HL Deb 23 February 1989 vol 504 cc788-815

5.39 p.m.

Lord Brooks of Tremorfa

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

The joint promoters of the Bill are the South Glamorgan County Council and the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation. I have a twin interest in that I am the leader of the South Glamorgan County Council and deputy chairman of the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation.

When the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, then Secretary of State for Wales, announced his ambitious plans for the redevelopment of South Cardiff, he described the development as being a rare opportunity to develop a superb environmental setting which will have few, if any, competitors in Britain. At the same time he announced that one of the first tasks of the new development corporation to be set up for this purpose would be to begin work immediately on studies into the proposed Cardiff Bay barrage scheme. It is the barrage which will create the opportunity to develop a superb environmental setting; it is the barrage which will increase the interest of investors in the development as a whole; it is the barrage which will provide the opportunity to make Cardiff a major maritime city in Europe.

Without it, the development of Cardiff Bay will still take place but the 600 acres of prime waterfront space which would attract the quality waterside development which will make the area unique will be lost and with it the revival of a once great industrial heartland, a revival of life, housing, jobs and leisure facilities and a revival of the natural beauty of an area blighted for over a century by coal dust and smoke from Cardiff's industrial heyday.

The barrage is essential to the future of Cardiff Bay. It has a vital role to play in the redevelopment scheme. That view is supported by all the local authorities in the area which are committed to the redevelopment of Cardiff's waterfront area and realise that the construction of the barrage is fundamental to our future prosperity.

It is fitting that the capital of Wales should take its place as a major city of Europe, and, indeed, it is deserving of that status. Its phenomenal rise to the metropolis of Wales was achieved in an incredibly short space of time. Its decline was possibly more gradual but in its way devastating, leaving a legacy of high unemployment in the inner city areas, crumbling buildings and acres of derelict wasteland. It is a travesty that the area responsible for the prosperity enjoyed in Cardiff and south Wales should have suffered most from the results of its decline.

We are determined to reverse that trend and in doing so to bring about a second golden age for Cardiff's docklands, the city of Cardiff and indeed the whole of south Wales. Cardiff as we know it is a product of the industrialisation of Britain. Its prosperity and growth really depended on one industry; that is, coal. Mined in the south Wales coalfield, it was brought down from the valleys by the Glamorganshire Canal to the Bute East Dock, and with it the city's population, employment and prosperity embarked on an upward spiral.

Little more than a sleepy market town by the end of the 18th century with a population of less then 2,000, Cardiff grew to have a population well over 11,000 by 1841, causing its whole character to change in the process. Within 30 years the population had grown fivefold to over 57,000. By 1913 Cardiff had become the world's leading exporter of coal as well as developing rapidly as a heavy industrial and railway centre.

The spin-off of that new prosperity was the development of the city as a major business and shopping centre with a prestigious new civic centre in Cathays Park. The First World War marked the beginning of the end of the first golden age when there was a general slump in maritime trade. The coal export trade began a steady decline and almost unbelievably coal exports from Cardiff Docks ceased altogether in the early 1960s. The old Bute East Dock on which Cardiff's prosperity was based fell into disuse and has long been filled in. In fact, South Glamorgan County Council's new county hall, which my noble friend Lord Callaghan of Cardiff officially opened in October last, is built on the site of the old Bute East Dock.

With the closure of East Moors steelworks in 1977 and the decline of the railways, Cardiff's old industrial base has disappeared. Despite the notable efforts of the old Cardiff City Council to retain or revive the flagging heavy industries such as the Rover works, the manufacturing base has disappeared with the sterling exception of Allied Steel and Wire.

Cardiff's revival has been realised in other sectors with its emergence as one of the most highly developed shopping centres in the United Kingdom and the increasing number of white collar jobs, particularly in the financial services sector. The revival of Cardiff has been the result of the faith of the people of Cardiff, South Glamorgan and their elected representatives. I do not know what there is about the city of London which has in the past prevented investors from realising the opportunities that lie beyond the Severn river. Therefore, it is to the credit of the Heron Corporation and more recently Brent Walker and Tarmac among others, that they have done so. However, it took public money and collective action by the local authorities to make that possible. That is particularly so in the case of South Glamorgan County Council, which has made economic regeneration its number one priority, in particular regeneration of the county's waterfront strip.

All the recent major developments in Cardiff have been realised as a result of the commitment of local authorities, demonstrated by providing either land or finance and in many cases both. Because of that Cardiff can now boast one of the most prestigious shopping centres in the United Kingdom in the St. David's centre. In that centre there is the magnificent St. David's concert hall. There is a new Holiday Inn in the city centre, the Welsh National ice rink, a brand new central library which is the newest and most modern in the United Kingdom, the World Trade Centre and, last but not least, a spectacular new county hall in the heart of the docklands.

The new county hall is a vital part of the Atlantic Wharf scheme which is transforming 133 acres of derelict land around and including the old Bute East Dock. It is being jointly developed by the South Glamorgan County Council and Tarmac and is the first physical evidence of the commitment and confidence in the Cardiff Bay scheme.

County hall provides the catalyst for future investment in Cardiff Bay. It was a bold act of faith on the part of the South Glamorgan County Council. The commitment to the future of Cardiff Bay is tremendous, and with such strenuous efforts being made by both the public and the private sectors the renaissance of the city will be achieved.

However, that renaissance can be enhanced and complemented by the construction of the barrage across Cardiff Bay and by the Cardiff Bay strategy which hinges on its construction. Each new development means disruption of some sort. The more ambitious and imaginative the development, the more changes are needed. The Cardiff Bay proposals are ambitious and imaginative. The unique and ambitious nature of the development will attract the private investment so vital to the future of Cardiff Bay.

It is perfectly understandable that people will be concerned about major change. It is right that fears and concerns are aired and taken into account in planning for the future of the area. In considering those doubts and fears, it is important to take stock of what Cardiff Bay really is. It is an area which has been neglected for many years and an area of dereliction and decay, of waste tips and mudflats, all of which are man-made creations. It is a designated site of special scientific interest but, it must be stressed, not of natural creation. The original coastline lay over half a mile back from its present position. The area which could be covered by the lake formed by building the barrage is reclaimed marshland, tipland and land taken from the sea. I stress that we are not talking about an area of outstanding natural beauty.

The people who live in the surrounding area have suffered the miseries of unemployment, poor housing and social deprivation. They have lived for years among the decayed buildings surrounded by derelict wastelands. Through the barrage and the development of Cardiff Bay they can look forward to real job opportunities, a vastly improved living environment and leisure opportunities in the area that have never before existed.

Those objectives can only be realised through economic regeneration and, through that, a better quality of life for the people of south Cardiff can be assured. If we succeed in bringing a new vitality to the area we shall ensure that future generations will not suffer the miseries of unemployment and deprivation that their forbears have lived with for so long. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Brooks of Tremorfa.)

5.50 p.m.

Lord Moran

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Brooks of Tremorfa, has given the House a clear and helpful explanation of what the promoters of this Bill have in mind in bringing it forward. I warmly welcome the development of Cardiff docklands and harbour. Long ago I knew Cardiff docks as a sailor but, as we know, in recent years the whole area has become derelict and it is very good news that it is being restored to life.

I visited the area last year at the invitation of the chairman of the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, Mr. Geoffrey Inkin. I went round the area with him and also saw a panorama of the whole area from the roof of his office. I was greatly impressed by what was being done and by the quality of much of the development. It is without doubt a tremendous and exciting project.

However, as I told Mr. Inkin then, I am concerned about the proposed tidal exclusion barrage. I am not persuaded that such a barrage is an indispensible part of the development of Cardiff Bay. The chairman of the development company, Grosvenor Square Properties—a subsidiary of Associated British Ports—is reported as saying: Without the barrage, development will be piecemeal, localised and not a scheme with verve". That hardly seems to me adequate justification for a barrage that will inevitably do a great deal of environmental damage. Much of the area being redeveloped is not around the estuary at all but is to the east of it. Happily, investment is already coming into south Wales on a substantial scale.

