of the United Kingdom's energy could be produced by a Severn barrage for 100 years or more. There would be no greenhouse effect, no acid rain, and no nuclear waste. I advocate a barrage for the Severn for energy reasons, and I for one would be prepared to pay the environmental cost. The Cardiff bay barrage is a matter of economic development versus the environment.

I admit that I am not an expert on Cardiff bay, but like the Towy estuary it has mudflats, which are important to migrating birds. I am strongly influenced when the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds takes a line on development. In the summer of 1988, I watched a video on 500,000 dunlin dinners and was impressed by its content. I was not aware that Britain's estaries are home to 40 per cent. of the wading birds that traverse Europe; the estuaries are very important to those birds. They come from Scandinavia, Siberia, Canada and Greenland. When we consider the environmental impact of the barrage, we must do so not as Cardiffians or Welsh people but as Europeans, and we must be interested in its global implications.

Mr. Gareth Wardell

Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies), when I visited Cardiff bay I did not stay at the Celtic Bay hotel for fear of being flooded by the rise of groundwater that he mentioned. Does my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams) think that the environment of Cardiff bay is fit for wading birds? The malodour of the Dettol being poured into it to protect wading birds from its filth was such that I wondered whether a major improvement in its environment was necessary, with or without the barrage.

Mr. Williams

Other hon. Members have fully answered that point, and the same occured to me when I was listening fully to my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West. There is filth in many of our towns and cities and terrific pollution in many of our rivers. The answer is not to drown the filth and wildlife but to clean our rivers and to treat sewage. Two wrongs will never make a right.

Biologically, the mudflats in Cardiff bay are extremely productive—more productive than the most productive agricultural land. The food that they produce is extremely important to migrating birds.

I am concerned about the possibility of severe pollution if the barrage is built. The sewage that flows down the Taff and the Ely is rich in nitrates and phosphates. That is bound to cause problems, especially in the summer, because the high concentration of nitrates and phosphates in the trapped water in the bay will cause eutrophication. It is then a question of how severe that eutrophication will he. I believe that in the summer, rather than fresh water eutrophicated water will be trapped, it will stink of grey-green algae and its texture will be more like pea soup.

The main environmental concern must be that we are destroying a site of special scientific interest that is important to migrating birds.

Mr. Flynn

I agree strongly with my hon. Friend. Recently I tabled questions about eutrophy. Does he agree that the algae problems and what we are seeing in the North sea are so worrying that we must tackle them, not just in the Taff and the Ely, but in all the rivers that run into the Severn, which has been described accurately as the greatest flush toilet in Europe? If it was not for the scouring action of the second highest tide in the world, it would be a stinking mess now. Is that not a different problem? If the barrage comes to Cardiff, we must tackle the problems of our rivers.

Mr. Williams

That is not a different problem. The barrage would exacerbate the problem rather than contribute in any way to solving it. It would increase the problem and hold it within Cardiff bay.

The only argument in favour of the barrage is the economic development argument that this public money will stimulate private investment and create jobs and high-cost housing. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) completely demolished the economic case. I do not know what the figures are, but if £100 million is to be spent in Wales, I want the whole of Wales to share in the benefits. It is a case of priorities. Two weeks ago we debated tolls for the Severn bridge. Why not use that money to get rid of those tolls rather than spend it on Cardiff? That would benefit the whole of the Welsh economy. Then there is the M4. There are problems in Newport and on the stretch from Baglan to Neath.

My constituency needs a link road from the M4 to Ammanford and the upper Ammanford valley. There are no end of road infrastructure improvements which would help to bring jobs into all our areas.

I am impressed by the arguments of hon. Members representing the Rhondda, Neath and Rhymney valley constituencies. They are poor areas. Earlier this year I was privileged to be involved in the Pontypridd by-election. In those weeks I travelled and got to know Pontypridd, as I did not know any of those valley communities previously. There is terrific impoverishment. Those communities need public investment. Surely the money should go to these other areas of Wales.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli spoke about the neglect and destruction of manufacturing industry during 10 years of Conservative rule. Manufacturing should be our priority, particularly considering our massive balance of payments deficit. We should direct public money into manufacturing. That would attract private investment. The Cardiff bay barrage rates nowhere in the list of priorities for economic development; nor are there environmental arguments in its favour.

11.47 pm
Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend)

At the outset I must say that I find the private Bill procedure objectionable for gigantic projects which would normally be the subject of a detailed legal planning inquiry. That is a reason why the promotion of the barrage scheme is unsatisfactory and unhelpful in conducting the argument about the issues at stake for the citizens of Cardiff and south Wales.

Moreover, by using the private Bill procedure, the barrage scheme does not have to come under the direct legal scrutiny of the European Community's environmental impact assessment directive. Although environmental impact assessment studies have been made, the Commission cannot intervene in any way to assess the value of the barrage to the economy of Cardiff and south Wales, as against the possible environmental damage.

I am opposed to the way in which the scheme has been brought forward, on the ground that one should allow full public participation in the construction and development of the barrage scheme, and on the ground that it does not come under the legally enforceable directives on environmental impact assessment.

Mr. Gareth Wardell

Surely my hon. Friend is not saying that every environmental development or consideration in Britain should always come under the scrutiny of the European Commission. He seems to be making the assumption that the European Commission needs to intervene in all our deliberations. One only has to consider what it has done in the case of two dangerous mutagens and carcinogens—carbadox and olaquindox— to realise that its interventions are often far from helpful to Britain, and that they can be extremely unhelpful.

Mr. Griffiths

I do not dispute that example. However, none of us is perfect all the time. I should have thought that my hon. Friend would agree that that applies to the present British Government—they are capable of making mistakes.

There is a European Community directive that requires major schemes—not every little factory scheme that is being developed—that are perceived to have a major impact on the environment to be examined specifically to assess that impact and, because of the private Bill procedure, that directive has no force.

Mr. Flynn

My hon. Friend has referred to the document. A report has been made by independent people. He may be excused for not having seen it, because there is no copy in the House of Commons Library, but there is a copy in the House of Lords Library. I commend that report to him because it is a splendid study, and it was not made by anyone with an axe to grind. Few schemes of such a magnitude have been presented with such a thorough independent assessment of their environmental impact.

Mr. Griffiths

I think that my hon. Friend is referring to a study made by the university of Liverpool. I am aware of it and I knew that that environmental impact assessment was going to be made as a result of questions I put to the European Commission about whether it could intervene, and because of letters I wrote to the Secretary of State for Wales a number of years ago.

The directive has no legal force behind it to make an environmental impact assessment, and that is why I am against the use of the private Bill procedure; it does not depend on any legal force, but on whether any attention is paid to the assessment.

There is also the question of the amount of money that will need to be spent simply because the barrage is to be built. Several hon. Members have referred to that. My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) referred to the additional costs, over and above the money that will go to develop the Cardiff docklands. He mentioned some £200 million in additional expenditure, and because of the existence of the lagoon, there would also be a need to spend £500,000 a year on its maintenance.

One must ask whether that is financially sustainable in the long term for the city of Cardiff. It is all very well for the Minister to refer to the ability of the corporation to sell land and other assets to help pay for development and the maintenance costs, but there will come a time when assets cannot be sold to pay for running the dockland area.

Mr. Rogers

I am not sure whether my hon. Friend was present when the Minister gave that information. After Associated British Ports has made extensive profits, the running costs of the scheme will be met by the Welsh Office. The Minister said that, after the initial capital grants of about £400 million, there will be sufficient funding for the scheme. The Welsh Office will run the scheme and the profits will be taken by the corporation and Associated British Ports.

Mr. Grist


Mr. Griffiths

I am happy to give way to the Minister.

Mr. Grist

I must correct that impression. There is more than £400 million of expenditure, but £150 million of that will come from asset sales. The sum from the Welsh Office is about £250 million, of which £150 million has already been announced.

Mr. Griffiths

The one thing that we know is that, wherever the money comes from—some of it is coming from the Welsh Office—it is a major investment, but is it strictly necessary for the docklands to be developed? Can the docklands be developed without the barrage that is currently proposed? I think that there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the answer is yes. As some of the money does not have to be spent, therefore, could it not be put to much better use cleaning up the Taff and Ely rivers, for example, just to mention the two that are directly affected by the scheme?

Mr. Michael

Without the barrage, we were previously talking about £219 million of expenditure, so the balance of the £402 million is directly barrage-related. Does my hon. Friend agree that the appraisal has to describe the benefits, the jobs that will be brought in and the costs? Such detail is open to scrutiny by the Committee.

Mr. Griffiths

That is true, but we are taking an unnecessary step if we go for the barrage scheme. I believe that we can get virtually the same results and have more balanced development across south Wales if some of the money is used for other projects which could be just as useful for the economy and the environment. We should not spend it all on the barrage, against which there are so many question marks. That is why I shall not support the Bill being sent to a Committee. I would have much preferred the matter to be dealt with by public planning inquiry procedures in Cardiff.

