May I continue what I started by reading out new clause 5. It is important that everyone knows exactly what it stands for. The language is somewhat technical, but perhaps by explaining it I may be able to make my point more clearly. New clause 5 states:
Before the commencement of impounding by means of the Barrage the undertakers shall produce and publish a plan pertaining to sources of leachate in contact with the waters of the inland bay or of the groundwater in hydraulic contact with the waters of the inland bay and its proposals for removal, relocation or improvement of such sources of leachate.
That is central to the future of the project. I shall be interested to know what the defence for continuing the project could possibly be until the problems are solved. I give notice that there are many tips in south Wales which issue leachate into water courses and water tables which drain into the tributaries of the Taff and the Ely which will be affected by the barrage.
The Institution of Civil Engineers defined leachate in a recent publication. I shall read it for the benefit of hon. Members. It states:
Leachate consists of water which must not be allowed to flow from the sites carrying with it, in solution or suspension, chemicals, metal contaminants and organic matter. Care is needed to ensure that this leachate is not discharged into watercourses but some, or all, may percolate through the ground to underground aquifers. The main problem is generally caused by the continuing decomposition of the suspended organic matter which absorbs oxygen in this process. This oxygen requirement, known as the Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) is one measure of the 'strength' of the leachate.
If any leachate is discharged into a watercourse, it will absorb oxygen from the water to satisfy this demand and complete its decomposition, and unless the dilution is such that the watercourse can cope with this demand, the level of oxygen in the water can fall below that necessary to support fish and animal life and these will suffocate. In extreme circumstances, the levels can drop below that necessary to support plant life with disastrous results. A further problem which can occur is the production of ammonia which can also adversely affect fish and plant life.
I have quoted that report on pollution and its containment because it is important that we understand just how serious it will be if proper measures are not taken to prevent leachate from tips—whether in the immediate environs of the barrage or further upstream—feeding into the tributaries of those rivers. This is not a whimsical objection, but one that is recognised throughout the scientific and engineering world as absolutely central to any project of this type, especially one in such close proximity to so many people.
My hon. Friend mentioned the substantial danger of the accumulation of salts and other mineral materials in enclosed waters.
As he said, it is not a whimsical proposition. In a natural situation, substantial salt marshes develop, for example, where there has been development of spits such as those in the mouth of the river Dyfi and the Mawddach estuary in Cardigan bay. Wherever there is a shifting of alluvial material at the entrance to estuaries, there will be significant problems. My hon. Friend is right to point out the significant danger of completely enclosed areas such as estuaries.
I should like to make a point to which I am sure that my hon. Friend will return. If the barrage created one acre of extra land for industrial development, it could be argued that the barrage was a good thing. On the other hand, the barrage will do nothing for the industrial development of Cardiff.
That is a good point. I have heard many detrimental remarks from the sponsors of the Bill about the grounds upon which the Bill is being opposed. I have heard it said—very stupidly—that a development such as this should not founder on concern for waders or other bird wildlife in the area. I would argue that unless the problem is solved, the impounding of water containing leachate presents an enormous health risk not just to the wildlife which may inhabit the lagoon but to the people living around it.
My hon. Friend is right that these are serious matters. In fairness, however, we are considering the amendments that he proposes. He referred specifically to leachate in the immediate area, although I know he also referred to other matters. I would point out to him that leachate removal is dealt with in clause 69(7)(a), which requires the Ferry road, Ferry road tip, Cowslip, Cogan and Penarth dock outfalls to be removed, relocated or diverted to the satisfaction of the river authority. I say that in recognition of the importance of the issue to which my hon. Friend refers and to emphasise that under the Bill it will be dealt with to the satisfaction of the authority.
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention, and I am sure that he means his remarks to be constructive. I would point out, however, that new clause 5 does not limit itself to the Ferry road tip, to which a later amendment refers. I propose to deal with that question because it is not dealt with properly in the Bill.
I will read new clause 5 to my hon. Friend. It says:
the undertakers shall produce"—
The hon. Gentleman has already read the new clause to the House, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) can read it for himself.
I fear, Madam Deputy Speaker, that the sponsor of the Bill has not read or understood new clause 5, which refers to
sources of leachate in contact with the waters of the inland bay or of the groundwater in hydraulic contact with the waters of the inland bay".
In layman's language, that means the water that feeds into the lagoon. I have tried to show that it is not simply a question of water that may originate in Cardiff and the surrounding areas. We are talking about the rivers that are to be dammed, which are considerable bodies of water draining large areas which, because of our industrial heritage, include some of the most poisonous tips anywhere in Britain.
I will give my hon. Friend a graphic example of the problem to which he refers. He and I represent neighbouring constituencies, and my hon. Friend's area, like mine, contains many mineworkings. In the past couple of months, the National Rivers Authority has been having great difficulty dealing with iron-rich water in the Rhymney valley, which comes from the old Britannia colliery. Now that the colliery has closed and the pumping has stopped, the workings are flooded. The leachate is rich in iron and other salts and is polluting what had previously been a clean river. Exactly the same circumstances could arise with the Taff, in which case precisely the problem to which my hon. Friend has referred would arise.
I thank my hon. Friend. I am sure that if we chose, we could be here all night giving instances of colleries, iron works and so on that feed into rivers. I do not want to do that. There is no point, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) will understand my point full well.
I appreciate the seriousness of the issues to which my hon. Friend is referring. I am merely trying to emphasise the fact that that seriousness is appreciated by everybody. Discussions have been held with the water and rivers authorities on the environmental management of the impoundment and neither authority considers that the proposals that are the subject of the new clauses need to be included in the Bill to protect their statutory function with regard to the environment.
It is not a question of disregarding the issues; the new clauses are not needed to ensure that the topics that my hon. Friend rightly highlights are dealt with. They can be considered seriously without any amendments to the Bill.
I tabled the new clauses and amendments precisely because I do not share my hon. Friend's faith in the development corporation. I am not so confident that its long-term objective is to do something about the pollution that flows into the Taff and Ely; nor do I see in the Bill any explanation of how the modifications will be paid for. I believe—this is at the heart of my argument —that we are putting the cart before the horse if we build a barrage before we have cleaned up the rivers.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth has said, it is generally appreciated —not just in this country but around the world—that leachate is a major problem. To be fair to the Government—I am not often fair to them—I think that they have taken that on board and a good deal of work has already been done to try to discover how leachate can best be contained. The imminence of the barrage, however, increases the urgency. Although long-term plans to improve the quality of the water in the rivers may well be afoot, I fear that the barrage will arrive before the improvements. I require more concrete assurances to the contrary.
As I said earlier, the EEC has shown great concern about the matter, as has the European Council. In 1988, in Hanover, the Council invited the European Commission and the Council of Ministers to intensify their efforts to prevent water pollution; the Environment Council, in its turn, invited the Commission to submit proposals for measures required at Community level for the treatment of municipal sewage. Most of the proposals address the environmentally detrimental effect of effluents that are not sufficiently treated.
Such effluents are frequently put into the Taff and the Ely and their tributaries simply because—through no fault of the development corporation—not enough has been invested in the sewage treatment works in the past. I am sure that many hon. Members are well aware that at times of high rainfall, for example, raw sewage is released into most of the rivers that either flow or drain into the Taff and the Ely.
The assurances that we have received from Welsh Water plc are far from satisfactory. Derogations have been granted, which I have criticised in the past and will criticise again. I am not at all confident that the treatment works will be improved in time for the construction of the barrage. I fear that a good deal of contaminated water will flow into it.
I welcome my hon. Friend's support. I share a boundary with him as well, and we have discussed the specific problem that has arisen along the River Rhymney at Michaelston-y-Vedw, and, indeed, affects all the south Wales rivers.
The Welsh water authority, as it used to be, constructed an outfall giving directly on to the river to deal with the surcharge in the sewers at the times of heavy rainfall. At such times, much of the surface run-off goes into the foul sewer and surcharges it; the sewer then discharges directly into the river. In the case of the Taff and the Ely, microbiological contamination is a very good guide to water quality. At the moment, that contamination is flushed out to sea, but after the construction of the barrage it will go straight into the lagoon.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding me about that. I had not intended to refer to it; I thought the case was already strong enough. However, it is a good point.
I spoke recently to a friend of mine who is a practising pharmacist. He told me of his outrage when he discovered at a meeting of pharmacists that assistants in chemist shops, as well as the owners, flush out-of-date medicines down lavatories. Some of them are extremely toxic. They flow directly into the sewers. These toxic substances are also poured down common drains and flow into the rivers. That toxic concoction will eventually end up in the barrage.
My hon. Friend is dealing with an extremely important and serious issue that is not resolved by the provisions in the Bill. He referred to raw sewage being discharged into rivers. Many of the south Wales valleys have new trunk foul sewers, but I take no pride in saying that the trunk sewer in my constituency has not been renewed. I hear complaints from constituents at my surgeries about the discharge of raw sewage into the Rhondda Fach and the Rhondda Fawr, both of which discharge into the Taff. Only last week I had a leter from one of the borough engineers in which he said that approval had been given for capital expenditure in order to control the discharge of foul sewage into the Rhondda Fach between Ferndale and Mardy. That scheme, however, will not be realised for many years. It is only one of many instances of breaks in the trunk foul sewer system in the Rhondda valley because of its peculair geography and narrow confines.
I am sure that my hon. Friend's point applies to many locations within this water catchment area. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) faces exactly the same problems in his constituency as I do. I know, too, that my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) faces grave problems over sewage disposal in her constituency.
The detrimental effects of municipal waste water are self-evident in our rivers, particularly in the Taff and the Ely. At the most superficial level, the discharge of untreated municipal waste water can cause noxious conditions and thus reduce the amenity value of rivers, lakes, estuaries and coasts. That point needs to be emphasised because the raison d'étre for the barrage scheme is that it should be an amenity. Given the state of the water flowing into it, it will not be much of an amenity. Indeed, it will be a health risk more than anything else. However, we may be able to deal with that matter in more detail at a later stage.
In fresh water, the reduction of dissolved oxygen and the introduction of ammonia and suspended solids can seriously reduce ecological quality, thus affecting a wide range of flora and fauna, including fish. We have suffered particularly badly from that. I have seen a beautiful painting—one that I am sure you, Madam Deputy Speaker, would like to have on your wall—depicting Cardiff as it was before it was redeveloped by the Marquis of Bute. Coracles were shown being carried out of the waters of the Taff, which was one of the most famous salmon rivers in Wales. I understand that there is a chance that salmon will return. There has been something of an improvement in the water. The salmon now get as far as Pontypridd before finally succumbing.
I should like to draw attention to the quality of water currently in Bute East dock. That is exactly the same water as will be held in the general bay area. I can assure my hon. Friend that the people who walk around it, and those who boat on it, regard it as a considerable amenity. One sees dragon boats on it at the weekend. It is much appreciated.
The point is well taken. However, I have to say that if my hon. Friend is prepared to take his children for walks around a polluted dock, that is up to him. I do not consider it to be much of an amenity.
The reduction of water quality can also affect water intended for abstraction and human consumption. In that context, one thinks of someone who happens to fall into an area of impounded water. People will inevitably fall into this one. Indeed, some may jump in—especially after the next election. Municipal waste water is discharged into the sea, making conditions unsuitable for bathing and for shell fish cultivation. But if the barrage is built, that will become an irrelevance, because the waters simply will not reach the sea in their present condition.
It is important that we take into account the fact that, despite the trends of the past decade, south Wales still contains many working factories, including chemical plants. There are several very contentious chemical plants in my constituency. They are contentious because people have become much more environmentally aware. As a result of this awareness, the plants are subject to constant monitoring. That monitoring shows that the effluent from the factories is by no means satisfactory in all respects and at all times. It is very important that people should understand that the need for continued employment, balanced against the need to clean up the environment, will ensure that these factories remain in operation for a long time.
The current inadequacy of Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution—a subject that cannot be dealt with at length tonight—makes it obvious that improvements will not come over the next decade. I fear that discharges from waste water treatment plants are not always satisfactory because of the particularly noxious materials that are discharged by some factories and chemical plants. Certainly the water is not of a quality suitable for recycling.
It should be noted that over the past decade eutrophication has become a major problem in Community waters—certainly more so in our waters than anywhere else in the European Community. I am thinking especially of certain rivers and lakes. The proposal for a directive relating to municipal waste water treatment plants, together with the proposed directive concerning the protection of fresh coastal and marine waters against pollution caused by nitrates from diffuse sources, provides, inter alia, an opportunity for the European Community to take action to control the discharge of the two major nutrients—nitrogen and phosphorous—that are responsible for eutrophication. The barrage will not take advantage of that opportunity. On the contrary, its enormous cost will drain funds from projects that could control the discharge of such nutrients.
The EC directive lays down minimum requirements for the treatment of municipal waste and for the disposal of sludge, but because of the assimilative capacity of the waters into which treated waste waters are discharged it is proposed that the receiving waters should be classified into three types. It is important that we try to understand the quality of the water that will flow into the Taff and Ely, which will be dammed. It is proposed that, in general, a secondary or biological treatment will be required as a minimum. In more sensitive areas, additional treatment will be required to meet specific environmental needs such as the reduction of nutrients.
The Commission believes that, in principle, all municipal waste water discharged into marine waters should be heavily treated. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth will agree wholeheartedly and endorse that proper and right aim. I do not intend to talk about the effect of the barrage on water tables, but we must consider whether it is possible to carry out these improvements and modifications before the barrage is built. I should be interested to hear my hon. Friend's response to that, because it is critical to the viability of the project and its public acceptability.
The EC directive seeks to control the discharge of industrial waste waters that are of a similar nature to municpal waste water and that do not enter municipal waste water treatment plants before discharge into the environment. It is important to understand that the Commission felt that it was inappropriate to require member states to introduce what might be costly measures to control municipal waste waters while ignoring discharges of comparable waste waters from industrial sources, especially where those discharges occur near one another. That is particularly important in south Wales because of the close proximity of the sources.
I am following my hon. Friend's argument with much interest. His remarks and observa-tions remind me that in my constituency, despite all the directives, planning powers and vigilance, a company suddenly dumped 6,000 barrels of toxic waste on the edge of a river. The National Rivers Authority and the Secretary of State for Wales—I pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman, who upheld the decision of Rhymney Valley district council—rightly said that Euromet should not have dumped on the edge of the river bank. Despite those powers and vigilance, such disastrous problems still occur. It behoves us not to pass the Bill without checking and being vigilant. We are being far too careless with our environment in south Wales.
My hon. Friend makes a good point. Such incidents have occurred many times in south Wales, and will continue to happen. We can never be infallible and such incidents will occur again and again.
My hon. Friend's point is relevant to the new clauses, because the Bill does not provide for an audit of possible contaminants, even those held at factory sites, in case such an incident occurs again. The problem is that there is insularity in the Bill which attempts to build almost a fortress around the Cardiff bay development. Although the promoters are pleased to tell us that the champagne will dribble out to our communities when the wealth starts coming in, they seem to ignore the fact that Cardiff has probably the most organic link of any city to its hinterland; Cardiff owes its development to the coal industry. Ecologically it is indivisible from its hinterland. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney for making the point so well.
There are many industrial sites within that drainage area. There are already high pollution levels in the waters of the Taff and the Ely. The EEC directive to which I have already referred lays down criteria for the identification of sensitive and less sensitive areas.
My hon. Friend rightly took an example from my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands), who shares the representation of Rhymney valley with me. May I refer my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells) to an incident which happened on the Rhymney river last year. It is a good example of the unforeseen things which can happen. There was a fire at the Klockner-Pentapac factory which manufactures cosmetics. The fire authority came along promptly, doused the factory with water and eventually gained control of the fire. Of course, in the process the firemen swept out all the tanks which stored cosmetics. In no circumstances could anybody have foreseen that. The consequence was a direct wash straight into the River Rhymney of all the cosmetics. Almost the whole of the river from Aberbargoed to below Machen was devastated. The fish life was destroyed. Is not that precisely the sort of eventuality which could occur? At the moment the sea acts as a natural method of disposal of pollutants. If there was a barrage there, they would be held in the lagoon. No one could foresee such an occurrence.
The point has been well made by my hon. Friend. I am sure that many other hon. Members could relate similar instances of large numbers of fish stock being killed as a result of chemicals escaping into rivers. That will always occur.
That is exactly the point that I am coming to. The problem is that there is a distinct lack of trust in the policing powers of an organisation which is run by precisely the same person as is involved so deeply in the Cardiff Bay development corporation.
I know many people who work in the National Rivers Authority and I have discussed these matters with them on many occasions. They are fine people with tremendous records. They are concerned about and have made great strides in cleaning our rivers. I hope that the new clauses show the concern of myself and other hon. Members. The problem is that Cardiff Bay development corporation sees itself quite properly as a pioneering enterprise which will transform an area which has long needed transformation. But that organic link with the hinterland shows up the limitations of the scope of the Cardiff Bay development corporation. If we cannot have an organisation that sees Cardiff's hinterland as being part and parcel of that environmental, ecological and economic entity, it seems that the Welsh Office should take on that role. There should be proper audits of what chemicals are held along the banks. Proper safeguards should be written into such a major project so that Euromet does not happen again; and if there is a fire in a cosmetics factory such as that my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) described, there are proper containment structures and systems to ensure that, if the barrage is built, the pollution will not go into the lagoon. The link demands an overview and, in doing so, shows up the Bill's limitations.
The Water Act 1989 contains substantial powers. The Secretary of State has many of the powers to which my hon. Friend refers, but the problem is that he will not use them. After all the incidents which occurred, and which we have discussed in tonight's brief debate, I pressed the Secretary of State to use the powers available to him under the Water Act. Unfortunately, he says every time that it is not appropriate to do so and that he does not wish to use the powers. The existence of the difficulties has been recognised. What is lacking is the political will to use the instruments that the House has put in place.
My hon. Friend has put the argument very well.
I shall turn to the problem which I mentioned earlier and which is central to the new clauses—eutrophication. It is not easy to say that word at this time of night, but I have managed to say it so far about eight times. New clause 6 deals with that issue, and states:
Before constructing the Barrage, the undertakers and the water company shall produce and publish a plan indicating where and what provision they have made for phosphate-stripping and nitrate stripping of the waters of the rivers
entering the inland bay and their tributaries in the event of such provision becoming necessary for compliance with future water quality objectives in the inland bay.".
The new clause has been drafted precisely in line with the EC directive which, in its criteria for the identification of sensitive and less sensitive areas, states:
Lakes and streams reaching lakes reservoirs closed bays which are found to have a poor water exchange, whereby accumulation may take place. In these areas the removal of phosphorous should be included unless it can be demonstrated that the removal will have no effect on the level of eutrophication. Where discharges from large municipalities are made, the removal of nitrogen may also be considered.
There was agreement among my hon. Friends on the issue of the bacteriological pollution of rivers. The directive also mentions other areas of water which are found to have a poor water exchange or which receive large quantities of nutrients. It states:
The discharges from small municipalities are usually of minor importance in those areas, but for large municipalities"—
I have already said that we are probably dealing with perhaps half a million people, a large municipality by any standards—
the removal of phosphorous and nitrogen should be included unless it can be demonstrated that the removal will have no effect on the level of eutrophication.
Paragraphs (a) and (b) of clause 69(13) cover that issue. My hon. Friend raises important matters, but the Bill already deals with them. They state that when works are required upsteam of the inland bay, the undertakers are required to pay the costs of any works required to meet water quality standards over a period of 20 years. That provision could include phosphate-stripping if the water quality standards required it. The point is that the responsible authorities do not consider that that is necessary at present. The matter, which is serious, has been covered.
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply and I take his point. I have read the Bill carefully and I know that that is included, but it does not say how to ensure that eutrophication does not occur. I remember that at one time there was talk of a magic barge, which was going to go back and forth across the lagoon and do something to it which would stop algae from growing on and under the surface of the water. I pointed out at that time that I wondered how it could clear other forms of pollution, such as abandoned house doors and kitchen sinks, which daily go past my front window down the River Taff. That was the magic barge, but I have not heard a great deal about it since.
A clear recognition should have been included in the Bill by those who drafted it that the problem of nitrogen and phosphates occurs further upstream and that it is too late—and rather stupid—to deal with the problem once it has been impounded within a barrage. The obvious thing to do is to clean up the rivers first and then talk about how the problem might be dealt with. Even after rivers have been cleaned there will still be natural pollution, as anyone who has studied the problems in the third world knows. For example, in completely remote and uninhabited areas methane becomes a problem in impounded waters. I would be interested to know why the Bill does not contain any detailed accounts of how that problem will be solved.
If I may assist my hon. Friend, he referred again to algae growth. The management regime is there to control it. I referred to Bute East dock, and algae growth as a result of nutrients in the water has not been a problem there, so we already have practical evidence. These matters have been discussed with the statutory authorities, which have powers to deal with the issue if necessary. My hon. Friend and I would obviously want to develop and strengthen powers over such environmental matters and I am sure that we would find ourselves in agreement on those matters in general legislation. They are covered, either in the Bill or in the powers of the statutory bodies.
If they are covered, I cannot find them. I have to disagree with my hon. Friend about that matter. He draws comparisons with the still water of a dock. That is a fair comparison, because the water comes from a feeder from the River Taff. However, he will have observed, I am sure—as I observe every day that I am in my constituency—that there is an enormous difference between a river which rises and falls by 15 ft or 20 ft according to the amount of rainfall, and a feeder that goes off it into a dock in a tame and controlled way.
In 1989 there were serious problems of algae in—
Perhaps it would assist the House if I mentioned that lorry loads of algal scum had to be removed from Bute East dock and the feeder in the summer of 1989, which was a longish and hottish summer, after about 1 August. Until then the algal growth had been providing rather a good feed for the mullet in the dock and, up to a point, algal growth is beneficial to the environment, as it provides foodstuff for that type of fish. However, after it starts to bloom it becomes an absolute menace and deprives the whole area of oxygen. Lorry loads of the material had to be removed at the insistence of the house dwellers on the new Tarmac housing development at Bute East dock.
I am listening to this discussion, which is vital to the people who live in the area. Does my hon. Friend accept that the argument used by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth is very like saying, "Let's have coal pits or pollution everywhere. Don't worry—we'll put in some money to clear it up afterwards"? One should do things logically and resolve the problem of pollution first instead of having to spend huge sums clearing up the environment afterwards. If the barrage created another inch of land for industrial development, there might be some value in it, but it does nothing except create a water vista.
The other point that I shall seek to cover later is the problem of the interface of fresh groundwater, coming from the rivers or the aquifer areas to the north of Cardiff, and the saline intrusion from the sea. The increased salinity of the area will be a substantial problem. In many parts of the country, increased salinity has been the subject of substantial surveys and monitoring by many bodies. I make this criticism of the technical people involved—not only were they late producing their reports, but many of those reports are not well done or even properly finished.
