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 And last week, the Welsh Office,in a Parliamentary answer, revealed that the agreement releasing ABP's land had been superseded by another secret deal struck in March 1991, under which ABP agreed with the development corporation merely to do its best to "secure an appropriate level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?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones