20 March 2001

Q3 Alison Halford:

Will the First Minister make a statement on his visit to Mostyn docks on 9 March? (OAQ10407)

The First Minister:

It was an instructive visit for several reasons. From September this year, P&O Ferries will install its fifth ferry port connection between Wales and Ireland, which is mostly for freight, but which has some provision for passenger and car transport. Mostyn Docks Limited is currently in negotiation with British Aerospace to be the transhipment point for the A380 wings. Transporting those enormous wings from a factory in Broughton to the final assembly point in Toulouse—without dropping and damaging them because they are incredibly valuable—will be one of the great logistical feats of twenty-first century European industrial history. We think that they will be transported by barge from Connah’s Quay to Mostyn, transhipped from there to Bordeaux docks and then transported onwards through France. The rail freight terminal at Mostyn has the potential to be the north Wales equivalent of the Euro-freight terminal at Wentloog, which is half way between Cardiff and Newport.

Alison Halford:

I do not wish to strike a discordant note, but are you aware that North Wales Police is insisting on a full-scale, highly-equipped anti-terrorist facility for Mostyn docks? It requires the same facilities as those in Holyhead, which were paid for by Objective 1 funding. Is there a serious threat to progress at the dock as a result of North Wales Police’s requirements? Are you prepared to speak to the Home Office, if necessary, to ensure that there is a compromise with the chief constable of North Wales Police over establishing such facilities at Mostyn docks?

The First Minister:

I am grateful for your observations, Alison, and I defer to your infinitely greater knowledge of policing matters. If you believe that it is excessive to require the same facilities at Mostyn as those in Holyhead, then I am happy to incorporate your views in a letter to the Secretary of State for the Home Department.

Dafydd Wigley:

In that context and following his discussions with Mostyn Docks Ltd, has the First Minister inquired whether goods imported to the docks from Ireland or other countries, will include meat? Is there a risk in Mostyn and other places that meat will come in through the back door? Bearing in mind Nick Brown’s statement over the weekend that illegally imported meat was the probable cause of foot and mouth disease, will he ensure total control on meat imported to Mostyn docks and throughout Wales? Many of us feel that it would be better not to import meat from countries where there is a risk of importing diseases like foot and mouth with it.

The First Minister:

If I were standing in Dáil Éireann rather than the Assembly, I would see this problem from the other side of the telescope. There are fears in Ireland that meat, which may carry the disease, will be imported from Britain, via the current ferry services or the new ferry service starting in September. On importing from other countries, I do not think that any goods will be imported into Mostyn docks from any of the countries where foot and mouth disease is endemic, such as Argentina or Japan. It is not that type of port.

Tom Middlehurst:

Nothwithstanding Dafydd Wigley’s comments and the understandable concerns about foot and mouth disease, do you agree that nothing can diminish the significant achievements of the port of Mostyn in developing a facility that could provide significant export opportunities for many businesses and industries in north Wales, not least British Aerospace at Broughton? The level of development on that site is a fine example of what can be achieved through a partnership between the local authority, the private sector and agencies, and I hope the partnership will lead to further development there.

The First Minister:

I am grateful for your comments, Tom. As described to me by Mr O’Toole—effectively the owner of Mostyn docks—it was until recently almost a medieval port in that the ship simply landed on the mud and stayed there. It was only accessible for an hour a day. The revolutionary expansion of the docks means that it is now available 23 hours a day. This has been done by adding the quay, which has a great advantage over an enclosed docks. It has an hour to an hour-and-a-half’s sailing advantage over Liverpool port. Liverpool is responding by developing the Twelve Quays project at Birkenhead to compensate for the real competition that Mostyn offers, despite the fact that Liverpool is a much larger port.

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