11.57 pm
Mr. Gwilym Jones (Cardiff, North)

I am glad to speak after the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths). We have had a well-balanced debate so far. It has even been relatively good-tempered. I calculate that, including interventions, seven hon. Members have spoken in favour of, and seven against, the Bill. I shall add to the majority by speaking in favour of it.

I do not understand or accept the do-nothing approach of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands), who talked about resenting and rejecting a ripple effect out of Cardiff. I far prefer the tone of a letter from Councillor Bill Herbert, of which I think all Welsh Members have a copy. He was last year's Labour Lord Mayor of Cardiff. He comes from the valleys and, like many of us in Cardiff, has a considerable affinity for them. He anticipated the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney. He rejected the idea of a ripple and talked of a river of development and opportunities flowing from the south Cardiff redevelopment.

I far prefer the real enthusiasm displayed by the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn). It was a contagious enthusiasm as he described his experiences of living in Cardiff and his view of the south Cardiff redevelopment. I know that the hon. Gentleman has strong connections with Cardiff. His brother, Michael Flynn, is a Labour councillor in my constituency, and I am glad to have him there. He is certainly as hard-working and diligent a member and servant of the Labour party as the hon. Member for Newport, West. I appreciated the enthusiasm of the hon. Gentleman.

I share that enthusiasm for the regeneration of south Cardiff. It is necessary. Cardiff is an attractive city with many fine features—old ones such as the castle and civic centre and newer ones such as St. David's centre which, despite what the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney said, did not come about by organic development, but through the planning process. It moved on from the Ravenseft development to which he referred.

The regeneration of south Cardiff will create 6,000 new homes, 25 per cent. of which will be important low-cost housing. It will create 5,000 to 6,000 sq ft of industrial business units and 3,000 to 4,000 sq ft of office space. Estimates have ranged as high as 30,000 jobs from the redevelopment of south Cardiff. Those jobs will not be confined merely to Cardiff or south Cardiff, but will be taken up widely through south Wales.

In my constituency on the northern edge of Cardiff I have the obvious example of Amersham International and A.B. Electronics. Between them, since 1983, those two firms have created more jobs than the total unemployment in my constituency. According to that narrow theory, a naive person might imagine that unemployment in my constituency has been eliminated. That has not happened; many people travel to work in Cardiff—to those two firms in my constituency—and will certainly travel to the new jobs created in south Cardiff.

The regeneration will provide a dramatic expansion to the economy of south Wales. It will increase the region's importance. As a capital city of Wales—

Mr. Rogers


Mr. Jones

The evening is late, I must not hold up the debate too much and so should not give way.

I often see Cardiff as rivalling the city of Bristol across the Severn. I see us rapidly overtaking Bristol in importance. We will soon outstrip that provincial town in England, and Cardiff and south Wales generally will, properly, rank alongside Birmingham.

This necessary regeneration of south Cardiff will improve our environment. It will change the present rundown docks, which are only a shade of the past. It will rejuvenate the variety of assorted and not too attractive buildings, and the other traces of industrial dereliction—which all too often include waste, litter and debris being dumped on the waterside.

Mr. Rogers

I support all that the hon. Gentleman asks for—I do not want to make his speech for him. Will he comment on my proposition about achieving the same purposes without the barrage—just a consolidation of the area which, I accept, is desperately run down?

Mr. Jones

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I intend to come to that point in a minute or two.

The regeneration of south Cardiff will eliminate those mudflats which are best seen at low tide. I defy anyone to describe those mudflats as attractive or beautiful. At low tide we see, essentially, the results of industralisation and digging out Cardiff docks. That involved the extensive reclamation of our coastline, which has totally changed since the docks were dug out.

The present mudflats are the result of accretion since the digging out of Cardiff docks. I understand from experts that this is demonstrated by the presence of spartina grass, which is found growing only on high level, stable mud. Cardiff bay is natural, but the present mud is not. It is ugly and its appearance can be improved upon. The environment of not just Cardiff but the valleys could be improved.

The economic benefits will not be confined to Cardiff. The barrage will be a catalyst for improving the Taff and the Ely rivers that flow through the valleys. One advantage of water privatisation was the splitting of the functions of poacher and gamekeeper. There is now a proper gamekeeper in the form of the National Rivers Authority.

