What progress his Department is making on implementing the recommendations of the Hendry review on tidal energy.
The issues considered by the Hendry review are complex, and the Government will be demanding a period of time to assess the recommendations and determine what decision is in the best interests of UK energy consumers. I have already said that we will not be dragging our heels on this, and we will not do so.
There is huge potential for tidal energy not only in the Swansea scheme but along the south Wales coast and the Severn estuary and along the north Wales coast. However, I am hearing worrying things about the Department dragging its heels on this. Will the Minister assure me that there will be strong ministerial leadership to take the recommendations forward and to get on with the Swansea scheme and others?
I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman would say that, given that it was the Department’s expectation that the report might be published before Christmas and that it was in fact published only two or three weeks ago. There is no suggestion that the Department is dragging its heels, and nor will we do so, but we will, in the public interest, give the report proper, thorough consideration on value-for-money and other grounds.
In a previous answer, the Minister referred to advantages and disadvantages. Does he agree that the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon would not only meet energy needs but provide huge levels of investment in jobs in my constituency and throughout the region? As the Hendry report implies, it could put Wales at the forefront of developing a world-first technology.
I salute my colleague’s proper concern for support and investment in his constituency; that is absolutely right. The wider implications are being considered by the Government, and I remind him that the Hendry review asked for the issues to be considered specifically in the context of power generation, so those things go alongside the wider consideration we are giving to the report.
The Hendry report refers to tidal energy. The Minister will know that the first large-scale tidal steam generator in Northern Ireland, in Strangford Lough, was four times more powerful than any other in the whole world at the time. What consideration will he give to ensuring that the energy being produced in Strangford Lough can be utilised for the benefit of the whole of Northern Ireland?
As I have indicated in a separate debate with the hon. Gentleman, that is a different, although related, technology. It was funded in part by the Government and has produced interesting results. This is a matter of close consideration by officials and we will continue to reflect on the matter. If he wishes to write to me further, I would be delighted to take a letter.
One of the core objectives of the draft industrial strategy is to rebalance the UK economy, with engineering, construction and manufacturing making a larger contribution to economic growth. Does the Minister agree that if we are to achieve that objective, we will need to invest in major infrastructure projects such as the tidal lagoon?
I absolutely share my right hon. Friend’s view that major infrastructure investment is an important part, although only a part, of the wider overall investment that can be made in this country as part of the industrial strategy. He is right to suggest that those wider considerations must be balanced by a tempered assessment of value for money, and that is what we will be giving them.
With all due respect to the Minister, may I tell him that his Department simply not dragging its heels is not good enough? The Hendry report recommends that Ministers
“secure the pathfinder project as swiftly as possible”.
I can promise that he will have the full support of the Members on this side of the House for doing that, although I am unsure that he would have the same support from those behind him. Will he therefore press the Chancellor for an agreement on the Swansea tidal lagoon, to be announced in the March Budget?
I admire the hon. Gentleman’s dexterity in turning three weeks into foot-dragging. Given his rabbinical scrutiny of the Hendry review, I shall simply remind him that it specifically asks the Government to give these issues careful consideration, and that is what we will be doing.