We have an overriding responsibility to behave responsibly. I will leave it at that, because I gain no personal benefit from making such comments, but it is important that I should make them today.
The second, related issue that I wish to raise is about an important piece of transport infrastructure: the M4 link road to Cardiff international airport—that is, to Wales's international airport. That has a bearing on the technical academy, because although we will not lose the academy if we do not get the timing for that road right, we might lose some of the benefits that could come to Wales. The onus is on us to maximise all the benefits from the investment, to ensure that Welsh people and Welsh businesses benefit first from the huge opportunity that is coming our way. We must get the transport links. Businesses in Pembrokeshire and west Wales will benefit, as will businesses in Monmouth and mid-Wales. We must get the transport infrastructure right and the M4 airport link road is a crucial factor in it, because it will serve the defence technical academy, and it will serve Barry—the second largest town in Wales—as well as providing a link to the airport.
A decision is imminent. We have had the public consultation and the Welsh Assembly Government's Deputy First Minister will take a decision shortly. The biggest decision to date has been about which route to choose. It is controversial—it will affect local people, so there is a lot of local concern about the impact on people's quality of life—but the decision on the route of the direct link to the airport is crucial. I call on the Minister to use all his influence with the Welsh Assembly Government to ensure that the decision is taken, and taken quickly.
I am deeply concerned that there may be prevarication and second thoughts about the strategic importance of this road; we should be in no doubt that this link road is crucial. We will never have a country seriously recognised throughout the world unless we have a serious international airport that provides comprehensive scheduled flights across the world. Air travel is still the cutting edge of business communication, even in comparison with broadband—I accept everything said about it earlier—and Wales must have a proper international airport. What we have now is a holiday charter airport; it is growing and doing well, but as the aviation White Paper said, it has a long way to go. This road is an absolutely necessary condition for the growth and expansion of Cardiff international airport. It may not be a sufficient factor, but as I say, it is absolutely necessary.
I flag up that issue because I hope that we will not make the mistakes of the past by thinking that some funding for a few extra routes or a few extra slots to European cities will provide us with the strategic advances that we need for the airport's future. The entire business community supports the road: the CBI in Wales, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Cardiff business club. Indeed, there is not a business in Wales that fails to recognise the importance of strategic access to the airport. It is supported by the planning authorities and it has been supported by every management of every company that has owned the airport over the past three decades.
It is a crucial issue—one of the most important road transport issues in Wales. We are really at the cusp, right on the edge, of making a decision on a matter that will drive the Wales international airport forward. The decision must be taken quickly and the right decision must be taken—that is, identifying what route to take, not having second thoughts about whether we need such access to the airport.
Finally, a third project based in my constituency is also of international importance. It has already been mentioned in earlier debates. I refer to the Severn tidal barrage. I am delighted that the Government have gone out to public consultation on the four shortlisted possibilities. I favour, as I have for the past 20 or 30 years, a large barrage from Lavernock Point to Brean Down. The scheme will provide 5 per cent. of the UK's energy needs for the next 100 years, and it could provide the entire—I repeat, entire—energy needs for Wales for the next 120 years. The source is clean and renewable, and once the structure is there, it is cheap. We have a natural asset on our coast—at 42 ft, the highest rise and fall of tide in the world—so we can use our human ingenuity to harness the power of that tide. That will not only provide us with a cheap and environmentally friendly source of energy for our country, but contribute to the overriding threat to the world of climate change. Of course we have to consider carefully the environmental implications of such a project, and we have to carry out the feasibility study, but our overriding concern must surely be ensuring a source of energy for Wales for the future.
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