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Before we proceed to this important debate on civil nuclear matters, I must tell the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. I must also announce to the House that no fewer than 35 right hon. and hon. Members have already indicated their wish to take part in the debate. Therefore, I propose to have a 10-minute limit on speeches between 6 o'clock and 8 o'clock. I appreciate that than: may mean that some Privy Councillors will be caught in that 10-minute limit, but I am sure that they will accept that is fair to all concerned.
I beg to move,
That this House welcomes the steps taken by the Government to keep the House and the public informed of the consequences for the United Kingdom of the accident at the nuclear plant at Chernobyl in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; endorses the Government's commitment to the safety of the complete nuclear fuel cycle in the United Kingdom; and in that context approves the Government's first stage response on 2nd May to the Environment Committee's report on radioactive waste (House of Commons Paper No. 191), setting out as it does the principles against which current proposals to dispose of low-level radioactive waste can be considered.
I note, Mr. Speaker, that you have selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, and I shall refer to that later. You have not selected the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi), the Chairman of the Select Committee on the Environment and I do not criticise that at all. None the less, I agree with the terms of his amendment, which makes it clear that there is no intention in holding this debate today that it will any way pre-empt a full response to the Environment Committee's report on radioactive waste management. That will be given full consideration in due course.
I should like to begin by giving a report on the latest position in the United Kingdom, arising out of the Chernobyl accident. But first I express on behalf of the whole House our sorrow to hear of the deaths of more Russian citizens as a result of this accident, and the continuing grave illness of others.
The House will know from my statement of 6 May that as soon as news of the accident was received, the standing arrangements for monitoring were stepped up. The remnants of the cloud arrived over the United Kingdom on Friday 2 May. Since then a daily bulletin has been issued to the press, giving the results of the monitoring in non-technical language. We have also made available all the raw data on which the bulletins were based. The bulletins were issued first by the National Radiological Protection Board, working closely with officials of my Department and other Departments concerned, and from Tuesday 6 May by my Department and the Scottish Office. At all times, including the long weekend of 3 to 5 May, Ministers were kept closely informed of developments, and I was in touch with colleagues.
Radioactivity has been measured in the air, in water, in milk and on foodstuffs. From Monday 5 May to Saturday 10 May, the Government advised people to avoid drinking fresh rain-water over long periods. Apart from that, levels of radioactivity at no time, and in no place, approached the levels at which special action needs to be considered. Those levels are well below the levels at which action has to be taken.
Several of my constituents have asked what is the difference between rain-water taken from tanks outside one's house and consumed there and then and the same rain-water when it falls in reservoirs and enters our normal water supplies.
Rain-water that is caught in a can and used for drinking is in a much more concentrated form than when it falls into a reservoir or falls on to the ground and is diluted.
I was referring to the levels at which special action has to be taken. For instance, the maximum level of radiation found in milk was 471 becquerels per litre. That compares to 2,000 becquerels per litre, which is the level at which action ought to be considered.
The highest levels recorded as a result of the cloud occurred over the weekend of 3 to 5 May. Since then levels have been falling every day, and are now either at or approaching normal background levels in all parts of the country.
I can confirm that no special precautions are needed. I repeat what I said to the House last week. It is safe to drink milk. It is safe to drink tap-water. It is not necessary to take iodine tablets. In particular—as we have received many questions on the point—I can confirm that no special precautions are necessary in giving fresh milk to infants and pregnant women.
My Department and the Scottish Office will continue to issue regular bulletins so long as they are needed. As long as there are no further discharges from Chernobyl, the incident may be regarded as over for this country by the end of the week, although its traces will remain.
The extensive and regular monitoring confirms the very low level of exposure of United Kingdom citizens. That is not unexpected, given the distance from the Ukraine and the dispersal and dilution that occurred en route. It is nevertheless right that those arrangements were set in hand as soon as the news of the accident was received. The House would not have expected otherwise.
I now refer to the wider consequences of Chernobyl. Chernobyl will have a profound effect on public opinion and on the assessment of nuclear power not just by scientists or Governments, but by ordinary people in this country who vividly have been brought face to face with the possible consequences of a nuclear accident. It has underlined the heavy responsibilities that go with nuclear power. I should like to draw some lessons from it.
First, nuclear accidents do not respect national boundaries. Each country with a nuclear programme has a responsibility to ensure that it is regulated properly and safely. It also has a responsibility to ensure that if something does go wrong, information is passed to and, where necessary, help is sought rapidly from other countries. The agreement reached at the Tokyo economic summit to recommend that an international convention be drawn up, which will commit the parties to report and exchange information in the event of nuclear emergencies, it to be welcomed.
Secondly, what should be our response as politicians in a free and open democracy? Trust has to be built. It is no good scientists or politicians simply asserting in a Panglossian way that everything is all right with nuclear power. The case must be reargued with complete openness. The only way of maintaining that confidence is to show that every individual brick in the edifice is sound.
Even the most extreme opponent of the industry should be prepared to accept, provided it can achieve the standards of safety he demands, that nuclear electricity provides secure supplies and some environmental advantages. On the other hand, the most passionate supporter of the industry should accept that if a serious accident does occur, results are far more serious than in most other industries. The stakes, both of potential benefit and cost, are high, which is why such passions surround the industry.
In view of the concern that the Secretary of State has just expressed, can he explain why the authorities in Scotland are going ahead with putting fuel into the new advanced gas-cooled reactor station at Torness in my constituency, apparently several months before it was originally planned, and years before there is any need to commission new nuclear generating capacity in this country?
I shall refer to the nuclear industry. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy will wind up the debate, and I think that he will be able to deal with that specific point. I shall deal with the central issue about nuclear power.
The Government continue to believe that, subject as it is to the most stringent safeguards, nuclear generation has an essential contribution to make to the provision of electric power. We have to remember that by the end of the century 78 per cent. of electricity in France will be generated by nuclear power. In Germany, it is expected to be approaching 45 per cent. That compares with about 18 per cent. in the United Kingdom at present. Those two countries are not likely to halt or reverse their nuclear programmes, because neither has over-abundant supplies of fossil fuels. Nuclear electricity will give their industries a competitive edge. Already, French electricity is the cheapest in Europe. However, having said that, and going back to the benefits and costs, I wish to re-emphasise the fact that safety is the key issue. Safety must be the supreme consideration, particularly in design, in operation and in disposal.
I have just set out the Government's view on nuclear power. I hope that my shadow, the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), will be able to set out the definitive Labour party position on nuclear power and go a little further than in his interview on Radio 4 this morning. I am pleased to see that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) is in his place to hammer home his own support. When it comes to the Labour party sorting itself out on nuclear power, I can only recall the words of a former leader of the Labour party commenting on supposed Tory disarray:
I do not want to intrude into private grief.
I shall give way in a moment.
A third lesson of the Chernobyl accident is that openness is also a necessary condition, not only because it is right in itself, but because every now and then some outside critic will be right about something. Openness is not a public relations technique; it is part of the process of the critical analysis that we need. We are already far more open than we have to be—
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will contain himself for a moment.
We are already far more open than we have to be, but where public safety and assurance are involved, improvements must always be looked for. The Secretary of State for the Environment is one of the regulators and guarantors of the public interest. He has to be vigilant and must take a critical and probing approach to safety. He has to be sure that no undue risk is taken.
The nuclear industry in the United Kingdom is the most regulated industry in the country, subject to no fewer than 15 acts of Parliament and sets of regulations; and in England to the scrutiny of the nuclear installations inspectorate, the radiochemical inspectorate and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, with parallel arrangements in Scotland and Wales.
If an incident should occur, there are clear guidelines on what should be reported and how such incidents should be handled. The guidelines were explained to the House by the then Under-Secretary of State for Energy, my right hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Moore) on 26 July 1982.
I should like to finish this passage, and then I shall give way.
