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AM told talks over Welsh energy projects stay private  

A snubbed Swansea AM has been told not to interfere in government discussions about big energy projects in Wales.Dai Lloyd wanted to find out more about discussions between the Assembly and UK Governments over who gives the final say on new schemes like power stations, large wind farms and gas pipelines.

But his request, submitted under the Freedom of Information Act, was turned down.

The UK Government said it wanted discussions to remain private. If they didn’t, it warned, discussions with the Assembly Government on the energy issue might cease.

“It’s a huge issue and I’m furious about this,” said Dr Lloyd, Plaid AM for South West Wales.

“The Westminster Government should lay off and stop being a bully-boy. They are treating us like children.”

The UK Government has traditionally had the final say on planning for big energy projects in Wales. The Assembly Government is on record as wanting these decision-taking powers to be transferred to Cardiff.

A new Planning Bill, up for discussion in Parliament soon, proposes to hand over the powers to a new body, the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC).

Dr Lloyd said Wales should be able to decide big energy projects within its borders. He said: “That’s why we were lumbered with the LNG gas pipeline from Pembrokeshire to Gloucester.”

He labelled the proposed IPC “an unaccountable three-man quango”.

Dr Lloyd said people in Wales were being treated with contempt on this issue. “Westminster are saying that if they release this information, then the Assembly Government can forget about co-operation on energy projects again.”

A spokeswoman for UK Government department DBERR (Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform), said: “We look forward to working closely with Welsh ministers on how the new planning regime established by the Planning Bill can deliver Britain’s vital major energy infrastructure.”

She said the request for information was turned down because it was felt ministers and officials should be able to talk candidly without fear of proposals becoming public, adding: “Were such discussions to become available to the public, it may preclude such dialogues from taking place in the future.”

Evening Post

21 June 2008

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