The Economist last June published an article about barrages which stated: The big question about all these schemes is whether they could make money. The economics of the smaller, amenity schemes depend essentially on the rise in land values that they could generate—and who would benefit from it. In Cardiff, for instance, the big winners would be existing landowners such as Associated British Ports, British Rail and the city council. The article concluded: But at least the present Government will not give much weight to one popular objection: that their main promoters are people who would make money out of them". I do not personally object to that, but I think that we should not agree to their making money at the expense of the quality of life of other people.

Now it has become clear that the proposed inland lake cannot be, as perhaps the planners once imagined, a great recreational centre because of the level of pathogens. On the contrary, there may be serious amenity problems for those living on or near the lake. The barrage appears to have been planned before there was a full understanding of the environmental problems.

I have just seen the very comprehensive environmental assessment placed in the Library on 17th February. I only learnt of this at 4.30 this afternoon so I have not had time to study it, but at first blush it looks a very thorough and useful assessment which I am sure will be of great value to the Committee when it studies the Bill.

Barrages are very much in vogue at present. Every local council on a river mouth seems to want one Ten are proposed in Wales. The river Usk may have two—one at Newport and the Severn barrage below it. One of our national poets wrote in a famous line that, Even the weariest river winds somewhere safe to sea". But not any more. Many rivers in Wales may wind not to the sea but to exclusion barrages blocking their way.

It also seems wrong that there is no co-ordinated policy in Wales for all these barrages. In a sensible world we would build one, see how it worked and apply the lessons elsewhere. However, as far as I can see, the Welsh Office has adopted no such enlightened policy. Yet most of these projected barrages have profound environmental implications; certainly this one does. If they damage the environment, as this proposed barrage would, it seems that it is important that the promoters should put matters right at their expense on the same principle as that of "the polluter pays" and that we in this House should not approve their projects unless they shoulder that responsibility.

My particular concerns on this Bill are four in number. First, a question of principle, the proposed destruction of the Taff/Ely estuary SSSI. If that should happen I believe that it would be the first time that what is, in effect, a Government-promoted scheme was responsible for the destruction of the whole of an SSSI. We should, I believe, think long and carefully before we agree to that and to the setting aside, in Clause 60 of the Bill, of the provisions of two sections of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

The Nature Conservancy Council—the Government's own adviser —has petitioned against the Bill. It points out Her Majesty's Government's commitment under the RAMSAR Convention to stemming the progressive loss of wetlands, to promoting the conservation of particular sites and to the wise use of wetlands.

I am a member of your Lordships' sub-committee of the European Communities Committee concerned with the environment. We are now conducting an inquiry into habitat and species protection within the Community. We have been made fully aware of the wisespread anxiety about these matters in this country and in Brussels. For this House to agree to the destruction of a very important SSSI on grounds other than overriding national necessity would, I believe, be bad in itself and an extremely unfortunate precedent. I am sure that it would arouse widespread and justified public criticism. On those grounds alone we should ask the promoters to consider alternative arrangements.

Secondly, there is the question of birds, on which many people from the Prime Minister down are focusing in this centenary year for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. We are in a unique position in these islands as the focus of a flyway from Greenland, in the west, and from Scandinavia and the Soviet Union, in the east, where birds in the autumn fly down through this country. They stop on our estuaries because they are ice-free and provide valuable feeding grounds. The birds are primarily waders and wildfowl. Of them, some 8,000 to 10,000 winter on the Taff/Ely SSSI.

I discussed that aspect with Mr. Inkin when I visited Cardiff. He told me of the planned alternative at the mouth of the Rhymney. I said that if it satisfied the NCC and the RSPB that would be fine. Sadly, as their petitions make plain, it does not. Only 23 hectares have been offered as against 190 hectares of the mud flats—the remains of a much larger area. It would also require maintenance and annual dredging. The RSPB was told that, this was the largest area that CBDC could provide within the budget constraints. However, it is manifestly inadequate. It would not cater at all for turnstone, redshank or shelduck; only for some dunlin. If there is to be an alternative feeding ground it should be of approximately the same area as the area to be flooded, fully maintained and acceptable to the NCC.

The Committee should, on all this, see the report of the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, commissioned by the Welsh Office, which sets out the probable effect on birds comprehensively, impartially and scientifically. It makes clear that if the feeding grounds go the birds will not be able to move elsewhere. There will simply be fewer birds. If the SSSI is destroyed it is also conceivable that the Government might be found to be in breach of their obligations under the European Community birds directive. It would be sad if the Government were to be taken to court on this.

Thirdly, there is the question of water quality. Here I come to my proposed Instruction and perhaps I could explain to the House the reasons for this. It is simple. I was advised that the Committee can normally only consider matters that are contained in petitions or in Instructions from this House. There is no petition against the present Bill relating to water quality or to the movements of migratory fish. I believe that it is very important that the Committee should look at both those matters and that is the reason for my Instruction.

Water quality in the proposed inland lake is clearly of fundamental importance, especially to those who live alongside the estuary. Welsh Water petitioned to another place against the previous Bill. I believe that the Committee should look at that original petition carefully, especially paragraphs 10 to 17. 1 shall quote two short passages from that original petition. The first says: In the absence of knowledge or experience of the means by which these problems"— that is water quality problems— can be resolved in a scheme of this sort the Authority feels bound to express its doubts as to the feasibility of the scheme.". The second passage says: If, as the Authority fears may be the case, the Council or the Development Corporation, … are unable to achieve and maintain a satisfactory minimum standard of water quality throughout the inland freshwater lake … it is to be expected that there will be, not only unsightly algal growths, unpleasant smells, unsatisfactory water colour and turbidity, but also seriously deleterious effects on fish and other aquatic life and detriment to the recreational use of waters which it is the Authority's function to safeguard and encourage.". Welsh Water has decided not to petition to our House against this Bill but it has put out a long and detailed statement which I believe the Committee should look at carefully. Right at the beginning of that statement it says: there are still a number of outstanding issues we have to resolve, in particular we cannot agree to the Bill's twenty-year limitation on CBDC liability for the cost of any extra work needed to maintain adequate water quality.". From its statement Welsh Water appears to be satisfied on some issues, on the basis of tests that have been conducted, but not on others. Therefore it reserves its position and may petition to another place against the Bill if not satisfied.

The issues posed by Welsh Water are several. First, there is the question of water quality objectives. These are quite modest. They have presented a level of 5 milligrammes of dissolved oxygen per litre, which they say is adequate for aquatic life and to prevent bad smell, but not adequate for swimming, water skiing, sailboarding, canoeing and so forth. There is a health hazard if you fall in. It is not easy even to ensure this standard given the poor bacteriological quality of the Rivers Taff and Ely. To judge from its statement the problem is simply being handed over to environmental health officers.

Then there is the problem of how to meet any future higher Community or national water quality objectives and how these should be financed. We have seen recently with the question of nitrates where the Government were satisfied with the standards in this country but were overruled by Brussels. They had to agree to higher standards than they thought necessary. Conceivably, this might happen with inland waters. Who is going to pay if we are required to have higher standards than those laid down by Welsh Water?

There is also the question of oxygen. That seems to have been taken care of by the promoters in providing Vitox jets and mobile injection unit. But we need to know how many there will be and whether these will be enough. It sounds reasonably satisfactory, but I believe that it should be checked by the committee. There is the important question of algae. The lake is shallow (only about three metres deep) with sunshine pouring into it and with a great many nutrients coming down the rivers. Unfortunately, the conditions are almost ideal for all forms of algae. It will be substantially entrophic. According to Welsh Water, in summer there will be blooms of green and brown algae that will give the waters a highly-coloured, turbid appearance. They say that there are no easy remedial measures in existence. There is no solution proposed to this except possibly a partition barrage or the removal of nutrients if algae turn out to be an intractable problem. I understand that is technically possible but it will be enormously expensive. To remove the nutrients might cost £40 to £50 million. If it ultimately turns out to be necessary, will the citizens of Cardiff be prepared to pay this? Has anyone asked them?

