Hain Severn Barrage Rallying Call: ‘Wales Stand up and fight

Extract from speech at Cardiff Metropolitan University on 21 March by Peter Hain

A strong rallying call to Wales to ‘stand up and fight’ for the Severn Barrage has come from former Welsh Secretary of State and Neath MP Peter Hain.

After mixed signals from the Government and vehement opposition lobbying by Bristol Port, Port, Mr Hain said: ‘We are entering a key period of decision making and if significant forces in Wales don’t stand up and fight for the Barrage we could lose a once in a lifetime opportunity: the biggest ever investment in jobs and prosperity Wales has seen.’
With the Parliamentary Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change due to report in the coming weeks and the UK Government under pressure to state where it stands, Mr Hain issued his rallying cry in a speech at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

‘Everywhere I go in Wales people ask me – “how is it going with the Barrage”! There is a real Welsh buzz about it. But if Wales want the Barrage, it isn’t going to happen on its own. The Welsh Government and the Assembly have given the Barrage in principle support. So has the Wales TUC and Wales business representatives. That’s all very welcome. But now is the time to stand up and fight for the for the Barrage. Every AM, every MP, every County Council, every Welsh political party, every business group, every trade union or civic organisation in South Wales now needs actively to press the Prime Minister to back the Barrage.’
‘That support can be subject to satisfying the necessary environmental and habit requirements, of course. But in principle backing is needed now, or the project could drift away and 50,000 jobs and £25 billion of private investment will simply go elsewhere in the world,’ Mr Hain warned.

‘The prize is enormous. The biggest renewable, clean, green energy project in Europe, if not globally, harnessing the awesome natural tide of the Severn. Skilled local jobs by the thousand. A new marine turbine manufacturing factory, with new technology capable of being exported worldwide. Flood protection for thousands of homes and properties. And over its lifetime the cheapest electricity in Britain, half to three quarters as cheap as gas, nuclear or wind power.’

Hain Reacts To Minister On Severn Barrage

Speaking after Energy Minister Greg Barker’s evidence to the Energy & Climate Change Parliamentary Select Committee former Cabinet Minister and Neath MP Peter Hain said:

‘If we’re now unlikely to see the hybrid bill required for the Severn Barrage in this parliament that will mean two more years delay for a gigantic £25 billion investment creating 50000 desperately needed jobs.  Sadly confusion and division in government now means we’re working to a longer timescale. I will keep making the case for the Severn Barrage because in my view it is a no brainer and the Minister’s curious statement is at variance with the constructive meetings I have had with his boss the Secretary of State for Energy, the Prime Minister, the Chancellor, Infrastructure Minister and the Secretary of State for Wales. These meetings are being followed up and extensive documentation provided. Britain urgently needs the clean green energy and the economic boost the Barrage uniquely offers.’

Severn Barrage: Peter Hain Reveals Most Detailed Plans Yet

Western Mail 

The most detailed plans yet have been revealed for the Severn Barrage. Martin Shipton reports

The fate of the proposed Severn Barrage could be determined in the first half of 2013, it has emerged.

Former Welsh Secretary Peter Hain, who resigned from the Shadow Cabinet to campaign for the scheme, has called on the UK Government to back it within that timescale. He believes that as well as providing 5% of the UK’s electricity needs, it could transform the economy of South Wales.

He said: “The Barrage will power the UK for more than 120 years, cleanly, securely and sustainably generating as much electricity as three to four nuclear reactors or more than 3,000 wind turbines. It injects more than £25bn of private investment into the UK economy – no Treasury funding is needed at all. With the multiplier impact on the economy, that is a stimulus of about £70bn.

“The Barrage will be a massive boost to the economies of South Wales and the South West of England, with 80% of the investment being spent in the UK; other forms of renewable energy have to date imported up to 80% of their equipment and services from abroad. Some 50,000 jobs will be created during the nine-year build, also leaving a legacy of industrial, tourism and leisure jobs.

“Some 1,026 turbines will be installed in the Barrage – new, slow-spin turbine technology capable of being exported from Britain to the rest of the world. Gigantic caissons will be built and assembled and then floated out from its deep-water casting yard at Port Talbot, which will be transformative for South West Wales. The other benefit is a legacy in Port Talbot of the largest deep-water port in North West Europe, which would be ideal for the new generation of container ships – ultra-large container ships which otherwise would have to find a port on the other side of Britain.”

Read more

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‘Protect, Don’t Attack The Universal Benefits System’

Western Mail

Attacks on universal benefits risk wrecking the welfare system built up in the UK since World War Two, according to former Cabinet member Peter Hain.

Neath MP Mr Hain served as Secretary State for Work and Pensions and as Welsh Secretary under the last Labour Government. Earlier this year he stepped down as Shadow Secretary of State for Wales to campaign as a backbencher for the building of the Severn Barrage.

He told the Western Mail he was increasingly disturbed by attacks from across the political spectrum on universal benefits like the winter fuel allowance for old people, and free bus passes and TV licences for pensioners.

Mr Hain said: “It’s being suggested that such benefits are unaffordable at this time of austerity and that it is wrong to give free bus passes to the likes of Sir Paul McCartney.

