Post-Chernobyl Restricted Land

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 1:47 pm on 21st January 1998.

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Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Welsh Office

I am pleased to announce that I have been able to authorise the lifting of restrictions on some farms in Wales with effect from today.

The area of land under restriction in Wales is now approximately 530 sq km—that is 131,000 acres, for those of us who were in school before 1970—affecting about 148 whole farms and parts of 211 others.

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

Many hon. Members will be pleased by that news but, after 12 years, great inconvenience to Welsh farmers and £8 million in the sheep compensation scheme, is not the lesson to be drawn that any country that relies on nuclear power is foolish in its energy policy, and all countries would be better off with an energy policy without nuclear power?

Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Welsh Office

Obviously, there are lessons to be learnt from the Chernobyl disaster, and those are being learnt across the world. I am pleased to say that today's announcement means that, whereas after the disaster 23 per cent. of land was affected, the figure is now only 3 per cent.

Photo of Elfyn Llwyd Elfyn Llwyd Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

My constituency was probably the worst affected by the Chernobyl fallout of any in the United Kingdom. That was largely because of the inactivity of the Ukrainian authorities. How does the Minister square that with the fact that the same hill farmers are now in a dire state due to the inactivity of his Government?

Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Welsh Office

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman did not mean that. He knows that just, before Christmas, an aid package was announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture. Of that money, about £12 million will come to Wales, and about half of it is specifically targeted towards farmers in the upland areas. Although we can always argue about how much is needed, at least that money will help farmers in the upland areas of Wales.

Photo of Mr Llew Smith Mr Llew Smith Labour, Blaenau Gwent

Does the Minister accept that one of the lessons to be learnt from that tragedy, in which a plant some 2,000 miles away affected land in Wales, is that we should bring an end to our increasing dependence on nuclear power, and concentrate instead on more cost-effective, environmentally friendly energy forms?

Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Welsh Office

I am sure that my hon. Friend realises that the entire Government are acutely aware of the need for the highest standards of safety, not just for nuclear power, but for other forms of power. I wonder whether, in expressing his concerns, he is implying that the National Assembly for Wales should take direct responsibility for those matters.