Reports are required as quickly as possible—normally within 24 hours. All incidents involving death, serious injury, substantial over-exposure to radiation or a release of radioactivity that requires special action to be taken are reported to Ministers under those arrangements. They are also reported to local liaison committees and the local population, as well as to the work force. All reports to Ministers are published each quarter by the Health and Safety Executive. The most recent report, dated 3 April, referred to three incidents in the fourth quarter of 1985. None of them involved any radiological hazard.
In addition to those formal reporting arrangements, there are agreed interdepartmental arrangements for other incidents to be reported to the authorising Departments—in England, my Department and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Both those Departments have inspectorates whose job it is to monitor operations and ensure that the terms of the authorisations for discharge or disposal of waste are being complied with. In the course of that work they receive a good deal of information about day-to-day operations, including details of minor incidents—many of them quite trivial. The incident at Dungeness A power station on 1 April, which The Observer reported, was of that type. The amount of radioactivity discharged was tiny—no more than hospital incinerators are allowed to discharge every day without special authorisation.
With regard to such minor incidents, I have given instructions within my Department that Ministers should be told of all incidents involving the release of radioactivity, however small, so that we can decide whether they are sufficiently important to be made public. That should make it unnecessary to introduce any changes to the formal reporting arrangements. However, we are quite willing to look at the arrangements to see whether any changes might be helpful.
Is the Secretary of State aware that there is much concern about the safety of pressurised water reactors, especially in the light of the Three Mile Island disaster? Whatever the Secretary of State may say, all Opposition Members are united in the belief that the building of PWRs should not go ahead. Will the Secretary of State tell us whether he is in favour of the PWR programme going ahead? If so, is he in favour of it going ahead before the next general election?
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. On the issue of openness, he has been careful to avoid saying anything about the application of the Official Secrets Act 1911 to certain aspects of civil nuclear power. Is not the application of that Act one aspect that prevents openness and proper debate?
On the specific incident at Dungeness, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, does he recognise that his Administration changed the rules which had been introduced by the previous Labour Government? The Labour Government insisted that such incidents had to be reported to Ministers and regulatory bodies and also had to be reported publicly. It is essential that the public and the press should have the right to this information, not just Ministers and regulating bodies, which may then decide whether the public should be informed. Frankly, that is unacceptable.
The hon. Gentleman will know that there are many incidents of a minor nature in nuclear installations. I hesitate to use the word "trivial", but they are of a minor nature. As I have announced in relation to these incidents, they will be reported to Ministers within my Department—[Interruption.] I would like to proceed on this matter one stage at a time.
The local inspector in my Department received the information about the incident at Dungeness. He decided that it was of such a minor nature that he did not report it back. I do not criticise my official for making that judgment. I believe that he made the correct decision. On the other hand, it is right that Ministers should be told, so that they can make an assessment.
I should like to answer the points raised by the hon. Member for Copeland before I give way.
The hon. Member for Copeland asked whether the supply of information should go beyond Ministers. I am prepared and willing to consider the publication of all these minor incidents. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that some are very minor indeed, and we must decide whether all these incidents need to be reported. I shall be guided by an attitude and predilection to be open in these matters, because that is the best way.
I have ensured that the serious incidents that we know about are automatically made public when they occur. If there is a general feeling, as a result of this debate, that these incidents should be made open and published—and we must remember that many of these incidents are very minor—I shall respond to that reaction.
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for responding in that genuine manner and for opening this point for debate.
If, as the right hon. Gentleman says, these incidents are trivial, there is all the more reason for not keeping them quiet. Has not the keeping quiet of the Dungeness incident resulted in it covering seven front page columns of a major national newspaper? The impression was created that the authorities did not want to disclose the fact that the accident had occurred. Does the Secretary of State agree that that example is simply playing into the hands of those people who may want to exaggerate or exploit the nature of these matters?
I have great sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's comments, and that is why I have decided to make the change. As I have said, I am prepared to make information about incidents available, if the House wishes. When that was done in the past, many trivial incidents were reported. However, if the House wishes to have details about each incident, there is no reason why it should not.
There are, of course, more than 5,000 sites where operations involving radioactivity are registered by the nuclear installations inspectorate. I accept the anxiety about these matters that hon. Members have expressed.
I apologise for intervening in my right hon. Friend's speech. However, I entirely accept his arguments about the regulation and control of nuclear installations in Britain. What steps does he intend to take with regard to French installations which lie beside the English Channel facing the south and southwest of England? Our controls may be perfect, but I am not sure that controls are perfect elsewhere.
There is a treaty obligation between France and the United Kingdom for information to be exchanged on any incidents. That is important, because France has many power stations.
The Secretary of State referred to the period when I was Secretary of State for Energy. Following the leak at Windscale, which was not reported to me, I laid down that every incident, however small, should not only be reported to the Minister but should be published. This Government have changed that practice. Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham)? Is he now prepared to return to the practice of publishing every incident? The reason for that is perfectly straightforward. Some of the more serious nuclear accidents may occur through human error, and often the small examples of human error, which come out in the practice of full publication, alert people to the true nature of the risk that they may be facing.
I believe that I am right in recalling that the right hon. Gentleman made the change that he has just described. However, I understand that his Department was swamped by a large number of small and minor incidents. I believe that arrangements were made—I will check on this—for some restraint and concentration upon the major incidents. What I have announced today meets what the House wants. I have made the announcement for the reasons put forward by the hon. Member for Copeland. I believe that it is better to be frank and open in these matters.
It has become clear in the past two or three weeks that generally people in this country have a considerable lack of knowledge about radiation and radioactivity. I am sure that the population has learnt a great deal in the course of the past three weeks. I am sure that, as a result of what they have learnt, they will have a more balanced understanding and assessment of the risks.
If, God forbid, a catastrophe on the scale of Chernobyl occurred in this country, would the labour force inside and outside the reactor, have some kind of protective clothing to protect them as they walk around the buildings? About an hour ago I received a message from Kiev to the effect that people are working around the reactor at Chernobyl without protective clothing. Only the police and officials are wearing protective clothing. The other people working in the Chernobyl area are prisoners.
As I have made clear this afternoon, if there is the possibility of a serious accident at a nuclear installation, that will be reported immediately to the local community and to the work force. There are arrangements and plans for dealing with such emergencies which involve the use of protective clothing.
I have been generous in yielding to hon. Members from both sides of the House.
The Government's action on the disposal of radioactive waste is a good example of the approach which I consider is essential if there is to be a proper understanding of the issues involved.
First, let me deal with the scale of the problem of radioactive waste.
If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I shall not give way.
The amounts of radioactive waste that we can expect to arise by the year 2000 are not large compared with the amounts of waste generated by other industries. Society nevertheless has a responsibility for their safe disposal. Indeed, if we were to close down all nuclear power stations tomorrow, we would still have to dispose of existing wastes, as well as those arising from the decommissioning.
It is not a responsibility that should be left to later generations. By the year 2000 there will be 380,000 cu m of low level waste for disposal, and by the year 2030 1,200,000 cu I am aware that hon. Members have some difficulty in envisaging the volumes that are involved—
I think that there would be just a slight objection to that.
Assuming that available techniques for compaction are used by 1987, and that it proves possible to develop the whole of the existing site, Drigg will be full by about 2010. Given the time needed to investigate, consult, and develop any subsequent site, it is only prudent to press ahead now as quickly as possible with the investigation of another site.
Will my right hon. Friend look closely again at the figures for Drigg, including the figures for low-level waste that is supposed to go outside Drigg? As a result of answers from his Department, for which I am most grateful, it appears that, compacted in the manner which it has in mind, the total amount which needs to go outside Drigg is only one fifth of the amount which needs to go into Drigg if also compacted.
I have looked carefully into the figures and also at the effect of compaction. If compaction is started, as we hope, in 1987 in Drigg, the figures that I have announced will still stand. I shall be happy to look at them again, but I have looked at them again and again, and I am satisfied that those figures reflect the waste that society will have to dispose of.