I shall listen with interest to my hon. Friend's account of the shortcomings of that part of the Bill, and I agree with the point of his earlier intervention.
I am sure that the Bill's supporters will agree—we cannot disagree on this—that the barrage development is a major project, probably the largest single project ever undertaken in Wales. As I have already said, I welcome the development of the bay of which we are discussing one particular aspect tonight.
All south Wales Members have an interest in cleaning up the rivers, some of which have been dead for a century. Is my hon. Friend aware that when I asked the National Rivers Authority and Welsh Water about their programme to clean the rivers to EEC standards, I was informed that there is no programme. The only rivers with a chance of being cleaned in the foreseeable future are those for which barrages are planned.
I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) has made that important statement. If what he has said is the case, it is a disgrace. I represent a constituency that does not have an area to be barraged—unless we try to write off all the problems of some of our valleys by sticking dams across their mouths, which I understand was a proposition advanced in the 1930s. Like my hon. Friends, I shall seek some clarification to ensure that those of us whose constituencies may contain a river that does not stand a chance of being barraged at some stage can nevertheless expect it to be cleaned up.
May I offer my hon. Friend some clarification? In the attempt to be brief, I perhaps misled him. My point is that the only schemes for cleaning up rivers are the barrage schemes. Apart from that, I have no hope of and see no programme for—although I am pressing for one for my constituency—cleaning up the rivers regardless of whether barrages are constructed. My hon. Friend seems to be blaming the promoters for the sins of omission of Welsh Water and the National Rivers Authority.
I thank my hon. Friend again for his intervention. He completely misunderstood what I said, which was that one should not draw up such a Bill while the deplorable state of affairs means that the rivers flowing into the barrage will not be properly cleaned.
I have had no indication that early work will be undertaken on either the Taff or the Ely, or on their tributaries, to overcome the problem of raw sewage being pumped into those rivers. That information, therefore, comes as a surprise to me. If it is true, it is extraordinary that the only rivers that will be cleaned up are those which are to barraged because it means that we should all be pressing for barrages—in other words, for the sealing up of rivers which for millions of years have formed our environments and flowed into the seas with an exchange of water that is absolutely vital for our weather systems. We are being asked to agree to something that we find iniquitous simply because we might obtain a promise from the authorities that they might clean up their act on the disposal of sewage. It is an absolute disgrace.
I agree with the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend. My hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) may be misleading the House inadvertently. I have substantially criticised Lord Crickhowell, who is wearing two hats in this matter. One of them is that of chairman of the National Rivers Authority. In fairness to him, sums of money have been allocated, for example, to clean up the Rhondda rivers. That is nothing to do with the Cardiff barrage. I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West is preparing his arguments for the Usk barrage and laying the groundwork so that he can convince his constituents that they should support such a barrage proposal in order to have the River Usk cleaned up, but that is not a case for a barrage. The case needs to be far more substantial than that. The National Rivers Authority is providing some money for cleaning up rivers—it is certainly not enough, but it is being provided and it has nothing to do with the Cardiff bay barrage.
I regret intervening so often on this, but as the subject has been raised, I should inform my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) that there was a plan to clean up the Usk river by taking the sewage out of it. That was way back in the 1970s when Newport had its own water authority. The plan was ditched when the Newport water authority became part of Welsh Water. Subsequently, the charges for water increased by 2,500 per cent. within a decade and the scheme for cleaning up the river was never implemented. The campaign to implement the scheme has been going on for 20 years and it has nothing to do with the barrages.
We should like to clean up the rivers with or without the barrage, but in south Wales there is no programme or plan to clean up our rivers. Nevertheless, the issue is separate from the barrage. It is a coincidence that the rivers on which a barrage might well be built may be cleaned up. The point made by the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells) is artificial. He is off target. He ought to complain and campaign for the National Rivers Authority to clean up the rivers. As a by-product of the two planned barrages, the rivers may be cleaned up. That is a different proposition. They will probably be cleaned up before other rivers which are more in need of it.
It is rare that I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West but his case is an extraordinary inversion of a simple argument. One should not proceed with a major project such as this, which will suck in large amounts of public money, before first tackling the problem, which my hon. Friend has eloquently described, of the reluctance of what was a public body and a body which is central to cleaning up the rivers of Wales and everywhere else to get on with the job.
Mr. Alan W. Williams:
Is not the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) rather like saying that the constituency of Pembroke has high unemployment which could be solved by putting a nuclear power station there? That would be to justify the nuclear power station by the high unemployment rather than to tackle the high unemployment head on. Is not that similar to the perverse argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West?
About 15 minutes ago I spoke about the size of the development in financial and physical terms. It is a large development which is addressed by the EEC directive in terms of the kind of information it requested from member states about such developments.
The directive asks member states to provide information on the costs of the programme, giving capital investments and operating costs for the collection, treatment and disposal of municipal waste water. It asks for the identification in sensitive areas as well as less sensitive areas, including short explanations and notes. It asks for a short overview of the actual loads of municipal waste water discharged to fresh water, estuaries, coastal waters and land, and where insufficient data exists estimates should be made using available information.
It is extraordinary that the Bill for the biggest development in Wales, and one which is about impounding water of the type defined precisely in the EEC directive, gives no notion of the cost of cleaning up that water. Never mind about sending the figures to the EEC, they are not even sent as far as Pontypridd. At least. I have not received them and I would like to know why. Why are the costs not contained in the Bill? Why is there no information on the systems that will be used for cleaning up the nitrates, the phosphates, and so on? Is some kind of panacea for all this to be presented suddenly when the last breeze block is put in place on the face of the dam? Will it all fall into place?
To return to the question of nuclear facilities raised by two of my hon. Friends, I am reminded of the false optimism that led people to press on with developments in the belief that somehow the technology to deal with any problems that might arise would suddenly appear from nowhere. It is the result of a faith in the inevitability that science will somehow come up with the answers to whatever iniquity is perpetrated upon the planet.
Anyone who takes a sensible view of this will ask how such problems are to be addressed. I have not got far tonight in listing those problems. I have a couple more to list, including the one that I mentioned earlier about leachates. There are no firm proposals or costings, nor even an idea of a programme, for the works needed upstream on the Taff and Ely rivers to improve permanently the quality of the waters and the treatment of the sewage effluent which currently finds its way into both those rivers. There was talk at one time about the magic barge which would solve everything. I do not know what has happened to it. Perhaps, metaphorically, it has sunk —and good riddance to it, as I have rarely heard a more absurd suggestion.
Nor have I heard any suggestion about what will happen about something that is central to the Cardiff bay development. I refer to the fate of the Ferry road tip, a large landfill site which has long been a source of worry for many people, not only because of the leachates which may at the moment be finding their way into the mud flats which, if the Bill is enacted, will become the bottom of the lagoon. I have already listed some of the problems with leachates and some of the materials which may find their way into our water tables and bodies of water as a result of leachates. However, I understand that the future of the Ferry road tip is still far from clear. The Touche Ross consultancy report, commissioned by Cardiff city council last October in compliance with the Welsh Office request, recommends:
The future of the Ferry Road site be established as quickly as possible in discussion with Welsh Office and that Committee's previous decision regarding continued tipping be reaffirmed.
There have been discussions in Cardiff city council about constructing some other form of waste disposal in conjunction with the Cardiff bay development corporation that will take some of the waste already in the landfill site. There has been talk about an anaerobic digestion plant. The very title is revolting, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I know that it is late, so I shall not upset your sleep by outlining what happens in anaerobic digestion.
All the relevant technology is still being pioneered, but there is much talk about how to get bacteria to eat the contents of the Ferry road tip. An anaerobic plant somewhere on the foreshore in Cardiff has been suggested, but little has been said about the possible costs. I note, however, that the Touche Ross report has said that the cost would be about £4·5 million. Who will pay? Will it be the city council or the Cardiff bay development corporation, or will the cost be met by a joint venture? Where will the plant be cited? The people of Grangetown and Butetown should be told.
What will happen to the present tip? Will it be moved? My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) is aware that a waste site at Pyle has been mentioned and he is right to be concerned about that.
The Stormy Down site has been mentioned, but when that proposal was discussed at the Ogwr borough council some councillors said that they would lie down on the road to prevent any lorry from getting anywhere near the site with waste from the Ferry road tip in Cardiff. There is total opposition to the disposal of that waste in the Ogwr borough.
I can understand that opposition. At the best of times landfill sites are not welcome. If one authority attempts to shift a landfill site into another constituency for cosmetic reasons, that is asking for trouble. My hon. Friend's intervention is another example of the difficulties caused by the way in which the Bill has been drawn up. No solutions have been proposed for the central problems. I am not opposed to development, but I am opposed to any development that does not take into account likely problems.
The short-sightedness of the corporation and the local authority was revealed when they held an exhibition in London when the Bill was first presented. At that time they had not even consulted adjacent local authorities. When they were criticised for that by people such as myself, consultation commenced.
My hon. Friend's background is the mining industry and he lives in the valleys. He will remember the traumatic experience to which the valleys of south Wales were subject to aid the developments in Newport at the Llanwern steel site. Our villages were hell holes because of the huge lorries that went through, but we suffered all that because we knew that our tips were being removed. We knew that the blots on the landscape were finally going. We suffered for a good cause—the new steel works at Llanwern.
We shall not have a similar experience with the removal of the Ferry road tip. When the huge lorries start travelling through the Vale of Glamorgan villages to reach Bridgend to dump the waste, there will be civil insurrection in south Wales. It just goes to show that the Bill has been badly conceived.
My hon. Friend draws a good analogy. There is an enormous difference between the case of Llanwern, in which a village was blighted for many years to lay the foundations for an excellent new steelworks, and the fate envisaged for the Ferry road tip in Cardiff.
The Touche Ross report requested by Cardiff city council and drawn up on the recommendation of the Welsh Office says:
The intentions of Cardiff Bay Development Corporation have affected the waste management planning in Cardiff adversely. Accepting the political reality, the intentions of the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation with respect to Ferry Road should be finalised. They feel however that CBDC has grossly underestimated the logistic, environmental, health and safety problems associated with exhuming 2 million cubic metres of waste.
The Consultants have in fact, following informal discussions with the Welsh Office, intimated that the removal of the tip may not now proceed in full.
I can well imagine that not many authorities would relish the prospect of moving 2 million cubic metres of waste —not to mention the feelings of those in the communities through which the waste will be driven. But if the waste is not moved, what will happen to it? If it stays where it is, who will pay for the defences that will have to be constructed to contain the leachate and prevent it from going into the lagoon following the building of a barrage across the river?
My hon. Friend is citing a substantial criticism of the development corporation by the local authority. During the passage of the Bill, a certain image has been projected—that everything is working perfectly and that the local authority wants the development to take place. Is my hon. Friend now saying that the local authority is criticising the corporation?
I am merely saying that page 7 of the Touche Ross report drawn up for Cardiff city council says:
The intentions of Cardiff Bay Development Corporation have affected the waste management planning in Cardiff adversely.
That is clear enough and that assertion is certainly a blot on the venture's otherwise perfect public copybook.
Mr. Alan W. Williams:
Are we not in a terrible fix with regard to the Ferry road tip? We dare not leave it there because there is no way of sealing it and there will be leachate problems in the lagoon. On the other hand, we cannot move it because no other local authority will be willing to receive it.
My hon. Friend makes a good point. Both bodies are clear about it. That is why a special report was drawn up by Touche Ross and it is presumably why the report has received no publicity until now. The problem is central to the future of the project but it is one about which we do not hear. The promoters have managed the news well. We hear only the good news and never the bad news —even if we often disagree about what constitutes good news and what constitutes bad.
Will my hon. Friend consider asking the Minister his views on this important matter? No doubt the Welsh Office, having received the Bill some time ago, will have considered the matter, and Ministers may be able to set our minds at rest on it. The House would be interested if the Minister would intervene, however briefly, to clear up the matter.
I shall certainly invite the Minister to intervene, although knowing his reputation—about which I have written elsewhere—for riding out such storms I shall not be surprised if he does not. My hon. Friend has asked an important question; his remarks were certainly not flippant. We should like to know the thinking of the Welsh Office on that and on £500 million or £100 million of public money—the sum seems to vary from week to week.
The consultants also make the following recommenda-tions:
The status of Cardiff Bay Development Corporation's intentions with respect to Ferry Road should be determined in the near future. Accepting the political realities, if Ferry Road is acquired by CBDC, it should be ensured that adequate compensation for replacement of an equivalent amount of operational waste management capacity is provided.
In other words, the corporation must find another tip.
Anyone who has been following recent events in Taff-Ely will know that the proposal for a landfill site at Penrhos is no easy matter. It is also an enormously expensive matter. It is no longer possible simply to find a hole in the ground and chuck stuff into it, as has been done so often in the past, but there is nothing in the Bill to suggest that the problem even exists.
What are the chances that Cardiff city council will be able to operate a local authority waste-disposal company capable of dealing with the Ferry road tip leachate problem? I do not think that they are very good. I fear that environmental and ecological problems will be forced on us when the tip is removed. For, if it is not removed, I cannot see how the lagoon can possibly go ahead, unless huge modifications are made. Civil engineering works will be needed to ensure that the material in the existing site is contained, and considerable expenditure will be required if an alternative site is to be found. It will no longer be possible to use the Ferry road tip; it is no use damming a river to provide a beautiful stretch of water around which to construct wonderful flats and a marina if behind the flats seagulls are picking over botulism organisms on a rubbish tip.
Mr. Alan W. Williams:
Did not the development corporation more or less admit the existence of a massive problem by considering the removal of the tip so seriously? If it were possible to seal it to prevent the leachate problem, the corporation would not have thought of spending millions of pounds to remove it. The barrage can go ahead only if the tip is removed.
We have listened fascinated to my hon. Friend's account of all the pollutants that can enter the Taff, but it is difficult for us to judge the worth of his speech. When will he come to the point and tell us the amount of leachate, the amount of eutrophication and the number of organophosphates? Organophosphates, which are minute, have not been mentioned yet.
We know that there is pollution, but if we are to make a judgment we must know whether there is a minute or a massive amount. I have yet to hear any attempt to quantify it in what has, in terms of its length, been a very thorough speech.
I have hardly heard a more absurd point in my life. My hon. Friend knows as well as I do—he mentioned it earlier in connection with his constituency —why it is impossible to quantify the pollution. He has made a very cheap point.
As my hon. Friend knows, the funds simply are not available. This applies to my constituency as well as to his. I hope that he will tell his constituents when they find themselves living next to old landfill sites that we have no idea how much leachate is coming out of them, or how much methane is being generated. My hon. Friend is very unwise to make such criticism. If he is a scientist, as he says he is, he will know that any landfill site produces methane and leachate. The work has not been carried out because the money has not been made available. I am extremely surprised at my hon. Friend.
I rather feared that I might not get into this debate either. The amount of leaching is central to the clause. If the Welsh Office and the Minister say nothing, I hope that the Bill's sponser, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael), who has, of course, looked at the matter in detail, will be able to help us. Perhaps he will tell us how much leaching there will be, whether it will be dangerous and what damage it will cause. How much will have to be spent to clean up, and what will be the recurrent costs? So far no one has been able to give precise answers to those questions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) made an absurd point. Surely it is the responsibility of the promoters to say that there will be no pollution. My hon. Friend the Member for Newport. West should pay attention to the answer to his question. It is the responsibility of the undertakers to provide the information that he seeks. In fairness to the undertakers, I should say that they have carried out surveys in relation to coliform bacteria concentrations, potential demand, leaching and sewer outfalls. They are trying to identify the problem, but they have not come to any firm conclusion. Because of the problems and figures in some areas, the undertakers have had to draw up theoretical projections. It is fairly significant that all their suggestions seem to be on the safe side.
My hon. Friend answers the point very well. The Touche Ross report concludes that the Welsh Office must call an urgent meeting to establish the intentions of the Cardiff Bay development corporation about the future use of the Ferry road landfill site. That is crucial to enable Cardiff city council to decide whether a waste authority will be viable. What has the Minister to say about the matter? Will the Welsh Office demand a meeting with Cardiff city council and Cardiff Bay development corporation to hear exactly what will happen to the Ferry road tip?
Many hon. Members have spoken about the Ferry road tip. I have spoken at some length, and I began by saying that it is not the only tip that leaches into the rivers that eventually become the Taff and the Ely. There are many such tips. A survey in the past year shows that limited fines apply to the many tips that we already know about. The Bill's promoters should take that on board and should tell us exactly what they intend to do about it. Will the Cardiff Bay development corporation contribute to the cost of putting right those tips? Will it be subject to a levy to make sure that spillages, such as that which occurred in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, do not reach the rivers? That is a perfectly fair burden to place on the corporation because the scheme is about property development and property prices; it is not concerned with the environment. The Bill does not answer these questions, and it is a crying shame and to the detriment of south Wales.
I am sure that the entire House will join me in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells) on his speech. We owe him a debt of gratitude. He has presented a first-class analysis of the problems that will be created and illustrated vividly the difficulties faced by those who represent valley communities. My hon. Friend is a well-respected member of the Select Committee on the Environment, and I am sure that we shall all give full recognition to that fact when we come to weigh his contribution to the debate.
It is worth noting that the amendments are constructive. I hope that that will become clear as the debate unfolds. I hope, too, that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) will recognise that the amendments will not defeat the Bill or reduce its effectiveness. All the amendments will strengthen the Bill and make it more acceptable to those who will be directly affected by it.
I shall, but first I wish briefly to make two points. Having done that, I shall be more than happy to give way to my hon. Friend.
Two features have characterised the debate. First—this is the point on which my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd concluded—we have not received any answers from the promoters. I accept, of course, that my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) asked how leaching can be quantified and how the degree of pollution can be assessed, and what can be done to remedy it. He must understand that it is not the responsibility of my hon. Friends and I to produce a scientific analysis. As my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) rightly said, that is the direct responsibility of the promoters. They must satisfy the House, and they have failed to do so in that respect.
The second feature that has characterised the debate has been the absence of the Under-Secretary of State for Wales, the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett), for a great part of it. The hon. Gentleman has strolled back into the Chamber, I accept, but the Minister of State has been present throughout and has listened attentively. Many of the questions that have been raised can be answered only by the Under-Secretary. The solution of the problem of water pollution in the valleys—that is directly relevant to the new clause because it is the cause of the problem in the bay—rests directly with the Minister. There are powers available to him under the Water Act 1989, if he wants to use them, to take action to lay the necessary orders to prevent the recurrence of the pollution that has emanated from industrial concerns, for example, thus far.
The Minister has every reason to be present in the Chamber. He has even more reason to outline the position of the Welsh Office. It is not good enough for Ministers to sit on the Government Front Bench and do nothing while covertly using the machinery of government to ensure that when the Bill is debated Members come out from under stones or crawl out from the woodwork obediently to vote at the whim of the Government, without hearing one minute of our debates. If the Government are to take the responsibility of bringing Members into their Lobby, they have a responsibility to the House to set out their views on these important issues.
My hon. Friend has made the point extremely well. I was seeking to make the same point in my own way. As my hon. Friend said, the purpose of the amendments is not in any way destructive. Indeed, I believe that their acceptance would prove to be helpful to the Bill. When my hon. Friend said that they would not be destructive, the Under-Secretary of State guffawed in disbelief. He seems to be expressing disbelief even now.
If he is doing that, he owes it to the House, if he is a man of integrity, to explain why he thinks that the amendments are destructive or otiose. If they are unnecessary in any way and he explains why that is so, I shall not seek to delay the House one moment longer in its consideration of the new clause. The Minister will help the House if he intervenes, after my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) has completed his speech, to explain the Government's view.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek) for that helpful and constructive intervention.
It is particularly worth placing on the record the wording of new clause 6 about phosphate and nitrate stripping. It states:
'Before constructing the Barrage, the undertakers and the water company shall produce and publish a plan indicating where and what provision they have made for phosphate-stripping and nitrate-stripping of the waters of the rivers
entering the inland bay and their tributaries in the event of such provision becoming necessary for compliance with future water quality objectives in the inland bay.'.
No one could accuse new clause 6 of being a wrecking amendment. It is simply a deliberate attempt to safeguard water quality in the part of south Wales about which we are all so concerned.
My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd recounted some telling and graphic examples of the problems facing the valleys in south Wales and the rivers that drain into the bay. Reference has already been made to the major occurences of pollution and there are some spectacular incidents. However, there is also regular, insidious pollution which drips and washes into the rivers on a daily basis. That is inevitable if we consider the geography, economy and social structure of the valley communities.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The news that British troops have been sent into northern Iraq is a matter of such importance that a statement should be made to the House. As it appears that we will be continuing our deliberations into the early hours, can it be arranged for the House to consider that important development?
Obviously those on the Treasury Bench will have heard the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn). At the moment, no request for a statement has been made to Mr. Speaker's office.
Because of the geography of our valley communities there is a conjunction of relatively densely populated settlements with a mix of fairly new industry while at the same time we have the legacy of the 19th century with abandoned mine and coal workings. That mix in an area of high rainfall and steep valley sides will inevitably result in a high level of pollution in our rivers. In addition, we face the problem of the inadequacy of our storm and farm sewers.
Several hon. Members who have spoken tonight have direct experience of living beside rivers. My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd made it clear that from where he lives he can see what is coming down the river. I have a similar experience. I live beside the River Rhymney and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West shares my concern about this. I do not want to embarrass you, Madam Deputy Speaker, by describing some of the stuff that comes down the river. However, not all of it is natural material; some of it is man made. Inevitably at times of high rainfall, the river rises and leaves its flood debris in trees on the river bank. When the river subsides., we can see the souvenirs of the night's heavy rain scattered along the river.
If and when the barrage is built, that which is carried down the river at times of high rainfall will be deposited in the bay. That will cause major problems. Our rivers are grossly polluted. They obviously contain high levels of nitrates and phosphates and a great deal of organic material from sewers or in the form of sheep that fall into the rivers, dogs that are killed and thrown in or horses that are washed down river. Those are by no means rare occurrences in our valley communities. All that matter will end up in the bay—[Interruption.] It is not unusual to see a horse's leg or head going down the river. Horses fall in or die and are thrown in. Unfortunately, such things happen regularly. That, together with the microbiological contamination, will reach the lagoon and create a major problem.
In fairness to the promoters, I should point out that they have gone on record as saying that the water quality in the lagoon will be sub-standard. They maintain, however, that the problem can be dealt with. I have read carefully all the documents and the report of the Committee proceedings. I have also listened carefully to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth. Moreover, I have read the reports that have been prepared by and on behalf of the promoters. I am not convinced that they have found a solution to the problem. They say that there will have to be regular patrols round the lagoon to pick up waste matter—the dead dogs and horses, and all the other rubbish.
