Tory MPs rebel as ministers rebuff ‘vital’ £1.3bn lagoon plan that could provide a huge post-Covid jobs boost
- The government blocked plans for a £1.3billion tidal power scheme in the UK
- Backbench MPs believe the six tidal lagoons can help kickstart the economy
- Project in Swansea was rejected as it was felt it did not provide value for money
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Boris Johnson is facing a backbench rebellion after blocking a tidal power scheme while sanctioning Chinese involvement in the UK’s nuclear power programme.
A group of 25 Tory MPs, led by former Ministers Paul Maynard and Iain Duncan Smith, are lobbying Business Secretary Alok Sharma to override officials who are preventing a proposed £1.3 billion tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay from going ahead.
Mr Duncan Smith said the green energy plan was the sort of ‘shovel ready’ project which could boost the economy in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic. Work could begin within months on the lagoon, which would provide enough power for 155,000 homes.
The company behind the project, Tidal Power plc, was granted a five-year consent order by the Government to start the project in 2015, but that permission is due to run out at the end of this month.
The issue was raised during a heated Zoom conference call last week between Mr Duncan Smith and Welsh Office Minister David Davies, during which Mr Davies argued that the project did not offer value for money for taxpayers.
The MPs say that if the project paved the way for six tidal lagoons around the UK, it would create more than 70,000 jobs. They accuse the Civil Service establishment of wrecking the plan.
Boris Johnson and his government have rejected plans for a new £1.3billion tidal lagoon
One supporter of the lagoon said: ‘This is an opportunity to invest in British industrial expertise, British long-term jobs and Britain’s green future rather than rely on Chinese or French investment.
‘Alok’s officials say that it doesn’t offer good value for money, but those calculations are flawed and outdated. Besides, when the Government is spending hundreds of billions to protect and kickstart the economy amid the worst crisis for generations, conventional value assessments should no longer hold.’
But a senior Government source said: ‘This is just Duncan Smith sticking his nose into something he doesn’t understand.’
Rebel MPs are angered that ministers are neglecting such British projects, yet allowing partnerships with China’s state-backed nuclear giant on environmentally-damaging new power plants including £22billion Hinkley Point C in Somerset – despite security fears from Washington. Dozens of Tories are also fuming over plans to allow Chinese firm Huawei to help build the UK’s new 5G network.
When Mr Johnson visited Wales during the Tory Party leadership race last summer, he cited the plan as an example of the big infrastructure projects he wanted to kickstart, saying: ‘I want to see the Swansea tidal lagoon going. I think we should be putting more into infrastructure here in Wales.’
Mr Duncan Smith said: ‘Certain elements in Government are blocking this and I want to know why. At a time when we should be reducing our dependence on China, this would be a British project and it would advance the party’s promise to help those parts of the country which have been left behind.’
Iain Duncan Smith wants the six tidal lagoons to prove Britain does not need to rely on others
Out of at least 21 firms that would provide key parts for the Swansea project, 13 are in Tory constituencies (two – Scunthorpe and Redcar – gained from Labour in the last election), six in Labour-held seats and one each in areas represented by the Welsh Nationalists and Sinn Fein.
Department for Business officials are accused of wrongly claiming than an independent review of the project in 2017 by former energy minister Charles Hendry was negative. But it concluded that tidal lagoons could deliver low carbon power in a ‘very competitive’ way.
A Government spokesman said: ‘The UK Government does not have any fundamental objection to a tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay but any proposed project must provide value for money.’
‘We can invest in Britain rather than rely on China.’
Department for Business officials are accused of wrongly claiming than an independent review of the project in 2017 was negative when in fact it was very positive. The review concluded that tidal lagoons could ‘play a cost effective role in the UK’s energy mix’ and could deliver low carbon power in a ‘very competitive’ way.
Out of at least 21 firms that would supply key parts, 13 are in Tory constituencies (two – Scunthorpe and Redcar – gained from Labour in the last election), six in Labour-held seats and one each in areas represented by the Welsh Nationalists and Sinn Fein.