Wales Bill - Report (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 14th December 2016.

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Photo of Lord Crickhowell Lord Crickhowell Conservative 6:45 pm, 14th December 2016

My Lords, I had not intended to intervene again on this issue. I have long experience of dealing with the port authority and sometimes the relationships were very good. One particular person was running the authority during my early years as the local MP with whom I had an absolutely first-class relationship. However, they were not always as good. What people ought to understand about the port authority is that it will not be the Welsh Government, or indeed the UK Government, actually operating and controlling things; that is very much for the port authority, which has extensive powers. I once had a profound disagreement with the authority over a campaign that I and others fought on the safety issue because we were deeply concerned about some of the actions being taken not by the Government but by the port authority for its own commercial or other reasons.

I wonder whether there is not some solution here. I understand entirely the crucial fact that the gas terminals are at the end of pipelines that carry gas into England and form an important part of our energy package. Surely it would be possible for some agreement to be reached by the Government with the Welsh Assembly that would take the authority for dealing with the strategic link and the gas facility out of the specific responsibility of the Welsh Government and make it a separate strategic effort, while somehow allowing the Welsh Government much more involvement for the reasons that have been outlined in the handling of such matters as safety within the port.

The fact is that the town of Milford, the oil facilities and the people who live around them on the south of the haven, as well as Neyland and Pembroke Dock, are all close to areas that, if an accident occurred, the impact would be enormous on the local population. So there is a real issue here, and I have a good deal of sympathy with the view that these matters should not necessarily be in the hands of a trust port whose powers were established a long time ago in very different circumstances. I wonder whether the powers and authority of this port should not be looked at again, perhaps jointly, by the Welsh Government and the UK Government, because there are practical issues here that go back to the original creation of this facility, when the circumstances were wholly different.

I understand the vital strategic issue, which needs to be covered and dealt with adequately, but I hope that the Government will give at least some further thought at some stage—whether they can do it during the passage of this Bill I am not sure—to the way in which these issues are managed and handled in the port of Milford Haven.