Then there is a question of rubbish and debris. These rivers are coming from industrial areas such as Merthyr Tydfil and Pontypridd. This matter is to be dealt with by Water Witch devices. We need to know how many there will be and whether there will be enough. The problem will also be dealt with by a floating boom at Blackweir on the River Taff.

There is too the very serious problem of blue-green algae which, according to Welsh Water, may appear one year in three. They are not only unsightly but produce toxins. I believe it is thought that the inland lake may provide a recreational fishery for coarse fish. It is an enormous area and I am told that you may have up to 1 million fish in an area like that. But if the blue-green algae produce toxins that may kill the fish. The promoters say in that case they will restock. But it is impossible to find up to a million coarse fish in this country. There is nowhere that you can get them. It would be impossible. I am therefore quite sceptical about the future of a recreational coarse fishery. Moreover, a million dead fish—if that were to happen—would be exceedingly unpleasant for those living near the lake.

There is the problem of fixed algae—that is blanket weed or scum. I gather that it is to be harvested mechanically. I believe that the committee shall want to see if the measures are adequate to deal with that. The statement by Welsh Water says: Field trials to demonstrate the effectiveness of the 'Water Witch' and Onshore Marine Services vessels could not be arranged because of difficulties in finding sites with suitable access and algal growth.". Clearly, the methods should be thoroughly tested before we agree to them. According to Welsh Water there are no arrangements specified for the disposal of the algal material and rubbish. That is also something that should be looked into.

Welsh Water also says that there is a problem with midges because there are suitable conditions for large populations of non-biting midges. There are ways in which these can be controlled, but according to Welsh Water the midges might cause aesthetic nuisance and create health problems with respiratory allergies. Again it is left to environmental health officers to assess the risks. The statement concludes: If, notwithstanding these provisions, the public perception is that the quality of water in the inland lake is unsatisfactory, then the Authority, if faced with such criticism, can justifiably point to the Promoters and absolve itself from responsibility.". That is not very reassuring.

There is also the specific question of public health. I saw an article in the Press about statements made by the director of Cardiff's administrative and legal services, Mr. Moseley. He said: The corporation must give adequate consideration to the public health issue. Nevertheless the sewer diversion estimate does not appear to take account of the fact that the Taff and Ely rivers are heavily polluted—or that the lake will be fed not only by those polluted rivers but also by storm water, sewer outfalls which discharge foul sewerage. If Cardiff City Council is to be responsible for the management of the lake, it does not wish to inherit a liability.". I believe that should be looked at by the committee because it is an important aspect of the project.

It seems to me that the planners may have had a vision of waterfront flats, houses and offices looking out onto sparkling blue water. Welsh Water's statement makes it sadly clear that if a tidal-exclusion barrage is built it will not be like that, but will be a large expanse of greeny-brown water, often covered with algal scum, to fall into which will be a danger to health. When all is said and done, is it really more agreeable to look out onto a concrete dam and stagnant dirty water or to watch the ebb and flow of the tides and, in winter—something that really is unique a tremendous concentration of waders and wildfowl in the middle of a major European city.

If it is a question of raising land values, what about house prices in Chiswick Mall or Strand-on-the-Green where houses look out on to mudflats at low tide? I believe that the committee should look very carefully at all these water quality aspects, in the interests above all of the people of Cardiff. It should make sure that the water quality problems can and will be solved and the necessary finance provided now and in the years to come when the CBDC may no longer exist and local people and their councils may be left to pay the bill.

I have said nothing about the risks of flooding of homes from groundwater, highlighted in a recent technical study by Dr. Stuart Noake, because I have no special knowledge of that problem; and it is, I think, covered in the petitions. But it clearly needs to be considered carefully by the Select Committee since 12,000 homes are reported to be at risk.

My last question is covered in the second part of the Instruction and concerns migratory fish—salmon and sea trout, or sewin, as we call them in Wales. Welsh Water has put in substantial resources and has done notable work in restoring the runs of migratory fish in rivers previously ruined by 19th century pollution. There was a triumph the other day when the first salmon for 150 years was caught in the Afan. Welsh Water has done a great deal on the Taff and it now has a sizeable and increasing run of salmon and sewin. It is indeed now among the top ten salmon rivers of Wales. I understand that 250 salmon were caught there last year.

There is a question mark about the arrangements to enable fish to pass through the barrage. Welsh Water's recent statement says only that, considerable progress has been made, and not that the problems have been solved. The Select Committee should see the petition made to another place against the previous Bill by the Welsh Salmon and Trout Angling Association, South-East Wales Region. The fish pass proposed is a unique one. Will it work? Has MAFF approved the design? Will there still be a "signal" of Taff Water in the estuary to guide fish in when they home to their native river? Will they be able to make the sudden transition from salt to fresh water, and vice versa! Will fish congregating near the barrage be protected? If runs are diminished, we should require developers to take steps to restore stocks; or, if that should be impossible, fully to compensate those affected. What will happen if the fish pass does not work and all the runs are destroyed? That would be a tragedy for which nothing could compensate. We must do all we can to avoid that.

I hope that the Select Committee will be able to look carefully at all these important aspects and take evidence from the experts in each field and from those who may be affected. I hope too that it will report to the House in detail so that we and the people of Cardiff can see precisely what is involved both environmentally and financially. I hope too that the promoters will be flexible and imaginative. A tidal exclusion barrage is not the only solution. Alternatives should be carefully considered. Just before the debate started I had a very swift glance at the environmental study. On page 73 it mentions alternatives to the proposed barrage. The advisory unit did not conduct full environmental studies of them and says that these alternatives have not therefore, been subject to a full environmental assessment, although it appears that some alternatives would offer fewer environmental costs and more environmental benefits than the proposed scheme". The Committee should take note of that. For example, it has been put to me that there could be a salt water lake in summer, which might be much more pleasant, would do away with the algal and midge problems, and be far more useful for recreation; and in winter a reversion to a tidal regime with the mud flats available, as now, for the birds.

6.13 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Aberdare)

My Lords, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the merits of the Bill but I should like to express the hope that the House will give it a Second Reading. As I have explained on many occasions in the past, the Second Reading of a Private Bill, unlike that of a Public Bill, does not imply necessarily approval of the aims of the Bill, but it allows the Bill to be referred to a Select Committee which can conduct a full and thorough investigation.

If your Lordships give the Bill a Second Reading it will automatically be referred to an Opposed Select Committee of the House, since there are now no fewer than 15 petitions against the Bill. These cover a wide spectrum of objection and all these matters will be closely investigated by the Select Committee. In fact, I think I can predict, with some apprehension, that the Select Committee is likely to sit for several weeks and certainly longer than similar committees have sat for a very long time.

If the Bill is given a Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Moran, will move his Instruction. Again, I have no comments to make on the merits of it but I can say that it is an appropriate one in procedural terms. As the noble Lord has explained, it deals with some matters—principally water quality and the migration of fish—which are not directly covered by any of the petitions against the Bill and therefore would best be considered by a Select Committee. The Instruction will require the Select Committee to make a special report to the House on its consideration both of the Bill and of the Instruction. This report will be debatable by your Lordships when it returns to the House on Third Reading.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Craigton

My Lords, one major question is this: how important is the barrage to the development of the area? Perhaps I may tell the House what Barry Lane, Chief Executive of Cardiff Development Corporation, has to say on pages 10 and 11 of his article in Comment 89 produced by Frank Knight & Rutley. He says: Today, a visitor to Cardiff docklands will sense once again that there is change and increasing vitality: fine old buildings are being cleaned and reoccupied; there is a bustle in the streets and a need for new car parks; restaurants are opening where a table has to be booked for lunch; the frequency of local trains and buses is being increased; families visit the area to look at new developments or to try their hands in a new and innovative science centre. Look beyond these obvious signals of new life—to real proof of confidence—and you find new jobs in docklands, led with conviction by the County Council's move into the heart of the area, and to new housing in areas where there was before only dereliction. South Cardiff and Cardiff Bay are moving surely into a new age of confidence and opportunity". The article goes on to say: Underlying the Corporation's strategy for regeneration is the development of a superb maritime environment by the creation, behind a barrage, of a freshwater lake of some 200 hectares, with the possibility of some twelve kilometres of waterfront for development and pleasure". The article continues: Because the lake will cover a feeding ground for wading birds—one of many along the Severn Estuary—the Corporation is to pioneer the construction nearby of a lagoon suitable for such birds". Mr. Barry Lane does not say that the proposed Wentlog lagoon is one-eighth of the size of the area to be taken. I was told that it is one-quarter. But if it is to be acceptable as a compromise we should insist that it is finished and has the natural feeding required before the present water is destroyed.

