Top Tory accused of `sleaze' over dockland deals

ONE OF the key companies in the £1bn scheme to regenerate Cardiff Bay has received favourable treatment because of the presence on its board of a former Conservative Secretary of State for Wales, according to a Labour MP. Associated British Ports, (ABP), the privatised docks operator, has been given special advantages potentially worth many millions of pounds - according to Cardiff West MP Rhodri Morgan - because one of its directors is Lord Crickhowell, who as Nicholas Edwards was Margaret Thatcher's Welsh Secretary from 1979 to 1987.

In a Parliamentary committee last week Mr Morgan said that in one deal in particular in Cardiff Bay, an ABP subsidiary was "an example of government sleaze of the kind with which we have become all too familiar".

The then Mr Edwards himself signed the order setting up the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation to breathe life into 2,700 moribund acres south of the city in January 1987, six months before he retired from Parliament and was made a peer.

The regeneration scheme is second only to London's Docklands in size and scale, and the corporation was given the power of compulsory purchase over all the land within its boundaries.

However, in May 1989, the corporation announced that two valuable parcels of land were, uniquely, being excluded from compulsory purchase. They were 100 acres at Roath Basin, a plum, central waterfront area - estimated to be worth £50m when the development is advanced - and 60 acres at Ferry Road on the west of the bay.

Both sites belong to ABP. Lord Crickhowell had joined the ABP board the year before.

The sites were being excluded from compulsory purchase, it was announced, in return for ABP contributing to the development corporation's infrastructure costs.

However, a new £135m underground road, linking the M4 with the bay area and passing right by Roath Basin, opens shortly, with none of its cost, or of that of any of the bay infrastructure, having been paid by the company. And last week, the Welsh Office,in a Parliamentary answer, revealed that the agreement releasing ABP's land had been superseded by another secret deal struck in March 1991, under which ABP agreed with the development corporation merely to do its best to "secure an appropriate level ofdevelopment" for the land.

In other words, to attract tenants and new business to its land - but not to pay towards the cost of reshaping the bay.

Mr Morgan said yesterday: "This is yet another example of the soft landings the Government arranges for its ex-Cabinet ministers.

"All of those businesses and land-owners located in Cardiff Bay who did not want to be [compulsorily] acquired are bound to ask, why was ABP treated so differently?" he added.

"Was it because they had an ex-Secretary of State for Wales on the board?"

Mr Morgan's allegation of government "sleaze" was directed at the renting of premises from Grosvenor Waterside, a subsidiary of ABP, by a large quango, the Welsh Health Common Services Authority, The Welsh Office ordered the WHCS to relocate its headquarters to new £20m rented premises on Roath Basin.

Called Crickhowell House, the building costs the quango £14 a square foot to rent, but comparable companies such as Welsh Water have bought freehold offices in Cardiff for less per square foot than WHCS is paying in rent.

Freddie Watson, Grosvenor's executive director, was a senior official at the Welsh Office under Lord Crickhowell, being assistant secretary in charge of economic and regional planning matters when he left to join the company in 1989.

Mr Morgan told the Commons committee: "Two years after Lord Crickhowell ceased to be Secretary of State his company was able to have the benefit of a Welsh Office decision to send a body down there paying a ludicrously high rent, to give a boost to an urban development corporation and its project.

"This is perceived by the staff of the Welsh Health Common Services Authority as an example of government sleaze."

Lord Crickhowell, who is chairman of another quango, the National Rivers Authority, said yesterday: "After I left the Welsh Office, having got into train the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, I was anxious to continue to help in the development of thebay and was delighted to be able to do so.

"All the arrangements entered into were open and known about." ABP's land was excluded, said Lord Crickhowell, "because one of the essential features of the development is the partnership between the public and private sector". He stressed he had played no part in any negotiations.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
Scientists believe Mercury is coated in billions of years’ worth of carbon dust, after being ‘dumped on’ by passing comets
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£30,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a perso...

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Payable Clerk

£21,000 - £24,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a new opportunit...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Manager

£55,000 - £65,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accountant with ...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Analyst

£45,000 - £55,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified accountant...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor