Boris and the water of Wales.
It sounds like people are getting a little thirsty in the south east of England. Empty reservoirs, or emptying reservoirs at least, have got the Mayor of London and his team scratching their heads for solutions. The solution they seem to have settled on, ‘Wales and Scotland have lots of water, let’s have theirs’. Convoluted concepts of new rivers carrying Welsh gold down south, have already triggered the Tryweryn comparative debates in some corners, in particular from vocal Plaid Cymru members, and a return to discussions on the potential of a water tax, Wales generating some much needed wealth from its abundant natural resources.
Of course, as soon as some start to mutter about the possibility of Wales charging England an exorbitant amount for quenching thirsts, the legal aspects are merrily slapped down as a roadblock to any rational debate, but perhaps more attention needs to be paid to the wording of the current legal arrangement in which the Welsh Government operates.
‘152 Intervention in case of functions relating to water etc. (1)This section applies where it appears to the Secretary of State that the exercise of a relevant function (or the failure to exercise a relevant function) in any particular case might have a serious adverse impact on—.
(a)water resources in England, (b)water supply in England, or (c)the quality of water in England.’
One wonders from this qualification what would amount to a ‘serious impact’ on the water supply to England? Is paying for something a ‘serious impact’ on a nation’s ability to receive a product, in this case the product being water? One would think that so long as the nation in question can afford to pay, then no ‘serious impact’ would be suffered. The product would still flow, so long as the price was paid. Fair? Very. In addition, with so much talk going back and forth about funding formulas for Wales, one method to go about addressing the current funding imbalance would be to allow Wales to make the most of its natural assets, levy the funds on what is rightfully Welsh.
There should be no nonsense discussed about holding England to ransom over the water supply, which no doubt some might become excited about, but equally we should not entertain any notion of England coming in and taking whatever it wants as and how the desire takes. This is Welsh water, it is arguably our most important resources, and we should have the right, as the nation which produces it, however incidentally our production of a natural resource might be, to control what is done with it. Let Boris have his water for London, but don’t let him think that by virtue of any Act of Union, that resources that are rooted in Wales and Scotland, should be arbitrarily handed over to the London hub at their whim, and certainly not without a reasonable price paid at the point of exchange.