HC Deb 13 June 2002 vol 386 cc987-8
5. Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire)

If she will make a statement on the Cefn Croes wind farm application. [58220]

The Minister for Energy and Construction (Mr. Brian Wilson)

Consent was granted on 23 May. Copies of the decision letter are available in the Library of the House.

Mr. Williams

I thank the Minister for that reply, but I am sure he will accept that there is considerable disquiet in Wales about the way in which the application was handled. Groups of people still wish to contest the decision. However, I wish to move on.

There is cross-party support in the National Assembly for Wales for decisions on all power stations to be devolved to the National Assembly. I believe that there is considerable cross-party support for that in this House as well. Is the Minister willing to enter into discussions with the Secretary of State for Wales and appropriate Ministers in the National Assembly to see how devolution of decision making could be achieved? Will he report back on the outcome of those discussions?

Mr. Wilson

The short answer to the main part of the hon. Gentleman's question is yes. The discussions are going on.

This issue remained a reserved matter at the time of devolution because the transmission system for England and Wales operates as one. Therefore, it was more appropriate to deal with it on an England and Wales-wide basis. Scotland has a separate grid system, so responsibility for it was devolved to Scotland.

Discussions are going on to get the balance right, and I have no strong feelings about the issue. The current system depends on the way in which devolution was arranged. If it is suitable to change it at some future time, let us look at that. However, at the moment, we operate within the rules as they are laid down.

Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion)

The Minister will know that I supported this application which is in my constituency. However, the way the application was decided left a sour taste in the mouths of many people in my area and it left many people in Wales feeling that they had been treated as infant children who were not able to take planning decisions for themselves.

I welcome what the Minister has just said about looking at the issue again. He can do that at the stroke of a pen. In the previous Session, I introduced a Bill to change the electricity legislation and to allow changes to happen, so I hope he will consider that to see how he might easily change the system. Notwithstanding the applications that will come to him from my constituency and elsewhere in south Wales, will he give an undertaking that this is the last time he will take such a decision and that in future he will leave it to the people of Wales to decide?

Mr. Wilson

The hon. Gentleman is having his wind farm and eating it. He agrees with the decision, but he is moaning about the way in which it was taken. I am a strong believer in local democracy and an important point is the fact that the local authority voted 18:3 in favour of the wind farm. That fact is totally ignored in most of the coverage of the issue—all that is talked about is the vociferous minority who have better access to the media and, indeed, to the House of Lords. I make no apology for the decision or the democratic input into it.

I am not suggesting that the present system is wrong. I have given the rational basis for it, but other, wider factors are coming into play to create a UK-wide transmission system and they might make it appropriate to consider the issue in a different context.