HC Deb 21 June 1993 vol 227 cc10-1
9. Mr. Simon Hughes

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what are his environmental priorities for the remainder of 1993.

Sir Wyn Roberts

The environmental priorities for the Welsh Office are set out in chapter 7 of its departmental report, published in February 1993. Action is being taken on many fronts with particular emphasis on the removal of dereliction, on urban improvement and on a range of environmental protection measures—all designed to protect and enhance the environment of Wales.

Mr. Hughes

Given the at least worryingly ambiguous words of the Secretary of State in his Llangollen speech, will the Minister assure us that his Department's priorities in the remaining six months will be to ensure that no road schemes are approved which do not have acceptable status in the communities through which they pass and that no mineral extraction schemes are approved around the coast which are unacceptable to the communities living on the land adjoining those proposed developments? Above all, given the recent flooding once again in north Wales, will he assure us that protection against flood damage, particularly on the coast and also in the valleys, is given a high priority in both north and south Wales in the remaining six months of this year?

Sir Wyn Roberts

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made his point very clearly. It is quite possible that economic development can lead to pressures on the environment, but we are accustomed to dealing with that in Wales. It is a matter of achieving a proper balance.

As for the various developments to which the hon. Gentleman referred, of course they are always considered from an environmental viewpoint as well as from the point of view of their economic benefit. If necessary, inquiries are held, assessments are made and regulations are called into play. As for coast protection, the hon. Gentleman will know that it always has priority in our allocation of funds.

Mr. Matthew Banks

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is important that we continually reassess our priorities in relation to environmental policy? Will my right hon. Friend consider reassessing his priorities and, if necessary, find extra resources for the railway lines which were recently affected by flooding in north Wales, so that the burden of such work as is necessary does not entirely fall on regional railways? Just how much is the Welsh Office spending this year on its environmental policy?

Sir Wyn Roberts

To begin with the last part of my hon. Friend's question, our current action on the environment is backed by resources of £198 million this year in our environmental services programmes. That comprises £66 million spent by the Welsh Development Agency on land reclamation and urban renewal, £34 million spent under the urban programme and urban investment grant, and £122 million spent by Housing for Wales. I should add that our agri-environmental programmes will consume twice as much in terms of resources, at £12.6 million in 1995–96, than they consume in the current year.

Mr. Win Griffiths

With respect to environmental considerations and road building, did the Minister see reports over the weekend that people in the town of Builth Wells do not want the bypass to desecrate the countryside around them? Will the right hon. Gentleman transfer the money set aside for that project to the cross-valley link in Bridgend? That would enable a new, badly needed road to be built, and it would give the county and the borough councils the opportunity to consider the challenge of redeveloping an area of dereliction around the town centre in Bridgend.

Sir Wyn Roberts

There is hardly a road scheme in Wales that does not attract some environmental criticism, but I doubt whether the majority of people of Builth Wells would support the view that was reported over the weekend that no bypass is needed. The Welsh Office would not be proposing a bypass were it not to be needed in future. I regret to say to the hon. Gentleman that it is most unlikely that we shall transfer the money destined for the Builth Wells bypass to his part of the world, although, of course, we always give considerable attention and priority to developments that will lead to the economic revival of the valleys.