What will happen with the barrage and the south Cardiff development will be a great challenge for the N RA —probably its biggest challenge for the foreseeable future. Can it rise to the occasion? I am confident that it can. The barrage and the south Cardiff development will be the catalyst for an improvement that will flow up the rivers through the valleys. The people will demand for their valleys what they see happening in south Cardiff.

I am in considerable sympathy with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. I remember being almost a lone voice calling out that the case for the birds and the environment was too important to go unheard. My hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Carlisle) was the only other Member who, in the 1985–86 Session, shouted "Object" when the County of South Glamorgan (Taff Crossing) Bill came before the House.

Mr. Ron Davies

I am reluctant to intervene, as I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman wants to make his speech. However, for the sake of accuracy it should be put on the record that I objected to the County of South Glamorgan (Taff Crossing) Bill. It was only when the hon. Gentleman said that he was prepared to continue to block the Bill that I withdrew to allow him, as a local Member, to voice his objections.

Mr. Jones

I am surprised by the hon. Gentleman's remarks, which certainly do not fit in with my recollection. However, I do not want to quarrel with him, because I know that he has strong sympathy with my point.

I welcome the RSPB's constructive contribution. I was grateful to receive a letter from its parliamentary officer this week which provided most useful information. Early in the letter, he said that the RSPB is not against the redevelopment of the city. The word "not" was underlined. Instead, the RSPB is proposing a living waterfront scheme. The proposal is well-intentioned, but I am not sure that it is as well worked out as the scheme before us. I understand that its proposal would involve the loss of slightly more than 15 per cent. of the SSSI and would increase accretion in the remainder of the bay, which would in turn enlarge the amount of salt marsh, which would have the effect of reducing the feeding grounds. I also understand that there is a problem with the water supply, which might be much more expensive for the living waterfront scheme than has been imagined. That would lead to further problems with water quality for the scheme.

A survey, not of the living waterfront scheme, but which might be close enough for our purposes at this stage, was carried out by Peat Marwick McLintock. It tried to estimate the most likely effects on Cardiff of a barrage, of a mini-barrage, or of not having a barrage at all. The mini-barrage is not dissimilar to what is now proposed as a living waterfront. Peat Marwick McLintock estimated that the mini-barrage would create just under 15,000 jobs, but that the full barrage would create more than 22,000 jobs. Private investment for the mini-barrage would generate only £607 million, while £1,051 million of private investment would come from the full barrage. Most importantly, the mini-barrage would require a leverage of private to public investment of only 4.8:1 and the full barrage would require 8.9:1. The net worth of the development would be more than £77 million from the full barrage, but there would be a loss of £61 million from the mini-barrage. That substantially makes the case for the barrage. It makes it superior to the mini-barrage and probably also to the living waterfront scheme proposed by the RSPB.

Mr. Gareth Wardell

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that studies throughout the world show that such large-scale investment in a capital city gives rise to the danger that the periphery becomes relatively poorer because of the rapid expansion that follows elsewhere? What does he think the Government would do to invest money in the valley communities—over and above what is in the valleys initiative—to ensure that they develop and there is no huge gap between the standard of living in Cardiff and that in the valley communities?

Mr. Jones

The hon. Gentleman asks a pertinent question in arguing what appears to be a highly academic case. I suggest that the peripheral areas would be relatively better off.

I am more than willing, in my regard for the RSPB, to countenance the society fully arguing its case before the Committee that will examine the Bill. Indeed, I regard that as another important reason why the measure should receive its Second Reading tonight. The RSPB is right to point out that the suggested artificial feeding area is only theoretical. There is a real risk to the bird population. There are uncertainties about the artificial feeding alternative and about the birds relocating in other estuaries.

We welcome the commitment of the promoters to develop alternatives, but I still call for all efforts to be made to achieve the greatest success of the alternatives. In turn, I want the RSPB's fullest involvement. The artifcial feeding ground is an innovation and an opportunity, and the RSPB should be involved in managing it. It would have the greatest chance of getting it right and of developing the potential use of the concept elsewhere.

The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney made a wide assumption about the cost and funding of the south Cardiff redevelopment. I expect that the total cost of £402 million will, in large part, be met by land sales and other receipts, and certainly not solely from grant aid. In addition, we shall have the leverage of much larger commercial investments. It may not mean a return to the Welsh Office of money expended, but it will mean much less than £402 million having to leave the Welsh Office.

