[Mr. Mike Weir in the Chair] — UK Atomic Energy Authority
10:10 am

Photo of John Gummer

John Gummer (Suffolk Coastal, Conservative)

No. I am not inferring that. I am merely stating the fact, which is clear, that Mr. Minter bought the land knowing that Dounreay was next door. That is all I am saying, and nothing more. I am also trying not to use any of the words about Mr. Minter which one might wish to use, having read the details, because I do not believe that any debate is advanced by using words such as "deceit", "cheats" and "lies". I do not believe that that is the way to debate.

The issue is that on a number of occasions, Mr. Minter has been offered ways in which the problem might be solved. It is clear that there is difficulty on both sides in coming to an agreement. I have had many constituency problems during the 30 years that I have been a Member of this House and often it is not a question of one side or the other. People get themselves into a mess, and begin to dislike each other because they both feel that the other person did not do what they said they would do, and by the time one gets to the present stage, it does not help to dig over the past. What matters is that an agreement is made, and that would have been the better way to proceed.

I do not have a very high opinion of the Department of Trade and Industry, and I think it is the most reactionary Department in the Government. It is the least environmental; it largely holds up any policies that would be good and finds good reasons why things should not be done. It is a dreadful Department, and the sooner we get rid of it and put trade into the Foreign Office and industry into a department for the environment, the better. I hope that the new Prime Minister will do that.

I do not believe that there should have been attacks on the individuals concerned. Quoting and referring to officials who cannot answer for themselves is unfair and unacceptable. There should be access for the UKAEA across the land to carry out the decommissioning properly. That is the first thing that is necessary. The second is that there should be a clean-up process that ensures that the land is returned to its pristine condition. Thirdly, it is necessary to ensure that we retain and protect the contribution that the UKAEA has given to the area over many years.

I support the words of the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross. We do not help by exaggerating the concerns, or by pretending that there are no concerns. Hon. Members with such constituencies, who must deal with these issues day in, day out, must strike a careful balance. We must choose our language carefully.

Will the Minister hurry the matter up, because the long delay has not helped, and it is a great pity that we are still at the same stage? I want to hurry him up for two reasons: first, for the area itself and, secondly, for constituencies such as mine. I have come straight off an aeroplane to this debate because of my constituency. I want my constituents to feel that when such issues arise they are dealt with rapidly, cleanly and clearly, and that the UKAEA has greater power to make decisions. One matter about which I am concerned and with which my right hon. Friend struck a chord is the long time it takes the Ministry to do anything. I am surprised that it manages to find its way to the House of Commons without special guidance, because it takes so long. Why are we still waiting, month after month, since earlier this year for a decision on a perfectly simple matter?

Could we have a new spirit abroad in the Ministry? When it gets a letter, can it reply within a week, and when there is a problem, can it reply within a fortnight, but can it not leave it to fester? If the Minister could make that change, there would be a big difference, so I hope that he will tell all of us who represent constituencies with nuclear power stations that we can expect the DTI to move at the pace of private industry, to answer questions when they are asked, and to recognise that compensation paid in due time and changes made rapidly usually cost a great deal less than what must be paid after 10 years.

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