On 2 May the Government published their response to those recommendations of the Environment Select Committee that were directly relevant to the development of a near-surface facility. In this we welcomed the Committee's conclusions that safe disposal routes were available in the United Kingdom and that indefinite storage presented unacceptable risks. We also reaffirmed our commitment to the objectives for the management of radioactive wastes set out in the White Paper, "Radioactive Waste Management", published in July 1982.
Since 1976 the previous Labour Government and our own have sought a solution to this problem. Therefore, I was rather taken aback to hear the Liberal party spokesman on this morning's "Today" radio programme say that we were rushing into this. This is a policy that the previous Labour Government and our own have been trying to resolve over 10 years based upon disposal rather than storage on site.
Does the Secretary of State accept that one of the Select Committee's recommendations was that there should now be a stocktaking and assessment of the options set out in their report before a commitment is made to a specific course of action and that that is the valid criticism that can be made of the Government's present intentions, even given the fact, which I accept, that things have not moved quickly over the past 10 years?
The Select Committee also pointed out that things have not moved too quickly over the past 10 years. In recommendation 8, it said:
Near-surface disposal facilities are only acceptable for short-lived low-level wastes and must be fully engineered on a complete containment basis.
The advice that I have had subsequently from the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee draws attention to the difficulties that successive Governments have had in finding a solution to the problem.
In February I published a draft of the special development order that it is proposed to lay before the House shortly to enable NIREX to investigate sites for the shallow disposal of radioactive waste in clay. As a result of the comments and views expressed, the Government have made a number of detailed changes to the order—for example, in the hours of working. They have also decided to limit the wastes to be deposited to what is broadly described as low-level waste. I shall come back to that point later.
I should emphasise that the work that would be carried out under the proposed special development order will be only the first step in the development of a near-surface facility. The planning permission will only enable NIREX to investigate the geology and hydrogeology of the four sites at Bradwell. Elstow, Fulbeck and South Killingholme. It carries no presumption that any one of the sites will ultimately be developed. It will be for NIREX, as the prospective developer, to assess the information that it gets and then decide whether it wants to make a formal planning application.
NIREX has already said that it will make the data gathered available to those with an interest, so that they can, if they wish, make their own independent assessment. I have already made it clear that any planning application will be subject to a planning inquiry under an independent inspector. We are determined that at each stage there should be maximum opportunity for consultation with those who may be affected.
I accept that it has proved particularly difficult to bridge the gap between the scientists' assessments of risks and the honestly held perceptions of the communities that could be affected. I have received representations and seen personally the Members of Parliament concerned with those four sites. I know only too well the anxieties that their communities are expressing about the proposals. Having listened to their representations, particularly on the distinction between intermediate and low-level waste, I have decided, as was made clear in our response to the Select Committee, that many people will be reassured if a near-surface facility is used only for low-level waste.
This directly affects my constituency. My right hon. Friend will appreciate that the principal issue in the debate about the disposal of nuclear waste is not so much safety, which is the matter to which he has directed his comments, as public confidence. Until such time as public confidence can be restored to this area, it is unacceptable to expect communities affected by the disposal sites to be subjected to any sort of investigation, least of all a proposal to dispose of low-level waste. Much more damage will be done to the nuclear industry if these proposals go forward before such fears are allayed.
I appreciate my hon. Friend's difficulty, but we have a duty as a society to deal responsibly with the disposal of radioactive waste. That arises and will continue to arise. As I have said, it would arise even if one were to stop nuclear generation, which I think would be the wrong policy for Britain. Over the past 10 years—I emphasise that that covers two previous Governments—we have tried to find a way to deal with nuclear waste safely. I draw to my hon. Friend's attention the point made by the Select Committee, that it is possible to engineer safe disposal shallow repositories. There is one in north France. My hon. Friend the Minister for Environment, Countryside and Local Government has visited that site, and I hope to do so later in the year. The site in France is being managed in a safe way. However, I agree there is a great deal of anxiety, and that must be allayed.
Many people are not aware of the type of low-level waste that arises. Some of it is surplus equipment from laboratories and hospitals, equipment from the nuclear power plants and other industries where radioactive operations take place. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Hickmet) will draw to his constituent's attention the various reports that have been made available by NIREX and the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee.
I wish to deal with the difference between intermediate and low-level waste. I hope that my hon. Friends who will be affected will recognise that the Government have made a major concession on this matter. In the light of the views expressed by the Environment Committee—which also made the point regarding what was suitable for a near-surface facility—the Government have decided that NIREX should proceed on the basis that a near-surface facility will be authorised only for the disposal of what is broadly described as low-level waste.
May I take the Minister back to his comments about high-level waste? Is it not time that the Government, and especially the right hon. Gentleman, should have much more confidence in the advice given by nuclear engineers and scientists? Now is the time to take a decision about the fast breeder programme, which is the most effective method of minimising the programme for the disposal of radioactive waste. The decisions about the year 2000 must be taken. If that is done, we will then take the responsibility from future generations. They will be able to handle a manageable method of disposal. If the Government take a decision to go ahead with the fast breeder programme, we will be in the same position as the French.
I am not trying to make a party political point. This is an important matter, and we cannot be faulted for wishing to proceed with it.
Short-lived and long-lived intermediate-level waste will, therefore, be stored, pending the identification and development of a deep disposal site or until radioactivity has reduced sufficiently for its disposal, as low-level waste. The Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee, under the chairmanship of Professor Matthews, has endorsed this approach. The nuclear industry, in its interim response to the Environment Committee, published on 9 May, has made it clear that it does not see any strong technical economic or operational objections to this.
I want to assure my hon. Friends and the House that the facility will be designed and constructed to strict radiological criteria. It will have to meet strict standards of containment. Unsuitable wastes will be excluded. The proposals will also have to meet the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974 concerning the interests and the safety of workers and the public.
My right hon. Friend is dealing with the conditions that will be imposed and the conditions which the inspector at the public inquiry will be asked to consider. Will the inspector at the public inquiry also be asked to consider the desirability of other methods of disposing of this waste?
We have decided and the Select Committee has recommended—this has received the support of the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee—that it is perfectly safe to dispose of low-level waste in shallow depositories. That recommendation has caused an enormous amount of debate. The proposals that we are putting forward are designed to deal with that debate.
Intermediate-level waste will require deep disposal, either in a mineshaft or under the sea. The Swedes have an under-sea disposal site, which I hope to visit later this year and to study the nature of the wastes. The volume of low-level waste is substantial and significant. We believe that the way to proceed is for the shallow disposal of low-level wastes in clay.
I re-emphasise to my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) that safety is paramount not only in the operation of nuclear installations but in the disposal of radioactive waste. We cannot afford to be careless in any way, shape or form.
The Government remain committed to the safe development of nuclear power and the disposal of all radioactive waste. The Government have taken and will continue to take the necessary steps to achieve this objective. I invite the House to support the motion on the Order Paper.
I beg to move, in line 1, leave out from 'House' to end and add
'believes that safety. health and environmental protection must be of paramount importance in the operation of the civil nuclear power industry; deplores the failure of Her Majesty's Government to inform effectively the British people of the nature, level and implications of the radioactive fallout caused by the Chernobyl accident; condemns the Government's failure to develop acceptable, comprehensive policies for the necessary storage and monitoring of nuclear waste: recognises the need for an urgent and comprehensive safety review of Britain's existing
nuclear power stations; believes that such a review should be published, and debated by Parliament; and consequently demands that whilst these matters remain unresolved Her Majesty's Government should not proceed with any expansion of civil nuclear power.'.
I join the Secretary of State for the Environment in expressing, on behalf of the Labour party, our sympathy and regret at the loss of life and the continued toll of injury and illness caused in the Ukraine as a result of the Chernobyl disaster. In view of what the Secretary of State had to say about Divisions, we wait with interest to see whether the Government's Chief Whip is able to shepherd all his flock into the Lobby with the Government tonight and indeed, if the Chief Whip is able to work up the courage to go into the Lobby after them.
