Tories Have Knives out for Hain Claiming He's Guilty of 'Blatant Piece of Political Interference'

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Byline: By Martin Shipton Western Mail

Peter hain was last night accused of putting inappropriate pressure on the Assembly Government to back a controversial wind farm proposal.

A Tory AM said he was considering reporting the Welsh Secretary to the Standards Commissioner after correspondence involving Mr Hain, First Minister Rhodri Morgan and the chief executive of the company behind the scheme was made public.

United Utilities wants to build 30 wind turbines in the sea of Porthcawl. A planning inspector recommended rejection, but the proposal was passed by the National Assembly.

The letters include handwritten notes from Mr Hain saying he is 'keen to help' the energy company, and telling Mr Morgan the plan looks 'pretty good to me'.

South Wales West Tory AM Alun Cairns said, 'In my view Peter Hain's involvement in this represents one of the most blatant pieces of political interference in the planning process that I have come across. I shall be closely examining the Ministerial Code to see whether it would be appropriate to refer this to the Standards Commissioner.'

In a letter to Mr Hain dated February 18 2004, United Utilities chief executive John Roberts wrote, 'Dear Peter, I very much enjoyed meeting you again last week ...

'I promised to provide you with information about two renewables (sic) energy projects which we are trying to establish in Wales. They are the wind farms at Ferndale in the Rhondda and at Scarweather Sands off the coast of South Wales. Detailed information on both projects is attached, which I hope is self-explanatory. To put these investments into context, United Utilities is already a major player in Wales, employing 1500 people engaged in the operation of water and wastewater facilities (for Welsh Water), running contact centres and providing energy efficiency services to SMEs.

'We are also one of the leading generators of renewable energy in the UK, so the Ferndale and Scarweather projects bring together our desire to invest in Wales and in green energy. Anything that you can do to help us achieve these objectives would be very welcome.'

On March 31 2004 Mr Hain wrote back to Mr Roberts, saying, 'Dear John ... I found our discussion both interesting and informative and as you will have gathered as a former Energy Minister and Secretary of State for Wales I am very keen to see new energy projects making their contribution to the Government's drive towards our targets for renewal (sic) energy. …