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Crown Estate Commissioners

Volume 507: debated on Tuesday 16 March 2010

5. What recent assessment he has made of the performance of the Crown Estate commissioners; and if he will make a statement. (322189)

The Crown Estate has delivered good financial returns over the past 10 years, with capital up 66 per cent. and revenue paid to the Exchequer up 70 per cent., reaching £226 million in the last full financial year. Over the past 10 years, the value of the portfolio has increased by £2.3 billion and the Crown Estate has paid a total of £1.8 billion to the Exchequer.

The Minister is—I hope—aware of the announcement made this morning by the Crown Estate on licensing sea bed areas around Orkney and the north of Scotland for the development of marine renewables. May I tell her, however, that many in the renewables industry, although they welcome the announcement, have serious concerns about the process that the Crown Estate has used in getting to this point? Will she use the powers that are given to her in the Crown Estate Act 1961 to have a look at what has been done to ensure that the Crown Estate becomes a facilitator rather than a hindrance in the development of green renewables?

I have to disagree with the hon. Gentleman; I do not think that the Crown Estate is a hindrance. I have had it from the Crown Estate that it wishes to be involved in that process and recognises the importance of the sea bed around Scotland. I am having a meeting with the Crown Estate commissioners in the next couple of weeks and I intend to take various issues to that meeting, including the marine issues to do with renewable energy in Scotland and other matters that have been raised by hon. Members.

This question reminds me of how, soon after I was elected, I had to do battle with the Crown Estate commissioners on the foreshore of the Thames for putting in jeopardy the 1,000-year-old ferry route between Tilbury and Gravesend. It is rather sad that, as I come to the end of my life in the House of Commons, that ferry is again in jeopardy. I do not know to what extent the Crown Estate commissioners are involved, but I ask my hon. Friend to look into that in her discussions. The real problem is that work, employment and school opportunities for my folk are being put in jeopardy by the Conservative borough council, which wants to cut the subsidy. That was not mentioned to the hon. Member for—

Order. We have got the thrust of the question, but councils are not the responsibility of the Minister.

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that there are frustrating Conservative councils. If the Crown Estate is involved in that decision, I will be more than happy to raise it at my meeting.