I do not mean to be unkind to the city of Cardiff, but I have to say that it is one of the dirtiest cities that I have ever visited. The streets of Cardiff are unclean. However, the suggestion is that after the lagoon is constructed an efficient cleaning system will miraculously appear that will pick up all the detritus. Rather than Cardiff city employees doing the scavenging, it is far more likely that rats and gulls will do it. [Interruption.] I am more than happy to give way to the hon. Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley) if he wishes to speak. Doubtless the hon. Gentleman has had a pleasant night out. I do not blame him for that; he is probably very well fed and he has probably had a drink or two. Now he seems to want to take part in the debate. Perhaps he has been sufficiently beguiled by the Government to come along and vote, even though he has not heard the debate. That is up to him. If, however, he wants to participate in it, he should not be provocative. Let me now put on record that the hon. Gentleman is leaving the Chamber with a gracious gesture, which will doubtless be recorded for posterity.
I hope to speak later about birds. My hon. Friends know that I am anxious to secure both a good environment for them and their protection. However, I do not want the gulls to proliferate. They will not be an amenity; they will drive away birds that are attracted to the lagoon and they will not improve living conditions in the vicinity.
The most telling condemnation of the proposal is that the promoters say that no contact sports will be allowed in the bay. We are told that the lagoon will be a powerful incentive to economic development and that it will make a magnificent contribution to Cardiff's environment. No contact with it, however, will be allowed. People will be unable to swim or fish in it, or to windsurf on it. The fear is that if they come into contact with the water it will become so grossly polluted that their health will be endangered.
My hon. Friend has made an important point about the amenities of the lake and of the two fingers that point north out of it. I am not sure that he is right about the fishing. Fishermen tend to undo knots with their teeth, which would be dangerous, but fishing is not a dangerous practice. It is not a contact sport, unless one falls into the water.
There are differences of opinion between the city of Cardiff environmental health officer, who advises against the practice of dragon boat racing, and the county and, I think, Tarmac plc, which owns the Bute East dock. Dragon boat racing is a form of Maori giant canoe racing, the vessels being not large enough to overturn. Unlike swimming, this is not a true contact sport, but it does involve splashing. Vigorous effort and passing can result in water coming into contact with lips. People making maximum physical effort tend to lick their lips, and even that is sufficient to result in a warning from the Cardiff city environmental health officer that people taking part in such sport in this location do so at serious health risk.
I am grateful for my hon. Friend's useful and interesting intervention.
The implications for fishing are unclear. I have in fron tof me a copy of a Sunday Times report on the algae pollution incident at Rutland Water last year. Although I want to return to that matter, I shall allow myself to be distracted for a moment from the main thrust of my argument in order to refer to this report, which deals with the studies that were carried out after the incident. Apparently, a sales engineer from Great Glen, Leicestershire, spent two weeks in bed because of symptoms that included nausea, headaches and aching and swollen limbs. Those symptoms developed after the man had come into contact with algae while fishing at the reservoir in August. I have no doubt that, if my worst fears are realised, problems will arise because of the practice of biting on shot—of course, fishermen cannot now use lead shot—and contamination in the course of eating, drinking and touching the face.
If the amendments are not accepted, we shall be faced with four particularly unacceptable phenomena in the bay. First, the lake itself will be unsightly, and, because of the high level of microbiological contamination and decom-posing organic material, unpleasant odours will come from it. Secondly, the decomposing organic matter and the high incidence of rats and gulls will constitute a direct health hazard. Rats, of course, carry leptospirosis, and gulls are invariably heavily contaminated with salmonella. Several hon. Members are laughing. Let them understand that this is a major problem. Thirdly, there will be the problem of midges. No doubt this, too, will be a subject of great amusement to some hon. Members, but the promoters of the Bill recognise that it will be a major difficulty.
Let me put on the record a report in the South Wales Echo, which is a regular and enthusiastic advocate of this Bill. It carries this story:
Swarms of midges could be a problem if the Cardiff Bay barrage goes ahead and a huge lake is formed, members of the House of Lords were told. For the first few years of the lake's existence the midges could coat washing on clothes lines and windows in the area near the lake, a scientist told a Select Committee. Some people could also develop allergies to the midges, even if they were dead, said Mr. Morlais Owen, the chief scientist of Welsh Water. He was giving evidence of water quality and other factors relating to the rivers Taff and Ely, which will be held back by the barrage. Mr. Owen said that the condition of the Taff had improved considerably during recent years, and Welsh Water were insisting on stringent conditions to safeguard the fish which had returned to the river.
He supported the barrage and advocated the highest standards, but he recognised that there will be a considerable problem. There will be not a health hazard but an annoyance.
We are being asked to authorise expenditure of more than £100 million to create the lake because it will be attractive to property developers. However, we are told that for three months of the year people will not be able to go near it because of midges. It will not be a great attraction to anybody.
Global warming could become a worse problem. Malarial mosquitos were found on the Isle of Sheppey for quite a long time after servicemen had disembarked there at the end of the second world war. It is conceivable that, with global warming and international air travel, this large lagoon could attract the malarial mosquito to south Wales—perhaps not in this decade but in decades to come.
That is an appropriate intervention, but I do not want to be led too far into the future. My hon. Friend suggests that an atmospheric change in the bay could affect its insect life.
I was going to mention global warming in connection with blue-green algae. The rate of growth of algae, causing the problem of toxic poisoning, is directly controlled by, among other things, air temperature. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) is right: if temperatures change by even a half a degree or a degree, we shall have no way of quantifying its impact on the growth of blue-green algae.
My hon. Friend referred to the evidence given by Mr. Morlais Owen, which was not expected to be hostile. In cross-examination, it was put to him:
With two rivers discharging into the lake with pollutants in them—probably low oxygen levels—probably full of phosphates, algae, extensive rubbish tips nearby, storm water flows as sewage heavy metal pollution, midges and problems with micro-biological quality … 'are you familiar with a case like that anywhere?' Answer, No. Obviously I would have to say I know of no other lake which has been created in such circumstances.
No, the pig comes down the river with the horses.
I was tempted earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) to refer to the dangers to fishermen. I referred to the problem that occurred in 1989. I refer briefly to an article in The Sunday Times which is relevant. It mentions a report by Anglia Water, which revealed that
water had been piped to customers in parts of Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire containing a substance suspected of being microsistine",
which is a toxin. That toxin results from the decomposition of blue-green algae. Such water will be used in the lake, around which people will walk with their children or dogs or in which they will fish.
Anglia Water's conclusion that there was nevertheless no threat to health was challenged this weekend by the scientists on whose research the report was based.
Professor Ian Falconer of the university of New England in Australia found that the doses of the toxin in highly concentrated forms promoted the growth of tumours in mice. He said, 'The general flavour of the Anglia report is playing the incident down.' Dozens of people complained of nausea, stomach ache, diarrhoea and skin rashes after the blue-green algae infested reservoirs at Grafham in Cambrigeshire and Rutland Water in Leicestershire in October and November.
Those are precisely the blue-green algae which it is recognised by everybody, including the promoters, will contaminate the waters of the bay.
The article continued:
Similarly dangerous levels of the algae have been found already this year in at least nine lakes and reservoirs in the midlands and southern England. The toxin in blue-green algae can sometimes cause liver damage in humans and kill birds, animals and fish. The National Rivers Authority, Britain's water pollution watchdog, yesterday warned that the algae posed a risk to anglers, water sports enthusiasts and other people using affected water for recreation.
That was the official warning given by the National Rivers Authority to the public about the dangers of being adjacent to or coming into contact with water contaminated by blue-green algae—precisely the con-ditions which, on the promoters' own admission, will apply in the Cardiff bay lagoon. It makes one wonder what the logic is behind the proposal.
The article continued:
Dozens of other stretches of water have also been found to contain smaller amounts of the algae which is fed by sewage, farm pollution and natural chemicals reacting with sunlight. Anglia argued that its report's conclusions were based on the advice of Government scientists and John Howell, a toxicologist at the water research centre, an independent company funded by the industry. He had decided that there was no risk to human health because research by Falconer had shown no effect on mice given 1,000 times the doses that might have ended up in drinking water. In fact, Falconer found that doses that concentrated had killed many of the experimental animals and the lowest dose he has ever used, still 200 times higher than in the drinking water, caused an increase in general illness in the mice.
That was the incident which led to all the problems of illness and to the deaths of domestic and farm animals when they came into contact with water. They did not necessarily drink large amounts of water, but only came into contact with it. It was the incident which led to the angler to whom I referred earlier being struck down with various ailments.
It is not as though the NRA is not aware of the problem. I refer briefly to another report, again in the South Wales Echo, last November:
Action to fight the growth of poisonous algae which infected eight lakes in South Wales this year has been announced by river watchdogs.
The final sentence was:
In their first report on blue-green algal blooms which are thought to have killed 20 sheep, 15 dogs and put two soldiers in hospital in Wales in 1989 the National Rivers Authority makes a series of recommendations.
None of the recommendations is capable of being implemented in the circumstances of Cardiff bay. Even if they could be implemented, they would be an enormous continuing burden on the ratepayers of Cardiff and South Glamorgan. Provision is made by the promoters for the interim period, but what will happen then? Who will pick up the tab of ensuring that the lake in the middle of Cardiff, which will be useless, will be monitored, treated and controlled in such a way as not to make it fit for people to drink or fish in but merely to walk alongside and exercise their pets? It is a frightening prospect.
An interesting specialist report from the National Rivers Authority, dealing with toxic blue-green algae, was published last September. It contains issues that are relevant to the new clauses.
In the evidence given about the need to monitor, the same witness, Mr. Owen, was asked:
the lake will have to rely, will it not, on extensive control measures for many years if not in perpetuity, to ensure that there is adequate quality of water and the environment".
that is correct, yes".
The more we consider the issue of water quality, the more we realise how wrong the Cardiff Bay development corporation has been in its assessment.
It is worth reflecting for a moment on the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, who is not here at present, raised. We are not talking about the construction of a barrage that will generate power, assist communica-tion across the bay, create a water reservoir or a body of water that will he of general use to the population for recreation, sporting or relaxed leisure purposes. We are told that the barrage is necessary to pond back the waters to enhance Cardiff's environment so that it will be attractive to property developers who will build high-tech industry or yuppie housing.
The promoters have made a monumental mistake. If they think that a reservoir—to disguise it for a moment —which will not he drinkable, and in which one will not be able to play or fish because it will be riddled with pollution, fly ridden, attractive to vermin, will give off odours, be covered in the summer by blue-green algae and contain deadly toxins, will attract people to invest in high-tech industries or build yuppie houses, it makes me wonder what sort of people they think will come. The industrialists whom I try to talk into coming to my constituency would not be attracted by that prospect.
I shall return to the report of the National Rivers Authority on toxic blue-green algae, published in September 1990. I want to develop that subject because, if the other matters are inconvenient, blue-green algae and the toxins that they produce are matters of life and death, and positive hazards to human health.
The report's introduction contains a brief summary, which is worth putting on record because I know that my hon. Friends will appreciate the definitions that it contains. It starts:
Blue-green algae are organisms with some properties characteristic of both bacteria and algae. They are capable of photosynthesis and the pigment required for this process often gives them a blue-green colour. Many species of blue-green algae have the ability to fix gaseous nitrogen and, under suitable physical and chemical conditions"—
the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) when he referred to global warming—
particularly in still waters"—
which is precisely what we shall have in the barrage—
populations may grow to extremely high densities and, under certain circumstances, a scum if algae will form on the surface which can accumulate. These algae are also known to produce chemicals which can be toxic to mammals, including man.
This will be the attractive lake that will be created by the expenditure of £150 million of public money.
The report continues by referring to the problems of Rutland Water, and I do not want to develop that theme because I have already mentioned it. However, I shall briefly consider the factors that affect the incidence of blooms. You will be fascinated to know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the blooms occur in the late summer when the temperature conditions are such that the algae break down, giving rise to the toxins. They grow
relatively slowly; but a long period of stable weather, giving a constant physical (hydraulic) environment, is therefore required for large populations to develop. Within this
constraint, the temperature and the nutrients available will determine the population size which may be achieved if good growth conditions persist. In most places in southern and eastern England"—
this report was referring to England but for our purposes it applies equally to Wales as the conditions are exactly the same there—
nutrient availability is more than adequate and grazing by zooplankton is usually minimal, thus blue-green algae normally become dominant in the algal community in mid to late summer.
Those are precisely the conditions that would be created within the barrage as a result of the drainage factors that my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd mentioned. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West said that those problems had already been experienced.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West said in an earlier intervention that those were precisely the problems that had given rise to numerous complaints by residents of Cardiff in the big dock development.
You will be pleased to know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I shall now skip a few pages of this report to come to the matters that are directly relevant to new clause 5. It says:
About 25 species of blue-green algae have been implicated in poisoning incidents. Confirmation that algae can produce toxins is a difficult and lengthy process … The potential toxicity of a bloom or scum cannot be determined by its appearance odour, texture or any other simple feature.
We are creating a time bomb, the toxicity of which cannot be determined by anyone without recourse to detailed physical or scientific examination. Blooms capable of producing toxins have been reported from all over the world, including many European countries, and up to 75 per cent. of all such algae tested have been found to produce toxins.
The important and damning point is that:
The toxicity of a single bloom, however, may fluctuate rapidly both in time and in space.
The conclusion that can be drawn from that is that, whatever the algae—we will not know which species it is —it may well be producing highly toxic material. No one will be able to tell because there will be no physical manifestation of the quality of the algae. It will not smell or look a particular colour and it may vary in terms of time and space.
We are told that this development will be attractive to all the yuppies who are going to move into Cardiff bay —pull the other one.
My hon. Friend makes a very good case, but I wonder if there is perhaps a large sluice gate in the barrage which could be opened at low tide to let out everything into the Severn. That would get rid of the algae, the dead horses and all the sewage.
That is a serious matter and my hon. Friend does the development corporation a disservice in mocking it because it recognises the problem and has studied ways to combat it. I know of two ways that it has considered, and I understand that one is still on the cards. The first was to allow an ingress of salt water. The belief was that, when the salt water mixed with the fresh water, the biological conditions would change, and that would kill the blooms.
As my hon. Friend says, algae do not gargle. Furthermore, as the necessary mixing of the waters would not occur, that idea was put to one side.
I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth is desperately anxious to find a solution to the problem and may confirm that the current solution to the problem of algae growth is thought to be something like a giant jacuzzi, in the belief that if the oxygen content of the waters in the bay can be altered, that will create conditions in which the algae cannot survive. The current idea seems to be to have a giant oxygenating plant which would have to be turned on at regular intervals, and which could reinvigorate the whole lagoon. You can therefore understand, Mr. Deputy Speaker, why people will not be allowed to swim in it.
Perhaps it would help the House to know that page 36 of the Bill refers to the necessity of removing algal scum. It is not my hon. Friends and I who have introduced this algae fixation; it is the promoters, who have signed an agreement with the National Rivers Authority involving a wide variety of procedures, including the oxygenating equipment that my hon. Friend has mentioned and a giant algae hoover plant which will suck blooms of algae out of—
Well, it may involve an order for converting a hoover—I do not know. I wonder whether my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) has absented himself from the Chamber for that reason.
However, there is no mention of what will be done with the algae once it has been sucked out of the lake. It would fall under the definition of "sewage sludge" and there is nothing in the reference on page 36 to the removal of algal scum to tell us what will be done with that algal scum. Following the municipal waste water directive that has been mentioned, that scum cannot be dumped at sea or piped out to sea. Does my hon. Friend agree that we want more clarification on this point?
I shall happily give way to my hon. Friend as I know that he does not want to end the debate too soon, but perhaps I can finish my sentence first.
The NRA recognises that there is a problem and has suggested ways in which blue-green algae can be controlled in the longer term. Before I develop that argument, which is directly relevant to the new clause, I happily give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth on the assurance that he will not seek to move the closure if I sit down.
My hon. Friend can be satisfied that I am merely rising to try to help him. The point that I made earlier applies equally to his current argument about these serious and important matters. The maintenance of water quality standards at the disposal site is dealt with by the NRA which, under its statutory procedures, must satisfy itself that these matters are dealt with satisfactorily. Those requirements are included in the Bill, as the hon. Member for Cardiff, West said. Interesting though these technical matters are, the Bill is satisfactory as it stands at the moment.
. I understand that that is the promoters' response, but if we pass the Bill, we are allowing through legislation which has enormous environmental consequences that are worthy of more detailed debate, and which will allow expenditure of £150 million or £200 million of public money—or more—in pursuance of the idea that Cardiff can be regenerated by the lake. That is what this is about. We are now told that the main flaw in the technical arguments and the main problem of pollution will be dealt with at some unspecified time in the future and by some unspecified means.
Exactly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams) says, we are expected to take it on trust. I am not prepared to take it on trust. I might be satisfied on this point if the National Rivers Authority said that it would implement A, B and C, how much it would cost and that that would bring about a solution to the problem. If that was on offer, I would be prepared to withdraw the new clause, as I am sure all my hon. Friends would be. But that is not on offer, so I am not prepared to accept the proposal.
I give way first to my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda and then to my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike). I know that you will be impressed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I know that it is my hon. Friend from Burnley when I am not even looking at him. However, I know that he is there. I can sense his presence. I know that he has a valuable contribution to make to the debate and I shall happily give way to him. As I am sure that he recognises, this is essentially a matter involving us in Wales, so I shall give way first to my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda.
My hon. Friend may be asking for the impossible when he says that he wants firm undertakings from the National Rivers Authority. The NRA may think of itself as god-like, but it is not a god. It cannot control the enormous problems that exist in estuarial areas. There is a mixing of water in such areas as a result of the interchange of sea water and fresh water, which vary substantially in their organic and inorganic content and relative salinity. There is almost a natural jacuzzi effect which gives rise to an enormous concentration of organic life at river mouths. That would be denied by the construction of a barrage. As a result of the accumulation of materials when it passes over and through the ground eventually to reach an estuary, fresh water probably has 10 times more organic material in it than sea water. That shows the continually compounding and evolving problems that would occur behind an enclosed area. The hon. Members for Newport, West and for Cardiff, South and Penarth may snigger at that, but, as my hon. Friends have said, the barrage could be a time bomb for the people living in the area.
My hon. Friend will know that I was on the Environment Select Committee until six months ago and that I have always been a strong supporter of the National Rivers Authority. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) referred to the powers that the NRA had to deal with the specific points that have been made. I wonder whether he is aware that on more than one occasion the NRA has said that it does not have all the powers that it should have to carry out its functions and sometimes has to use persuasion. On other matters, it does not necessarily have all the resources that it needs to carry out the duties laid upon it by the Water Act 1989.
I have to confess that I did not know that. To use a term which I understand is now acceptable in the better political circles in this country, I am absolutely gobsmacked to hear that. No doubt that point will be developed.
I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) was not present when I intervened in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd to say that there were matters on which we agreed that we should seek improvements in general legislation. My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd put his finger on one such matter, but it is not one for the Bill.
Clearly, we are all united on that matter. I look forward to the day, in the not-too-distant future, when my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth, together with myself and my hon. Friends the Members for Pontypridd and for Burnley, will be members of a Standing Committee pushing through legislation introduced by a Labour Government. In the meantime, let me return to the NRA report of last year.
Hon. Members will be pleased to know that there are methods of dealing with blue-green algae in the longer term. The report says:
Blue-green algae in reservoirs and lakes may be controlled by direct and mostly non-selective algicidal techniques or by the artificial enhancement of natural selection through physical, chemical and biological methods. However, the use of algicidal techniques is not considered advisable because toxins may be released into the water during cell breakdown. Enhanced natural controls may be effective, but only under certain conditions.
"Enhanced natural controls" means some form of bio-engineering, which opens up the prospect of the Cardiff Bay development corporation setting up a system for genetically manipulating the blue-green algae, injecting them artifically into the lake and, by a process of natural
selection, bringing about a clearance of the blue-green algae. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West is looking a little bemused at that suggestion. When the Cardiff Bay development corporation suggests that the manipulation of the genetic structure of the blue-green algae will be the solution to the problems of the bay, I will be satisfied that it has finally given up.
Further to my hon. Friend's gob being figuratively smacked by my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike), and mine in turn by the idea that, in order to provide the water quality that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Panarth (Mr. Michael) and I want, both of us having a riparian constituency interest in the lake, algae can be genetically engineered to self-destruct at the right moment, is that the algal equivalent of pigs flying?
I think that that is a rhetorical question.
Before you remind me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am dealing with new clause 6 which refers to phosphate and nitrate stripping. I am referring particularly to phospate stripping because the report goes on to say:
Reducing phosphorous availability would be effective but even total control of point sources is likely to leave diffuse sources which may be adequate for blue-green algal bloom production.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd said earlier, that means that although it may well be possible to pinpoint, and deal with, particularly concentrated areas of pollution—there is no suggestion that the Bill will deal with them—there would still be the regular routine leaching or seeping into water courses and into the bay of waters containing phosphates.
The report says:
The control of diffuse sources is much more difficult and would still leave the previously introduced phosphorous within lake and reservoir muds being available for several years.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) about the immediate need for action, but even if that were to happen and phosphate pollution ceased now, residual phosphate pollution of the muds will continue for five years or more.
The report states:
Permanent destratification methods are likely to depress the growth of blue-green algae in reservoirs indefinitely, but only if the mixed depth considerably exceeds the depth which sustains algal growth.
That will not be feasible in terms of the barrage. The report continues:
Intermittent destratification would be subject to similar conditions and whilst it could depress the growth of all major algae it is a technique untried on the full reservoir scale.
So much for that.
The report then goes on to detail research and development, and certainly that is the only way in which a solution will be found. It states:
Research and development in relation to blue-green algae blooms and their toxins fall into three broad areas: those relating to the formation and control of blue-green algal blooms, research specifically related to the toxins that they produce and research into the effect of the toxins. A number of possible methods for controlling algal populations have been suggested in the report, all of which require improvements or basic research before they could be described as being effective.
That is the essence of the problem. The NRA, after studying the most recent research, has concluded emphatically that more research needs to be done before an effective solution to the problem is found.
I have listened with interest to the discussion about the way in which the problem must be tackled. The need for more research has been outlined in the NRA report. Does the NRA venture to suggest a time scale in which the problem might be dealt with? If the barrage went ahead before a solution to the problem of the algae had been found, how many years would people have to suffer the possibility of toxin poisoning and goodness knows what else?
No time scale was offered in the NRA report, but it discussed not only improving existing techniques for control but basic research. We are talking not about a scheme that already exists but needs fine-tuning, but about basic research.