Britain was among the first nations of the world to develop nuclear power to generate electricity. For more than 30 years, that development has proceeded, based on British research and engineering. Methods of scrutiny and public control have developed parallel to the development of the industry. The nuclear industry, from the outset publicly owned and subject to close Government supervision, now produces about 18 per cent. of our electricity. Those employed in the industry are all members of the appropriate trade unions.
The industry has been the object of much piecemeal inquiry and has suffered from regular changes of policy. There is now, and has been, a lack of any coherent strategy. There has been a specific failure to develop an acceptable national policy for the storage and monitoring of nuclear waste. The policy on discharges into the environment has also been unacceptable.
Although those responsible for managing the industry cannot escape their responsibility for failure or errors, it is, above all, the ineffective nature of a framework of Government policy which lies at the centre of the present difficulties. There has been no coherent or comprehensive review of the overall progress and impact of civil nuclear power in Britain. It is remarkable to reflect on that. It is time that we had such a review.
In the past 16 years, I have dealt with many issues on behalf of my constituents, such as health, environmental protection, safety to communities, secrecy and discharges into the environment. I have learned a great deal about the industry. But I am conscious of the fact that there is a massive job still to be done in this country if we are ever to persuade people that the industry has a sustainable future.
The level of misunderstanding between those responsible for running the industry and the public is appalling. It has been continually bedevilled by secrecy, obfuscation, the deliberate withholding of information that the public has a legitimate right to receive, and the workings of the Official Secrets Act. What shook me above all, especially in view of recent controversies, was to receive a letter a few days ago from a lady who was protesting about nuclear waste management policy. She concluded:
After all Dr. Cunningham you wouldn't have it in your constituency would you?
Recent events in the British nuclear industry and the appalling failure of technology at Chernobyl underline what many of us already knew: we need new political techniques to deal with technologies such as nuclear power. The experience of the past three weeks has starkly demonstrated that we also need new international agreements. The development of nuclear power has begun
to outstrip public acceptance and understanding of what it involves, and without public acceptance of its operation there can be no future for the civil nuclear industry.
Have the events of the past three weeks made the hon. Gentleman change his view, as expressed in various journals last month, that in principle it is right for Britain and his party to continue with the nuclear policy participated in and developed by him when in government?
It is no secret that I have always believed that civil nuclear power has a legitimate role in any rational energy policy. Unlike the hon. Gentleman and some of his colleagues, I shall not pretend to be all things to all people. I have already mentioned the essential requirements of openness, frankness and explicit information on such matters. It may be argued that the British industry has an outstanding safety record. However, that alone is not enough. By its very nature, nuclear power embodies hazards that are intangible and invisible. Radiation has no smell. It makes no noise. It has no colour. It does not rattle. It frightens people. and we must recognise that from the outset.
It is essential that the safety, health and environment of our people should be safeguarded by standards of scrutiny and oversight that are set far higher than for any other industry. We live in a world where nuclear power generates 15 per cent. of all electricity used. In some countries, including our neighbour France, the figure is between 50 and 70 per cent. At the end of last year there were 374 nuclear reactors in operation in 26 countries throughout the world. During 1985, 31 new reactors were brought into production. Construction on six more was commenced. Even in America new reactors have been commissioned, and the recently published United States energy policy review envisages 30 new reactors in the United States in the next decade.
It is important for people to realise that very close to us now, much closer than Sellafield or Dounreay, the French have a massive commitment to civil nuclear power in light water stations at Flamanville, Palluel. Pentlys and Gravelines. On one site alone, at Gravelines on the other side of the Channel, the French have more generating capacity than we have in the whole of England. That is the reality, and it will not change in the short or medium term. Thus, it is futile to pretend that Britain can isolate itself, industrially, environmentally, economically or in energy policy terms, from that reality.
No major industrial nation has decided to abandon nuclear power altogether. For those reasons, we consider it essential that the British Government should use all means available to secure international application of the highest known safety standards and management systems, and that they should urgently seek a review—I believe that the Minister touched on this—of the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency and other relevant international bodies involved in the monitoring and control of civil nuclear power. We welcome the Government's commitment to such initiatives.
Britain, uniquely among major industrial nations. is for the present self-sufficient in energy resources. We already have an operating margin of almost 100 per cent. in electricity generating capacity. We thus have time to consider carefully the complex issues involved and to plan for the future. We say unequivocally in the Labour party that the major factor involved in that planning should be an enhanced role for the British coal industry. That is why in the prevailing circumstances we see no case for proceeding with any expansion of civil nuclear power—no PWR at Sizewell or on any other site.
Today, the House is asked to approve the Government's actions in response to fallout in Britain from the Chernobyl accident in the Ukraine. We cannot do so for several reasons. Although it was clear for several days that Britain might be affected by radioactive fallout, Ministers seemed totally unprepared for it when it actually came. A single Minister, effectively briefed, with a central unit should, from the outset, have been placed in charge of the announcement of explicit and coherent information to the people. The exact nature, levels and implications of the contamination should have been published from the beginning. That simply was not done. Even after the matter was first raised from this Dispatch Box, Ministers dithered. The Government's response was wholly inadequate to deal with genuine, predictable and justifiable anxieties. The information provided and the manner of its release served only to heighten confusion and to exacerbate concern.
Why, for example, were public notices not published in newspapers, which would have been by far the most effective way of getting accurate information quickly to people? Do the Government recognise that the consequences of the Chernobyl fallout for Britain were significant, and that statements such as, "It could not happen here," were totally misleading? It was important to achieve a balance between frankness about the situation and the need to calm unnecessary fears, but here again the balance was wrong. Statements from Ministers were in conflict with statements from the director of the National Radiological Protection Board, again confusing the media as well as the public, and thus sabotaging, before it could begin, the effective dissemination of accurate information.
We saw the Government incapable of responding satisfactorily to an emergency. We believe that there is a need to review comprehensively existing procedures and contingency plans for dealing with such incidents. Nor, I must emphasise, do we support self-righteous attacks on the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union should be more open about the nature and scale of the accident, but the "holier than thou" approach of some people in the British Government—and, even worse, the attitude of the American Government—did nothing to help or to encourage the Soviet Union to be more open and forthcoming; indeed, they probably had the opposite effect.
We also have an opportunity today to debate the Government's first response to the report of the Select Committee on the Environment on radioactive waste. The report is most welcome as an authoritative statement of radioactive waste management policy in Britain. Given the wider welcome that it has received, not least from the Secretary of State for the Environment today, I suspect that the Secretary of State for Energy must bitterly regret his immediate destructive and critical comments about the report and what it had to say to the House and to the country.
The Select Committee is right to be highly critical of Government policy and the lack of a coherent research strategy for the storage of nuclear waste. In particular, I welcome the recommendations on eliminating radioactive discharges to the marine environment, on the Drigg low-level waste site, on the need for research of deep geological sites, and on an end to unnecessary secrecy in the industry—all issues that for many years people in my constituency, the local authorities, trade unions and I myself have been urging on successive Governments at Westminster. The Select Committee is right to highlight the need for a better management performance in the industry and for better public information. We accept too the proposal for an economic reappraisal of the THORP project and believe that the necessary work on such a study should be commenced immediately.
The report of the Select Committee has been widely welcomed and commended by the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee, by the Central Electricity Generating Board, by British Nuclear Fuels plc and by environmental groups. The Select Committee makes clear the need to develop new policies for the storage and disposal of all nuclear waste. A decade ago the Royal Commission on environmental pollution highlighted the necessity for such policies. We accept the national need for a land-based site to take low-level radioactive waste generated in the nuclear industry, in the Health Service, in non-nuclear industry, in universities and in research establishments. The Government are right to accept the important recommendation that only low-level waste should be dealt with in that way.
The hon. Gentleman is being forthright and forthcoming about where he stands, on behalf of his party, on this important issue. My constituents need to be absolutely clear on where all political parties stand on the disposal of low level waste. May I get it critically clear? By what he has just said, does the hon. Gentleman accept, as I do not, and if he were Secretary of State for the Environment would he approve, a near-surface disposal facility, such as has been recommended by NIREX?