“I think it very unlikely that Sir Paul McCartney travels by bus – he tends to get driven around in limousines. But there are more serious points to be made about the implication of these attacks, which are coming from senior Conservatives, from Nick Clegg and even from some ultra-Blairites in the Labour Party.”

“The argument against these benefits on cost grounds just doesn’t stack up. The entire budget of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is £160bn a year, so the cost of universal benefits is a very small proportion of the budget, and just 0.2% of the entire UK Government budget.

“What also has to be remembered is that means testing is expensive in itself, with complicated administrative systems having to be built up to separate those who get the benefit from those who don’t. And any means-tested benefit results in ‘cliffs’, where people who have a tiny amount more than the threshold miss out.

“I remember speaking to one of my constituents, a chronic asthmatic, before free prescriptions were introduced in Wales. She told me that because of such a ‘cliff’, there was no point in her getting a job. When everyone became entitled to free prescriptions, she was freed up to work.”

More insidiously, said Mr Hain, the jibes against universal benefits risked undermining the consensus on the merits of the welfare state that had built up since the War.

He said: “The middle class support welfare in the main because they benefit from it. They pay taxes and get some benefits back. If they were stopped from receiving benefits like the winter fuel allowance, they would no longer have a stake in the welfare state, and the likelihood is that we would be left with ‘poor welfare’ of the kind seen in the United States, where society is more polarised than it is here and where there is pressure from the right to constantly cut back on safety nets. That’s not the society I want to see in Wales or Britain.

“In any case, the pressure on pensioners in the future following the closure of most final salary pension schemes will mean that the proportion of pensioners who are rich – already tiny – will get even smaller.”

Read the full article here

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Energy Bill

Mr Peter Hain MP (Neath): In achieving the Bill’s aim to deliver secure, affordable and low-carbon energy, there is no bolder delivery vehicle for a greener Britain than Hafren Power’s Severn barrage. The Severn estuary has the second largest tidal range in the world and the Cardiff-Weston barrage would generate fully 5% of the UK’s electricity need—16.5 TWh a year of low-carbon, predictable and therefore baseload energy.

The barrage will power the UK for more than 120 years, cleanly, securely and sustainably generating as much electricity as three to four nuclear reactors or more than 3,000 wind turbines. It injects more than £25 billion of private investment into the UK economy; no Treasury funding is needed at all. With the multiplier impact on the economy, that is a stimulus of about £70 billion.

The barrage will be a massive boost to the economies of south Wales and the south-west of England, with 80% of the investment being spent in the UK; other forms of renewable energy have to date imported up to 80% of their equipment and services from abroad. Some 50,000 jobs will be created during the nine-year build, also leaving a legacy of industrial, tourism and leisure jobs.

Some 1,026 turbines will be installed in the barrage—new, slow-spin turbine technology capable of being exported from Britain to the rest of the world. Gigantic caissons will be built and assembled and then floated out from its deep-water casting yard at Port Talbot, which will be transformative for south-west Wales. The other benefit is a legacy in Port Talbot of the largest deep-water port in north-west Europe, which would be ideal for the new generation of container ships—ultra-large container ships, or ULCs, which otherwise would have to find a port on the other side of Britain.

However, the barrage will not affect existing shipping to other ports, because special locks would enable ships to pass through without charge. Additionally, because of the more benign sea environment in the giant 570 sq km sea lake behind the barrage, there will be enormous new opportunities for marine leisure and commercial activity currently rendered impossible by the Severn’s fearsome current, bringing extra work to ports in both the south-west and south Wales.

Contrary to what critics have alleged, Bristol port will also benefit in other ways from the barrage. During construction over nine years, millions of tonnes of aggregate will be shipped out from Bristol and other ports including Newport, Cardiff and Barry. Compared with previous barrage projects, this one dramatically reduces the impact on fish and birds by using the latest turbine technology and generating on both the ebb and the flood tides, simulating the natural flow of the Severn estuary. There is already a great deal of engagement with wildlife groups to try to configure the barrage in a way that is as friendly as possible to fish and bird life.

The barrage will produce electricity 50% to 75% cheaper than coal, gas, wind or nuclear beyond the initial consumer support phase that all renewable technology attracts. For more than 90 years, it will be the cheapest electricity source in Britain. The barrage has the lowest levelised cost of any electricity generating source—lower than nuclear, lower than wind, lower than gas.

Hafren Power supports the new contract for difference price support mechanism outlined in the Energy Bill. That enables consumers to share in the upside as wholesale electricity prices rise. The barrage will also offset 7.1 million tonnes of CO2 per year; over its life, that has a value of £2 billion in today’s money. It will defend 90,000 properties and 500 sq km of floodplains from rising sea levels, saving the nation billions in flood damage and defence costs. It will protect Bristol, Cardiff, Newport and Weston from storm surges. A storm surge narrowly missed the Severn estuary in 2010; when it hit France, it caused $1.3 billion in damages. Those flood savings can be netted out against the cost of price support. Construction is 100% privately financed, so the barrage will cost the nation very little indeed.

The barrage is the biggest green energy project by far, enabling us to meet our renewable energy targets, as the Bill seeks. It will create jobs and investment; all in all, it should be a no-brainer for the Government. I ask the Secretary of State and the Government to make a decision in the context of the Bill, supporting the barrage in the first half of next year.