My hon. Friend is right that we are still talking about research rather than any practical prospect of being able to choke the sources of nutrients through sewage that can lead to highly eutrophic water and the right conditions for blooms. If there was any evidence in the Bill or in protective clauses signed by Welsh Water and the NRA that they had a solution to excess nutrients arising from sewage flowing into the waters of the bay, that would be fine; we could do without some of the airy-fairy ideas about genetically engineered algae. However, no whit of an approach has been made to solve the problem of storm sewer overflows that bring additional sewage into the rivers that feed into the lake.
Phosphate and nitrate stripping is specifically covered by another of our new clauses because the two Cilfynydd sewerage works that drain the Cynon valley and the upper Taff—Aberdare, Merthyr and so on—will continue to provide treated sewage in the future. It does not contain any solids and it is suitably clean for a flowing river, but that treated sewage will come down the river. We know that, in the summer, half the flow in the river Ely and one third of that in the river Taff is treated sewage. That is what gives the rivers the peculiarly pungent smell that one experiences in July and August when walking along their banks. No solution to the problem has so far been provided.
It is clear from my hon. Friend's intervention that we all agree that the problem has three dimensions—or, at least, three areas that require action. First, there is the problem of the existing sewer outfalls and the need to ensure that the controlled effluent is properly treated. Secondly, we need to recognise that, even if we achieved that now, there would still be a problem in the lagoon and a need to find some way of treating not only the blue-green algae but the toxins. I fear that the third matter—the leaching into the river of pollutants from the domestic areas of our valleys—has not received adequate attention. I refer, for example, to leaching from Berw road in Pontypridd and from the settlements right across the Taff and Ely river valleys. There is an enormous amount of casual spillage and pollution of all sorts goes into the rivers. Even if we tackle the problem of the existing sewer outfalls, that problem will remain. Action is needed on all three fronts.
The section of the report dealing with research and development concludes:
Little is known about the environmental behaviour and fate of the toxins produced by blue-green algae.
In other words, even if we could deal with the problem of blue-green algae, we would still know little about the toxins themselves. The report says:
Better analytical techniques, toxicity testing methods and reference collection material are needed, as is research to determine the mechanism used by the algae for, and the effect of environmental controls on, toxin production.
In its latest updated report, the National Rivers Authority, which has specific responsibility for the problem, concludes that not enough is known about the toxins produced by the algae. What we do know, however, is that if one comes into casual contact with them, one is likely to suffer sickness and diarrhoea and all the other ailments that we have described and that if one's dog or stock go near the water, they will die. We may not know the precise mechanisms involved but we certainly know that the toxins can create the most difficult problems.
The debate that we have just had—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] I am not suggesting for one moment that we are concluding the debate. The debate thus far has shown—
My hon. Friend is encouraging us to say more, but I know that some of my hon. Friends wish to make brief speeches of their own and that is why I am anxious to bring my brief contribution to a close.
It is clear that there is enormous doubt about the wisdom of building the barrage purely on the grounds of the quality of the water that will be impounded in the lagoon. We have made it clear beyond any doubt that people will not be able to swim or fish in it. They will not be able to touch it or surf on it. It is doubtful whether the dragon races will be able to be held. For much of the year, rather than being an attraction or a benefit to the city of Cardiff, the lagoon will be a disbenefit. If anything is guaranteed to convince us that the Bill deserves to fail, it is the certain knowledge that if it proceeds we shall be creating a monster that will be very difficult to control.
I rise to speak succinctly and in an impassioned fashion. I say that because I am sure that, at this time in the morning, the House is more likely to be moved by the crisp logic of Russell, Wittgenstein and Professor Ayer than by the beautiful language of the romantic poets which I normally use.
My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells), who moved the Second Reading of the new clause, spoke lucidly, quietly and in devastating and impressive fashion. At one stage he paused and invited the Minister to intervene: he wanted to know whether the Minister, given his specialist knowledge and advice, was prepared to say how much or how little pollution would end up in the lagoon that would be protected by the barrage. The Minister—who, for the purposes of the Bill, is clearly trying to turn silence into an art form—said nothing. I am not sure whether he has been struck dumb, or whether he has been converted to the old German proverb "Schweigen ist geld." I have always believed less that silence is golden than that, all too often, it is a mask for ignorance: certainly that is what Welsh people believe about the Minister, from Cardiff to Tenby and from Haverfordwest to Meinclochog.
At another point, one of the Bill's supporters asked my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd whether he could quantify the pollution that would end up in the lagoon. That is taking things a bit too far; with respect to my hon. Friend, it is a bit cheeky. He is relatively new to the House and may not know much about our procedures, but I am sure that he knows—no doubt he had his tongue in his cheek—that when hon. Members sponsor and speak in support of a Bill with such enormous implications, the burden of proof must be placed on them. It is their responsibility to reveal the damage, or the limits of the damage, that the Bill will cause. It is rather sad that, in this instance, the sponsors have not done their homework and given us that information.
I fear that, if we pass the Bill without the new clause and those grouped with it, rather than champagne dribbling into the valleys because of its economic advantages, poison will dribble into the sea and will then be washed back towards the valleys. I fear that environmental damage will prevent the natural toxic disintegration of nitrates and phosphates that might occur if the barrage were not built.
The sponsors say that the Secretary of State and the National Rivers Authority have all the powers that they need to get rid of the pollution. I must ask them not to allow their enthusiasm to be overrun by their naivety. They must know that, when there are conflicts between commerce and the environment, insidious, unspoken forces often prevent both the NRA and the Secretary of State from doing what they should do—and that is assuming, which I do not, that in this case they have the powers to make effective what they want to do.
Some 20 years ago I worked in what was then the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, where I dealt with planning appeals. Sometimes I passed them on to the Minister, but sometimes I was the last port of call and the writ of Sedgemore would run: I would make the decision. When I see a new clause like this—I do not want to discuss private Bill procedure; we are using it in any event—I ask myself what I would have done had I been faced with a planning application and one of the objectors had come up with this proposal and wanted to attach it to the application as a condition. I would have said to those who were appealing, "There is no chance on earth that I will grant your application unless the new clauses are included." The sooner that the sponsors say that they are prepared to accept them, the sooner we can move on.
Mr. Alan Williams:
I wish to make two comments about the proposed new clauses. I congratulate hon. Members on their lengthy, detailed and expert contributions. My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells) spoke about all the new clauses in the group and my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) concentrated on the one in which he is especially interested, which is new clause 6 on phosphate and nitrate stripping.
My first detailed knowledge of the Cardiff barrage came from a film about the proposal made in 1988 or 1989 by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The two main arguments advanced in that film dealt with the proposal's effect on wildlife, the wading birds, and the danger of eutrophication in the new bay from nitrates and phosphates.
My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd estimated that about 500,000 people live in the Taff and Ely valleys, the valleys of the rivers that feed the Ely and the Rhondda valley. It is the most densely populated area in Wales and, apart from London, one of the most densely populated areas in Great Britain. It is a fact of life that all those people produce sewage which, even when it is properly treated, leaves nitrates and phosphates, and those chemicals are found in the Taff and the Ely. Nitrates and phosphates would be trapped behind the proposed barrage, creating an ideal environment for eutrophication.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) asked for figures and was told that it is up to the Bill's sponsors to produce them. My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd spoke about 3 million cu m of rubbish in the Ferry road tip. [Interruption.] I have seen quoted a figure of 3 million tonnes of phosphates. About 1,000 tonnes of phosphates from sewage come down the Taff and Ely every year. There is another 1,000 tonnes from the use of fertilisers and about 500 tonnes from detergents. There is a danger that the bay will have a eutrophied environment, certainly in the summer.
Nitrates and phosphates are fertilisers and, in warm weather, they cause plants to multiply. There is no nitrate or phosphate in the open ocean and there is therefore little plant life there because it has to depend on the availability of other nutrients. In an ideal environment there is always a danger of eutrophication. New clause 6 asks the undertakers to publish a plan showing how they will carry out phosphate and nitrate stripping should that prove necessary. Perhaps in the first three to five years there will be no serious problem, but it is probable rather than possible that in future there will be a serious problem of phosphates and nitrates. What will the undertakers do to remove those chemicals? Their removal calls for expensive technologies, the cost of which I shall deal with later.
It has been known for 10 or 20 years, for example, that eutrophication is a serious problem in the Norfolk Broads. The Observer reported last year that the Nature Conservancy Council has found that the Broads had lost their rare plant life because of pollution and that they contained little more than algae and bacteria. When there is an algal bloom, the dead algae use up a great deal of oxygen. That means that the oxygen concentration goes through peaks and troughs in a 24-hour cycle. During the middle of the day there may be plenty of oxygen, but in the middle of the night the dead algae will consume a lot of oxygen. That has a knock-on effect on all animal life and fish in the water. Serious problems that are the result of high phosphate concentrations in Lake Erie have been well documented for the past 20 or 30 years.
It has been suggested on several occasions during the debate that there are solutions to the algae part of the giant hoover effect, as described by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan). It has been said that there may be a technological fix to the problem, but in so many technologies we are a bit too clever by half. For example, the River Colorado is an environmental disaster in many ways. An episode of "Horizon" about 10 or 15 years ago was entitled, "Where did the Colorado go?" I am sure that the House knows that the River Colorado no longer reaches the sea; it ends in a desert in Mexico. That is because along its length there over 100 reservoirs, the waters of which are used by farmers for irrigation. There is massive evaporation. The spreading of water over large areas of land greatly accelerates natural evaporation, and as the river flows from America into Mexico there is much less water than that which nature intended. It does not reach the—
|Division No. 116]||[12.52 am|
|Amess, David||Jack, Michael|
|Arbuthnot, James||Jackson, Robert|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Jessel, Toby|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Knapman, Roger|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Boswell, Tim||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Bowis, John||Lightbown, David|
|Boyes, Roland||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Brazier, Julian||Mans, Keith|
|Bright, Graham||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Burt, Alistair||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Morrison, Sir Charles|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Moss, Malcolm|
|Carrington, Matthew||Murphy, Paul|
|Cash, William||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Norris, Steve|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)||Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy)|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Rowe, Andrew|
|Dixon, Don||Ryder, Rt Hon Richard|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Durant, Sir Anthony||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Fearn, Ronald||Stern, Michael|
|Flynn, Paul||Stevens, Lewis|
|Foster, Derek||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Gale, Roger||Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Glyn, Dr Sir Alan||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Thorne, Neil|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Thurnham, Peter|
|Grist, Ian||Tredinnick, David|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Trippier, David|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Harris, David||Wallace, James|
|Hawkins, Christopher||Watts, John|
|Hayes, Jerry||Wheeler, Sir John|
|Hind, Kenneth||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Home Robertson, John||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Howard, Rt Hon Michael||Wood, Timothy|
|Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)|
|Howells, Geraint||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)||Mr. Alun Michael and|
|Hunt, Rt Hon David||Mr. Gwilym Jones.|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Pike, Peter L.|
|Cryer, Bob||Rogers, Allan|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Salmond, Alex|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Marek, Dr John||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Morgan, Rhodri||Dr. Kim Howells and|
|Morley, Elliot||Mr. Ted Rowlands.|
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you have received from any member of the Government a request for permission to make a statement to explain the mess. It appears that the Government have collapsed in chaos. As you, Sir, have said, the question of the letter from the Secretary of State for Wales was raised earlier today. In effect, that letter imposed a semi-official Whip. The Government cannot sustain a closure motion, and are clearly in disarray.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is just conceivable that, earlier this evening, you saw the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) explain on television that the Government are in a state of collapse. The right hon. Gentleman has been on the box about three times, pointing out that there are saboteurs in the Tory party. He has taken the rebels home, and has left the Government without the necessary 100 supporters. He has turned them into a rabble.
Mr. Alan W. Williams:
Earlier I was speaking in support of new clause 6 and phosphate and nitrate stripping. Eutrophication may occur a few years after construction of the barrage. If so, the waters that feed it will have to be stripped of nitrates and phosphates.
My hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) spoke impressively about toxic algae, with which we have had considerable problems in the past two years. There was an incident two years ago at Rutland water, where dogs and sheep died simply from drinking the water. Last year, there were appalling problems along the north-east coast.
That illustrates the point that I want to make. Some hon. Members have been present since the start of this business. The Bill is of much concern to our constituents. We wish to debate it and listen to other points of view. Will you look at the rabble on the Conservative Benches? They are engaged in a deliberate campaign against my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams) of barracking or trying to disrupt his speech. [Interruption.] They are at it again. Will you ensure the same order and good manners that we had before that crowd came into the Chamber.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As people are coming in here half-sozzled, would not it be a good idea for you to order the bars to be closed?
Order. It seems that the noise is coming equally from both sides of the House, and it is unacceptable from either side. I very much hope that the normal courtesies that are extended to any hon. Member will be observed.
The vote showed that the House believes that this important Bill should not be hurried and that the new clauses are important. I am not sure that I shall be able to contribute to the debate before the second closure, so will my hon. Friend appeal to the Under-Secretary of State to give us the view of the Welsh Office? The Under-Secretary is shaking his head.
It is disgraceful. We have heard of the letter saying that the Welsh Office is behind the Bill. It has instructed all its Ministers to be here, yet those Ministers are not prepared to stand up and say even one sentence about whether the clause is right or wrong. Does not my hon. Friend think that that is disgraceful? Will he appeal to the Minister to speak?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his worthy contribution. If the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett), the junior Minister, wishes to intervene, I will be willing to give way at any time. We need the view of the Welsh Office and of the Government on the Bill. Since 7 o'clock 90 per cent. of what has been said has been critical of the Bill. We have had two powerful contributions from my hon. Friends the Members for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) and for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells). I am pleased that as a result of the Division we have been given more time to elaborate the arguments about pollution.
In relation to the problems of phosphates and nitrates that will be trapped, I said a few moments ago that the toxic algae problem appeared in 1989. Last year we had severe problems along the north-east coast from algal blooms. Indeed, the sale of shellfish had to be stopped for several weeks. The livelihood of 3,000 fishermen who collect mussels, prawns, crab and so on was jeopardised when toxins in shellfish were found to be up to 50 times the permitted concentrations.
Inland waters were also affected by algal blooms last year; 501 reservoirs and inland lakes were affected, including one in my constituency, by problems caused by nitrates and phosphates. What if similar problems emerge in the Cardiff bay barrage? What will be done about nitrate and phosphate stripping? Is the technology available? Will money be available?
In new clause 6 we call on the undertakers to publish a plan for phosphate and nitrate stripping of the waters entering the inland bay if that becomes necessary, and to demonstrate to us that that can be done. We want the undertakers to tell us whether it is technically possible and to explain how it will be done.
It is difficult to remove nitrates and phosphates from water. Water can be denitrified by the use of bacteria, but that cannot be done on a large scale. Ion exchange methods can be used to replace the nitrates by chlorides. Precipitation methods using ferric sulphate can deal with phosphates, but it is very expensive. I have a quote which shows how expensive it is. It was from the former Secretary of State for the Environment—[Interruption.]
The cost of removing phosphates and nitrates from Britain's sewage before it is dumped at sea would involve building secondary sewerage plant at a cost of up to £7 billion. That could become necessary if algal blooms became a recurrent problem in the North sea. For the Taff and Ely, pro rata, the figure would work out at up to £100 million. That is in addition to the costs of building the barrage. If we find in a year or two or whenever that there is a serious problem of the eutrophication of toxic algae, it could cost anything up to £100 million to clear.
New clause 6 asks simply that the promoters produce a plan of how they would tackle the problem, to show that it can be done and that there will be a commitment that the money will be made available.
In the babble, I think that we have lost some of the subtleties of my hon. Friend's argument. I know that there have been cases of eutrophication in the Yns Y Fro reservoir in my constituency and serious eutrophica-tion of blue-green algae on Rutland water. Those problems have been cleared up and, as far as I know, those and hundreds of other stretches of water are operational again. But is my hon. Friend saying that they have been cleared up at the cost he said, or something similar?
No, eutrophication is seasonal—it comes and goes. It comes in warm weather. If the hon. Gentleman had listened intently to the excellent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly he would have realised that eutrophication is temperature dependent. It does not occur in winter, but when there are long days and warm weather algae multiplies rapidly, and then goes away. But let us suppose that it becomes a recurrent problem, and there is every possibility that that could happen, especially in the Rivers Taff and Ely because there is a terrific population of half a million people there, and the sewage effluent is continually fed into the rivers. Therefore, the waters are naturally high in nitrogen phosphate. If there is a regular, recurrent problem, and there are not to be fish deaths year after year—one of the side-effects of algae blooms—one must tackle the problem at source. If one does that, one is talking of costs running up to about £100 million to clear the problem.
The argument of my hon. Friends the Members for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams) and for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) is that the construction of the barrage will cause pollution in the lagoon area behind it. There is no doubt about that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly stressed the possible effect on the health of the people living around the district. My hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen is now stressing the enormous cost that it might pose to taxpayers in general in order to alleviate problems that could arise. Surely it would be much better if the Bill's promoters accepted that, in order to have development in the Cardiff bay district, there is absolutely no need to have a barrage that does not add a single square foot to the amount of land available for industrial and housing development. The only reason why the barrage is being constructed, which will then create all the pollution problems, is—as the report states—to create a water vista and enhance the prices of houses around it. From the arguments put forward on that issue alone, that seems an enormous price to pay for a water vista.
My hon. Friend's contribution sum-marises very well the strong feeling of the Opposition Members who have contributed most to the debate—the barrage is for purely visual effect and will not create or pull in any jobs. Of course, we want the districts of Cardiff to be developed and maximum industry and jobs pulled into them. None of us is against that. We are in the Labour party because we believe that Government and public funds should be used in that way. But, in terms of trapping the water, flooding the mud flats, which are important for wild life and wading birds, and creating a potential environmental disaster, the barrage is an appalling waste of public money. That money could be far better used in the health service, in infrastructure or in a number of other ways.
Since I posed those questions I think that I have found the answer in the evidence of Chesterton Professional Services, which were employed by Cardiff Bay development corporation. In its report it says that the full barrage would have a betterment effect on the land in the area, increasing its value from £114 million to £347 million. That is the reason why the barrage is being constructed. It is designed not to add to the economic development of Cardiff but to make money for these people.
My hon. Friend makes an excellent case. I cannot understand why, when the economy is in the crisis that it is, we are wasting our money in this way.
New clause 17 concerns eliminating the risks of pollution from leachates, especialy from the Ferry road tip. My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd dealt at length with the problems associated with the Ferry road tip, which contains 3 million cu m of rubbish, which is not toxic waste but mainly domestic. Nevertheless, it is an enormous quantity. The onus should be on the undertakers to show that the tip can be sealed off and that there will be no leachate from it. I think that the hon. Member for Pontypridd demonstrated the logical trap that the undertakers are in as regards this tip. First, they have been thinking of moving the whole tip and trying to relocate it, perhaps in Stormy Down—I do not know.
I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) is looking at me furiously. I was not suggesting that. I think that the tip should stay exactly where it is.
I read another story, although I do not know whether it is a possibility, saying that all the contents of the tip could be put in trains and carried to Bedfordshire at a cost of £40 million. That was a serious proposal, but I do not know whether it is a runner. Is not it the height of absurdity to be carrying the domestic rubbish of 10, 20 or 30 years ago in trains 200 miles across the country to bury it in Bedfordshire? I wonder what the people of Bedfordshire think about that? The trains would be incredibly smelly because the waste has half-decayed anaerobically. The putrefaction and the smell would be incredible.
I am not sure whether it will. Given this Government, perhaps it will be taken in lorries along the M4. Imagine being stuck behind one of those lorries on the Severn bridge for half an hour in a traffic jam.
Can the Ferry road tip be sealed? What are the alternatives? Is there a way to seal that sort of tip so that no leachates would reach the barrage? Frankly, I do not think that we can seal tips that effectively, especially as the water table may be raised and that such tips give off methane the whole time. The problem of the tip defeats this proposal.
I ask hon. Members to support this set of new clauses. In opposing the construction of the barrage, I think that there are strong environmental reasons why the project should not go ahead.
While the Government Whips, the promoters and my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) are absent from the Chamber, having a confab about what they should do in the circumstances, I wish to raise some additional points, some of which would be better raised in the presence of my hon. Friend. Indeed, I wished to pay him a compliment and to say that, as far as I am concerned, he is a prominent environmentalist in the Cardiff context. I am sure that he will be willing to concede that I am the same, and that we are both doing the Lord's work—he is doing it in his way, and I am doing it in the Lord's way, but we are nevertheless both doing the Lord's work. I very much admire my hon. Friend's approach, although I believe that our approach, as incorporated in these five new clauses, following the attempt to terminate the debate which, fortunately, fell rather flat because of the Government's disarray—
Not only that—they are also trying to gather the duvet vote, but if they look for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I hope that they go to his present residence at No. 11 Downing street and not to his former residence, or they may get a lesson in what goes on at night in London. That tactic should be approached carefully.
During the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth made many strong pleas to my hon. Friends, saying that we should not be promoting new clause 5 on leachate; new clause 6 on phosphate and nitrate stripping; new clause 8 on sewage removal; new clause 17 on the future of the Ferry road tip; and new clause 19 on algal scum disposal—
I can draw it for my hon. Friend, although I am not sure that one can adequately describe it. However, if my hon. Friend were to come down on one of the free trips that the Cardiff Bay development corporation may offer him, I could show him—
Well, it is a case of whatever turns you on, is it not, Mr. Deputy Speaker? If my hon. Friend will not come down to Cardiff, I shall have to do my best later to explain what algal scum is.
I am pleased that I shall now have the chance to discuss the five new clauses as I wrote every single word of them myself. It is a sign of the good sense of the House that, being aware that I had not had the chance to speak to provisions that I had drafted late at night in the Library, pity was taken on me. Much as they would like to make further progress, hon. Members thought that it was not fair to close the debate until I had had a chance to say a word or two about the new clauses.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth takes a different approach to the new clauses. He accepts that these five subjects are critical to the acceptability of the Bill. I know that they are critical and my hon. Friend the Member for Pontrypridd, who made his maiden speech on the Bill, also accepted that they are critical. This is one of the most important of our many important debates on the acceptability of the barrage, its side effects and direct and indirect consequences. We must consider whether an amenity lake of the quality about which we are talking will actually be an amenity lake, and if it is not an amenity lake in the normal accepted definition of the phrase in 1995, when it might open for business, or in 2005, when standards will have risen further, there is no point in having it. We should be terribly derelict in our duty if we did not consider whether the barrage will be worth the candle unless by 2005 it can provide the amenities that people will expect at a level appropriate to that year and not to the lower 1985 standards.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth said, "All those things are mentioned in the Bill. Phosphate and nitrate stripping, algal scum and the Ferry road tip are all mentioned." We have not invented the subject matter of the new clauses; we have merely taken it from the existing Bill and incorporated it differently to give greater assurances. We ask that the House does not approve the Bill until the promoters show how they will solve the well-known environmental problems. If my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth were here, he would accept that his position is that the National Rivers Authority, Welsh Water or other appropriate bodies have suitable undertakings and that we should take it on trust that those undertakings will be put into effect in accordance with the standards laid down by those bodies. However, the problem is that the NRA, for example, did not exist on the previous occasion when objections could be made to the Bill, when it came from the other place to this House.
