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Severn Barrage

Volume 164: debated on Monday 18 December 1989

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14.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if his Department has any plans to finance the construction of a barrage across the estuary of the River Severn.

Prospects for the Severn barrage project will be reviewed on completion of the financing and organisational studies to be carried out by the Severn tidal power group.

Will the Minister give the House a guarantee that the scheme will not be delayed unnecessarily by his Department? The scheme will generate 7 per cent. of the electricity demand of England and Wales from a renewable source, allow 200,000 man years of employment during construction and create up to 30,000 additional jobs, which will tremendously boost the south Wales economy. It will reduce the effect of the greenhouse problem and it will not create an acid rain problem. Will the Minister give us that guarantee?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I agree wholeheartedly with everything that he has said. The financing and the commercial objectives have, however, to be considered. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the sums involved in the construction of a barrage of such a magnitude are vast, and that problem is not easily overcome. Financial considerations must be addressed carefully because the cost per kilowatt hour would appear to be of considerable magnitude for the first 30 or 40 years. Subject to that, I wish the project as much of a fair wind as the hon. Gentleman does, subject to environmental and other considerations.