Two further steps must be taken before approval. Liverpool University is preparing an impact assessment. We should like the Committee to report on that. I do not know whether it is in the Library; if it is, nobody has told me. Secondly, I ask the Minister to assure us that he will provide the development corporation with funds to pay for a cost benefit analysis, which we must also see. Furthermore, we must ask that both these studies—certainly the cost benefit analysis—should include not only comments on the grave dangers of flooding, which have been well written up in many publications, but also a forecast of the result of the greenhouse effect and the consequent permanent rise in sea level, now projected to be between one-third of a metre and one-and-a-half metres during the life of the project.

Should we be embarking on this project in these uncertain times? As the noble Lord, Lord Moran, said, we shall be in breach of our international obligations under the European Commission directive on birds. We shall have destroyed yet another SSSI; and Cardiff, as the chief executive of the development corporation says, is doing very nicely without it.

6.20 p.m.

Lord Ross of Newport

My Lords, perhaps I should start by declaring an interest in that I have the honour to be chairman of an organisation known as Wildlife Link. It is a small umbrella organisation the membership of which includes almost all the large and small bodies involved in environmental issues; for example, the RSPB, the Worldwide Fund for Nature, the Royal Society for Nature Conservation, CPRE, the National Trust, and many others including the Zoological Society. I must say that I happen to be a very poor successor to the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, who has moved on to greater things with Greenpeace.

On this occasion I do not claim to speak for all those organisations. However, I know that I speak for many of them when I say that we regard the construction of the barrage with much concern. Indeed, that has already been expressed by the two previous speakers. But that does not for one minute mean that we are in any way opposed to the further development of Cardiff, although I confess to being pretty envious of the magnificent facilities which are already possessed by the city and which were outlined to us so clearly by the mover of the Motion. I must say, what a marvellous position to be in to be the leader of one's own county council and able to move such a Motion here in your Lordships' House. As a former leader of a very small county council, I must say that I wish I had had that opportunity.

I share the concern expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Moran, in a virtual tour de force. Indeed, I congratulate him upon it. What concerns those of us who are epecially interested in bird life is that the barrage across the mouth of the Taff/Ely estuary will surely adversely affect the feeding ground of some 8,000 to 10,000 waders, such as, shelduck, redshank, knot and dunlin which regularly feed in the bay during the winter months.

I am informed that currently out of about 130 estuaries in the United Kingdom there are no less than 48 which are the subject of some sort of development proposals, mostly involving marinas. That is a staggering figure. Indeed, I know that in my own part of the world—where goodness knows if Cowes is supposed to be the Mecca of yachting, improvement in our facilities is desperately needed—we have at least five marina schemes around the Isle of Wight alone. However, just where all the people who will occupy and use these marinas are coming from and how they will be able to afford the boats that will go into them, or live in the houses which will surround them, is beyond me. I just do not know. But I suspect that many such schemes are too elaborate and may well prove too costly in the end to succeed. However, that remains to be seen and, of course, it is up to the developers to decide where they put their money.

I suggest that Clause 39 of the Bill, which briefly refers to some consultation with the NCC as to the future well-being of bird life, flora and fauna, is totally inadequate; it makes absolutely no commitments. Nor is Clause 54, which refers to "undertakers" endeavouring, to develop 'the' lagoon as a natural habitat for wading birds". in any way reassuring.

I gather that one of the requests which I proposed to put to the noble Lord, Lord Brooks, has already been met in that the environment impact assessment is now available for public inspection. I congratulate and thank him for that fact. However, I must also request that the Minister—and I hope that someone will be reporting to the Department of the Environment as this matter has already been raised—ensures that the department's attention is drawn to the Bill at this stage and that we receive a confirmation from the Government that they will uphold their obligations under the European Community wild birds directive; namely, to protect the estuary from any developments which could damage the inter-tidal feeding area. If we can at least achieve that, then God bless the Bill and perhaps we can make some progress. I sincerely seek those assurances and hope that the committee will take them very much into account when it sits and listens to the petitions.

6.24 p.m.

Baroness White

My Lords, in the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, I think it falls to me to continue the debate. I should like first to pay a warm tribute to my noble friend Lord Brooks of Tremorfa. He and his colleagues, especially those on the South Glamorgan County Council, have put a tremendous amount of personal time and effort into the Cardiff Bay development scheme as a whole. They are endeavouring to do the best possible for the future of our capital city and in most respects I think they have so far been marvellously successful. Indeed, one can certainly wish them even greater success in the future. We are very much indebted to them.

I think it is only fair to pay tribute also to the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, for the strong support which he gave to the redevelopment of Cardiff when he held the office of Secretary of State for Wales. Indeed, I shall be most interested to hear his contribution to the debate. Having said that, I should declare a modest interest in so far as I am a ratepayer in the Riverside district of Cardiff, where I have a small flat, which is situated five minutes away from the station!

As a resident of Cardiff I may have a direct concern with the disputed problem of the level of the water table, which has been very much in the local press over the past few days. I do not have the technical knowledge to judge between the conflicting opinions of the experts concerned, but I have been in touch with those who have expertise, who tell me that the analysis by the private consultant is undoubtedly more sophisticated than that of the consulting engineers engaged by the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation. However, whether that opinion in itself is conclusive, I am in no position to judge and I am content to leave the matter for further discussion by the experts.

My main reason for briefly intervening this afternoon is to support in particular the first part of the Motion so ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Moran. I think that we can all agree that he gave a very fine exposition of his case. I shall not repeat the arguments which he has already used. In any case, so far as concerns the migratory fish, I am in no position to speak with any authority, whereas I know that the noble Lord is extremely knowledgeable on the subject.

My concern is, and has been all along, with the problem of the water quality of the inland lake. If that were no problem I could support the scheme. I could not do so unreservedly, because I should certainly be concerned about the potential damage to bird life and I would also be concerned by what might prove to be the necessity of doing away with, or completely devaluing, a site of scientific interest. Nevertheless, I would certainly support the scheme.

However, I cannot overcome my strong doubts about the likely physical state of the inland lake. If one takes that aspect, together with the very high degree of expenditure involved in first securing, and even more, in maintaining for perpetuity an acceptable water standard at all times and in all seasons, then one's doubts require some reassurance.

A few weeks ago, at a special meeting of Cardiff City Council, Councillor Ron Watkins, for whom I have a sincere regard as a civic leader—in spite of his Conservative politics—said that, Without the barrage Cardiff would have Fourth instead of First Division redevelopment"— I think he was talking about the wrong type of football, but we can overlook that.

I could not possibly subscribe to the proposal. The docklands development as a whole is most acceptable and desirable; there is nothing Fourth Division about it. Moreover, I was delighted for the first time to visit the new South Glamorgan county hall last week and was greatly impressed by the excellent facilities provided there. However, the barrage is another matter. I know the marketing arguments and I do not propose to deploy them here today.

I ask myself whether the expanse of water behind that extremely expensive barrage will ever be first-class. I find it hard to believe that it will be, at any rate within the proposed life span of the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation. I cannot speak for the more distant future because, as the noble Lord, Lord Moran, said, a few years ago no one would have thought that a single salmon could have survived in the River Taff. That they can now do so is nothing short of a miracle.