On this Bill, the NRA did not have the chance to formulate the bargaining position that it has on the River Usk Barrage Bill, which has entered the other place. The NRA is objecting strongly to that Bill. According to a conversation that I had with it this morning, there is more than a 50–50 chance that it will be able to maintain that objection throughout the negotiations with the promoters.
The NRA came into existence on 1 September 1988. The last day for objecting to this Bill was some six weeks before that, on 26 July. Until 1 September, the Welsh division of the NRA was merely a subsidiary of Welsh Water. If Welsh Water did not want to object to the Bill —and it did not—there was nothing that the people who five weeks later formed the NRA could do. We were told that they did want to object, but we shall never really know the answer to that.
By 1 September, when the NRA came into existence, it could not object because the closing date for objections was 26 July. The NRA's bargaining position is therefore extremely weak. It must obtain the best bargain that it can. That is all that it can do. It can say that it wants a fish pass which will use the latest available and best technology. On the Usk barrage it can say that if the promoters do not provide a fish pass that the NRA likes, it will stop the Bill.
On the Cardiff bay barrage it can try to bargain for an adequate fish pass, but in the end the promoters can say, "This is the best fish pass that we can come up with, but we are going ahead with the Bill because you did not exist as a separate body with a specific duty of conservation of aquatic flora and fauna until it was too late to object." The NRA will not be able to insist on a fish pass, for example.
We are not discussing fisheries yet. We are discussing algal scum, phosphates, leachates and water quality in general.
They certainly do. The same principle undoubtedly applies to phosphate and nitrate stripping, the matter dealt with in new clause 6.
I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth has come back into the Chamber. I have been speaking about him in glowing and complimentary terms as an environmentalist who approaches the problem from a slightly different angle from me. I am asking how things are to be done before the barrage is built. I am not prepared to take it on trust that the appropriate authorities are happy with the undertakings that they have received. Such authorities are in the weak bargaining position that I have described. They could not object to the Bill because they did not exist when the opportunity was available to do so. I paraphrase briefly for my hon. Friend what I have said in the past few minutes.
Tonight we are trying to decide whether the approach of the new clauses is more relevant for achieving the standards that everyone will seek in the year 2005, or whether the approach of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth is more appropriate. His approach is that the National Rivers Authority says that it has an undertaking which is long and detailed and refers to algal scum, water quality, future water quality standards and what it will have to do to enforce them. But in its present bargaining position, if we do not retrospectively include the provisions for which the NRA would have asked if it had existed on 26 July—the last day for submitting objections to the Bill—
Another aspect on which my hon. Friend may wish to comment is the letter from the Secretary of State for Wales demonstrating strong support for the Bill. I remind my hon. Friend that the current chairman of the National Rivers Authority is Lord Crickhowell, a former Secretary of State for Wales. Therefore, unless something is included in the Bill, people might suspect that the standards of environmental protection that my hon. Friend regards as desirable—I am sure that that view is shared by the whole House—might go by the board. Whether or not their suspicions are accurate, people may believe that there is a conspiracy between successive Secretaries of State for Wales to get through the House what is referred to in the letter as a "very exciting project". It is important for ensuring decent standards of conduct in public life that the safeguards that my hon. Friend seeks are included in the Bill.
My hon. Friend enables me to refer to the new Tory tendency of trying to be all things to all men, one of the descriptions of our new and much-loved Prime Minister, particularly among Opposition Members but not so much among Tory Members. That was the criticism of the Prime Minister made, I think, by Sir Alan Walters, in this rash of criticism that has broken out.
The Secretary of State for Wales has been doing the same thing. The letter to which my hon. Friend referred has been sent to all members of the Cabinet to tell their Parliamentary Private Secretaries to be here tonight—some were obviously lost in the post, or there would have been 115 here. Perhaps the number of Parliamentary Private Secretaries has been reduced dramatically since last weekend—we are not quite sure which.
The same subject was covered by another letter which the Secretary of State wrote on 16 April, faxed to Ian Prestt, the director general of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, an extremely distinguished former senior civil servant in the Department of the Environment. It said:
I cannot accept your allegation that my letter of 31 March is 'tantamount to an official whip'. The Government has consistently made clear its substantial interest in the objectives of the Bill.
So far so good. That is the same as the letter sent to members of the Cabinet. Then the Secretary of State for Wales went on:
Subject only to the additional work and consultation on ground water, I remain committed to the barrage as the best way of assisting the regeneration of Cardiff Bay.
There is no mention of that in his letter to the Cabinet; nothing about the duties that he will have to discharge subject to the enactment of the Bill in saying whether there should be a final go or no-go decision on the barrage depending on the decisions on ground water and the public consultation exercise at the end of the year. Why should he be sending a different message to his Cabinet colleagues and hiding from them the fact that he has this quasi-judicial role in the early months of next year when, trying to be all things to all men, he tells the RSPB that of course he is aware of all his additional duties arising from the Bill? Why did he not send the same message to his fellow Cabinet members when he wrote telling them to be here as though this was the last word on the Bill?
How far should promoters have to go? Should they have to explain to the House how they propose to solve the giant problems of the project? Take, for example, the Ferry road tip dealt with in new clause 17. That new clause says that before the barrage is constructed the promoters must produce and publish their proposals for the future of the Ferry road tip. We all realise that what happens to that tip is vital to the viability of the barrage, the cleanliness of the water in the barrage and the availability of land for development in the barrage. The protective clauses mention that but they do not say what is to be done and it is important that we should try to establish that at this stage through the publication of a proposal for the Ferry road tip. The Cardiff Bay development corporation has been operating in secrecy and speaking with forked tongue on the subject.
One reason why the promoters are not terribly worried about including the safeguards that my hon. Friend is outlining is that the Government have a majority of 150 and they know that they can shove private Bills through in the middle of the night. They need only keep a few Members here—they have not made it tonight, that is true—and the safeguards can go by the board. The Government will put on an official or semi-official Whip in order to get the Bill through. That has been the feature of such legislation since 1979. The Government's majority has enabled the promoters to get away with blue murder. They have used the Government's built-in majority rather than allowing such matters to be dealt with on a non-party basis.
I could not agree more.
The Secretary of State has spoken with forked tongue through his front organisation, the Cardiff' Bay development corporation, on the precise subject of new clause 17, which states:
'Before commencement of impounding by means of the barrage the undertakers shall produce and publish proposals for the sealing of the Ferry Road tip to the satisfaction of the rivers authority and the Environmental Health Officer of the city council that no material risk of infiltration of the inland bay or of groundwater by leachate from the tip will occur.'.
Consider what we have learnt from the Touche Ross report. That report was undertaken at the insistence of the Welsh Office for the Cardiff city council to aid its execution of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. That report states:
The intentions of Cardiff Bay Development Corporation have affected the waste management planning in Cardiff adversely. Accepting the political reality, the intentions of the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation with respect to Ferry Road should be finalised.
That is exactly what we are saying. We believe that they should be produced and published. The report states that the consultants
feel however that CBDC has grossly underestimated the logistic, environmental, health and safety problems associated with exhuming 2 million cubic metres of waste"—
let alone with transporting that to Bedford. Now we come to the interesting part of the report, which the Welsh Office will know all about as it is mentioned. It says:
The Consultants have, in fact, following informal discussions with the Welsh Office, intimated that the removal of the tip may not now proceed in full.
What will be done? We do not know. In public it is said that the tip will be removed, probably to Bedfordshire, or possibly to some other site in south Wales.
It would help the House if my hon. Friend could give the reasons for the existence of the Cardiff Bay development corporation. Does it have any social objectives, or is it in it just for the money? What are its terms of reference? What were the terms of reference for Touche Ross? Only when we know precisely those terms of reference can we interpret the information that my hon. Friend has provided objectively.
It would detain the House unduly if I went over the purposes of the corporation—I am sure that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with your eagle eye and ear would prevent me. It had something to do with creating a superlative maritme city in Cardiff and reuniting the old docks area with the city centre.
The commission given by Cardiff city council to Touche Ross was designed to enable it to comply with the Environmental Protection Act 1990. That Act stated that by last Friday all local authorities in Wales had to produce proposals on how they intended to manage waste disposal in their areas. The new scheme introduced LAWDACS —local authority waste disposal authorities and companies—while the local authority monitoring role in connection with waste disposal had to separate from the actual collection and from disposal of that waste. Local authorities had to produce their relevant proposals by Friday.
In October 1990, the Cardiff city council hired Touche Ross to produce those proposals. The consultants referred to the "informal discussions" that had gone on behind closed doors with the Welsh Office. The public in Cardiff know nothing about those discussions, and, contrary to all the published evidence in the press and the general impression that the Ferry road tip would be removed, the consultants employed by the council have been told informally by the Welsh Office that no such thing will happen. They have been told that the tip will not be moved, or that not all of it will be moved, or that it will simply be moved from one half of the site to another.
A form of waste disposal alps may be created, with a low-level site in one part of the Ferry road tip and a high-level site in another. It beats me how that can be done with decomposing refuse, but I understand that that is the sort of proposal that the Welsh Office is now discussing with consultants. The general public do not know that, Parliament does not know it, the Select Committee was not told it. We were all told, "There are other options, but the favoured solution is the removal of the Ferry road tip to Bedford." To dispense with such confusion, we must be clear, before the corporation starts impounding the water, what it proposes to do with the tip. It cannot say one thing to the public in Cardiff and another behindhand to the Welsh Office, which may then, it seems, talk to consultants here and there without the knowledge of Parliament or of voters in Cardiff.
I am tempted by my hon. Friend's comments and by the comments made earlier in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) to ask for confirmation that there is no guarantee that, if the tip is moved in whole or in part, it will be moved by environmentally friendly railway and not by environment-ally hostile heavy juggernauts thundering through Cardiff and down many highways and by-ways before reaching Bedfordshire or wherever else it is dumped. The Government have an anti-rail policy, and it is clear that, with no guarantees laid down, thousands of lorry movements may be required to get rid of such a huge tip. Does my hon. Friend agree that if it had definitely been stated that there would be—
Having a drink of London tap water reminds one of what an important subject water quality is —for all of us, both now and in future. My hon. Friend is entirely right, and it is very much an open question. Let us suppose that the tip removal went ahead in part or in whole, which is what most members of the public in Cardiff think will happen given all the official public statements about the preferred option. The waste would probably go by road if it went to the site in Mid Glamorgan that the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams) mentioned, causing the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) to jump 3 ft off the ground. If the waste were taken to Bedfordshire, however, I am reasonably assured that the move would be feasible only by long-distrance rail haulage. Contrary to the impression given in Cardiff, secret negotiations are taking place with a view to leaving the tip in place or shovelling it around —landscaping it or making it a golf course, a playing field or whatever. To be honest, we do not know what will happen. I do not think that the proposals have gone that far. It looks as though the promoters have been speaking with forked tongue and the public in Cardiff and Parliament have been grossly misled.
My hon. Friend was asked a straight and simple question about the possibility or likelihood of the tip removal involving large numbers of lorry movements through the streets of Cardiff. Perhaps he knows something that I do not know. As I understand it, the removal would—or will—involve train movements and not lorry movements. Does my hon. Friend agree with me on that simple point? If not, can he give me the authority for any doubts that he has on the matter?
Yes, I shall be happy to clarify the matter as far as I can. Suppose that the tip is wholly or partly removed. If it is taken to the site in Mid Glamorgan that was referred to, I do not know of a railhead that could be used. That was my point. The waste would therefore have to go by road. I understand, however, that if the waste went to Bedfordshire, it would go by rail. My hon. Friend is right, however, that if the waste went to the site in Mid Glamorgan, it would not travel through residential streets, although it would travel quite close to some streets of new estate houses in my constituency, along a main haulage dual carriageway.
My hon. Friend has clarified the position. I understand that, when disposal to sites outside south Wales is considered, rail transport proves to be the only option. However, my hon. Friend keeps referring to other options relating to, for instance, sites in Mid Glamorgan. Has he any authority for that, or is it another of the red herrings that featured in an earlier stage of discussion about the tip? I know of no such suggestion.
If my hon. Friend is in a position to say that former quarry sites in Mid Glamorgan owned by Wimpey Waste Management are definitely off limits through some process of debarring, he had better intervene again. I have the impression from the development corporation's statements that if it removes the site—which is still its public and official line—it will be up to waste management contractors to put in the best offer: outfits such as Wimpey Waste Management, which owns the enormous quarry in the southern part of Mid Glamorgan, and Shanks McEwan in Bedford. If Wimpey Waste Management won the contract, perhaps the development corporation would deal with it, feeling obliged to accept the best offer. Neither company would be debarred.
When the possibility of the Ferry road tip being taken by the lorryload and put into the old quarries at Stormy Down was raised, Ogur borough council, as the planning authority, resolved in principle that it would not be suitable to move the tip to the large hole in Stormy Down, which is in my constituency. Many of the councillors were very upset about the possibility of such action. The councillor in the ward where I live—Cefn Cribwr, known by its old parish name of Tythegston Higher—said that he would be prepared to lie in the road and prevent any of the lorries coming anywhere near Stormy Down. That was Councillor Viv Thomas.
I am happy to answer that question, while my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth finds out whether he is able to reassure the House as I asked him to.
We have been upsetting ourselves over the environmen-tal consequences of large-scale waste removal—exhumation, as it is described in the consultants' report, stray paragraphs of which have come to our notice and have enabled us to conduct a proper, well-informed debate. The report contradicts the official line—which is believed by the public in Cardiff—and removes most of the possibility of large-scale waste removal to either Mid-Glamorgan or Bedfordshire. It appears that the Welsh Office knows something that Parliament does not. I should be happy to give way to the Minister, if he wants to say more about the negotiations between Touche Ross and the Welsh Office. I have read out Touche Ross's version—that, following its informal discussions with the Welsh Office, the removal of the tip may not proceed in full. If that is true, I am very happy to hear it.
I appreciate that we are dealing with widely ranging issues, but I do not think that we should create worry where none should exist. I am told that Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire are the only options being considered by the development corporation and that rail is the only option being considered for transport to those locations. That eliminates Mid Glamorgan and road transport. Does my hon. Friend have information that contradicts that? I am sure that he agrees that on serious matters such as this we should not operate on gossip or innuendo. I have checked my memory of those matters with the promoters and what I have said knocks other suggestions on the head.
I would be glad to be knocked on the head if it would remove from my memory a conversation with the promoters in which they said that the issue would depend on the offers from waste management contractors. I would be happy to accept the withdrawal of that statement. We have had information about secret negotiations in the Welsh Office about the tip not being moved. New clause 7 deals with the sealing of that tip if it is not moved. We are becoming bogged down in the lesser of two probabilities about the future of the Ferry road tip. There have been negotiations between Touche Ross on behalf of Cardiff city council and the Welsh Office, whose representatives remain sedentary and silent. They are probably still shell shocked by their failure on the closure motion, despite a circular letter to the Parliamentary Private Secretaries who are now safely tucked under their duvets.
I appreciate that my hon. Friend wishes to explore people's minds. I am sure that at all times he wants to explore people's approach to matters to make sure that they are right, and to look at other options. My hon. Friend, of all people, would not want anyone to close his mind to other options. As I have said in relation to the tip's removal, the option that I mentioned is the only one that is being or has been considered. Leaching is consequent upon the issues that we are debating, and those issues are dealt with by the Bill as it stands.
My hon. Friend is right to say that these issues are mentioned in the Bill. They are also mentioned in our new clauses. We are both pointing to the need for a solution to problems of leaching, phosphate and nitrate in the waters feeding the barrage, removal of the existing sewer outfalls and algae. Our new clauses strengthen the safeguards that my hon. Friend says are already in the Bill. The approach that my hon. Friend commends to the House does not require the promoters to show the House before it passes the Bill, or before its contents satisfy somebody else, how they intend to solve those problems.
We do not know what the promoters intend to do about the Ferry road tip. Our latest understanding, following bits of news about negotiations between Touche Ross and the Welsh Office, is that the tip is not to be removed. In that case, we need to know how it will be sealed. How do we deal with the problems covered by new clause 5 on leaching and new clause 17 on the sealing of the tip? There are two approaches to the problem, on the Welsh Office assumption that the Ferry road tip is to stay. We would like a definitive statement from the promoters or from the Welsh Office as to whether the tip is to stay or to go. I think that it will remain, but the official line is that it is to be removed. It would be useful to be able to determine the matter tonight, but if we are not told, that is 10 times more reason than we thought we had for insisting on new clauses 5 and 17 about the future of the Ferry road tip.
What will happen to the tip? If it is to stay, how are we to seal off such a large tip—in size, it is in the top 20—that is at the height of its powers of decomposition? It is a major producer of methane. It adjoins the old gasworks tip, with all the phenolics, cyanide and cyanates that are to be found in the ground deep underneath the gasworks, which produced gas by coke. The ground water surges round the old coke, which contains cyanates and phenolics. There is the decomposing tip, with all the methane and organics. It will be in contact with a much higher level of ground water following the closing off at the permanent high water level of the barrage.
We need to know before the impoundment starts how the promoters intend to solve the problem. To paraphrase the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth as reasonably as I can, he says that we should be satisfied with the undertakings that have been secured by the National Rivers Authority, Cardiff city council or Welsh Water, or by the words that appear in the Bill, even though they are far from specific about the solutions that are proposed.
Phosphate and nitrate removal could have a colossal effect on my constituents. If it is necessary to introduce phosphate and nitrate removal plants on the Taff and the Ely of the sort that are on the Rhine, where are they to be situated? Such plants are large. They could be situated at the double sewage works at Cilfynydd, one of which deals with the sewage from the Cynon and the other with the sewage from the Taff north of Pontypridd up to Merthyr. It would be possible to bolt on to the sewage works a removal plant. That would be handy, but the trouble is that a lot of sewage comes out into the Taff through the storm sewer disposal works that are below the sewage works.
I apologise for turning my back on you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I turned 180 deg while explaining these matters to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth. The hour is late, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I ask you to excuse me.
The Ely might just be in the vale of Glamorgan. The Miskin sewage works are the main works that cover the Taff-Ely borough, an area in which the population has exploded during the past 20 years. The works are brand new and they do a great job. Large quantities of treated sewage are discharged back into the River Ely, which passes through my constituency. During a dry summer, 50 per cent. of the water in the river comes from the sewage works, and it contains a colossal amount of nitrate and phosphate.
As I have said, it is possible to bolt on removal works to remove phosphates and nitrates that are in the sewage, but they will not deal with storm overflows, and I am told that there are about 250 in the catchment areas. Given the rainfall in south Wales, the overflows work summer and winter, which means that a great deal of sewage does not pass via the sewerage works. There is also dog excrement that is washed into the rain water sewers, which ends up in the river. That is a major source of phosphates and, to a lesser extent, nitrates. None of that will be covered by the waters of the bay unless there is a phosphate and nitrate treatment works in operation just before the water enters the lake. That is where my constituency comes on the scene.
The Rhine is taken almost completely off its production line, as it were. It is taken from its normal flow. That means carving out a new river channel, and the river, in its entirety, is passed through decomposition tanks of iron for phosphates and aluminium for nitrates, or it might be the other way round. Either way, there is a need for an iron decomposition tank and an aluminium tank to react against the phosphates and nitrates and neutralise them.
Where is that to be done in my constituency? Will part of the playing fields in the castle grounds be taken? Where are we to take the Taff from its normal stream and pass it through two tanks and then return it to its formal flow? Is there any other solution? Do we know what the solution is? Have we heard anything that amounts to a solution to the problem of phosphate and nitrate removal? Even the promoters accept that the removal may become necessary if we are to comply with the municipal waste water directives of which my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd spoke so eloquently. Those concerns must be met before we can buy this pig in a poke. I do not know whether the necessary land is available, but if no solution can be found there should be no barrage. There should be no impounding until we can see how the problems that the barrage will create can be solved. If we cannot see how the problems can be solved, there should be no barrage.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth believes that the NRA is aware of the problems and will set the standards. There are many committed, hard-working staff in the NRA and they will do their job. However, it is far too late for them to do their job fully in the sense of being able to bargain as equal partners with the Cardiff Bay development corporation because the NRA did not exist when objections were to be heard. The NRA was unable to bargain and say that, unless certain solutions to problems were forthcoming, the permissions would not be granted.
Lord Crickhowell's position is also a problem. Regardless of his persuasive qualities and personal commitment to his job as chairman of the NRA, he must be conscious that he cannot be unbiased in relation to the Cardiff bay barrage. His commitment is, if possible, even greater than that of the present Secretary of State for Wales as a result of his sense of parental responsibility for the project.
Reference has been made to the land holdings of companies associated with Lord Crickhowell. Does my hon. Friend have any further information about that? That point is important and pertinent with regard to the NRA and the way in which its policies are prosecuted and whether there may be a conflict of interest between Lord Crickhowell in his capacity as the member of a company with an interest in land in the Cardiff bay barrage area and his position as chairman of the NRA.
I wonder whether my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek) has the permission of Mr. Deputy Speaker to take us down that road to investigate those inter-locking interests. The post-Cabinet, post-parliamentary appointments secured by the former Secretary of State for Wales have left him in an extremely difficult position with regard to the Cardiff bay barrage.
I am sure that Mr. Deputy Speaker would rule my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West out of order if he were to stray out of order. However, I hope that he will be in order because we are discussing new clauses that are principally concerned with the cleanliness of water, and that is an essential function of the NRA. Subject to the view of Mr. Deputy Speaker, I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West would be in order—
I am grateful for your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I understand the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham. His point is pertinent because it relates to the former Secretary of State for Wales who is now the chairman of the NRA, director of Associated British Ports Holdings and of HTV and several other companies. The former Secretary of State for Wales is Captain Clean-up. He is supposed to be like Caesar's wife —or was it Lot's wife?—and be above suspicion when it comes to pollution.
Captain Clean-up must be in the van of leading the fight to eradicate water pollution. However, in the other place, Lord Crickhowell adopted a position that I could not follow. As chairman of the NRA and as an interested member of the other place, he knocked six bells out of the Usk barrage, saying that the NRA takes a strong view about such barriers because it is not satisfied about the fish bars or about the conservation of the aquatic flora and fauna, and he said that there was no way in which he could sleep tight in bed if he allowed the proposal to go through when it seems so thoroughly dangerous and pernicious.