Yes is the answer to that. We have such a facility in my constituency now, as I assume the hon. Gentleman knows. The site at Drigg will not serve the country indefinitely. Anyone who believes that the problem can be ducked is not only deluding himself but is misleading his constituents. If we had no nuclear industry tomorrow, such a site would still be necessary to deal with waste from the Health Service, from research laboratories, from universities and from non-nuclear industry, as I have already made clear. Lest the hon. Gentleman is in any doubt, I have written to constituency Labour parties which have approached me on the issue, making that absolutely clear to them. The national requirement for such policies should not be ducked by anyone who has pretensions to be a serious political representative in the House.
Will the Minister give way? [Laughter.] Quite a few of us have been affected by last Thursday's events, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Further to the point he was making, what does the hon. Gentleman say of the morality of hon. Members who are enthusiastic about civil nuclear power but who, when it comes to their constituencies, as we have seen with at least four Conservative Members, think that the waste and the danger should be taken somewhere else?
It will come as no surprise to the right hon. Gentleman that I share his views about the double standards inherent in such an approach. As I recall, all Conservative Members have supported the Government in their aggressive atitude on the development of civil nuclear power in Britain—an attitude, incidentally, which is of no consequence in reality, because the Government have not ordered even one nuclear power station in their seven years in office. Like much else about the Government's policy, their actions totally belie their rhetoric. That is the reality.
We cannot accept that a special development order procedure should be used to circumvent the proper involvement and legitimate interests of local authorities and the communities they represent. The Select Committee concluded, and we agree, that publicly "acceptable solutions are possible for the storage and disposal of waste in Britain, as they are in other countries. I remind the Government, however, that their own studies show that the disposal of low-level waste in a retrievable form adds little to the overall cost. That should be a feature of policy for near-surface disposal. The Select Committee makes clear the extent to which Britain lags behind Germany, Sweden, the United States of America and France in policies for radioactive waste storage and disposal. This is a serious failure of Government policy.
Little progress has been made over the last seven years. In one major respect we have gone backwards. The Government made a major error when in 1981 they abandoned a development research programme initiated by the Labour Government for the disposal of high-level waste. The Government took that decision against the advice of the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee and of the industry. The advisory committee has repeated its criticism of the decision recently in letters to Ministers. The current position in Britain is a direct consequence of that failure of Government policy.
Intermediate-level waste and highly active waste, when vitrified, should he stored and monitored in deep-mined facilities specially developed for the purpose. The proposal of the Select Committee that an experimental site be developed to test proposals, but not to be used for the actual disposal, is worthy of serious consideration. The environmental aspects of Magnox fuel reprocessing are dealt with in the report. Some people argue that reprocessing should end.
We cannot deal with the different problems of environmental protection simply by deciding to close industries. Nor should Socialists accept that we can protect the environment by undermining the economic and social well-being of our communities. I have long argued that discharges from Sellafield should be eliminated. The recently announced new controls are welcome, and the much-improved performance of the industry on discharges is long overdue, but a target date for the elimination of discharges into the sea should be set by the Government.
On lower and intermediate levels of waste such as those placed at Drigg, is the hon. Gentleman content with the broad structure of the facility at Drigg, which drains through to the sea? Does he envisage that being updated? If so, would he still have a fail-safe drainage to the sea?
No. I can tell the hon. and learned Gentleman that we have been anything but content with facilities at Drigg for some time. I am sure that he is aware that an announcement was made several months ago to upgrade the facility at Drigg—a decision that was long overdue. I emphasise that, even with the compacting of waste, the site at Drigg has a finite life and we cannot continue indefinitely cramming more and more waste and radioactive material into it.
I was discussing the reprocessing of Magnox fuel. About 2,000 tonnes of Magnox fuel from British programmes await reprocessing. During the next few years, about 1,000 tonnes per annum will result from Britain's Magnox stations. BNFL is contracted to deal with the material on behalf of British generating boards. Any necessary decommissioning of aging Magnox power stations will add significantly to those totals. In those circumstances, suggestions that early closure of the plant is desirable or possible are frequently misleading
Dry storage is not a better alternative, even if it were possible. Nor would public opinion readily welcome or accept a proliferation of stores for highly radioactive, long-lived nuclear fuel elements around the country. There is now deep public concern in Britain about nuclear power, waste disposal, siting of reactors and accidents. It is unlikely that people would accept that we should further complicate the position by dispersing more and more radioactive fuel around the country. Surely even this Government have learnt that we urgently need a freedom of information Act to ensure the fullest possible and best-informed debate. Those aspects of the Official Secrets Act applying to civil nuclear power should be removed. I reiterate the Labour party's commitment to that action.
We also require the urgent completion of Magnox safety reviews and the publication of the relevant documents. We remain committed to a ban on sea dumping of radioactive waste. The Labour party supports proposals for the inclusion of local authority members, trade unionists and environmentalists on the boards of the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee and NIREX.
I emphasise that we remain totally opposed to the construction of a pressurised water reactor. We are immediately committed to halting the production of weapons grade material in British civil nuclear power stations or, for that matter, in any other facility. Labour opposes the introduction of the fast reactor and emphasises the need for a full public inquiry into the proposed reprocessing plant at Dounreay.
We should ensure that the nuclear installations inspectorate is strengthened and that control of the nuclear industry and all the bodies which oversee it is examined and, where possible, rationalised.
After reading the evidence in other reports, I, too, oppose the idea of the British development of the PWR system, but that is not to rubbish the report that we expect this autumn from Professor Bill Hall, who is one of our most reputable nuclear engineers. Professor Hall, who is the excellent engineering assessor attached to Layfield, will write the report on PWR. My hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) has dismissed the report without seeing it. He is not only criminalising British nuclear engineers, but rubbishing the people who have put much work into PWR development. On the basis of other reports, I agree that we should not go ahead with it, but my hon. Friend should say that he has every respect for the engineering work that has been done by Professor Bill Hall.
Secondly, I am—[Interruption.] I am talking about Professor Bill Hall's reputation as a leading nuclear engineer. Let us not treat engineers in that way. That is the reason why we are in our present position, with trivia coming out—
I have some sympathy with what my hon. Friend says, but I have not rubbished in advance the Layfield report; indeed, I have not even mentioned it. What I have said—I said it at the beginning of my speech and I repeat it now—is that, in present circumstances, we envisage no requirement to order civil nuclear power stations. I shall read the Layfield report with much interest, as will my hon. Friend.
In case there is any misunderstanding, I shall repeat what I said. We envisage no case for ordering any nuclear power stations in the prevailing circumstances—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"] At the risk of lengthening my speech unnecessarily, I should deal with the mirth of members of a party which, when in government, did not order one nuclear power station for nearly 25 years. The joke is a little misplaced. In the present circumstances of energy self-sufficiency, the strength of the British coal industry and grave public uncertainty about the nuclear industry and all its operations, I cannot understand why Conservative Members should suddenly be worried about a nuclear order.
I shall not give way. I am nearing the end of my speech. I have given way generously to hon. Members on both sides of the House.
Single-issue campaigners can and often do ignore inconvenient complexities. We cannot do so, nor can we in modern industrial societies regard technology as unthinkable. The Labour party does not espouse the zero economic growth views of some environmentalists. We believe that improved international economic performance is a vital necessity for millions of people facing poverty, malnutrition and disease. The reality is that we must learn to deal not only with the existing technologies but with the developing momentum of new technologies, new scientific discoveries, that are coming at us literally from all over the world.
In his excellent and widely praised work "The Ascent of Man", Jacob Bronowski wrote at the conclusion something which is very apposite to the present circumstances:
We are all afraid—for our confidence, for the future, for the world. That is the nature of human imagination. Yet every people, every civilisation, has gone forward because of its engagement with what it has set itself to do. The personal
commitment of a man or a women to their children, the intellectual commitment and the emotional commitment working together as one has made the ascent of man.
