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Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon

Volume 642: debated on Wednesday 13 June 2018

2. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon. (905728)

I have regular discussions with Ministers at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on energy matters pertaining to Wales. A statement on the proposals for the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon will be made in due course.

The Swansea Bay tidal lagoon is vital to Britain’s future energy supplies and is the first of many major schemes to harness the vast marine energy resources around our shores to generate electricity and switch the country to renewables, to reduce and prevent climate change. That is now urgent. Given that, among other things, the Welsh Government have offered to help pay for it, when are the Government going to stop dithering and make the scheme happen?

I would really like the tidal lagoon to go ahead, but of course it must prove to be value for money. Tidal projects could have a positive energy potential, but of course they must deliver value for money for the taxpayer. A number of proposals have been made, and I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman is supportive of just the project he mentions or marine and tidal projects in general.

The Secretary of State is fast becoming the grim reaper of Welsh politics—the bearer of bad news. When he pulls the plug on the lagoon there will be huge public anger in Wales. Many people back in the motherland will be left asking not only what the point of the current Secretary of State is, but what the point of having a colonial Secretary at all is.

I am disappointed with the tone the hon. Gentleman takes. I would hope that he would recognise the fair funding settlement that we got for Wales—something that the Labour party ignored for 13 years; the Severn tolls announcement; and the city and growth deals that we have got. For Swansea there is a £1.3 billion scheme, and the Cardiff scheme is the biggest in the UK. I hope that demonstrates the value that a Secretary of State for Wales can bring.

Electrification—we have not had it. Tidal lagoon—if the Financial Times is to be believed, we are not going to have it. When is the Secretary of State going to start speaking up for the people of Wales?

No announcement has been made on the tidal lagoon because we are still looking at the numbers. We are doing anything and everything possible to try to make this fit. The hon. Lady should not want it to go ahead if it is not good value for money for the taxpayer. She will be well aware that Tata is an energy-intensive industrial site right next door to the site for the proposed tidal lagoon. I do not think she or any other Member would want to increase energy prices in a way that could put those jobs at risk.

Will the Secretary of State point out to the Business Secretary that once nuclear energy commands 12% of global output, we will run out of uranium in 10 years and the price will go up, as will the price of fossil fuels, because we cannot use 80% of them if we are to fulfil the Paris agreement, whereas the price of energy from the lagoon will go down over 100 years? Will the Secretary of State point that out, rather than just sit there doing nothing?

I am glad the hon. Gentleman mentions the Wylfa project, because it is a great demonstration of the Government being prepared to look at the financial model and adjust it in order to make projects happen. It will be the biggest infrastructure project in Wales for well over 30 years, and it provides fantastic prospects. I hope that tidal and marine energy could offer the same, but we should want a scheme only if it is good value for money.

When the people of Wales and the Welsh Labour Government can see the merit of the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon to the extent that they are prepared to invest more than £200 million to achieve the benefits in jobs, growth and cheap, clean renewable power, why will the Secretary of State’s UK Tory Government not even go as far as to sign the same deal they have already concluded with the French and Chinese Government to pay £92.50 per megawatt-hour for nuclear electricity that will be produced at Hinkley C for the next 35 years?

The hon. Lady raises an important point, because she talks about projects that are value for money. Of course £92.50 was rightly highlighted as extremely expensive at the time, and we said that that would be the highest we would pay for such energy projects. We have already said that the tidal lagoon, under the current proposals, would be twice the price of nuclear, so clearly we would not want to be in that position. I should add that I really want this project to happen if it is good value for money for the taxpayer, and my record is strong. I was the one who took Tidal Lagoon Power to meet the special advisers at No. 10 at the very beginning of this process in 2012, and it was from that moment on that the project was taken seriously.

The whole of Wales is waiting for this decision, because the tidal lagoon project is not just about Swansea. If the Secretary of State’s UK Tory Government accept Carwyn Jones’s kind offer, tidal lagoons for Cardiff, Colwyn Bay and Newport will quickly become real prospects. They could bring jobs and prosperity to the whole of Wales and boost our vital steel industry. This is about the development of technological innovation and bringing it to the point of full commercial productivity. That is what we do in Wales, in stark contrast to the way the Government have proceeded. Were the Government to participate in a general election in the next few months, what exactly would the Secretary of State be able to claim as the industrial or infrastructure achievement that they have delivered for the people of Wales?

I sometimes wonder whether the hon. Lady’s questions are more in the manner of an academic thesis. I trust that they will be published, because they are in Hansard.

The hon. Lady referred to the Welsh Government’s commitment of £200 million, but that is merely a small fraction of the cost of the proposal. We are working with the Welsh Government: we have shared our financial analysis of the project and they have not rejected or pushed back on the sharing of that data. That demonstrates the collaborative approach to the project that we want to take. I point out to the hon. Lady that the city and growth deals throughout every part of Wales are a good demonstration of the industrial strategy and of how the UK Government are committed to development and growth in Wales.