The position in this case is completely different. The National Rivers Authority did not exist at that time. Its chairman is known to be the progenitor of the scheme. Standing on Penarth head one day with a local architect, he thought to himself, "Wouldn't it be nice to have a barrage between Penarth head and Queen Alexandra dock gate? What a wonderful lake it would make." When politicians near the end of their careers, they like to leave behind a memorial to their period in office. The Secretary of State for Wales did not want his eight years in that job simply to appear as a footnote in the history books. He wanted to create something big so that people would say, "That was Lord Crickhowell's—Captain Clean-up's—idea."
That creates a credibility problem when the person who favours the Cardiff Bay barrage knocks six bells out of the Usk barrage. That was not his idea. However, Lord Crickhowell is now chairman of the NRA; that is his primary responsibility. The NRA has the power, given by legislation, formally to object. It is a separate body, but that was not the case at the last date when objections could be lodged against the Bill.
My hon. Friend is pursuing an interesting line of inquiry concerning the attitude of the NRA's chairman to the inland lake that the barrage would create in Cardiff, compared with his attitude to the proposal for a barrage across the River Usk. He suggests that part of the problem is that the NRA did not exist when objections to the Cardiff Bay barrage had to be lodged. That may be the most important point. Might it not be that the former Secretary of State for Wales took the title Lord Crickhowell because Crickhowell is on the banks of the River Usk?
I understand that he did not take the title Lord Pembroke because he wanted to leave that title to the present Member of Parliament for Pembroke after he loses his seat at the next election. However, I shudder to think what quango may be found for him to chair if the widely forecast change of Government takes place, involving the loss of his seat. Lord Crickhowell is associated with the Usk valley where he had a house. However, it is a speculative point, and I intend to confine myself to the facts.
Welsh Water was in effect the predecessor of the National Rivers Authority, which came into being six weeks too late to object to the Bill. Welsh Water had no duty to conserve aquatic flora and fauna, but its successor body, the National Rivers Authority, has. Before 1 September 1988, the only body that had a duty to conserve aquatic flora and fauna was the Nature Conservancy Council. As might have been expected, it objected to the Bill. Had the NRA been in existence on 26 July 1988, it, too, would have objected. The view of the NRA's council for Wales staff is that it would have felt obliged to object on the ground that it had a duty to conserve aquatic flora and fauna, a duty that its predecessor body did not have. It is one of those accidents, but the House could remedy it by accepting some of these amendments.
Order. I was about to reproach the hon. Gentleman when he moved away from that point. I hope that the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) will not now tempt me to make the reproach that I was about to make then. Perhaps we should get back to the speech of the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan).
I accept your admonition, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I want to refer directly to new clause 6, which says:
the undertakers and water company shall produce and publish a plan".
When the previous Secretary of State for Wales granted permission, that requirement did not exist. The then Secretary of State is now a very substantial director of Associated British Ports, which owns 160 acres in the Cardiff bay area. One could not attribute to him a desire to have a statue erected, but he seems to have taken advantage of the revolving door—moving out of Government and into one of the companies that he helped. This kind of thing happens all the time. All Opposition Members criticise Conservative Members for it. We have seen it in the case of British Aerospace. I do not think that the previous Secretary of State for Wales is any better than the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit).
I do not think that that version is at all suitable.
Nothing that I have said should have given my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers), or any other hon. Member, the impression that I approve of the arrangement by which Lord Crickhowell, immediately on ceasing to be a member of the Cabinet, became chairman of the National Rivers Authority and a director of Associated British Ports. From the point of view of the unbiased treatment of this Bill, that is regrettable. It is bound to lead to a problem of perception, even if there is no conflict of interests. We have to accept that there is a problem and that Parliament must try to satisfy people who are worried about water-pollution-related issues. At the time in question, the NRA did not exist, and since then the person widely regarded as the father of the barrage has become chairman of that authority and a director of Associated British Ports.
Some of the amendments that were not selected dealt with this matter. We tried to clean up the act in relation to the barrage and ex-Ministers. We tried to do likewise in the case of British Telecom, but our amendments were not called. A former Secretary of State is a director of British Gas, but again our amendments were not selected. And the same applies to Associated British Ports. No doubt the very judicious decision of the authorities of the House to ensure that such amendments were not called has been proved right by the fact that, today, we have not needed to devote very much time to the activities of former members of the Cabinet.
Mention has been made of the fact that, when a barrage is built, the inter-tidal movement is broken up. There is fresh water on one side and salt water on the other, but there is no partially saline water between. That partially saline water may seem of little importance to hon. Members, but it is incredibly important as a flushing mechanism. It is called the kidneys of the system because it moves in and out vigorously in areas with high tidal ranges such as the upper Bristol channel. It acts extremely effectively, although not in accord with modern practice, as the kidneys of urban industrial south Wales and Bristol.
I agree that the tidal range in the Severn estuary helps to flush out many of the harmful pollutants, but we must remember that there is much pollution to be treated and that that flushing process does not make those waters safe.
I am glad that my hon. Friend has made that point. It was almost a Pavlovian reaction, which I expected as I am aware of his passionate commitment to clean beaches and a clean marine environment. That is a further responsibility of the National Rivers Authority. He took some unjustified and fearful hammerings from Welsh Water but has been proved right. Welsh Water said that EC directives would be unnecessary for the treatment of sewage discharges near public bathing beaches. It said that they did no harm, that it had the right means of dealing with long sea outfalls and that other pollutants would be dealt with by the vigorous action of the Bristol channel.
No hon. Member has mentioned new clause 8—unless I missed it while I was having a cup of tea.
I did not realise that an expert on kidneys was present.
New clause 8, which has received less attention than the other four new clauses, relates to sewage outfalls. In the same spirit of the other four new clauses, it says:
Before the commencement of impounding by means of the Barrage the undertakers shall produce and publish a plan pertaining to the sewer outfalls discharging directly into the inland bay"—
that is partly dealt with by the Bill—
or into the waters of the rivers discharging into the Bay"—
that is not dealt with by the Bill, but it was dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd—
or the tributaries thereof, showing the proposed means of removal, relocation or improvement"—
that phrase recurs time and again in the promoters' version of the Bill, which we have improved—
and the agreement of the owner of each outfall to such removal, relocation or improvement"—
another phrase borrowed from a standard clause that recurs in the handiwork of the promoters and their parliamentary agents.
The importance of our additions are twofold. First, we tried not only to make specific the obligations on the National Rivers Authority and Welsh Water for water treatment, sewage removal or treatment but to say to the promoters, "Before you impound the barrage you must be able to show how you will do the job." We insisted on that because they have not dealt with storm sewer overflows or with what will happen when the 14 direct sewers are diverted so that they do not discharge into the lake. Where will they discharge into? The Bristol channel. Is that an improvement? It is a bit of an improvement. Obviously they could not discharge into the lake and we do not want them discharging, as now, into very enclosed tidal waters where, because of increasing population pressures, they discharge more and more on the incoming tide, washing raw sewage up the rivers Taff and Ely into the town centre, and then back down again on the outgoing tide. That did not happen in the old days when the population pressure was right. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth would agree that they should be got rid of, but diverting them round the corner into the Bristol channel is not the right solution. That is why we have proposed an improvement.
I am sure that my hon. Friend does not want to mislead the House. I am glad that he has welcomed the diversion of those sewers from Cardiff bay. It is only the introduction of the barrage under the Bill that gives that promise. He suggested that the sewers are merely to be diverted round the corner into the Bristol channel. Will he acknowledge that, due to considerable pressure exerted by my hon. Friend the Member for the Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Smith) and myself, we are to have treatment at the Lavernock works, to which the sewers will be diverted, to meet European standards—an issue on which my hon. Friends the Members for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) and for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths), along with other hon. Members, have fought over a considerable period? I take the point about the fear that he was expressing, but that has been dealt with by assurances given by the Secretary of State for the Environment.
Does my hon. Friend also accept that the diversion of sewer outfalls upstream must be a matter for the water authority and the National Rivers Authority to resolve? I agree with him that there should be an onus on the Government to improve water quality in the rivers. We would all unite on that, but it is too onerous a responsibility to cover in the Bill. It is a matter for more general legislation because such a clean-up is required not as a consequence of the Bill but as part of the improvement of water quality of rivers generally.
I am happy to give my hon. Friends the Members for Cardiff, South and Penarth and for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Smith) maximum credit. They worked together to get assurances about the Lavernock outfall and got an improvement on the original intention when we discussed the matter on Second Reading.
I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth would be happy to concede that the key point is the interpretation of the relevant EEC municipal waste water directives. We are all aware that while legislation may be encouraging, the actual experience of walking along our river banks shows that conditions do not always improve according to the legislation. The National Rivers Authority and Welsh Water will say that they have done their best and have spent a lot of money, but that consumers would not pay for more improve-ments. Unless there is compulsion, the authorities do not always do what is required.
Ten years ago, when one walked along the banks of the River Ely in my constituency there was no smell of sewage because there was no discharge of sewage from the Cowslip and Cogan outfalls on the rising tide and the sewage was not carried inland. As more houses were built in the area, sewage had to be discharged at all times when the outfall was covered by water. Then the sewage was carried upstream first and downstream later. As soon as the tide goes down, the banks are hideously ill-smelling. Those are the sort of practical problems. Does the public believe that the job will be done as it is supposed to be in this optimistic legislation? The public want us to try to enforce that lesson by introducing greater compulsion.
I do not want to take up the time of the House by correcting the odd description that my hon. Friend gave of the results of the Cowslip estate. There are certainly problems there, but they will be helped by the measures resulting from the barrage. My hon. Friend said that it was not enough to have things in legislation or regulation. The fact that EC directives have contained rules has not necessarily brought about the results that we would require—that is certainly true.
The diverted sewers from the Cardiff bay area will feed into Lavernock and, as a result of the statement made by the Secretary of State for the Environment at the last year's North sea conference, a firm undertaking was given with regard to treatment at future outfalls around the coast of Britain. My hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan and I exerted pressure to try to ensure that that undertaking should apply to the Lavernock outfall and should not be regarded, as the Government then appeared to intend, as something for which permission had already been given. We received an absolute promise from the Secretary of State for the Environment that it would be a treated outfall and would fall within the terms of the undertaking given at the North sea conference.
I accept everything that my hon. Friend has said. The only difference between us relates to the form of treatment that would need to be given. My interpretation of the EC directive on municipal waste water is that it could very well compel Welsh Water and the National Rivers Authority to come to an arrangement whereby third-stage treatment—phosphate and nitrate removal—would have to be carried out at Lavernock or any other sea outfall taking municipal waste water.
The undertaking that my hon. Friends the Members for Cardiff, South and Penarth and for Vale of Glamorgan got from the Secretary of State was that secondary treatment, which does not include phosphate and nitrate removal, would be carried out. That involves biological reaction, oxygenation and the usual treatments that take place in most British sewage works. But my reading of the EC directive is that the Lavernock sea outfall would be regarded as discharging into a sensitive district because there are so many bathing beaches there—it is almost one continuous bathing beach from Lavernock point to Barry island. It is not one of the great resorts of Great Britain, but is a popular resort, which would make it a sensitive water. In addition, the outfall discharges from a population of more than 10,000 people, in terms of coastal discharges, and 2,000 people, in terms of inland population—for which Cardiff, Penarth, Dinas Powys and Barry certainly qualify.
If the outfall requires third-stage treatment, we need an undertaking from the Secretaries of State for the Environment and for Wales that goes beyond the undertaking that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth has received. That is the only difference between us. I am happy with the undertaking that he has received so far as it goes, but the very fact that there is a difference of opinion between our interpretation of the EC directive reinforces the reason for the new clauses.
If, as we state in new clause 8, those sewers must be diverted and treated up to the EC standards that will exist in 1995 when the barrage will open for business, and third-stage treatment is required, there is still no undertaking to cover that. That is my understanding of the Secretaries of State's undertaking to my hon. Friends for Cardiff, South and Penarth and for Vale of Glamorgan. The undertaking covers only secondary treatment, but I think that the EC directive means that there will have to be full tertiary River Rhine-type treatment, including phosphate and nitrate removal. That is why we argue that the Bill must be specific—the matter cannot be left to the interpretation of the National Rivers Authority and Welsh Water. Those organisations may say, "Who really needs it, you only need that sort of thing on the Rhine. We do not want to mess around with that—it is much too expensive."
I thank my hon. Friend for allowing me to intervene at last, although I realise that he was pursuing an important argument regarding the intervention by our hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Micheal). During his discourse, before the original intervention when we both tried to intervene, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) was making a case about the cost to consumers of all the remedial works which were necessary to deal with this pollution. I merely want to confirm that the chairman of the former Welsh water authority and the current chairman of its successor, the privatised Welsh Water company, Mr. John Jones, is a constituent of mine. Whenever we meet he never fails to remind me that the cleaning up of our act as regards water quality is an expensive business. I therefore stress what my hon. Friend is saying, as that argument needs to be emphasised and to be considered in relation to the incredible extra costs that will be involved in keeping the water in the lagoon behind the barrage to a reasonable standard, if that can be successfully achieved over a long period of time.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend used the phrase "cleaning up our act" and that is a good description of the set of clauses that we are debating because it is precisely what we are trying to do. I use the word "our" as though we were among the sponsors, which we are not. We are mainly Members of Parliament representing south Wales, who are especially interested in the Bill. I include my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham as an honorary south Walian, which I am sure he will be pleased about, although I do not know whether his constituents would.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend mentioned the attitude of people such as the chairman of Welsh Water, who say that the consumer will never pay for that sort of treatment. They say that if there can be a conspiracy between consumers worried about the size of their water and sewerage bills, and the Government, who do not want the retail prices index to shoot up again to 8·9 per cent. or whatever and therefore say, "Keep water charges down", a conspiracy to keep the EC out of our water affairs, then so much the better. Our standards will be lower than those of the Germans and the Dutch, but what the hell. We British are a pretty dirty nation, especially we people in south Wales—we live among tips and so forth. People like the chairman of Welsh Water will say that if we can possibly get away with a minimalist approach, let us get away with it, as we have done for years.
I can remember meetings that I attended, with my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend, with the old Welsh Water—when it included the Welsh responsibilities of the present National Rivers Authority—where the question was asked, "Who needs any kind of treatment in coastal waters?" Five or six years ago there were long sea outfalls and it was said that the vigour of the British channel, the world's greatest natural flush lavatory, with 5 cu km of salt water roaring up the channel and back down again, dispersed the waste. The fact that it undispersed it and brought it back on the next tide did not seem to occur to Welsh Water, but eventually it had to agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend. However, one can see from his description that that same minimalist attitude still remains, and that is why new clause 8 is necessary to ensure that the promoters are firmly pinned down before impoundment takes place to decide whether these are sensitive waters. If they are, how do the promoters propose to comply with the municipal waste water treatment requirements for tertiary—that is full—treatment? That means that one is able to drink the water when it comes out of the sewage treatment works; it does not contain eutrophicating surplus nutrients for algae, have biological consequences for our beaches, or contain the alleged super-germs, which have driven tourists away from all the beaches in the upper Bristol channel once it became known that they were there.
Before my hon. Friend leaves that point, will he say a little more about the River Rhine and consider whether what happens there would be effective in the Cardiff bay area? Where are the settlement tanks on the Rhine? How much do they cost? How effective are they? Could such treatment be used on the Taff?
That intervention is pertinent to new clause 6 on phosphate and nitrate stripping. People were panic stricken about the state of the Rhine. Since the introduction of the Bill and the inception of the NRA, I know that the NRA has sent people to the Rhine to see the phosphate treatment works. I do not think that there is one in this country yet. Nobody has yet attempted to apply the higher standards in this country. As the only place where such works can be seen in action is on the Rhine, the NRA went over to see it. It has made a ballpark estimate of how much one would cost, as per the terms of new clause 6. The NRA is not unconscious of the EEC's possible requirement and of the duties that would then fall on the Department of the Environment and the Welsh Office to comply with any directives because national authorities have to comply with EEC directives and are fined by the European Commission and Court of Justice if they do not.
The NRA popped over to have a look at the many phosphate-stripping works on the Rhine, all of which have been built in the past 10 years, totally transforming the Rhine—except when there is a nasty big chemical spill in Switzerland. The NRA has tried to apply that to the phosphate and nitrate problem on the Taff from the Cilfynydd sewage works and to the problem on the Ely at Miskin, the Taff and Ely being the two rivers that discharge into the bay that we are talking about converting into a lake. It was thought that it would cost about £50 million to apply phosphate stripping at the points where the Taff and the Ely enter the lake. Although one cannot cover money in such a Bill, that is the money side.
Much more important, however—as is evident from the way in which we have worded new clause 6 on phosphate and nitrate stripping—is the location of the settlement tanks, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham mentioned in the earlier part of his intervention. That issue raises the question whether one has the necessary land or the compulsory purchase powers to acquire the land that would be required to take the Taff and Ely out of their courses, through iron and aluminium deposition tanks, and bring them back on to their natural courses so that they can discharge into the lake. There are no powers under the Bill for the compulsory acquisition of the land needed to bring the Taff and the Ely off-line and back on-line via the iron and aluminium tanks which are the only effective method of phosphate stripping. The treatment could take place at the sewage works, but that would miss out all the storm sewer overflows, or SSOs, which are a colossal localised problem in south Wales where there are hundreds of such overflows.
If hon. Members do not know what an SSO is, there is a superb example on Lambeth bridge. Those of us who live in Kennington can see it when we walk home at night. There is not a big SSO problem in London, which does not get the variations in rainfall encountered in south Wales, where the valley formation and large numbers of people living in enclosed valley communities mean that when the river rises—after rain, it might rise as much as 6 inches in a few hours—after a heavy rainstorm in south Wales, the rivers Rhondda, Cynon, upper Taff and Ely all rise rapidly and the SSOs discharge sewage because that is preferable to sewage being discharged upwards through people's toilets, flooding their kitchens and bathrooms. That problem is local to south Wales, which is why it is important to put it on the record now. It is relevant to the question of how to remove phosphates and nitrates, and to the issue of acquiring the land to take the Taff and the Ely off-course so that the water can be put through the tanks. Without the necessary powers, one is leaving oneself open to the classic Welsh Water and NRA response in Wales —that people in Wales do not really want that sort of thing, that they cannot afford it and would not pay for it, so why should our standards be as high as Germany's? We should be in the lead on public standards, not always having to catch up with what the Germans were doing on the Rhine five years ago.
The intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham is relevant because I am extremely concerned about the nitrate and phosphate stripping of the rivers and I do not know where the nitrate and phosphate-stripping works would be located. I have asked several times whether they would be located in Sophia Gardens, next to Glamorgan county cricket club. Is that where they envisage putting the giant third-stage treatment works? If it does not go there, where else could it go? It must go into public playing fields somewhere, which are covered by covenants. If new clause 6 is not accepted, the promoters will not be under any compulsion to show where they would put the works. The same applies to new clause 8 on the sewer diversions. If the sewer diversion powers were applied, the sewage was taken out to Lavernock and secondary treatment was provided, that would be fair enough. We know that that could be done. It would not involve a lot of land.
I interpret the EEC municipal waste water directive as requiring third-stage treatment. That puts the promoters in serious trouble. Where in the Lavernock area could it be sited? Would it involve reviving the old plants for the Cog Moors sewage works near Dinas Powys where my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend and I used to live? It is a fine village. In the geography textbooks it is called the largest village in Wales. Between there and the north-eastern suburbs of Barry there was to be a large sewage treatment works. That was about 20 years ago. There was a big campaign against the works in Dinas Powys. People did not want a sewage treatment works, but they accepted it in the end. However, Welsh Water decided not to build it. It said that it did not need it and that long sea outfalls would do the trick.
Now Welsh Water is seeking to build sewage treatment works again. It always tries to get away with a minimalist approach by saying that people in Wales do not want to afford sewage treatment, do not really need it and that the channel is always there. The easy way out is to bung the sewage in the sea. Now everyone has had to wake up to the fact that bunging sewage in the sea drives away tourists and leaves one open to legal challenge from the EEC. Under pressure from Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, local Members of Parliament and members of the public who are anxious about their environment, Ministers have had to give undertakings.
Parents will not take young children to swim at St. Mary's Well bay, Penarth or other places where I took my children to swim in the belief that the salt killed all the germs. People no longer take that attitude. They want to know whether a beach has the EEC blue flag award. That can be achieved only if promoters of measures such as this are tied down to proving that they can meet the standards. The new clause would tie them down and if they could not show to the satisfaction of the authorities how they intended to meet the standards of waste water treatment that will apply when the barrage opens for business through to 2005 or 2015—that is as far as legislators can reasonably look ahead, to our retirement—they could not build the barrage. It would be a dereliction of our duty to allow them to do so. Unless we do that, we cannot bring about the improvements that are required.
We must be able to show that we are giving sewage treatment the priority that it deserves, that the south Wales tourist industry deserves and that the local public who want to teach their children to swim deserve.
We cannot always foresee exactly how an environmen-tal problem will turn out. One of the latest problems that has emerged is generation of methane by tips, which was not foreseen. That is referred to in the new clause that deals with the Ferry road tip. That tip is a major generator of methane. The Ferry road tip is the direct subject matter of new clause 17 and the indirect subject matter of new clause 5. It is the biggest tip in Wales and one of the biggest in Britain. It contains 2 million cu m of waste. We were told by the promoters last year, when they proposed to acquire the tip for the purposes of removing it to Bedford, that it contained 3 million cu m, but we are now told that a more accurate measurement is 2 million cu m. We are happy to accept that downgrading, but it is still a very big tip.
The tip is at the peak of its methane-generating capabilities. It is at the height of its decomposition now because the average life of the black bags buried under the top soil is about 10 years. The tip has been open for business since 1972 and is still going strong. It has another seven or eight years of life, if use of it does not stop by Cardiff Bay development corporation acquiring it
The interesting point about the methane is that no one realised until two or three years ago how serious a problem methane generation from tips was. We now know that it is a serious problem. Methane can migrate several hundred metres underground before it suddenly shoots up to the surface where it can he lit by a spark. It can get inside a house. That happened in Derbyshire last year or two years ago. Bells were set off everywhere. There was a major report.
Methane from tips such as that at Ferry road is a major problem which has just crept up on legislators such as ourselves and the regulatory authorities to which we vote money every year. We never realised how important it was. Giant tips generate a lot of methane and Ferry road tip will presumably be a major source of methane.
Cardiff city council is a forward-looking authority which has bought its own gas-testing rig. One result of Cardiff's being good at its job is that when the Department of the Environment collected statistics on the generation of methane from sites—they were published in the newspapers about two weeks ago—Cardiff was shown to have more notifiable sites generating methane above a certain level than any other city. I cannot remember whether Cardiff had 17 and London 19, or the other way round. That does not mean that the sites in Cardiff generate as much methane as those in London. It merely means that the authorities in Cardiff have been doing their job properly and have actively tried to discover where the methane is being generated at old tips, at today's tips and at places which are not even tips but where there is organic material under the soil, and they have found that there are 17 or 19 notifiable sites. That puts it roughly on a par with London, which is 20 times as big. If London had a gas-detection rig, I am sure that it would have 20 times as many methane-generating sites as Cardiff.
