Hain - We have to now grasp barrage chance
NEATH MP Peter Hain has told MPs the time has come to press ahead with a Severn Barrage as the proposal had been "studied to death".
And giving evidence to the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, Mr Hain repeated his call for the turbines to be constructed at Port Talbot.
He said a Severn Barrage would be a "win-win" project for ports in Bristol and Port Talbot, adding it had attracted almost universal support from the Welsh public.
But the proposal also came under strong attack from the Bristol Ports Company, which claimed it would "destroy" jobs and cause "unprecedented" environmental damage.
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It also came after North Somerset MP Dr Liam Fox criticised Mr Hain's proposals in an angry letter to a national newspaper.
Mr Hain stressed the "considerable benefits" of a Barrage to MPs, saying it would create 50,000 jobs, provide five per cent of the UK's electricity needs and give flood protection to 90,000 properties.
He said: "This has been studied to death. We could carry on researching this for decades to come, meanwhile we are not achieving our climate change objectives and missing out on the massive economic benefits.
"We have to think big, act big and grasp this opportunity. This is natural power which in the long term will produce incredibly cheap electricity for the UK and has many other benefits."
Mr Hain argued that South Wales would benefit in particular. "The caissons [large airtight chambers] would be built at Port Talbot and also leave a legacy for ultra-large container ships.
"There's a win-win here for both Bristol and Port Talbot Ports, but I would urge people to get involved in a proper discussion rather than firing shots from the sidelines.
"It's not helpful to frame this in terms of Bristol Ports versus Port Talbot Ports; we need to get the maximum benefit for both."
Speaking to the Post after the committee meeting, Mr Hain said he welcomed the chance to make the case for a Barrage in Parliament.
"It was a valuable opportunity," he said, "and I hope the committee will back it, perhaps with any valuable observations it wants to make. I don't think they'd [the committee] fully heard all the arguments, but now they have I think it's a very persuasive case — although time will tell."
But the RSPB's Kate Jennings said there would be fundamental changes to the estuary and substantial habitat loss, with significant impacts on 30 species of birds and five special protection areas, as well as affecting migratory bird populations beyond the UK.