In dealing with these complex and controversial issues, we should bear those words in mind.
I recognise that, because of the widespread concern caused by the disaster in Russia. it has been necessary to widen the debate beyond a consideration of the interim response by the Government to those parts of the report on radioactive waste by the Select Committee on the Environment that are relevant to the development of near-surface facilities for the disposal of radioactive waste.
Although the amendments that were tabled in my name to protect the position of the Committee have not been accepted, I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment for his assurance that the motion does not pre-empt a considered reply and discussion of those parts of the report that remain unanswered, in particular the vital questions that we have raised concerning the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuels.
In view of the large number of right hon. and hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate, I shall seek to confine my remarks to the Committee's report and the Government response. However, I cannot let this moment pass without expressing a personal deep feeling of sympathy, which I am sure is shared by Members in all parts of the House, for those individual Russian men, women and children who are directly facing the horrifying consequence of the nuclear failure at Chernobyl. It is something that we do not wish to see happen again anywhere in the world, and above all not in our country.
When harnessing the forces of nature for its own benefit, mankind has always placed itself at risk. If there is carelessness, if accidents happen, human tragedy inevitably follows. In the handling of the energies of the atom, the significance lies in the magnitude of the possible catastrophe and the lasting effects, possibly for generations. It is this thought that underlines the report of the Committee. If the greatest possible care is not taken in handling the waste products of nuclear energy, these could pollute the human environment and place succeeding generations at risk for literally thousands of years.
Our recommendations underline the need for the strictest possible classification of waste in accordance with its radioactive and toxic qualities, and the actual disposal route of all radioactive waste must then follow according to its classification. Thus, a main recommendation is that near-surface disposal facilities should be used only for low-level waste, with a half-life of 30 years or less, containing no alpha-bearing particles, and particularly no toxic radionuclides. If this classification is followed and there is the strictest monitoring and sorting of waste before disposal, the Committee sees no risk in near-surface depositories that are properly engineered for maximum containment.
This is particularly relevant to the four sites chosen by NIREX for exploratory purposes. I am delighted that the Government have accepted the Committee's recommendation that near-surface facilities should not be used for intermediate-level waste, even though the industry itself and its scientists are of the view that short-lived intermediate-level waste is safe in properly engineered depositories.
However, as hon. Members will have heard, from the county councils of Bedfordshire, Humberside and Lincolnshire—
And Essex: I am obliged to my right hon. Friend—there will be continuing and deep local opposition to the use of any particular site for disposal purposes, and this opposition is bound to be supported by my hon. Friends who represent constituencies in those areas.
All this is perfectly understandable. In the course of its studies the Committee identified what we have chosen to call the NIMBY syndrome—the "not in my back yard" argument—which runs, "It may be necessary to put the stuff somewhere, but here is not the place to do it." I think that it will be difficult to find any locality where the inhabitants will say, "By all means dump your muck in my backyard—we recognise that it is for the national good." Altruism rarely overturns self-interest to that extent. I believe that the situation would arise whatever kind of waste was to be dumped in a locality which has not accustomed to being a depository for waste.
The natural reluctance to accept radioactive waste is latched on to by those who would prefer no nuclear energy to be produced in this country. They may be the coal interests, the oil interests or those genuinely fearful of the consequences and risks to the human environment. They will do the best that they can to encourage local opposition as part of their campaign against the use of nuclear power.
The continuance of the use of nuclear power was not the issue before the Select Committee, as energy policy lies outside its remit. We were concerned—and this was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and by the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham)—by the fact that even if all nuclear power stations were ordered to cease operation forthwith there would be the neeecl to decommission about 34 reactors, with all their ancillary buildings, equipment and facilities. In addition, there are substantial quantities of waste accumulated over 40 years, which still require disposal. A safe place has to be found for all this. Ultimately geology—rock and subsoil formation—must determine where this will be. The overriding consideration is the possibility of maximum containment and the absence of permeating water that can carry dangerous matter one knows not where.
Undoubtedly those communities living in geological areas suitable for radioactive waste disposal will feel aggrieved. They will be asked to accept something that they do not want or like in the national interest. It was the Committee's view that such communities should be compensated by the nation as a whole for the disadvantages that they will suffer in their environment, and possibly even in the values of their properties. Precedents exist for this in the Land Compensation Act 1973, the underlying policy of which I advocated strongly many years ago.
Under that Act, those whose houses are affected by public works, such as new motorway constructions, receive home-loss payments, grants for double glazing and some financial compensation for the loss that they have suffered. The concept is inherent in section 52 agreements under the planning Acts, which I advocated also many years ago. Under the agreements, developers make some provision for the benefit of the local community. such as providing new infrastructure, in return for planning permission. These are concepts which should be built upon and extended, espcially when we are dealing with such a publicly sensitive matter as radioactive waste.
I am a little disappointed that the Government have not been more forthcoming on he question of compensation. They have merely said that they are giving the matter serious consideration. They would stand substantially more chance of carrying public opinion with them if they were seen to be anxious to produce safe systems and to be fair and, indeed, generous to those who may be disadvantaged as a result of these operations. They might even save money in the long term, by having somewhat shorter public inquiries with fewer objectors.
Public anxiety cannot be dismissed in any circumstances, and the Government must do everything to allay it. In its report, the Select Committee was critical of some of the past attitudes of the nuclear industry. It is understandable for scientists and for professionals generally to assume that others understand what they themselves regard as everyday knowledge and with which they are working the whole time.They are assured and satisfied in their own minds that what they are doing is acceptable and safe, but they have failed to communicate that knowledge in an understandable form to the public at large in order to make them realise that perhaps humanity can benefit from the use of nuclear power and that these enormous energies can be harnessed safely. We must show that we are using systems that are absolutely safe. That must be demonstrated.
A number of questions remain unanswered. It has been said, probably with some justification, that it is not possible to put into effect the Select Committee's recommendation on the absolute exclusion of alpha-bearing waste. Nothing is said about toxic radionuclides, which we feel present as great a danger as alpha-hearing particles. There should be monitoring and exclusion if low-level waste is to be put into near-surface depositories, and it would be useful to know the Government's thoughts on the classification of such waste. Their response is silent on this issue.
The Select Committee was extremely impressed by the work that it saw in other countries in both the compaction and pyrolysis of low-level waste, which is the incineration of waste in the absence of air. Industry in Britain was non-commital when we asked it whether these methods were to be used, or should be used, in this country. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made an encouraging statement this afternoon and has said that compaction is to be used in 1987. It is vital that every means possible within our technology to reduce the volume of low-level waste is introduced so that the amount of land required for its disposal is correspondingly reduced and all the difficulties that may otherwise arise in a number of localities throughout the country can thereby be avoided.
The industry is issuing separate responses to the Select Committee's report, and these are coming in thick and fast. We have had responses from the CEGB. and UKAEA, the SSEB, BNFL and NIREX, and all appear to welcome many aspects of the report, especially our recommendation on what we call the Rolls-Royce approach. The Government do not seem to have made much reference to this recommendation. Basically, it implies that every expense must be incurred and the latest technology used to produce facilities that are completely up to date—not holes in the ground, like Drigg—for the engineered containment of waste, and the public must see that this is being done. It is only in this way that reassurance can be given to the public that the Government are concerned about their safety.
The industry appears to have accepted the philosophy that containment, rather than dilute and disperse, is important. This seems to be something of a shift in its philosophy. Are the Government entirely in accord with the concept of containment, rather than that of dilute and disperse? Do they welcome it as quite a dramatic shift in emphasis as a consequence of my Committee's report?