Ferry road tip is easily Cardiff's biggest waste disposal site and new clause 17 proposes that it should have major treatment. On the assumption that it is not moved but left in situ, we want to know how it is to be treated.
But there is an even bigger problem about the Ferry road tip. New clause 17 specifies that a measure of sealing must be carried out there before impoundment. We have emphasised that because the Ferry road tip is crucial to the Ferry road side of the barrage—in other words, the western edge of the barrage.
As we have heard dozens of times during the passage of the Bill through both Houses of Parliament, the purpose of the barrage is to create a lake which will assist in regenerating the area by producing land for development worth many millions of pounds per acre rather than £500,000 per acre, because it will be a classier environment. That is a lovely theory, but the problem is the geography of the lake.
Development on the east side of the lake near the docks is proceeding anyway. Running from the Queen Alexander dock entrance to the pierhead building, the property development subsidiary of Associated British Ports has said that it is proceeding with the first phase of its £160 million development on its 160 acres regardless of the barrage. It hopes to start in October.
It is only the area near the Ferry road tip on the west side of the barrage that the barrage can possibly make any difference to. That is why, after Second Reading 18 months ago, it was said that the Ferry road tip would be moved to Bedfordshire and fresh top soil brought in so that the land could be used for houses, business parks, offices and so on. There were lovely models of that. That would be the pay-off from the barrage. The barrage makes no difference to the east side near the docks, but it does make a difference to the area near the Ferry road tip.
We are now confronted with the revelations from the Touche Ross report and the discussions between its consultants and the Welsh Office. I note that the junior Minister is writing furiously—no doubt he is evaluating his response to my speech. It is now clear that the Ferry road tip will not be removed, so how does one develop the west side of the barrage?
Is a high-class property development envisaged near a tip that will be generating methane? That tip must be sealed and the methane extracted from it. We have set out in new clause 17 what should happen to the Ferry road tip. It should be treated, sealed and then converted for the most appropriate low-density land use as a former municipal tip. As in the past, it could be developed as a playing field and, eventually, after 50 years, when the tip is inert and no more methane is being generated, it could be converted for a more high-class use.
At present it is impossible to envisage the exhumation of that tip, its wholesale excavation or the outlandish transportation of it in cross-country trains full of stinking, half-decomposed refuse. The tip should be treated to make it more environmentally acceptable. That means that one must accept that the site can no longer form the centrepiece of a high-class, yuppie development of office blocks. One will not get mega-valuable property development on the land around the Ferry road tip.
If the tip remains, it must be converted for playing field use and similar low-density development, with industrial development around it. That would be acceptable, sensible and safe so long as the tip is made safe as a result of methane extraction and sealing. If one accepts that, one must accept that there is no economic case for the barrage.
The sole purpose of the barrage has been to generate high-class property development around the Ferry road tip. If the tip remains, however, sensible, safe development will occur if we accept the strictures of new clause 17. One should not imagine that it is possible to remove the problem from Cardiff to Bedford.
Sludge dumping at sea is covered by the sewage diversion proposal in new clause 8 and by new clause 19. We have had a lengthy, scientific, erudite deposition on algae scum from my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) and I shall not repeat what he said. He is right to suggest that algae represent a great problem. They are recognised as such on page 36 of the Bill which already specifies the removal of algae growths as a duty to be laid on the undertakers.
Algae growths are a problem in dry summers such as those that we had in 1976, 1981, 1989 and 1990. In general, however, we have an exceptionally dry summer every five years. In those years the entire country is subject to drought and that causes huge algae blooms. When that happens, the oxygen levels crash. Algae require oxygen at the breeding stage; without it they die and decay anaerobically at the bottom of the water. A major fish kill will then result. At one time, it was envisaged that there would be a large coarse fishery in the bay. We are still not absolutely clear whether the promoters still envisage a coarse fishery. One new clause that I tabled, but which has not been selected, stipulated that they must include a coarse fishery. It would be a crying shame if the requisite water quality standards could not be achieved. I am sure that the promoters will want to inform the general public in Cardiff what they are to expect and whether there will be a coarse fishery. After all—and we shall return to this subject on the midges amendment—without a coarse fishery, how will one control the midges? Coarse fish eat colossal quantities of midges and we are informed that there will be 11 billion midges—not in the middle of the lake but above the shallows and around the edges, nearer to where people will be walking.
The problem with algae is that they may crash and cause a major fish kill—if we have any fish—every five years when there is a summer drought. To prevent that from happening, one has to step in and hoover them out. A harvesting machine must be developed to pull the algae out of the water before they reach the blooming stage and cause a crash. In a drought, just the right conditions may be created. The sunlight, the temperature of the water, the nutrients coming in from sewage disposal and so on may all be ideal.
The promoters must tell us what they intend to do to avert the problem of algae. If they accept what most scientists accept—that every five years, when there is a drought, there will be an uncontrollable problem—they must accept, too, that that will mean a major stink in the lake. The lake may have to be drained. All the fish in it will have died and will have to be fished out. We may be talking about millions of coarse fish—which will then have to be taken out and burnt—in addition to the algal scum, which will also have to be disposed of. It cannot be dumped at sea. There is no question of sewage sludge including algal scum being shoved out by way of diverted sewer pipes via the Lavernock outfall. In 1995, that will not be allowed. There will be no method of handling huge quantities of algal scum, and that will result in major fish kills and major problems in the drought summers that we must expect every five years.
We want to tie the promoters down now. We want them to make proposals regarding the treatment of the algal blooms and scum mentioned on page 36 of the Bill. We have not invented the subject. We want to see the colour of the promoters' money before we give them permission to impound. How do they propose to solve the problem? At the moment, the only solution that we are offered is a load of waffle—a promise that the National Rivers Authority will extract from the promoters an assurance that they will solve the problem. But the distinguished specialist scientists are saying that they do not yet have a solution. We say, "If the scientists say that there is not a solution to the problem, we must leave an obligation on the promoters to find a solution or accept that they cannot build a barrage." We cannot allow them to build a barrage on trust, knowing of the kind of problems that they themselves admit will arise. The highly eutrophic waters will give rise in drought summers not just to the early-season cladophera-type algae that we see every year in Cardiff but to the later microcystis and to the other nasties that caused the deaths on Rutland Water. Every five years, in drought conditions, we would have a proliferation of blue-greens and therefore oxygen crashes and consequent fish kills. We should then have to face the problem of draining the lake and scraping out and burning dead fish bodies.
The current ministerial sales line, and the approach of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth, who has moved to the Front Bench, is, "Trust the authorities to extract the right undertakings and to establish the correct and acceptable modus operandi with the promoters." We say that if the promoters cannot show us what that modus operandi will be, we do not think that the barrage should be built. We therefore urge that a permission to impound shall be dependent on the achievement of a specific modus operandi acceptable to the scientists working in the regulatory bodies. We want that informaion to be produced and published with no hole-in-corner negotiations going on between the Welsh Office and consultants behind the backs of the people of Cardiff and their democratic representatives and about which we know nothing—unless, that is, we are lucky enough to acquire odd parts of the consultants' reports. That is not good enough. We want to be specific. We want the promoters to produce and publish a plan that shows exactly how they propose to solve the problem of leachates seeping out of the Ferry road tip and of the sealing off of that tip.
We have not heard yet, but it is obvious that the promoters are worried about the sealing, or they would never have suggested removing the tip wholesale as a sine qua non of any subsequent property development. We think that they are probably coming round to the view that it cannot be moved—in which case they should accept new clause 17, and recognise that it should be treated and sealed. That would be a step towards an acceptable compromise between the promoters and those who feel that the problems have not been solved in relation to the five big issues—leachate, phosphate and nitrate stripping, sewage removal, the sealing of the Ferry road tip and the disposal of algal growth arising from surplus nutrients, which itself arises from the insoluble problems posed by the 250 or so storm sewer overflows in the rivers feeding the man-made lake and their tributaries.
Earlier, my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd said that it was putting the cart before the horse for the sponsors to seek permission for the building of the barrage before solving the problems. I think that I have found the solution. The only time that the cart is put before the horse is when the horse is suffering from galloping gastric dysentery. In those circumstances, in front of the horse is the only place for the cart to be.
The south Wales river system is not yet in a position to avoid galloping gastric dysentery—and with the 250 storm sewer overflows it may never be. The barrage should not be built until a solution is proposed. It has been suggested—my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) heard it, and I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth also mentioned it —that, given its considerable Government backing, if we accept the package the Government will feel obliged to put their hands in their pockets and give a lot of money to Welsh Water, the National Rivers Authority or the barrage. The barrage must have first-class conditions. Never mind what happens to investment programmes elsewhere in Wales; the Treasury must cough up for the barrage—although it may not cough up for many other purposes, such as hospitals.
The Government's sales pitch is "Have a barrage—you may not want it, but we are telling you that it is good for you." We ask, "What will you give us with the barrage? Will you improve the sewerage system?" They say, "Sure —if you are willing to accept the barrage, we will certainly give you money for your sewage disposal system." In the first place, that could not be called honest dealing with the public in south Wales. If our sewerage needs improvement, it should have it.
No improvement of the storm sewer overflows is being offered. People say, "Surely there is a technique. If there are 250 such overflows in the valleys—in the tributaries of the Taff and Ely, and in the rivers themselves, which feed the lake—there must be a solution." I have not heard of one. In the 1970s, a huge investment was devoted to solving the storm sewer overflow problem on the Tyne, the Wear and the Mersey. Those areas were in a way similar they housed the first wave of the industrial revolution, and contain the old sewerage systems. Anyone who walked along the banks of the Tyne in the 1960s and 1970s will remember that in the middle of Newcastle the river stank, due to storm sewer overflows.
I believe that £100 million was invested. That was heavy bread back in 1971, when the Secretary of State for Wales of 1987–89 was Secretary of State for the Environment in the Government led by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). He authorised the Mersey and the Tyne to have complete new sewerage systems, which included new rainwater sewers about 10 ft wide running alongside the Mersey, the Tyne and Wear. The purpose was to catch all the surplus rainwater to prevent the rivers from always being full of sewage after heavy rain.
As far as I know it is impossible to do that in south Wales. A new rainwater sewer parallel to the Taff and comparable to the system alongside the Tyne and the Mersey to solve storm sewer overflow problems would leave no room for the houses in the valleys. It would be above the road and the houses would dominate the environment. That is because the Mersey, Tyne and. Wear do not have catchment areas with rainfall similar to that in south Wales. Rain in south Wales discharges immediately into the rivers in the 19 valleys.
I am sure that the Minister of State, Welsh Office is aware of the level of rainfall on the plateau of the south Wales coalfield from which rivers would discharge into this lake. There are 90 to 100 inches of rain a year there, which is greatly in excess of the rainfall in the catchment areas of the Mersey, Tyne and Wear. The problem is made worse by deforestation because wood was needed for pit props or battle ships. That led to the loss of soil on the valley sides and there are bare sandstone faces on many of the valleys which feed the tributaries. Rainwater on the plateau gushes down the bare sandstone faces. There is no soil to absorb it and it is not taken up by the roots of trees because there are no trees. The water reaches the rivers within an hour. The river rises fast and the pressure on the rainwater sewers is such that if sewage was not discharged into them, it would enter the houses.
A rainwater gutter system similar to that on the Mersey, Tyne and Wear to take surplus water after heavy rain would need to be 10 to 20 ft high and would obliterate the landscape. It is physically out of the question. Municipal engineers who are experts in that field say that such a solution would totally obliterate the living environment of the valleys.
My hon. Friend is in full flood on this issue. He is discussing the possible adoption of the scheme that was introduced on the Tyne and the Mersey in the early 1970s. Is there any solution to the storm drain problem? If there is not, what will happen in the valleys?
Modest improvements could be made to the storm sewer overflows. The filters could be cleaned and more modern valves could be fitted. There is no proposal to do that, but civil engineers are looking at the problem in south Wales and they say that we could have better storm sewer overflows. There are 250 of them and it is said that we do not know where some of them are. Many of them are private and do not belong to the National Rivers Authority or Welsh Water. Some of them are owned by small private sewerage works, and not all of them are authorised. Some have been built at isolated dwellings.
Storm sewer overflows could all be classified and equipped with modern filters and valves. That solves one problem and might catch some of the solid material, but it will not solve the problem of nutrients because small non-solid bits of material would still be washed into the rivers.
The problem occurs only during spate flows, and some people contend that that solves the problem. Such a suggestion is sometimes made about Rutland Water, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly spoke so eloquently. Everybody panicked after 10 sheep and 20 dogs—or perhaps it was 20 sheep and 10 dogs—died after lapping the water in the summer of 1989. Everyone said, "My God, what are we going to do about this?" The promoters and the regulatory authorities were asked what they intended to do to avoid a repetition of the Rutland Water incident, bearing in mind that it is admitted in the Bill that the waters are highly eutrophicated. They have not tried to deny that. They know that it means that in warm weather there is the potential for massive algae growth. They said that there was no need to worry about the Cardiff bay barrage lake because the water exchange will be so much more rapid than that which prevailed in the Rutland Water incident, where the same water had been present for 18 months. The average exchange in Cardiff bay would take place over about five days. It was said that the storm sewer overflows would work after heavy rain, and retention in the lake would be only one or two days.
Although retention time in a man-made lake will be far less than that in a river system—it might be only five days —any enriching material that is in the water, whether solids or ground-down bits of solids that have passed through the filters, will not be discharged through the sluices, which primarily will be top sluices to suit the fish. Any material that is below the top two or three feet of water in a 30 ft barrage will not be discharged. It will be blocked when it hits the wall. It will drop to the bottom at the speed that the water drops when it hits the concrete wall. It will then be distributed at the bottom of the lake. That, basically, is what the following year's algae will eat. That is what the following year's midges will feed on. They regard enriched mud as a favourable environment. That is the sort of environment that we shall see for the foreseeable future because of the SSOs.
It is true that SSOs do not open unless there has been a heavy shower, but many of them operate frequently in the summer. There might be a thunderstorm in July or August and a massive flow of water. There may be the discharge of 50 or 100 SSOs. The day after the storm might be warm and dry. Indeed, the following week might be dry. The sewage will enter the lake and be distributed on the bottom. If there is a dry spell of about a week thereafter, conditions will be perfect for an algae bloom. It looks as though there is one in the glass of water that I have been handed, for which I am otherwise grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend. I think that it is known as Passing Cloud—my original American Indian name, but that was in a previous life.
I hope that the Hansard reporter caught that interjection. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman prefers that name because Sitting Bull opposed the advance of the railway. The private Bill procedure of the United States Congress was used to advance capitalism and the eradication of the hunting grounds of the Sioux. I remember that when I was a boy I used to pronounce the name of that tribe as Siowax, not realising that French explorers had reached the lands of the Sioux before the Welsh.
Storm sewer overflows represent a real problem, and one which should not be dodged. To avoid that happening, we must incorporate in the Bill the reinforced concrete mechanism set out in new clause 8 dealing with sewer diversion, and the mechanisms that are set out in the other new clauses providing for phosphate and nitrate stripping. We say that in the absence of a reinforced concrete mechanism and without the finding of a solution, there will be no barrage and impounding will not start. As it stands, the Bill is wishy-washy. It states, in effect, "All right, use the best available technology and you should be able to obtain permission to go ahead with the project. If there are problems, people will accept that you did not know as much as should have been known at the time. We hope that a lower standard will be accepted. After all, what could Parliament have been expected to do about this in 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1991 when it considered the Bill?"
I have listened carefully to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West for the past hour and 55 minutes, but he has not yet referred to the fact that once the barrage is built, it will be there to stay. Given what my hon. Friend has said about unavoidable, catastrophic pollution problems, what about the cost implications and the dis-cost benefits of the barrage in view of the pollution problems?
I am not quite sure what dis-cost benefits are. However, as I have already said, we must move on from the present position. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth and I agree about that. We do not accept that we can continue to use the sea and, in particular, the Bristol channel as the world's greatest flush lavatory for much longer. We accept that the sea does a great job because of the vigour of the tidal action and that it acts as the kidneys of the system in intertidal areas by its saline flushing action and its sweeping out to sea—and the sweeping in of whatever is out at sea, including pollutants. The sea acts as a good, basic "nature knows best" mechanism for correcting the worst aspects of virology, bacteriology and solids and other visually offensive sewage material.
The sea does a job, but we must adopt second and third stage treatment. If we have treatment coupled with the marine flushing action of the sea moving in and out, that is a respectable environment for the standards that we anticipate for the 21st century.
Development would then progress very much along the lines envisaged by Sam Pickstock, the chairman of Tarmac Homes, in his epic interview in Country Living. He said that he thought that the future of Cardiff did not lie with trying to make it a mediterranean playground as portrayed in those wonderful artists' impressions. Those artists were hired by the promoters to draw brilliant iridescent blue lakes with little white boats bobbing up and down on them manned by people wearing green tee-shirts, black sunglasses and red shorts. That is all very pretty, but as Sam Pickstock said, what has that got to do with south Wales or Cardiff? Cardiff is not the mediterranean. Why can we not accept the environment in which we operate? If it is a little misty, grey, brown, or whatever the appropriate pastel shade might be for the south Wales environment, why try to compare it with the mediterranean or with Baltimore?
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) has made a pertinent point about the image and the reality in terms of the technical problems that he so ably described to the House. With regard to the overflows from the storm sewers, I assume that there would be a build-up of organic material on the bottom of the lagoon. In the summer, the water will heat up. As it is accepted that there will be periods when the oxygen level in the lagoon would be extremely low, would not hydrogen sulphide gas be produced? Everyone knows that the smell of that gas does not fit in with the colourful mediterranean picture presented by the promoters. Will my hon. Friend comment on that?
I had intended to make that important point. The promoters say that they thought of it and that they have provided a solution, but they do not know whether it works because it has never been tried anywhere else. One of the few good features of the Bill is that it includes a specific commitment to provide 5 cu litres of dissolved oxygen per gallon of water. I do not remember the precise standard, but it is to be found in the NRA protective clauses.
During a summer drought, river flows would drop. The proportion of river flows represented by treated sewage would therefore increase, in which case eutrophication would become not just a problem but an acute problem. Highly enriched water would enter a warm, shallow lake and provide perfect conditions for the multiplication of algae. The regulatory authorities would pursue the undertakings that they had obtained from the promoters when the oxygen level looked as though it would drop below the required standard. At that point the oxygenation machines would be introduced—standard machines that one sees in all sewage works. Cardiff bay lake would then become one of the world's largest sewage works. Artificially injected oxygen would be introduced to neutralise the highly enriched treated sewage water.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) referred to the deposition of the pollutants on the bed of the lake. Might not the oxygenation process be similar to what happens in a jacuzzi? Apart from the unpleasant smell of hydrogen sulphide, would not an unpleasant scum form on top of the lake?
My hon. Friend raises an important point. He anticipates what could easily happen but what is not intended to happen. The promoters intend to get in first. When they realised, having consulted their monitoring equipment, that the oxygen level was dropping to the point where anaerobic fermentation takes place they would introduce oxygenation equipment to increase the oxygen level. Healthy bacteria, rather than anaerobic bacteria, would form the metabolic process in that enriched environment.
Mr. Alan W. Williams:
Is not that the counsel of desperation? Large amounts of oxygen would be pumped into the lagoon. We face the same problem in the River Towy in Carmarthen. Poorly treated sewage enters the river upstream, which leads downstream to low oxygen levels in the summer and to the pumping of oxygen into the river. We have the equipment to pump oxygen into the river. Is not it similar to artificial respiration? A lagoon would be created where there could be low oxygen levels. Having created a problem, we should then have to devise a technical "fix." Would not it be much wiser not to create the problem in the first place?
I was about to make that point. Oxygen would not be introduced for a known amenity purpose. We should have to cope with the deleterious side effects on the environment.
This is being done on the basis of the sales pitch that it is good for the environment. How are we to turn the environmental promise into reality when we know that the proposed solution to the problem of detritus is a kind of mobile boom that is supposed to collect floating bits of log and the doors that my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd sees passing as he looks down on the River Taff? What might be described as a lorry without wheels will be one of the intrusions into the lake. This machine will grab at bits of detritus. Then there will be the algae-harvesting equipment, whose purpose will be to prevent the algal blooms from getting out of hand. Those machines, too, will have to be able to get into the shallows as the algae will grow in a big way around the fringes. In terms of raised water temperature, sunlight has a much more drastic effect at the edges than in the middle, where the water may be 20 ft deep. Major algal blooms will not occur in the middle, but at the edges—in the correct conditions of nutrients and sunlight—a couple of algae could become a billion in about an hour.
In addition, there will be the oxygenation equipment. I still have a very deep scepticism about the nature of this equipment. It is reckoned that there will be fixed oxygenation points, as well as mobile points whose purpose will be to do a "fire brigade" job. Obviously, the lake will have a very variable bed. If patches of water look as though they are about to have an algal bloom, the oxygenation equipment will be rushed in on a "fire brigade" basis.
So, in the middle of a drought, in a hot August, there will be three things rushing around the lake at the same time. That, of course, is the very time at which the lake, as an amenity, should be at its most attractive. When do most people go out walking? On a fine summer evening. When do most tourists go round the world? In August. Whether what is proposed might produce an acceptable environment on a freezing February day, shortly after a furious rain storm, is hardly relevant. The question is whether it will be an amenity when most people will want such an amenity. The early artists' impressions on the basis of which this scheme was sold depicted a shimmering, blue lake with lots of little dinghies bobbing about, and the occasional person water-skiing. A fleet of mobile oxygenating machines and an algae harvesting boat sucking up algae, or cutting it away from stones, and then discharging it on to some beach or jetty provide a very different picture. People will think, "This is a pretty rum lake. What was it made for? Is that big concrete wall for the pupose of generating electricity? It certainly prevents us from seeing the winking lights of Weston-super-Mare." They will come to the conclusion that the people of Cardiff have been sold a bum deal, and that the people who thought the scheme up should have been told, after about six months of study, that while it looked nice on paper —especially when depicted by an artist in the most favourable possible light, with lots of bright colours and pretty scenes—the environmental problems would not be manageable.
From time to time, including tonight, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth has referred to the Bute East dock. He has said that the water coming into this lake will be the same as that in the Bute East dock. He has made the point that if that dock constitutes an amenity, the man-made lake resulting from this barrage will surely be an amenity. It is important to put on record the fact that there are many problems in respect of the Bute East dock. The water is drawn in from the feeder at Black Weir and flows down through the town centre. That comes from the same source—the River Taff—but there are some differences, the biggest of which is that Bute East dock is a 10 ft deep square box whereas the Cardiff bay lake would be a sloping shallow-edged lake. Most of it would be shallows, but there are no shallows in the Bute East dock, so there is no potential for warming in sunlight. Water 1 ft or 2 ft deep provides ideal conditions for algal blooms; water 10 ft deep does not. Algae are still in Bute East dock, but not huge blooms.