It is only too true to say that in the developers' imagination, and perhaps that of some other people, it will be a picturesque lake of blue water, as described by the noble Lord, Lord Moran; but all the scientific evidence appears to be against that. I have not had a chance to study the environmental impact assessment studies but I have seen the notes from the Welsh Water Authority which became available only within the past few days. As far as one can judge, it is likely that the water in most summers will be, as the noble Lord, Lord Moran, described, turbid and discoloured with masses of assorted algal growth, which will need constantly to be cleared. During the occasional very dry season—the 1976 and 1984 seasons, for example, which may well be repeated—it could have an unpleasant smell.

At a great cost in cash and effort the water can be oxygenated; the algal growth can be mechanically harvested, some of it with the kind of equipment that one uses to clear oil spills; the swarms of midges may be diverted to special lighthouse lamps, and so on. However, one must ask oneself whether it will be the kind of fresh water lake that people want. Is it truly the best investment, as it no doubt at first seemed, for such a large sum of money?

I give credit to the promoters for their pertinacity, but when thinking of this proposal I was reminded of a remark I heard in my younger days, when I did some modest climbing in the Swiss Alps, "You can pull a cow up the Matterhorn if you are prepared to pay enough guides, but is it worth it?" There is no doubt that one can clear the algae, divert the midges and do all those other things if one is prepared to spend vast sums of money; but one must ask oneself whether it is worth it.

There are also the potential health hazards referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Moran, and in the proposed Instruction to the Select Committee. Everyone has known for some time that people will not be allowed to swim in the lake. It is also clear to most of us that one would be ill-advised to fall into it. I shall say no more except to endorse the view of the noble Lord, Lord Moran, that it is most desirable that the issue of water quality should be considered by the appropriate committee of the House.

6.34 p.m.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, I have been in Cardiff only twice in my life, and so I cannot speak authoritatively about Cardiff. However, I can speak a little about the wildlife, especially the waders. That is my only reason for speaking on this subject. I cannot see why this cannot be a salt water lake, in which case one would not have the algae or the danger of filth and stagnation. Provided there were not too many human beings around one would keep a large number of waders. If one has a fresh water lake, which appears to be the plan I do not know how deep it will be—presumably it will be far too deep for waders. Even if it were shallow, they would not obtain the food that they would get from salt water.

The majority of waders are small birds. There are duck, chiefly shelduck. Even if there were a small artifical preserve for waders I do not believe that they would make use of it. They would try to find some other part of the country not too far away, but they would have to compete with the waders already there. The plan could be disastrous for the wildlife. So far as I am aware, this will be the first time that Her Majesty's Government have overriden an SSSI.

Presumably Cardiff needs a great deal of redevelopment, but must they destroy the bird life in order to have that development? It is a large price to pay, but apparently money is everything today. We have given up our old ideas. Money is almost akin to God. The scheme is for a large fresh water lake; but it will not be fresh water for long. It will be filthy water. I hope that the various firms and investors who are to construct all the new buildings will find some other way to develop the area; but if they are going to redevelop Cardiff presumably there will not be another way.

The Select Committee will obviously consider the matter extremely carefully. It will have all the experts speaking on the various petitions. I hope that it is successful and that the bird life will not be destroyed. We have heard that there are 10,000 birds there. As I said, I have no knowledge of what the development will be. It may not be as profitable as some people believe it will be.

6.38 p.m.

Lord Davies of Penrhys

My Lords, in support of the Bill I wish to speak on the single issue of its likely impact on the valley communities to the North. It is a well known fact that there has always been a kind of jealousy in the valleys because the historical prosperity of Cardiff was created largely by the export of coal mined in those valleys. There is still some coal left, but unfortunately there are few miners left to mine it.

It has long been recognised that what is good for Cardiff is in turn good for the valleys. As the regional centre, Cardiff's job opportunities far exceed its population. Every day thousands of people from the valleys travel to work in Cardiff. One only has to travel by train from Cardiff in the evening, from about half past four until half past six or seven, to see the hordes of people on Cardiff Central station and Queen Street station, waiting for the trains to take them home.

For every four new jobs created in Cardiff, one job goes now to a resident of the valleys. His or her pay packet is taken home and spent in the valleys. The building of the barrage will create further exciting job opportunities which will lead to a growth in the prosperity of the whole region. We should be foolish to think that those employers who will be attracted to the waterside setting in Cardiff Bay would ever think of coming to the valleys instead, if the barrage were not built. I want the valley communities to share in whatever developments are proposed for the region. It is for that reason that I support the Bill.

6.40 p.m.

Lord Crickhowell

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard said that he hoped experts would appear before the committee. I am sure it is right that it is in the committee that many of the points which have been raised in this debate should be answered in detail. However, on behalf of the promoters, I shall attempt to respond to at least some of the points raised by noble Lords.

At the outset I must declare a double interest—both as an originator of the scheme and now as a director of Associated British Ports, the major private landowner in the area and the operator of Cardiff docks. My involvement with ABP arose directly from my wish to play a part in the private sector in carrying forward this project which I launched as Secretary of State for Wales.

The noble Lord, Lord Brooks of Tremorfa, spoke with knowledge and love of the city which he has served for so long. He knows with particular intimacy the effect that well over half a century of industrial decline has had upon the people whom he represents and upon the people of the valleys of South Wales as a whole. If I dare to speak of those matters, it is because I was Secretary of State for Wales at a particularly difficult moment of industrial change. It is also because—and this is a matter of some pride and pleasure—as a result of a series of measures of which this is one, Wales began to emerge into a new era of hope and growing prosperity before I left office. Perhaps I might say to my noble friend Lord Craigton that if today we can paint an optimistic picture of what is going on in the city, it is because a great deal of action of this kind has been taken and not least because of the expectation that has been aroused by the announcement of the great scheme.

The story of the Bill begins one day when Michael Roberts, a Cardiff MP himself who was soon after tragically to die beside me at the Dispatch Box in the House of Commons, accompanied me on a visit to the vast industrial wasteland of South Cardiff, lying between the railway and the sea, to the still active and very important docks and to the communities that live and work in the area. We came away from that visit determined on action. In the Welsh Office we used the instrument of urban development grant to make possible the Holiday Inn project just north of the railway, to which the noble Lord, Lord Brooks, referred and the redevelopment by Tarmac now taking place alongside the Bute East Dock.

That first great cooperative effort between a private developer, the South Glamorgan County Council, the Cardiff City Council and the Government was not achieved without a great deal of difficulty. The scheme itself has its shortcomings, but it was important for three reasons. It was the first demonstration of that shared sense of purpose that united people and institutions of very different character and political beliefs, to achieve a great objective. It is not a very usual event in modern British politics but noble Lords should note that all the local authorities, despite their political differences, are united behind the scheme.

That first project proved also that it was possible by partnership between the public and private sectors successfully to launch a major development project in the area. It showed quite clearly that if we were to make progress on the scale and with the speed that was necessary, we needed new tools. The traditional techniques would not be enough. At that point, two modest but very imaginative civil servants seeking to respond to my demand for suggestions for a major initiative, made a proposal that was to lead us down the road to this Bill. Their names deserve to be recorded. Freddy Watson and Geoff Hoad made the suggestion that as a way to clear this desert of industrial dereliction and to make effective use of Cardiff's position by the sea, a barrage might be the answer.

We did not jump to conclusions, we did not enter on the project inadvisedly or lightly. We decided first to ask Jones, Lang, Wootton to carry out a major study. During the course of the year that followed, they, and my team and I at the Welsh Office, consulted a very wide range of expert opinion on both sides of the Atlantic. I went to inspect some of the best examples of maritime development in the United States—places like Baltimore and Boston. The response of those whom we consulted was very positive. It was only then that we decided to set up the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation and to proceed with the detailed studies for the construction of the barrage. I announced the decision in Cardiff on 5th December 1986.

With the corporation established, there then began a further period of immensely painstaking research and preparation by the development corporation. I emphasise the thoroughness of these preliminaries because some people have suggested, and it was implicit in some of the remarks made in the House this evening, that the whole thing is the outcome of a fashionable whim to build barrages. Incidentally, we are not taking a decision about all the other barrages that are proposed but considering a particular barrage and a particular proposal at Cardiff.

