ST David’S Day

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:04 pm on 28th February 2019.

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Photo of David Jones David Jones Conservative, Clwyd West 1:04 pm, 28th February 2019

All I can say is that most of my constituents, particularly the farmers, are desperately keen to have access to the internet, which has been patchy so far. Clearly, we have to take health considerations into account, but that is what we rely on experts for, and I am entirely happy to accept the expert evidence. I urge the Government to listen to experts such as the Deeside Business Forum, which is calling for high quality broadband infrastructure to be put in place as part of the North Wales growth deal.

The other issue that I want to raise is essentially a constituency one, but I believe that it has wider implications. It concerns the sea defences at Old Colwyn in my constituency. Two Members have mentioned climate change so far, and there is no doubt that coastal erosion is going to become an increasing problem. In Old Colwyn, we have a significant problem of crumbling sea defences. In February last year, the promenade there was badly affected by high seas. It has now been repaired, with contributions from Welsh Water, but the engineers tell us that the sea defences are now in such a parlous condition that they are in danger of being swept away into the sea. This is more than an issue of the promenade at Old Colwyn, because the sea defences at Old Colwyn also protect the main sewer for Colwyn bay, the main London to Holyhead railway line and the A55 main trunk road to Holyhead. If these sea defences are compromised to the extent that they are destroyed, there would be an immediate and serious environmental incident in the Irish sea, there would be the potential loss of that important rail connection between London and Holyhead, and the A55 would be closed, too.

Everyone agrees that the defences need repair, and the cost is estimated at some £37 million. The problem is who actually pays for the cost. I have been in correspondence with the responsible Welsh Government Minister, who has said that, although coastal defences are a devolved competence, the Welsh Government will not contribute to the cost of repair if the defences do not protect houses or dwellings.

Welsh Water has spoken optimistically about a contribution but, of course, it requires others to contribute, too. Network Rail has very few funds available to contribute to the repair. Conwy County Borough Council, the responsible local authority, has no capital-raising powers, so it cannot pay for the repairs, either.

We remember what happened in Dawlish five years ago, when the railway line was swept into the sea, and the chaos it caused on the south-west peninsula. As we speak, the whole north-west Wales economy is in danger of being affected by a serious incident in Old Colwyn. I ask Ministers to give consideration to that and to seek to work with the Welsh Assembly Government, and with all the other interested parties, to try to get these defences repaired.

This problem affects my constituency but, because of climate change and coastal erosion, it will affect many other constituencies right across Wales. I believe this is a matter that requires priority attention, and I hope Ministers will do all they can to try to find a way forward.