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River Severn: Tidal Power

Volume 477: debated on Monday 16 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform pursuant to the answer of 15 May 2008, Official Report, column 1763W, on Tidal Power: River Severn, what assessment he has made of the independence of the companies awarded the contracts for feasibility studies; and what steps he has taken to ensure that those companies have no conflicts of interest. (209496)

As my answer of 15 May to the hon. Member made clear, tenders for the two contracts awarded so far as part of the Severn tidal power feasibility study—for a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) and for advice on finance and ownership issues—were assessed against a number of criteria, including “the independence of the contractor and ensuring that there is no conflict of interest”.

Both the consortium led by Parsons Brinckerhoff and PricewaterhouseCoopers, to whom these contracts have respectively been awarded, made statements in their tenders to address this criterion. Their statements were probed at interview.

In the case of PricewaterhouseCoopers, no issues arose that required further consideration. Parsons Brinckerhoff provided assurances that they have no financial interests in the success of any barrage or tidal lagoon option, including their work on the Shoots barrage proposal in 2006 and 2007. My Department considered that questions of conflict of interest might nevertheless remain and, to deal with these, Parsons Brinckerhoff were asked to agree to assign any rights they might hold in respect of this work to the Secretary of State on a royalty-free basis, which they have done. They have also agreed to waive any moral rights they might have in respect of such work.

In addition, my Department is creating an independent panel of engineering experts to peer review the technical assessment of options the PB consortium is doing, with advice from the Royal Academy of Engineering and other professional institutes. Work delivered under the SEA contract will be published and publicly consulted on.

With these measures in place, my Department is fully satisfied in the independence of the PB consortium.

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what analysis he has undertaken of the effect of the construction of a Severn Barrage on the archaeological footprint of the River Severn. (210144)

A study to investigate archaeological impacts of a Severn tidal power project is part of a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) which is being carried out by a consortium led by Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB). Wessex Archaeology is the specialist organisation charged with undertaking this study, including consulting relevant stakeholders, such as county archaeologists. A Call for Information, issued by PB in May, particularly requested any relevant data or research related to the effects on areas identified as of potential archaeological or cultural heritage importance.

In addition, both English Heritage and its Welsh equivalent, Cadw, are represented on the SEA steering group to ensure that the impact of any tidal range power scheme on the Severn's archaeology and heritage is properly considered.