It has also been suggested that perhaps it was the desire of a few relatively fortunate people to live in a waterside environment that influenced us. None of these suggestions is true. We received overwhelming evidence that although it would be possible to get significant redevelopment under way in South Cardiff, as we had already proved with the Bute dock project, the construction of a barrage would make possible something on a altogether greater scale. I quote from the Jones, Lang, Wootton report which says that, the building of the barrage is crucial, to unlock major development possibilities". The report makes it clear that the positive response that they received, would not have been given without the proposal for the barrage". Following that study, the development corporation itself carried out an economic appraisal, asked for by my noble friend Lord Craigton. I am sure that it will be supplied to the Committee. Since leaving the Government and becoming involved in private sector development I find that all the evidence I have received confirms the conclusion reached by Jones, Lang, Wootton. I see a very great deal of the development planning that has been undertaken in the past year and all of it is based on the assumption that the barrage will be built. If it is not, then much more modest plans will have to be prepared.

We have a choice. We can proceed with relatively modest, bit by bit development, or we can do something altogether more important. We can build in South Cardiff something of the highest quality which will not only be worthy of the splendid city built by our forebears around the castle and Cathays Park in the period of prosperity and confidence but will attract investment from around the world and make an immense contribution to the whole economy of South Wales and to the social condition of its people.

This is not just a project for Cardiff. How I welcomed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Penrhys. He really knows what this is all about. The modern city came into being as an outlet for the coal from the industrial valleys. It remains dependent on those valleys today for its health and vigour, and they depend on the city. The railways that once brought coal now take people backwards and forwards. There is a fast improving network of roads. A very high proportion of those who shop and work within Cardiff come from the Vale of Glamorgan and the valleys.

The new industries that come to areas much further west, to Bridgend and beyond and to the heads of the valleys, all take account of the facilities and resources that are available in the capital city. All the experience around the world tells the same story. If a city prospers, so does its hinterland. Perhaps an even more relevant example than that provided by London and the South-East of England is the remarkable transformation of the economy of Massachusetts and the neighbouring areas which has taken place over the past 30 years because of the influence of the universities and financial institutions of Boston.

Cardiff has a population of around 300,000, but it depends on and helps to feed a population of closer to 1-75 million. It was because of this vital interdependence that I took such care to launch the Cardiff scheme as just one part of a range of initiatives for the whole area, and to announce it at a seminar on urban renewal organised by the Welsh Development Agency. At about the same time 1 took the decision that Ebbw Vale would host the National Garden Festival as a spur for the improvement to the whole South Wales valleys area.

Earlier in March 1986 I launched the first stage of the valleys initiative which aimed to bring about a substantial and visible improvement in the valley communities. That initiative has been subsequently built on and enlarged by my successor. The results that are beginning to emerge today are the outcome not just of a year's efforts but of an initiative that goes back three whole years. This Bill is part of a concerted package of measures. When therefore supporters of the Bill talk of economic and social benefits they do so convinced that those benefits will flow to the whole region. They are acutely conscious that no region in Britain has suffered more from the decline of old industries or has a greater need for measures to mend and heal.

Criticisms of the proposal have been almost entirely based on environmental arguments. That has been the case in this House tonight. Before I deal with them, I shall take the opportunity to tell the House that the petition from Associated British Ports has not been lodged because the company is opposed to the principle of the scheme. On the contrary, it is committed to the regeneration of Cardiff Bay. It warmly welcomes the creation of the development corporation and enthusiastically supports the construction of the barrage. ABP is prepared to back with enthusiasm an active participation on a large scale.

The petition was lodged solely to protect the company's position on important matters of detail concerning ownership of the wetlands that lie beneath the surface of the bay and its jurisdiction as a statutory harbour authority. Discussions are continuing to see whether solutions can be arrived at which will mean that your Lordships need not be troubled in Committee with these matters. It is certainly the company's hope and expectation that a mutually acceptable solution can be found so that the petition can be withdrawn before the Committee stage begins.

I turn now to the environmental objections. From the start those of us involved with the project have taken them very seriously. Before announcing our decision to proceed I consulted the Nature Conservancy Council. I had a study carried out, which has been referred to by the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology. In my speech in December 1986 I announced that there would be an examination of ways in which the loss of feeding grounds might be minimised. I do not think anyone has ever suggested that one could wholly compensate for the loss of those grounds.

The outcome of the studies that resulted from that commitment is the section of the Bill which provides for the construction of a lagoon and its management in order to develop a natural habitat for wading birds as a feeding ground and as a nature reserve. The Bill also provides for ongoing consultation with the Nature Conservancy Council.

I met the chairman of the council a week or so ago. He confirmed that at my meeting with him in 1986 when I first discussed the scheme, he naturally expressed concern about the impact on the existing SSSI and on the waders that feed on the mud flats. But he also recognised that there could be substantial offsetting environmental benefits and that the nature conservancy issues had to be considered in the context of the very great benefits for the people of the area. He told me at our recent meeting that he particularly recognised and took account of the employment considerations. That seems to me to be a constructive and responsible approach.

It is right and proper that due weight should be given to the consequences for those wading birds in the Severn Estuary that feed on the Cardiff mud flats. But it is also right and proper that due weight should be given to the potential benefits to the human beings who will be affected. Given the choice between the possible loss of some waders and the huge gains in terms of living conditions, employment prospects and economic health of hundreds of thousands of people in a region that has suffered for too long, I come down on the side of the human beings.

However, 1 am by no means clear that the choice is as stark as that. I hope that the proposed lagoon will provide some alternative feeding grounds for the small proportion of wading birds in the Severn Estuary which at present feed in Cardiff Bay. But in any case we can be absolutely certain that there will be considerable scope for creating extensive habitats for other birdlife, and that to bring back into use the vast derelict area of South Cardiff, apart from itself providing an enormously improved environment with varying habitats, will very much ease the pressure which exists to develop land in the Vale of Glamorgan and the green belt around Cardiff.

I must tell noble Lords that in purely environmental terms the arguments are by no means one-sided. That point has been clearly understood by organisations such as Cardiff 2000, the local civic society, which has welcomed the project. The society said the project would: vastly increase the amenity of South Cardiff". There is no question of the developers making money at the expense of the quality of life of others, as the noble Lord, Lord Moran, suggested. This project is concerned with greatly improving the quality of life of many thousands of people. The noble Lord, Lord Moran, also referred to the RAMSAR Convention and to the EC birds directive. I have no doubt that those matters will be thoroughly pursued in Committee.

Special protection areas under the birds directive are designated by the Secretary of State for the Environment on the advice of the Nature Conservancy Council. Member states may take account of economic and recreational requirements in deciding whether an SPA may be created. Whether a particular development within an SPA may be permitted is dependent upon the judgment of whether such a development would have a significant effect on the prospects for the survival and reproduction of a species. That is one question for detailed examination in Committee.

I have checked my facts by looking at the records of meetings and when I was a Member of Her Majesty's Government it was the Government's view that the interests of the birds had also to be weighed against the economic and social case for the development. I imagine that that is still the Government's view. That does not seem to me to be very far removed from the responsible opinion of Sir William Wilkinson, to which I referred, that unemployment was a factor that the NCC and the Government were bound to take into account.

The noble Lord, Lord Moran, and the noble Baroness, Lady White, expressed concern about water quality in the bay. That again is a matter which should very properly be examined thoroughly in Committee. I should be the first to insist on the highest possible standards. The Bill has been drafted to meet the requirements of the Welsh Water Authority which has, with Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, carried out intensive studies. As the noble Lord, Lord Moran, quoted from the Welsh Water Authority's previous petition, one might have been tempted to forget that it has not petitioned on this occasion following those studies and following the changes that have been made in this version of the Bill. It is right that such matters should be looked at. The noble Lord's Instruction is perfectly reasonable and the promoters of the Bill accept it.