I note that the best argument against the Bill came from a supporter, "The Insider" columnist in The Cardiff Independent, who wrote: If CBDC really believe there will be so little damage within their arbitrary lines and none outside, they have nothing to lose by offering full compensation for all damage, wherever it occurs, because if they are right—and there is no excuse if they are not—there will be little or no damage, and so they will have to pay little or no compensation. It is simple —but unanswerable. But it is answered. Clause 12 of the Bill provides full protection. There is a protected property area based on a six-metre ground water contour. That should be well beyond the furthest extent of any affected property. But that does not limit it. Anywhere outside the protected property area is covered. In other words, anywhere in the United Kingdom is covered. A claim anywhere can be made against the CBDC and if, by independent survey, loss can be shown, there will be full reimbursement. We have the fullest protection and the fullest potential. I am more than happy to give the Bill a Second Reading.

Mr. Flynn

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is the House aware that there is terrible news tonight? The massacre in Romania is continuing, with at least 2,000 men, women and children having been cut down by the secret service police. Can you use your good offices, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to ensure that by tomorrow, the House will have an opportunity to express its outrage at, and to use our great influence on, President Ceausescu, who has driven his country to a state where it can no longer be regarded as a civilised country?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

This is a serious matter, but it is not a point of order for the Chair. Doubtless what has been said will have been heard by the occupants of the Government Front Bench.

12.14 am
Mr. Elliot Morely (Glanford and Scunthorpe)

I recognise that I am an outsider, but for that very reason I want to talk about the national significance of the scheme, and its national impact.

I appreciate very much the role played by local Members of Parliament, and feel that the people of Cardiff are very fortunate in being represented by my hon. Friends the Members for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) and for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan). Those two excellent and hard-working Members have put the cases for and against the barrage with sincerity and diligence, and they deserve every credit for so doing.

I have my views on architecture, design and even popular planning, but I do not wish to speak about them: those are issues properly to be decided by local people, who will have to live with the designs. I want to discuss the way in which the importance of Cardiff bay fits into the national scale of things, and also to answer some specific points—particularly those raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) about the effect of the barrage on the bird population.

Cardiff hay is important in its own right. It is a site of special scientific interest, and its destruction will create a precedent. I would not claim that that is why it has attracted attention, but that is not to say that the area is not valuable in itself. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has defined it as the most important small estuary around the shores of the greater Severn estuary, and there is no doubt that the Severn estuary is a site of international ecological importance.

The Severn, including the Taff area, has been identified as a wetland of international importance, and is a candidate for listing under the Ramsar convention on the conservation of wetlands of international importance. It also qualifies as a special protection area under article 4 of EC directive 79/409, on the conservation of wild birds.

Mr. Rogers

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Most of us have been here for well over three hours. Now other hon. Members have come into the Chamber, and are standing at the Bar of the House making a ridiculous noise. Can you bring them to order, or else throw them out?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I hope that the hon. Members who have just come into the Chamber will be prepard to allow the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) to make his speech in the same manner as earlier speakers.

Mr. Morley

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

It could be argued that the RSPB has a vested interest, and is therefore keen to stress the area's importance. Let me refer hon. Members to a report given to the Committee in the other place by the Nature Conservancy Council, the Government's own body, which is given the duty of presenting impartial scientific advice on which the Government may make their decisions. In the council's view, it has become very clear before this Committee that its importance"— the importance of Cardiff bay, that is— bears no relation … to the size ratio between it and the estuary. The point was put to Dr. Parker on day four: 'So though we were told in opening, I think, that the whole of the Severn Estuary site is some 37,000 acres and Cardiff Bay itself is only 400 acres, the importance of Cardiff Bay, the Taff-Ely estuary, is far greater than those proportionate figures would perhaps suggest?' 'Yes', he said, 'there cannot be any argument on that point"'. It has been mentioned that the estuary was artificially created. In the 18th century it was far larger, and would have supported a greater diversity of species than it does today, owing to the artificial changes in the construction of the docks. Nor is it true that its importance is due to the enrichment of the mud from nutrients flowing through sewage in the rivers. According to the NCC, that enrichment is not a matter which is dependent totally on the sewage coining down the rivers, it is matters mixed in from the sea including sewage and other nutrient algae and matters found in the natural marine waters. The bay is therefore not dependent on pollution.

The crux of the issue is that the development of Cardiff bay should concentrate on clearing up the waterside and getting rid of pollution and dereliction, rather than spending money on the barrage scheme.

There is no evidence that the barrage scheme will necessarily attract inward investment. There is a great deal of evidence that if the area is covered by water, because it is a sheltered feeding area and the mudbanks are higher than the Severn estuary, it would remove an important feeding area for the species on the Severn estuary.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West referred to increased density. Scientific research has shown that if Cardiff bay is closed off, the density of birds on the Severn estuary will be increased by 70 per cent. in the case of dunlin, the main species that would be affected—

Mr. Michael

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 112, Noes 15.

