CLAIMS the UK Government should foot the cost of making Welsh coal tips safe have been disputed by Welsh secretary Simon Hart. 

In response to arguments it should put up the money as the coal industry predates devolution Mr Hart told MPs: “The idea the devolution settlement is conditional on things we didn’t think of (before devolution) is a nonsense and clearly would, obviously, blow up the settlement.” 

Parliament’s Welsh Affairs committee was also told the UK government has “put its hand in its pockets” to help deal with the issue and the UK Government has acted when it “didn’t have to”. 

The UK cabinet minister was pressed on the Welsh Government’s calls for extra funding to stabilise coal tips by Labour MPs Beth Winter and Geraint Davies. 

They raised the dispute between the Labour Welsh government and the Conservative administration in Westminster over who should meet the cost estimated at £500 million over 10 years to make safe tips that have become more unstable due to climate change and more frequent wetter weather. 

They said climate change was a new emerging threat, claiming it hadn’t been predicted at the time when devolution was agreed in 1997, and argued Welsh coal had fired British industry for generations. 

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But Hart said the UK Government has provided the necessary funds and said it had done more than it was legally required to do in response to the issue. 

The Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP disputed the Welsh Government’s estimates and said the Coal Authority figures are the cost is around £5 million a year, adding “we need some clarity on that” and said liabilities as well as assets had transferred when devolution was agreed by the Labour UK government in the late 1990s. 

“It has never been suggested to me anything predating the devolution settlement automatically reverts to the United Kingdom.” 

The Coal Authority is a non-devolved body.

Hart said the UK Government had supported the Welsh Government in establishing a group to look at coal tips in response to a landslide in the Rhondda following Storm Dennis in February 2020. 

He said: “The UK Government has gone above and beyond what the devolution settlement has required us to do”. 

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The Welsh secretary said the Treasury provided £31 million for the tip safety group and said: “We didn’t have to do that but we did.” 

He said as the UK Government had also allocated £5.2 billion for flood alleviation schemes in England that had also produced extra money, known as a “Barnett consequential” under the funding formula, for the Welsh Government. 

“The notion the two governments are somehow not working together and we haven’t put our hands in our pockets to try and deal with the problem doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny.” 

David TC Davies, the under-secretary of state for Wales, claimed the Welsh Government has enough money to deal with the issue. 

He said: “The figures we have from the coal authority suggest it needs £5m a year, the Welsh Government received an extra £4.2 billion, that is 800 times more than it needs. If the Welsh Labour government thinks these are unsafe then they must act now and they have the money to do it.” 

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