There are perhaps some guides that may incline some of us to be sceptical about some of the more alarming visions that were conjured up for the House tonight. We were asked to imagine a million dead fish lying at the water's edge, and other horrible events. It is worth recording that the Bute Dock, which is at present filled from exactly the same source and which is rather more stagnant than the water in the bay is likely to be because the flows through it are less than the flows through the bay will be, does not present the horrific picture that was suggested in the House tonight. I am told that last week from the offices of South Glamorgan County Council two cormorants could be observed fishing in the waters of the dock. That may not be conclusive evidence. However, it is an interesting thought that that is a large sheet of water, charged from exactly the same river sources and, I imagine, in much the same condition as the water within the bay will be.

It was suggested that it would have been preferable to create a salt water lake. That was a matter which was considered by the development corporation. It was attracted by the idea. It has been encouraged tonight to take expert opinion. It has took advice from those with probably the greatest experience in such matters of anyone in the world, the Dutch. The advice it received from Holland was very firm indeed: it should reject the option of a salt water lake. No doubt that is also a matter which can be explored in Committee.

We were told that the water would not be suitable for swimming. No one has suggested that it would be. The noble Lord, Lord Moran, expressed alarm that people might fall into it. Later in his speech he referred to the attractions of Chiswick Mall. It so happens that for a large part of my life I lived in Chiswick Mall. I spent a great deal of my youth falling into the River Thames from rowing boats and sailing boats. If the noble Lord imagines that the condition of the Thames in the 1940s and 1950s was any worse than the condition of the bay is likely to be, I ask him to take my word for it that that is an improbable scenario.

I have only one other point to make concerning the condition of the bay. Anxiety was expressed about future funding. I do not believe—and this is also the view of very responsible and experienced people in the development field—that it will be beyond the wit of man for the development corporation to come to an agreement with landowners and developers around the bay which will make possible the funding of the future management of the bay. One has only to think of many property developments in which ongoing funding arrangements are made to realise that such funding is perfectly practicable.

Concern has also been expressed about the effect of the barrage on the water-table and on low-lying property. It is that rather than the anxieties of the RSPB that primarily concerns those local people who have doubts or real fears about the scheme. Again, that is a matter which should properly be examined in Committee and which has already been the subject of detailed inquiry.

The county councillor who perhaps has the greatest interest in getting at the truth, being a member of the development corporation living in the area and seeing and having to answer to the people who will be most affected every day of his life, told me only last week that he had been satisfied by the studies. He felt that he could stand up and meet his constituents with absolute confidence. However, it is right that such matters should be examined.

Clause 12 is a lengthy clause designed to provide safeguards. Noble Lords should understand that, as is so often the case with environmental matters, the choices are not absolutely straightforward. At present it would appear that unless remedial action is taken the building of the barrage may cause some problems for properties in the waterside area. Provision is made for that.

My noble friend Lord Craigton raised an interesting question. He asked about the effect of the ozone layer. It so happens that in my role of chairman of the National Rivers Authority Advisory Committee I recently received a detailed brief prepared by engineering consultants on the possible effects of the depletion of the ozone layer and the tilting continental shelf on flood defence schemes around the country. In the course of that general report the engineers commented that the Cardiff barrage might well save many millions of pounds of expenditure that would otherwise be required over the next 20 or 30 years in order to prevent flooding. Far from increasing the flood risk it may well be that the construction of the Cardiff barrage will safeguard Cardiff in the years ahead.

Reference has also been made to a recent study suggesting that as many as 12,000 properties may be at risk. I think that the implication of some of the press reports is that flooding—free water above the land surface—may occur and affect all the houses in the waterside areas. The model that was used by the development corporation was that recommended by the British Geological Survey which is used to assess the general behaviour of the water-bearing strata. Anyone who knows anything about such matters will know that modelling techniques are uncertain and that all kinds of qualifications must be made about them. In fact, despite the press conference, there is very little difference between the Noake report and the studies already carried out by the development corporation. There is a need to review the conclusions of the studies following completion of a full year's monitoring of ground water records. That point was made both by Dr. Noake and by Wallace Evans and Partners in their stage II report in May 1988.

It is also worth noting that the somewhat alarmist scenario is based on an assumption made in the Noake report that, if a tolerance of one metre on top of the predicted water level, coupled with a further estimated one metre rise as a result of intense rainfall were considered, the results could be quite different from those predicted. I suspect that if we had rainfall of that order at the present time we might get some pretty unexpected results. But the important point is that the rise predicted in the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation study also includes an allowance for both average and intense rainfall and a tolerance is already included within the assessment of the properties that might be affected by a rise in ground water. Over many years I have learnt to be wary when rival experts start to provide their expertise and we shall have an interesting time in Committee. But I do not think that we should send this Bill to Committee on the assumption that these matters have been treated lightly by the development corporation to date.

We live in a complex world. There are seldom straightforward answers to man's problems. It is Parliament's job to weigh carefully all the competing considerations and to provide protection so far as is possible against the adverse consequences of any proposed action. But Parliament must also try to identify the greatest good and the wider benefits both for man and for the environment in which he lives. We all want to make a contribution of that kind. However, I do not believe there is anything that I have been able to do, or am likely to be able to do in my future public life, that will make a greater contribution to that wider public good than my part in this Bill, unless it might be with colleagues in the National Rivers Authority to remove pollution from our rivers. At least that would please the noble Lord, Lord Moran!

I urge the House to recognise the huge benefits that the Bill provides and the great contribution that it can make to the economic, social and environmental regeneration of Cardiff, Penarth and the whole of South Wales.

7.12 p.m.

Lord Prys-Davies

My Lords, at the outset I must make it clear that, although I speak from the Dispatch Box, I do so in a personal capacity. This is a Private Bill and it would not be appropriate for me to voice or attempt to voice an official Opposition assessment of its merits.

The House is grateful to my noble friend Lord Brooks of Tremorfa for his clear explanation of the main purpose of the Bill. We have been told that the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, with the support of South Glamorgan County Council, is engaged in the regeneration of the rundown dockland area which once helped to create the modern city of Cardiff. The project was inspired by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, when he was Secretary of State for Wales. We are grateful to the noble Lord for the history of the idea of the regeneration of the dockland in Cardiff and for the insight that he has given into the translation of the idea into a plan.

The corporation has developed an imaginative strategy which, as I understand it, could create some 30,000 additional jobs in modern industry within its designated area over a period of 10 years or more and the construction of about 6,000 new houses. It has described its plan as being potentially the single most important economic opportunity for South Wales in this century, benefiting the economy of South Wales as a whole. That aim would be endorsed by my noble friend Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones and all the Members who sit behind me on these Benches.

The corporation sees the barrage from Alexandra Dock to Penarth Road—a distance of 1,200 metres and enclosing a lake—-as the centrepiece of the Cardiff Bay development because the lake will create an attractive setting which will attract development of quality and scale into the bay. The barrage across the mouth of the Taff-Ely estuary will create that setting. That is the corporation's judgment.

Although the idea of the barrage has many supporters in South Wales, there are nevertheless 15 petitions against the Bill or its provisions. No public authority has lodged a petition, but I note that two authorities—Cardiff City Council and Welsh Water—have reserved, in reliance on undertakings, the right to submit a petition. I understand that Mid-Glamorgan County Council has made no policy stand on the barrage issue itself, but holds a view on the Cardiff Bay strategy. The corporation will have received an encouraging message from my noble friend Lord Davies of Penrhys this evening because he lives in the Rhondda Valley; his roots are in the Rhondda Valley and he welcomes this development believing that it will have a spin-off for the whole of Mid-Glamorgan.

I believe that I can best help the committee, which I trust your Lordships' House will set up, by summarising the objections to the Bill. I believe that they can be brought under four main headings. But, as normally happens, you have a main heading, then you examine the main heading and that leads to a range of other questions. First, many of the people living in the area adjoining the bay are deeply concerned that the raising of the local water table which will be caused by the permanent high water of the lake will result in dampness penetrating the foundations and basements of their homes. A house is only as good as its foundations. My noble friend Lady White has drawn attention to the problem.

