Welsh secretary faces motion of no confidence following Swansea lagoon rejection

The secretary of state for Wales has been accused of not being able to “make the case” for the country and is facing a vote of no confidence in the Welsh assembly following the UK government’s decision to shelve the proposed £1.3bn tidal lagoon project in Swansea.

Plaid Cymru has tabled the motion against Alun Cairns after the government failed to support plans with ministers citing its expensive nature when compared with alternatives such as offshore windfarms and nuclear power. 

The decision comes as a bitter blow to those in Wales especially as hours later MPs in Westminster were happy to approve the £14bn Heathrow expansion project. Rejecting the plans, business secretary Greg Clark said supporting the lagoon would cost the average consumer £700 more by 2050, when compared with offshore wind and nuclear power. The capital cost for the lagoon per unit of electricity generated would be more than three times as much as the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, said Clark, and therefore could not be justified. 

Clark added: “The inescapable conclusion of an extensive analysis is, however novel and appealing the proposal that has been made is the cost that would be incurred by consumers and taxpayers would be so much higher than alternative sources of low-carbon power that it would be irresponsible to enter into a contract with the provider.”

But politicians in Wales now believe that Cairns does not have the capability or influence to ensure major infrastructure projects are delivered in the country. The Plaid party has lambasted the Welsh secretary stating the economy will be “weakened” and “opportunities lost and jobs jeopardised” as a result of the MP’s “inability to deliver on the promises he made”.

Commenting on the vote of no confidence, Simon Thomas, Plaid Cymru member for Mid and West Wales, said: “Railways not electrified. Bridges re-named without the consent of the people. The tidal lagoon scrapped. That is the legacy of the secretary of state, Alun Cairns. He is clearly not able to make the case for Wales in Cabinet. In fact, it is fair to say this week has proved true the mantra that Alun Cairns is Westminster’s voice in Wales, not Wales’ voice in Westminster. Westminster can never and will never deliver for Wales. This secretary of state has, however, done irreversible damage to our nation.”

Despite the planned vote, the motion against Cairns is unlikely to pass with no support showed to be forthcoming from that of Labour Welsh ministers. But even should it gain the needed support, the Welsh secretary cannot be removed as he is not a member of the assembly.

The UK minister has defended his decision since the government announcement with Cairns saying the numbers simply “did not stack up”. He added: “I realise the disappointment this decision may cause, but ultimately this project did not meet the threshold for taxpayer value. The reality is the consumer and industry would have been paying disproportionately high prices for electricity when cheaper alternatives are available. I was an early and consistent supporter of the scheme – and took it to Number 10 – but after months of hard work by officials – the conclusion when taking a responsible approach to taxpayers money – is it just did not stack up.

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