In August 1989, algal blooms were worse in the feeder than in Bute East dock. Complaints to the city environmental health officer resulted in his having to warn the owners of Bute East dock—South Glamorgan county council, Tarmac plc and Cardiff city council—that they must get rid of the algae because they were clogging the feeder, which is about 4 ft deep. The algae were apparent in the dock. Employees at the county council's new headquarters, which adjoin the dock, could see that something strange was happening, but it was not a bloom; the real bloom occurred in the feeders.
Bute East dock is not as shallow as the proposed man-made lake will be, but lorryloads of algae were removed on the instructions of the city environmental health officer in order to comply with the complaints of residents of the new Tarmac housing estate, which was built with the assistance of the Welsh Office through the highest urban development grant ever given in Britain of £8 million. It is a good development, but occasionally it causes problems with eutrophication and algal blooms, of which August 1989 was a prime example.
The second difference between Bute East dock and the new man-made lake is that the dock was directly locked with the sea. As a result, it is not all fresh water but has a salt water cell at the bottom. Approximately 1 ft of pure salt water has deposited itself on the bottom of the dock because salt water is heavier than fresh water. To some extent, that would control some of the problems that would arise with the man-made lake. The promoters accept that salt water will occasionally enter the lake by accident, which is why there will be a bottom sluice to get rid of it. That has the beneficial effect of being a modest form of biological control on the worst biological problems of salt water flowing from the Taff via the feeder.
The third difference between Bute East dock and the lake is that the input can be controlled. Water from the Taff and Ely cannot be controlled, but what flows into the Bute East dock can be controlled. Flows can be cut off or increased because the feeder acts as a control. There is no control over what comes down the Taff and Ely, so Bute East dock has fewer management problems. The few problems that have been experienced act as a warning, which is why we have emphasised the need to ensure that the barrage cannot be impounded until the promoters find solutions to the problems that we have raised. The city environmental health officer has expressed great concern about the use already of Bute East dock for rowing purposes even though it is not conventional rowing where one might capsize. It is dragon racing in large galleys which are unlikely to capsize. Nevertheless, there is still potential danger from Weil's disease; although it is a rare disease, it is fatal. Therefore, the environmental health officer has asked for strict controls, but he does not have power to ban the use of the dock. He can warn the public, but he cannot ban them from using the dock.
The same problem occurs with salmon in the River Taff. Salmon have returned to the Taff since the sewage works at Cilfynydd were opened and they have also returned to the River Ely since the Miskin sewage works were opened because the oxygen levels in the rivers in the summer have improved. But the National Rivers Authority warns people who catch the salmon not to eat them. I remind hon. Members that there are no trout in the Taff or in the Ely because trout are non-migratory fish which eat while they are in a river. Salmon and sea trout migrate; they are in a spawning mode when they are coming up the river and in a migrating mode when going down, and they are not interested in eating. They breathe oxygen in through the water. That can taint the flesh and pose certain problems, but they can survive because they are not eating.
I was shocked when Lord Crickhowell, on Second Reading in the other place, did not mention that. He said that the fact that salmon had returned to the Taff showed that the answer had been found to our prayers and that we now had a clean river. He forgot that we had a re-oxygenated river because of the building of the sewage works at Cilfynydd. However, that did not allow salmon to eat in the river; it meant that salmon could make a spawning run when they were already well stoked up with food from their transatlantic migration. Official advice to the public was not to eat those salmon. The River Taff and its tributaries meet the standard for salmonic fisheries because it considers only oxygen levels, but they do not reach the standard of allowing people to consume their products because of the tainting of the flesh and the carrying of virological diseases. Rivers which pass through urban areas such as Cardiff and Pontypridd are bound to have rats, and, if there are rats, there will be virological side effects.
Those are some of the environmental problems of water quality involved in the five new clauses which have been grouped together. We must nail the promoters down on them because the Bill was represented before the establishment of the National Rivers Authority. Now that it has come into being we are trying to put into the Bill what we think it would have been negotiating for had it been in existence. We see the evidence of that in what it is asking for in the Usk Barrage Bill. It is too late for the NRA to do the job on this Bill so we are trying to do it. We hope that there will be some movement later today when we complete the debate.
I listened with great interest to what my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) had to say. He said it succinctly, but used such a lot of material that his speech took some time in total. He demonstrated very well the purpose of the five new clauses, which are grouped together and are all important. It is a pity that we have not yet had any comment, either from the Bill's sponsor—who has just walked back into the Chamber—or the Minister.
Reference has been made to the leaked letter from the Secretary of State for Wales to the Home Secretary. I shall not read it all out, but at the end of the first paragraph the Secretary of State for Wales talks about the Cardiff bay barrage. He states:
I see it as a vital component of one of the most exciting urban regeneration projects in Europe, whose completion will bring enormous economic benefits to the whole of South Wales.
One might have thought that we would have at least one word uttered from those on the Treasury Bench this evening, but we have not heard anything. In the leaked document, the Secretary of State for Wales describes the
barrage as one of the most exciting urban regeneration projects. I should have thought that a Minister would have come to the Dispatch Box to say so.
Would not my hon. Friend go even further and say that, although the Treasury Bench has been graced by the Minister of State and the Under-Secretary of State, given the release of the letter, the Secretary of State should have been here to defend the letter and comment on the fundamentally important debate that we have been having on the conditions under which we can consider the building of the barrage?
My hon. Friend makes a valid point. I thought that I saw the Secretary of State for Wales drifting in through the door into one of the Lobbies. At present, government is done by fiat because the Government majority is huge. There are other people to do the Government's work and sit there on the Front Bench. I mean no disrespect to the Minister, but he has no doubt been told that his job is to sit there and say nothing. It is a great pity because we are debating a private Bill that will affect the lives of many tens of thousands of Welsh citizens in the Cardiff district. At this consideration stage, we should be fashioning the Bill into a better piece of legislation.
We had a Division on the closure motion on the clauses and the House decided not to close the debate. I always believe that there is a purpose in what the House does and if it decided not to close the debate, why did it do so? Its purpose must have been either that there is some sense in the clauses and they merit further debate or that the Government have lost control of the House. The Whip has clearly been put on because of the leaked letter from the Secretary of State for Wales to the Home Secretary. The Government have lost control of the House and are no longer able to summon 100 of their Back-Benchers or payroll vote to force the Bill through.
What are the Government doing? It is a Government Bill as I see it; the Secretary of State for Wales said that he regards it as one of the most exciting urban regeneration projects. It is not difficult to discern from that what the Government should be doing, and have been doing secretly—giving the Bill their vigorous support.
Mr. Alan Williams:
Is not this a curious debate? Hon. Members decided a couple of hours ago that we needed
more debate on these clauses, yet no one from the
Government has said a word about the pollution consequences of the barrage and the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth, who is the sponsor of the Bill, has not been in the Chamber. It is a very one-sided debate. We could keep putting forward the arguments, but no one is here to try to reply.
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. We are not here merely because we want to block the Bill. Let me make my position absolutely clear; I should like to see the right form of development in that part of Cardiff, and that probably goes for many of my hon. Friends who sit on these Benches. However, we are worried about the way in which it is done.
It is treating the House with disrespect to a certain extent when the sponsor of the Bill is not here to listen to our arguments and seek to put us right or to make helpful observations, or for the Minister and other members on the Treasury Bench merely to sit there—no doubt on instructions. They are not going to say anything publicly in the House because they have a large majority and prefer to govern in secret by writing confidential letters from one Secretary of State to another. That is not the way in which we should legislate.
I think that it is disgraceful and if the Government had any integrity they would at least talk to the sponsor of the Bill, take it away and come back with it another day, having thought about it afresh. If they will not do that, all that we can do is to continue to press our reasonable arguments to find out whether concessions can be made, the arguments find favour or are right or until the sponsor of the Bill or the Minister stands up and tells us where we are going wrong in our arguments.
There are five new clauses in this group and they are governed by the Cardiff Bay development corporation. Although I raised the question earlier with one of my hon. Friends, it would help me if the sponsor of the Bill, or the Minister, could give me the present terms of reference for the Cardiff Bay development corporation and say exactly how it approached the Bill. Did it table the Bill because it wanted to make a lot of money out of it? Was it because certain landowners in the area would become extremely wealthy? That is unlikely to be the case on its own. If there was a term of reference relating to the benefit of the people of Cardiff, how strongly has that been put in the articles of association or in the setting up of the development corporation? Only after finding that out can we place some trust in what is in the Bill, and can we believe what we are told, where the Bill does not spell out the details.
All the new clauses are similar and they have rightly been grouped together. The first clause states:
Before the commencement of impounding by means of the Barrage the undertakers shall produce and publish a plan pertaining to sources of leachate in contact with the waters of the inland bay or of the groundwater in hydraulic contact with the waters of the inland bay and its proposals for removal, relocation or improvement of such sources of leachate.".
My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells) spoke at length on that clause and made many pertinent points that I do not want to repeat. However, I do not think that he has been answered succinctly or effectively by the Minister, by other Members on the Treasury Bench, who have said nothing all evening, or by the sponsor of the Bill.
What is wrong with the undertakers producing and publishing a plan
pertaining to sources of leachate in contact with the waters of the inland bay or of the groundwater in hydraulic contact with the waters of the inland bay and its proposals for removal, relocation or improvement of such sources of leachate."?
The new clause does not state that all leachate must be removed, simply that proposals for the removal, relocation and improvement of such sources must be drawn up and published. It does not mean complete removal, relocation or improvement. It is a straightforward, simple and helpful new clause which, if agreed to by the sponsor or on the Government's recommendation to the sponsor that it is a helpful clause, would enable us to finish our debate on this group much earlier. New clause 5 is thus eminently sensible.
New clause 6, which is grouped with new clause 5, states:
Before constructing the Barrage, the undertakers and the water company shall produce and publish a plan indicating where and what provision they have made for phosphate-stripping and nitrate-stripping of the waters of the rivers entering the inland bay and their tributaries in the event of such provision becoming necessary for compliance with future water quality objectives in the inland bay.
Again, it is a helpful new clause. Although it refers to
compliance with future water quality objectives",
there is no commitment to action apart from producing and publishing a plan. The new clause relates purely to the provision of information and the undertaking of research.
We have not received a sensible reply to our request for new clause 6 to be passed and added to the Bill. The Minister could have told my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) that he thought that sensible. The public—the people of Cardiff and of Wales—should know. The Minister has simply sat on the Front Bench and remained quite. Indeed, my hon. Friend is not in his place to tell me why those provisions cannot be accepted.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the main reason why the promoters do not agree with new clause 6 is that it exposes the inadequacies of the preparation for the barrage in the Bill, which refuses to acknowledge that there are problems which, at the moment, appear difficult to solve but which, if admitted to in the Bill as drafted, would mean that the promoters would have to call a halt to these proceedings. As hon. Members have already said, it is a bit like praying that a solution to a major problem will somehow come along, provided that one keeps the momentum of the development going, and that the technical problems will be solved when it is convenient to do so. The basis of our objections, as expressed in new clause 6 and the new clauses grouped with it, is that we believe that the solutions should be clear before the development proceeds any further.
My hon. Friend makes a helpful point.
What am I to think? I can only think and surmise along the lines suggested by my hon. Friend. In the absence of any counter-argument, there can only be the supposition that there are serious problems over what happens to the water. Indeed, I go further and say that the development corporation is probably in this for the money. People working for the corporation are probably earning good money. The chances are that they will make their money selling the houses before the lake is full, and that when it is full, they will be away and the people who bought the houses will have to put up with all the problems. By then the employees of the corporation will have left the job or retired. They would no longer have any responsibility. That is probably too cynical a view. Certainly at this stage, I do not wish to ascribe that view to people working for the corporation. But surely it is up to the Minister—it is now the Under-Secretary of State for Wales, as Ministers seem to be taking it in shifts and to be under strict instructions not to say a word.
I hope that he is writing a reply to set our minds at ease. It is up to the Minister or my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth to prove to the House that what I have asserted is not the case.
New clause 6 is entirely sensible. It asks for nothing other than the production and publication of a plan.
One might think that new clause 8 caused a problem and would involve the expenditure of millions of pounds. But it says:
Before the commencement of impounding by means of the Barrage the undertakers shall produce and publish a plan pertaining to the sewer outfalls discharging directly into the inland bay or into the waters of the rivers discharging into the Bay or the tributaries thereof, showing the proposed means of removal, relocation or improvement thereof and the agreement of the owner of each outfall to such removal, relocation or improvement.
A certain amount of action is required by the new clause. It asks first for a plan to be produced and published. No action is required in that part of the new clause. It is simply a question of doing some research, finding out the position and producing and publishing a plan pertaining to the sewer outfalls. No one in the House would object to that. There cannot be anything wrong with knowing the location of the sewer outfalls which discharge into the river. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West brought out that point forcefully in his speech. He said that there are serious problems with storm sewer overflows and that they should be mapped and charted so that we know where they are. I am sure that every citizen in Cardiff would say, "Hear, hear" to that.
The first part of new clause 8 asks for a plan to be produced. The second part of new clause 8 asks the undertakers to show the proposed means of removal, relocation or improvement of each outfall. Some of the SSOs or sewer outfalls may be entirely innocuous. Of course, many of them are not innocuous, so something would have to be done about them. But if a fresh water lake is to be dammed up, every citizen would think it absolutely right for the Cardiff Bay development corporation to examine each of the sewer outfalls and either remove or relocate them. At the very least, it should improve them. There is nothing whatever wrong with new clause 8. Yet we have heard nothing from the Minister. Nor, indeed, have we had a comprehensive reply from my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth.
I do not know whether my hon. Friend has enjoyed a tour of the docks with the Cardiff Bay development corporation. The undertakers of the Bill make great use of the fact that there are some particularly noisome, vile sewage outfalls at present. They take one to Pier Head and point down and show a vermin run and an outfall that flows out through the old dock. They say, "How long do you want that to continue?" Then they cast their hands up across the mud flats that stretch out towards the channel and denounce all the mud flats as though they were an extension of the sewer.
As one of those who visited the docks and was shown around, although not as part of the great freebie which I understand took place at a different time, I drew a different conclusion. My conclusion was that those sewage outfalls must certainly be eradicated, but as part of the general eradication of outfalls to which the Government are now pledged. There is an indefinite time limit, but they are pledged to that. The lesson to be drawn from it is that the mud flats should be cleaned up and that they are not something to be abhorred. I have found them quite attractive at times. If the course line and river were cleaned up they have the potential to be very attractive.
In pushing this, we are making our overall argument that the clean-up of the estuary can be achieved without the construction of a barrage and we just have answers about what exactly will happen to the sewage outfalls.
|Division No. 117]||[4.11 am|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Boswell, Tim||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Bowls, John||Lightbown, David|
|Brazier, Julian||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Bright, Graham||Mans, Keith|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & CI't's)||Michael, Alun|
|Burt, Alistair||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Moss, Malcolm|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy)|
|Flynn, Paul||Ryder, Rt Hon Richard|
|Foster, Derek||Shepherd, Cohn (Hereford)|
|Gale, Roger||Stern, Michael|
|Glyn, Dr Sir Alan||Stevens, Lewis|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Grist, Ian||Thurnham, Peter|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Tredinnick, David|
|Harris, David||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)||Wood, Timothy|
|Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Hunt, Rt Hon David||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Irvine, Michael||Mr. Allan Rogers and|
|Jackson, Robert||Mr. Elliot Morley.|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Morgan, Rhodri||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Nellist, Dave||Dr. John Marek and|
|Rowlands, Ted||Dr. Kim Howells.|
I have never before had the privilege of being cut off in full flow by Members on my own side, but it has been an instructive exercise. The Government have now abandoned the Bill.
Let us see some evidence. I shall be happy to regret it, if it happens.
Only 52 Members wanted to close the debate. I shall be happy to sit down immediately if the Minister, or a sponsor of the Bill, attempts to answer some of the questions that have arisen under the new clauses, but so far nothing has happened. The Minister remains silent, perhaps because his troops are not behind him: only 52 are here. I wish that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth were present to answer some of my questions.
Mr. Alan W. Williams:
Before the Division, my hon. Friend was talking about new clauses 6 and 8. All that we are doing in those two new clauses is called for a plan. No work or expenditure would be needed; it is a precautionary principle. The building of the barrage will pose a danger of serious pollution problems. Our request is very modest. How can hon. Members claim any "green" credentials while refusing to adopt a precautionary plan?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am glad to see that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth has returned: I beseech him to answer some of our questions. It is a great pity that he was not here for most of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West.
Anxiety has been expressed about the cleanliness of the lake and the health aspects. The Minister refuses to open his mouth. He has been given strict instructions by somebody not to speak.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for expressing pleasure at seeing me and I am pleased to be here for his speech. I was present for large chunks of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) and found them enjoyable and enlighten-ing. Some hours ago I answered the questions that are raised by the amendments. My answers were contained in brief and modest interventions and I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek) heard some, if not all, of them. They were brief and to the point. I hope that I have dealt sufficiently with the points that were made.
The Minister must account for himself. He does not represent a Cardiff constituency. I do, and my constituency includes the whole of the Cardiff bay development area, although that development has serious implications for other Cardiff constituencies, especially those of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West and of the hon. Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Grist). That is why we take such a positive interest in the matter.
I appreciate that, and not for a moment do I think that it could be otherwise. However, the Welsh Office has a central role because it is responsible for almost every facet of administration in Wales. The leaked letter from the Secretary of State for Wales to the Home Secretary states that he sees
the Cardiff Bay development as a vital component in one of the most exciting urban regeneration projects in Europe.
In view of the serious problems raised by some Opposition Members about pollution that could be caused by the barrage, Treasury spokesmen should have given their view. That is done for most other private Bills and I do not understand why the Welsh Office should write
secret letters to other Ministers and not be prepared to account for its secret action in the full glare of television and the other media.
My hon. Friend is quite wrong to describe these letters as secret. They are extremely public and everybody seems to be repeating like a mantra references to them. My hon. Friends obviously intend to be helpful, but they are giving the Secretary of State publicity for supporting the Bill. The matter is important and I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that the co-promoter of the Bill is Labour-controlled South Glamorgan county council. That positive support comes from the members and leaders of that authority, and those people live in the area of the proposed development. I accept that it may be difficult to perceive that from the long-distance perspective of Wrexham, but I assure my hon. Friend of that positive support. I hope that that will encourage him to support that Bill, even if my earlier comments did not.
I am extremely glad to have that reassurance. I hope that my hon. Friend will remain in the Chamber, because I intend to direct my speech principally at him. He cannot pretend that the Government have nothing to do with the Bill. The letter contains the names of many Parliamentary Private Secretaries, but I will not detain the House by reading out all of them.
I have written to hon. Members asking them to support the Bill. Why does not my hon. Friend give me some credit for what I have tried to do? Why is he so concerned to give publicity to the Secretary of State for Wales? My hon. Friend's attitude is most unfriendly.
Talk of the letter is obviously disturbing some of my hon. Friends because they find themselves in the same camp as the Tories. It is clear that the Government have a strong locus in these matters and that is why the Under-Secretary of State should answer some of the questions that have been asked during the debate. The Government have put hundreds of millions of pounds of public money into the venture and much of that money will be spent on works that are included in the Bill. Surely the Minister should justify that expenditure. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek) will understand that Back-Bench Members, for whatever reasons, may or may not support the Bill, but if the Government spend hundreds of millions of pounds of public money they should answer to Parliament for that expenditure.
I agree with my hon. Friend.
Two of my hon. Friends have proposed closures of the debate and those motions have not been carried. I would expect my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth to admit that there is some substance in the arguments that have been advanced or at least to recognise some of the fears that are reflected in the new clauses and to promise to consider the new clauses carefully, or even perhaps to accept some of them. If it is not possible for that to be done on the spur of the moment, he could at least get together with the Government and say, "The Bill has not passed through the House as we thought it would when we embarked on our consideration of it at 7 pm. We had better adjourn the debate so that we can consider what must be done. Perhaps we should meet my hon. Friends the Members for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) and for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) to discuss the best way of proceeding with the Bill."
I made it clear earlier that serious issues were being raised by hon. Members, not least by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells) in opening the debate. As I said to him, however, the issues are covered by the wording of the Bill as far as they should be, and that other more general items should be covered in more general legislation. I share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) that we shall have the opportunity to deal with the more general items when, in the near future, we have a Labour Government.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda said in his intervention, the Bill involves a massive public investment in my constituency. If the money is not spent in that way, it will not be spent elsewhere in Wales. Instead, it will remain in the coffers of the Treasury. I wish that my hon. Friends would allow the investment to take place in my constituency. It will do so much for the housing, the environment, the jobs and the well-being of my constituents. Surely that is the basis of our debate. I remind my hon. Friends, as they seek to debate important issues, that the benefits to which I have referred will be at stake at the conclusion of our debates.
In principle, I do not dissent from that, although I note that my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda is shaking his head. if we can get the Bill right, I would not be against the redevelopment of this part of Cardiff. I have been round the area, although not on an official tour. I have carried out research and I believe that the Bill contains much that could be put right.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth will believe that I approach this debate constructively. I am not speaking just for the sake of it. I should like answers to my questions and in the absence of satisfactory answers, there will have to be a vote. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth needs 100 hon. Members to force the closure and he and the Government cannot achieve that. I believe that I have raised serious points and if they can be answered I will willingly finish my remarks.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham is asking my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth to answer his points and those answers are not forthcoming from my hon. Friend or from the Government Front Bench. Perhaps I can help my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham and give him one of the answers that he seeks.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth said that huge sums of public money had been invested in his constituency. That is true. However, one would have thought that he would have asked for a return on that money. The returns do not arise from extra building land or land for houses. If we consider the matter carefully, we see that the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth would be adversely affected.
The direction of the profits on the public money is revealed in a report of a consultant employed by the Cardiff bay development corporation. The report states that the projected land value in the area with no barrage, simply with regard to business space, is £130 million. Fjowever, with the barrage, the consultant expects the same building space to be worth more than £1 billion. It is worth £900 million in land values alone. With respect to the total of business space, industrial space, retail space, residential and leisure space, the land value in the area as a result of the massive investment of public money to the company will rise from £211 million to £1,300 million. That is where the profit on the public money is going. That is one of the answers that my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham was seeking and he was unlikely to receive such an answer from the Dispatch Box. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth is more interested in his constituents than in the money-grabbing people involved in the venture—