Division No. 28] [12.20 am
Alexander, Richard Amess, David
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Anderson, Donald
Arbuthnot, James Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Irvine, Michael
Atkinson, David Jack, Michael
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Janman, Tim
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Kilfedder, James
Bevan, David Gilroy King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Boswell, Tim Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Boyes, Roland Lawrence, Ivan
Brazier, Julian Lightbown, David
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Lord, Michael
Browne, John (Winchester) Maclean, David
Burns, Simon McLoughlin, Patrick
Burt, Alistair McWilliam, John
Butler, Chris Mans, Keith
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Mates, Michael
Carrington, Matthew Meale, Alan
Chapman, Sydney Meyer, Sir Anthony
Chope, Christopher Michael, Alun
Coleman, Donald Monro, Sir Hector
Conway, Derek Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Murphy, Paul
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Neubert, Michael
Cran, James Nicholls, Patrick
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Oppenheim, Phillip
Dixon, Don Paice, James
Dorrell, Stephen Patnick, Irvine
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Dover, Den Redwood, John
Dunn, Bob Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Dunnachie, Jimmy Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Durant, Tony Sackville, Hon Tom
Fallon, Michael Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Flynn, Paul Stevens, Lewis
Forman, Nigel Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Foster, Derek Summerson, Hugo
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Gale, Roger Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Garel-Jones, Tristan Temple-Morris, Peter
Glyn, Dr Alan Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Golding, Mrs Llin Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Goodlad, Alastair Thorne, Neil
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Thurnham, Peter
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Tredinnick, David
Grist, Ian Waller, Gary
Hague, William Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Wheeler, John
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Widdecombe, Ann
Harris, David Wiggin, Jerry
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Wood, Timothy
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Howells, Geraint Tellers for the Ayes:
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Mr. Gwilym Jones and
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Mr. John McFall.
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Rogers, Allan
Beggs, Roy Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Rowlands, Ted
Cryer, Bob Short, Clare
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Skinner, Dennis
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Morgan, Rhodri Tellers for the Noes:
Morley, Elliot Mr. Alan W. Williams and
Nellist, Dave Mr. Win Griffiths.
Pike, Peter L.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 105, Noes 16.

Division No. 29] [at 12.31 am
Alexander, Richard Arbuthnot, James
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Amess, David Atkinson, David
Anderson, Donald Beaumont-Dark, Anthony
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Jack, Michael
Bevan, David Gilroy Janman, Tim
Boswell, Tim Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Boyes, Roland Kilfedder, James
Brazier, Julian King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Browne, John (Winchester) Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Burns, Simon Lawrence, Ivan
Burt, Alistair Lightbown, David
Butler, Chris Lord, Michael
Carrington, Matthew Maclean, David
Chapman, Sydney McWilliam, John
Chope, Christopher Mates, Michael
Coleman, Donald Meale, Alan
Conway, Derek Meyer, Sir Anthony
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Michael, Alun
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Mills, Iain
Cran, James Monro, Sir Hector
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Murphy, Paul
Dixon, Don Neubert, Michael
Dorrell, Stephen Nicholls, Patrick
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Paice, James
Dover, Den Patnick, Irvine
Dunn, Bob Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Redwood, John
Durant, Tony Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Fallon, Michael Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Sackville, Hon Tom
Flynn, Paul Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Forman, Nigel Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Foster, Derek Stevens, Lewis
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Gale, Roger Summerson, Hugo
Garel-Jones, Tristan Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Glyn, Dr Alan Temple-Morris, Peter
Golding, Mrs Llin Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Thorne, Neil
Grist, Ian Thurnham, Peter
Hague, William Tredinnick, David
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Waller, Gary
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Harris, David Wheeler, John
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Widdecombe, Ann
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath) Wiggin, Jerry
Howells, Geraint Wood, Timothy
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Hughes, Roy (Newport B) Tellers for the Ayes:
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Mr. John McFall and
Irvine, Michael Mr. Gwilym Jones.
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Pike, Peter L.
Beggs, Roy Rogers, Allan
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Rowlands, Ted
Cryer, Bob Short, Clare
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Skinner, Dennis
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Morgan, Rhodri Tellers for the Noes:
Morley, Elliot Mr. Win Griffiths and
Nellist, Dave Mr. Alan W. Williams.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time, and committed.

Forward to