I wish to express my thanks to the Government and the Opposition for the warm welcome that they have given to my Committee's report. I thank all outside commentators who, without exception, have regarded the report as a serious contribution to knowledge in this sector. The report marks the conclusion of about nine months' hard work. I wish to extend my thanks to all the members of my Committee. I thank them for their extremely hard work in supporting the production of a unanimous report. I thank also our specialist advisers, Dr. John Mather of the National Environment Research Council, and Mr. Walter Patterson, for their invaluable help and advice throughout. Last but not least, my thanks go to Mr. Clive Bennett and other Committee Clerks, who coped cheerfully with the burdens placed upon them and without whose help it would not have been possible to produce the report.
This is a wide-ranging subject and in the brief time available to me I shall concentrate on some key issues relating to the future of nuclear power in the United Kingdom. In the light of the speech of the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi), the chairman of the Select Committee on the Environment, I must say that I warned at the time of the publication of the report that there was likely to be what I described as a green backlash against the further development of nuclear power. The Chernobyl disaster has intensified and accelerated that reaction.
A number of concerns have been raised, to which the Government must respond during the debate, report on in future and bring back to the House. A clear concern of the Select Committee was nuclear waste disposal. Our view over a number of years has been that the nuclear industry, despite the fact that it has had substantial backing over a long period, and, on its own admission, no commercial constraints placed upon it, has not been able to come up with acceptable ways of disposing of nuclear waste. That fact in itself has been enough to justify my party's view that there should be no further expansion of the nuclear power programme while the problem remains unresolved. If the House agreed that we should not proceed with the use of nuclear power, we might find some means of making progress towards disposing of the waste that has so far been created.
We are all most anxious to discover the policy of the alliance about the future of nuclear power, but perhaps we are not quite so anxious as my constituents because the National Nuclear Corporation, which exists only to design nuclear power stations, employs more than 1,200 people in my constituency and another 600 people close by. Furthermore, 3,000 to 4,000 people are employed by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. at Risley. Does the hon. Gentleman believe that the alliance candidate in my constituency will endorse the policy that he is now espousing, or does he think that, with the usual gutless opportunism which is the hallmark of his party, she might find a way out of the difficulty?
I am inclined to treat that intervention with the contempt that it deserves, but I appreciate that the industry is important to the people who are employed in it and that it is vital to our future. Its environmental impact is also important. We have to look at the wider issue of the principles involved. If coal miners and others can be retrained, so can scientists. They can be redirected into other areas of research—a point that I intend to deal with, if I am allowed to proceed with my speech.
We are opposed to Sizewell—we believe that it is unjustified—and we have consistently opposed Torness. We have reached the stage where we should begin to decomission the older Magnox stations which are reaching the end of their useful life. The point has already been made that, even if we wanted to do so, there is no possibility of stopping the nuclear industry in its tracks overnight. The problems involved in decomissioning and disposing of high-level nuclear waste would intensify our immediate problems. We cannot deal with those problems all at once: we can only start that process. It seems to the alliance that we should begin that process by saying that we should not continue to build nuclear power stations.
My second point relates to the Government's motion. In our view, it is complacent. The Government's reaction to the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster does not accord with the terms of their motion. The public have been confused, and in some cases public confidence has been damaged by the Government's utterances. People in my constituency have told me that they have no confidence in the Government's assurances. The Government could not even get the telephone number right when they announced that they were setting up a hot line. The Scottish Office had to correct a press statement about the radiation levels that had been announced. Understandably, people were concerned when they were told that they could drink milk but not rain-water. That was explained subsequently, but it was not explained at the time of the announcement.
Radiation levels may not have been dramatically above normal and they were within the safety limits. However, given our limited knowledge, people are entitled to ask what are safe limits, especially as the standards that we apply are different from those that have been applied by other countries. They are taking more stringent precautions. It is not surprising, therefore, that the public lack confidence in the Government's response to the disaster. There was ample warning of the drift of the radioactive cloud from Chernobyl, yet it appears that the Government were not adequately prepared in advance. They were unable to inform the public about what they needed to know when the cloud from Chernobyl finally arrived.
The hon. Gentleman knows that this motion deals with the disposal of nuclear waste. He has not yet told us about the Liberal party's policy on the disposal of nuclear waste. Does he favour the disposal, in a near-surface facility, of low-level nuclear waste, to which recommendation the Liberal party's Chief Whip put his name? Did the Chief Whip vote with the authority of the Liberal party on that matter?
My hon. Friend sought to amend the report to make it stronger than it is. I have already said that this country and local authorities will not make progress in dealing with this problem until there is a responsible Government who say, "We are not prepared to expand the nuclear industry until we can deal with disposal."
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I should like to refer him to the amendment that I moved to paragraph 60. It was one of many amendments. If they will read the words of that amendment, my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) will realise that we asked for the deletion of the words:
we are convinced that safe final disposal routes are available in the United Kingdom.
That amendment was supported by both Conservative and Labour Members. That amendment showed that we are opposed to the disposal of either intermediate or low-level waste on any site in the United Kingdom.
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should be interested to know how the Government Chief Whip manages to reconcile his position on nuclear waste with that of the Government. At least the position that we are adopting is consistent. [Interruption.] That is most certainly the case. Nobody in my party proposes the building of new nuclear power stations, but we all agree that provision must be made for the disposal of nuclear waste. The position that we adopt is consistent but the Government's position is dishonest. For a member of the Cabinet to adopt such a position is fundamentally unacceptable.
The public have no confidence in the Government's reaction to the drift of radiation from Chernobyl to the United Kingdom. The chaos and confusion in the Government have caused real concern.
That brings me to another point: whether Britain would be able to cope with a major radiation leak from a British nuclear installation, especially in view of the United Kingdom's population density. When he replies to the debate, will the Secretary of State for Energy tell the House whether measures are in hand to provide uncontaminated water to the population of the United Kingdom in the event of a major radiation leak? 'The House may be interested to know that at the weekend I 'was in Orkney. I was advised that there were no iodine tablets in the islands, although it is just across the Pentland firth from Dounreay. If there were an accident at Dounreay, one wonders how the islanders would be expected to react.
The Government, and others, give assurances about Britain's high safety standards and record. I do not doubt either the sincerity or the competence of our nuclear power scientists and engineers, but at the end of the day McPherson's law applies. That is, McPherson's piece always lands jeelly-side doon. That means that if something is likely to go wrong, it will. Two weeks ago the Chernobyl disaster demonstrated that the scale and character of a nuclear disaster is quite different from any other kind of disaster. If the objectives of the nuclear industry were fulfilled, we could be talking about risks of that kind from more than 80 nuclear installations in the United Kingdom.
As for the general debate on nuclear power, the proponents of nuclear power point out that it is economic and clean. Both of those factors are open to dispute. The full cost of nuclear power has not been met by the electricity industry. Much of it has been defence funded and the costs of decomissioning and waste disposal, although they have been taken into account, are likely to be much more substantial. Many of the stations that have been built have been running below capacity and have not therefore been run at full temperature.
The argument that the French have abundant cheap nuclear power is only French Government policy, not an economic fact. The capital is not being repaid: electricity in France is not viable in any proper economic sense. I understand that there is a capital debt of £20 billion, on which it is managing to pay only the interest.
We must question the cleanliness of nuclear power because of the problems of reprocessing and waste disposal. It is all very well for assurances to be given about Sellafield, Trawsfynydd, Hinkley Point and Dungeness B, and to say, as the Secretary of State did, that incidents had been a minor, not a major, threat to safety. The question in the minds of the public is that if there have been minor incidents—and there have been more than enough of them during the past 30 years—there is a risk of a major incident eventually.
It is said that nuclear power is essential because alternatives will soon run out and that they are environmentally less acceptable and politically vulnerable. On the political front, the expensive and damaging miners' strikes that have been a feature of recent Governments, especially Tory Governments, are essentially the consequence of the confrontation politics of the Labour and Tory parties when in government or in opposition. The alliance is determined to bring that to an end—[Interruption.] Yes, it is. In any case, the argument rather falls down because if we retain the fuel flexibility and then the power workers strike, we are in deep trouble.
