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Dee Estuary

Volume 478: debated on Wednesday 2 July 2008

3. What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on the environmental status of the Dee Estuary; and if he will make a statement. (214276)

I have regular discussions with the First Minister on a range of issues, including marine and environmental matters. The Dee estuary is of huge importance to wildlife and the environment, and I welcome its bid to become a special area of conservation site.

May I tell my right hon. Friend how much I welcome the Dee Estuary Cockle Fishery Order 2008, which came into force yesterday? It has the potential to provide a safe and sustainable fishing environment, as opposed to the over-exploited and unsafe one that existed before. As he has said, the Dee will continue to be a vastly important site that requires a balance between ecology and economy. Will he assure me that that balance will continue to be struck and that he will monitor the estuary to ensure that, not least in relation to dredging?

I too welcome the Dee Estuary Cockle Fishery Order 2008. Coming into force in July, it will ensure that we have a sustainable and safe fishery in the estuary. My hon. Friend first asked me a question on this issue on 27 June 2001, and I am glad to say that at last we are reaching the point at which the Dee estuary will become a special area of conservation. That will boost the local economy as well as protecting local wildlife, and I look forward to answering more questions from my hon. Friend on this very important issue.

In the same context, what assessment has the Secretary of State made of the Marches estuary and the proposed fresh-water lake for periods of potential flooding in the Llandrinio area? Is he not aware of the damaging environmental consequences of the Environment Agency’s proposals to flood a part of my constituency, as opposed to the positive comments he was able to make about the Dee estuary? Will he look into the overwhelming objections of my constituents to being involuntarily flooded out for the sake of flood mitigation downstream?

It is a long way from the Dee estuary and cockles, but I am happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss the issue that he raises, as I know that it is very important to his constituents.