The promoters of the Bill accept that some 1,375 houses will be affected—that is not an insignificant figure—while some objectors claim that 11,000 houses will be affected. That conflict of evidence suggests to me, as a layman, that there is a great deal of uncertainty about the impact of the barrage on groundwater behaviour. In my view, that may well prove to be one of the critical issues that the committee will have to examine carefully.

If the committee recommends that the barrage is to be authorised, then it will be necessary for the committee to probe and test the adequacy and fairness of Clause 12 of the Bill. That is the clause which sets out the obligation of the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation to carry out remedial works to damaged properties. I note that it is claimed by objectors that the clause is inadequate in at least seven respects. Clearly Clause 12 has to be tested.

I move now to the second objection. Residents in the Cardiff inner city area are highly conscious of the floods of 1960 and 1979 which caused great damage to homes and businesses in the inner city area. They are understandably worried that heavy rain in combination with a barrage and the raising of the local water level will increase the flooding risks. If it is established by the committee that the flooding risk will be increased, then it will be necessary to consider whether the preventive measures built into the scheme are adequate or whether additional preventive measures must be built into the design of the barrage.

Thirdly, objectors are concerned that the pounded back freshwater lake will suffer from stagnation, pollution and oxygenation problems. The fear must be that unless there is constant oxygenatic activity of the lake during the warm weather of spring, summer and autumn, this impounded lake which is to be a great attraction in Cardiff Bay—will become a brown or blue-green algae drenched pond of pollution with "unpleasant smell and damaging to fish and other acquatic life". I quote from one of the petitions. The people from Cardiff can draw some consolation on this objection because the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation itself sees the solution of the water quality problem as being essential for the barrage scheme to go ahead. After all, it does not want a polluted lake on its doorstep.

Fourthly, the barrage will change the face of the estuary. I am not sure for how long the present scene has been part of the Cardiff landscape. I do not know whether it goes back to the days of the Romans. However, the mud flats—and they cover about 165 hectares—which are seen at low tides are described by the corporation as being unsightly and therefore unattractive to a developer. So far as I know it has not been claimed that they are also foul smelling. The mud flats—and this is the real objective of the scheme—are to disappear under the waters of the lake. It will be their cartre' gwaelod The mud flats have been, and are, the intertidal feeding grounds for wild fowl and for wintering and wading birds. I am told that this affects some 8,000 to 10,000 birds which are feeding on these grounds. In particular we find the dunlin and the redshank. I am not sure whether they were there in the days of the Romans. That is why the mud flats were designated in 1980 as a site of special scientific interest.

How will the corporation compensate for the loss of the SSSI and of the feeding grounds? Of course the corporation has taken note of this objection. It proposes to create a new but smaller feeding ground. Will the smaller feeding ground be a suitable alternative feeding ground? Will the corporation wholly compensate for the loss of the feeding ground? If it is necessary that a barrage be constructed across the mouth of the Taff and the Ely, would not a smaller barrage meet the need of the developers for an attractive water environment for modern industry and at the same time meet the need to protect the mud flats as a site of special scientific interest? It is an idea canvassed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

I have asked some of the more important questions that come to mind after perusing the objections to the Bill, but I accept that those questions can lead to a range of other specific questions.

The noble Lord, Lord Moran, has moved an Instruction. In the light of the advice that has been tendered to the House by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, I hope that the House will support the noble Lord, Lord Moran, as the question of possible risk to public health by poor water quality in the inland lake and the impact of the barrage on the migration of fish are not directly canvassed in the petitions. The committee would then be in a position to make a full investigation of the merits of the Bill, and of the petitions.

7.26 p.m.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, it may be helpful if I give the House a brief summary of the Government's attitude to this Bill. I should declare at the outset that the Government have a substantial interest in its objectives.

The joint promoters of the Bill are South Glamorgan County Council and the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation. It is the intention that the cost of building the barrage will be met by the development corporation with the assistance of a grant in aid provided by the Welsh Office. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales is therefore directly interested in the proposal.

Initial studies into the proposal for a barrage across Cardiff Bay were put in train, as your Lordships have heard, by the Welsh Office in 1985. It was of course the time when my noble friend Lord Crickhowell was the Secretary of State for Wales. As he has told noble Lords, he took a particular and personal interest in this matter. Since that time wide-ranging and detailed expert studies of the economic, technical and environmental issues involved have been undertaken.

Perhaps I may intervene in response to the point made by my noble friend Lord Craigton. The points that he raises are for the promotors and for the noble Lord, Lord Brooks. However, I can assure my noble friend that all the necessary studies have been undertaken to enable a decision to be made. Copies of all the reports, including the Liverpool University environmental impact assessment and the barrage economic appraisal, have been made available by the promoters and copies are, I am told, in your Lordships' Library.

The Government have considered this matter in great detail before coming to their own conclusion. The environmental issues involved are extremely important, as your Lordships have already indicated. The area is a site of special scientific interest and a potential special protection area. The likely consequences for migratory wildfowl and wading birds have been carefully assessed by experts, as have the possibility of providing some alternative feeding grounds. We believe that all information necessary to enable decisions to be made is now available. The Government have weighed these environmental costs—and we certainly accept that they are costs in respect of lost feeding habitats for the birds—against the paramount importance of realising economic, recreational and other benefits that can be expected to arise from a barrage.

The Bill raises important issues for the people of South Glamorgan. The barrage is the key component of a comprehensive strategy. The objective of this is to completely transform a hitherto derelict area close to the city centre of Cardiff. It is an area still paying heavily for the decline in the coal industry and hence port activity, and the loss of steel-making. The benefits of the redevelopment will spread throughout the economy of south Wales and help transform the image of Wales in the eyes of investors. The redevelopment will complement the work being undertaken by my right honourable friend to regenerate the south Wales valleys. The two areas have been interdependent since the early 1800s at least and the two initiatives will cement that relationship for the future.

We have studied the results of the economic studies of the barrage proposal and accept that it is only a barrage-related redevelopment of the kind proposed in the Bill which will provide a sound basis for the creation of a superb new environment in the area. This will act as a catalyst for new private sector activity and will also dramatically improve the lot of those people who live and work in and around the area. We believe, therefore, that the economic case for the barrage is very strong. We have weighed these benefits against the cost in terms of the effect of the barrage on birds, and the public expenditure costs. We have also considered the water quality aspects.

We have thus concluded that the economic benefits of this scheme heavily outweigh the identified costs. On the basis that current estimates of cost would be adhered to, the Government have decided to make the necessary money available to the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation to enable the barrage to be built if Parliament so agrees. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will agree to commit the Bill to a Select Committee for its consideration.

Perhaps I may refer briefly to the Instruction tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Moran. As the noble Lord has explained, this deals with the questions of water quality and fish migration. Let me say at once that the Government see no difficulty with this Instruction and would not wish to stand in your Lordships' way in this matter.

7.32 p.m.

Lord Brooks of Tremorfa

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to those noble Lords who have contributed to what has been an excellent debate. I confined myself almost exclusively to the economic regeneration aspects of this proposal, but I was aware that a number of noble Lords would be raising matters which I did not cover during my speech. The questions of flooding, ground water levels and water pollution are matters best studied by the Select Committee and I agree that the Instruction that the noble Lord, Lord Moran, has tabled is perfectly appropriate.

There are 15 petitioners against the Bill and the questions that caused concern here this evening will be matters for the Select Committee to make judgment on. The part about which the noble Lord, Lord Moran, is concerned, as he quite rightly said, is not mentioned in any of the petitions so it is perfectly proper that he should move that Instruction. I ask your Lordships' House to give a Second Reading to this Bill.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Select Committee.

Lord Moran rose to move, That it be an Instruction to the Committee to whom the Bill is committed that they should pay particular attention to the need to ensure; (a) that an acceptable water quality standard can be achieved and maintained in the proposed inland bay at all times, and that public health will be fully safeguarded; and (b) that the proposed barrage will not adveresely affect the migration of fish between the rivers flowing into the inland bay and the sea; and that they should also consider whether, if there should be any reductions in the runs of fish, these should be made good or, failing that, compensation paid to those affected.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to the Instruction and I therefore beg to move it formally.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.