The Welsh Labour Government last night marshalled every vote it could muster to see-off the combined forces of Plaid Cymru and the Conservative Party in order to allow the dumping of 320,000 tons of ‘nuclear mud’ off Penarth to continue uninterrupted .
Outside the Welsh Assembly last night – immediately before the debate and vote on the issue in the Assembly chamber – a mass protest rally took place attended by over 300 demonstrators who were addressed by the leader of Plaid Cymru Adam Price.
The mud is being dredged from the sea bed at Hinkley Point on the Somerset Coast at the site of two ageing nuclear power stations – and where a third power station – Hinkley Point C – is under construction by the French energy company EDF.
It’s then being taken by large Belgian registered motor hoppers to a dumping ground off Penarth called Cardiff Grounds.
The Vale of Glamorgan Council and Barry Town Council voted to oppose the dumping, but a call for a debate on the issue in Penarth Town Council – which had been initiated by the Deputy Mayor of Penarth Cllr Angela Thomas – was quashed by the Labour Party.
PDN sources say the Labour leadership didn’t want to rock the sensitive Labour boat so near to a party leadership election – due in December.
The protest rally outside the Assembly was augmented afloat by a fleet of fishing boats circling the waters of Cardiff Bay and sounding their horns immediately outside the Assembly.
Inside the Assembly itself the Labour Party made sure all its party hacks were lined-up to destroy the motion against the mud dumping.
Labour succeeded in destroying a joint Plaid Cymru and Conservative motion which would have temporarily suspended the dumping pending further testing of the mud. Swansea West AM Julie James proposed the “wrecking amendment”.
Speaking against the Plaid/Conservative motion was the Welsh Labour Government’s Energy Minister Lesley Griffiths – a former personal secretary who lists no academic qualifications whatever on her Assembly profile. It was she who had issued the licence to allow the mud dumping in the first place. She said it was “deeply disappointing there are some who are deliberately seeking to mislead the public for their own political gains and misrepresenting the facts”.
Griffiths warned the skippers of the fishing boats circling in the waters outside the Assembly not to attempt any blockade of the mud-dumping operation because it would be “a risk to public safety”.
The Penarth Conservative AM Andrew RT Davies said “Tonight’s debate on nuclear mud dumping shows how shockingly out of touch the Welsh Labour Government is with the concerns of the general public.” He said ““Welsh Labour Government ministers have the power to intervene and stop the mud dumping – but instead have scandalously turned their backs on my constituents.”
Mr Davies – who is AM for South Wales Central – said “This is a sad day for Welsh democracy and the views of people along the South Wales coastline, and I’m sure this will live long in the memory of the electorate.”
The departing Labour First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones failed to vote on the issue.
UKIP Leader in Wales Gareth Bennett (UKIP AM for SouthWales Central which includes Penarth) voted AGAINST mud dumping.
All three Labour leadership contenders Mark Drakeford, Eluned Morgan and Vaughan Gething – (Labour AM for Cardiff South and Penarth) voted FOR mud dumping – thus, in Gething’s case, justifying the nickname bestowed on him by campaigners “Geiger Gething”.
Jane Hutt – (Labour AM Vale of Glamorgan) voted FOR mud-dumping .
Most Conservatives voted AGAINST mud dumping including party leader Paul Davies and South Wales Central AMs Andrew R T Davies and Penarth resident David Melding. Melding had originally supported the mud dumping scheme when it had been considered by the Assembly#’s petitions committee – but apparently changed his mind and voted with his party AGAINST.
Insiders in the Welsh Assembly last night said the Labour Party’s conduct – in defending its original decision to permit the mud dumping – is going to have long-term consequences for the party. Some believe the Welsh Labour Government, in cynically defying the wishes of the local people, has now – in all probability – sown the seeds of its own future collapse.
Another source said Labour’s conduct was clear evidence that Assembly members appeared to have forgotten that their primary duty is to reflect and represent the views of their constituents.
Meanwhile last night – as the protest was taking place and the debate was in progress – the second of two 2,000 ton consignments of mud from Hinkley Point was dumped in the sea off Penarth.