The Liberal party believes that investment in energy efficiency, improvements to the environmental acceptability and the efficiency of coal and oil, coupled with the development of alternatives, could meet all our energy needs and would allow for the gradual changeover to a non-nuclear energy mix. That is attainable in the United Kingdom.
Renewable energy resources have not had the investment from which nuclear power has benefited. Indeed, Britain has just cut its wave research programme, just as the Norwegians are expanding theirs. We strongly believe that the greatest alternative energy resource—the "fifth fuel"—has the advantage of being cheap and environmentally sound. It is called conservation. A crash programme of energy efficiency over a decade could substantially reduce the need to build any new type of power station. At the same time, we could divert the funds for nuclear power into research to deal with the nuclear waste problem—which we accept must be dealt with—and into alternative renewable energy resources, such as geothermal, wind, biomass and tidal.
Because of our other resources, because of the alternatives that we can develop and because of the substantial scope for energy efficiency, this country is not under pressure and has the time to develop a viable, non-nuclear energy policy that would provide the flexibility that we need at an acceptable cost, with minimum environmental risk and maximum public acceptability. That is the course that should be followed. Any responsible British Government would pursue that course.
We should not have been surprised by the Chernobyl disaster. I do not mean simply that the Soviet reactor was of a design that would never have been approved in the West, but that the Soviet system itself is inherently inefficient and incapable of letting its own people, let alone its neighbours, understand what is happening. Information is the lifeblood of democracy; it can spell death to a dictatorship.
However, it would be facile to think that the Soviets are alone in maintaining an atmosphere of secrecy about technological risks or in camouflaging awkward issues. There is nothing new in secretive attitudes, even in our country. It took me 10 years to obtain a public inquiry into excessive concentrations of liquefied gas, chemicals and oil in and around my constituency. In 1974 I had to make a speech that was the longest from the Back Benches for 146 years in order to focus attention on the plight of my constituents. We got a public inquiry which came down on our side, but it took another seven years before there was a reduction in the volume of risk for the people of Canvey Island.
Our free society did not prevent the Aberfan disaster in 1966, although all those concerned with the control of that death-dealing tip, which cost the lives of 116 children and 28 adults, knew the risks, but failed to see what might happen and to take avoiding action. Our free society did not prevent the managerial stupidity in 1974 which led to the blowing up of the newest chemical plant in Europe, at Flixborough, which killed 29 workers and injured 40 others.
The truth is that even without Chernobyl our nuclear industry would have had to address itself to the question how to convince the public that its plants and procedures are inherently safe. Given the fact that the industry, both here and in the West generally, has been relatively troublefree—for example, during the past 10 years there have been a regrettable 399 deaths in the pits, while there have been only nine in the nuclear industry, none of which was due to radiation—and given the fact that it does not compare in any way with the atmospheric pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels or the manufacture of chemicals, the task would seem to the layman to be easy.
In other Western countries there does not appear to be anything like the fuss and bother that there is in this country. We have already been reminded in the debate that France has built 40 power stations without any clamour from its people. By last year it was producing 60 per cent. of its electricity requirements from nuclear plants, which is the highest percentage in the world. It is especially significant that the French are able to export cheap electricity and to give their own industry a billion-pound advantage over ours.
In this country there is a difference—an underlying anxiety. There is no ducking that issue. A revealing passage in paragraph 220 of the report refers to a study of a nuclear energy exhibition, on which £50,000 of public money had been spent. It states:
the people who went into the exhibition were slightly more worried than average, but when they came out they were even more worried.
That does not appear to me to be the right sort of public relations. Why cannot the facts be presented in a way that enables a balanced judgment to be made? The report correctly states that the industry must make positive efforts to give as much information as possible to the public. In the end, however, the Committee considered that
the industry's actions alone will convince the public, not its words. The disorder of the Sellafield site, the crudeness of Drigg, the remoteness of NIREX: these have created far more damage than any amount of facts and figures and public relations work will ever repair.
Those are harsh words, but in a democracy there cannot be a nuclear industry without public acceptance. That is really what the debate is all about, and it underlines the importance of the criticism that I must make about the extraordinary behaviour of the industry, and of NIREX in particular, over the disposal of nuclear waste, which has left the public living in the areas likely to be affected both suspicious and fearful.
Consider the business of finding repositories for what is described as intermediate—as though that was not dangerous, which is not really the case—and low-level nuclear waste. The industry's agent, NIREX, produced criteria for such disposal. It said that there must be regard to population density, to accessibility to conservation and to geology. That is excellent, and exactly what we would expect, but the site chosen at Bradwell in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip and not far from my constituency does not satisfy a single one of those criteria.
Bradwell is close to areas of rapid population growth in both north-east and south-east Essex. It is not served by a railway, and existing roads are wholly inadequate to take 128 movements a week. On the other hand, believe it or not, it is in an area designated as an important international site of special scientific interest. For full measure, the site is in an area which is historically vulnerable to sea flooding. If that is not enough, it lies adjacent to a fault line which has seen four earthquakes since the 17th century. The epicentre of the last earthquake in 1884, which killed people, was only four miles away.
Those who selected this site for investigation did so before consulting Essex county council, which could have told them the facts. If they had come to me, I could have told them the facts. I am soaked in the history of my county. I love my county. I know about it. If they had asked anybody who knows anything about Essex, they would have been told the facts. How they could select that site for investigation, and how they will ever convince anyone that they knew what they were doing baffles me.
It is true that, since I made those revelations in the debate on 13 March, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has announced that intermediate-level nuclear waste will not be buried at Bradwell or at any of the other sites. I should think not. If NIREX had any sense, it would abandon the proposal altogether. If it is committed to following this particular path, I am in favour of a full public inquiry as soon as possible, and I predict that it will reduce confidence in the industry, not enhance it. That is the foolishness of the step that has been taken without proper consultation, reconnaissance and research.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy is present to reply to the debate, because my next point concerns him. In the debate on 13 March I complained on behalf of Essex county council and my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip that a request by the council for details of the borings carried out before the erection of the Bradwell nuclear power station, which is adjacent to the site chosen for the storage of waste, had not been met. Hon. Members will appreciate the relevance of having that information. I demanded that the details should be given. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment agreed.
In April I received an undated letter from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Energy, who said:
I am happy to say that CEGB have advised me that they have now sent to Essex County Council, via Nirex UK Ltd., copies of cross-sections of boreholes made for the foundations of Bradwell Power Station.
This morning that information had still not been received. That is not good enough.
Such large questions have been raised during the debate by right hon. and hon. Members that I hope the Government will arrange an early time when we can have a much longer, fuller debate. Obviously, a whole range of hon. Members from different sides with different points of view wish to participate.
The more one listens to the speeches from both sides, the more one realises that they underline the importance of the sentence in the Opposition's amendment which states that the House
recognises the need for an urgent and comprehensive safety review of Britain's existing nuclear power stations.
The amendment insists that no further steps should be taken to expand the industry before that happens. That, surely, is essential. In the light of recent events it is utterly deplorable for the Government to ask the House to vote against that amendment tonight.
I speak as a long-term supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and I have always thought that it is both possible and wise to draw a distinction between nuclear production for military purposes and its production for peaceful purposes. I have always thought that that is desirable, in the paramount interest of stopping the nuclear arms race. However, some recent events, particularly the tragic event in the Soviet Union, alter the picture. From the reports of the scientific correspondent of the Financial Times—I think that he must be telling the truth—it appears that both military and civilian production is carried out at Chernobyl. I do not doubt that that also applies in many other places, and that should be taken into account.
When the appalling tragedy at Chernobyl first happened, there was a tendency in some quarters for some people to attribute it to the unique wickedness of the Soviet Union, rather than to the unique peril of nuclear development, which is where the world should have concentrated its attention and energies. However, as the days have passed and the information has become clearer. even the Minister in today's debate has adopted a different tone. That is an advance.
Even before Chernobyl, events were developing in such a way that the House and the country were beginning to look at the matter differently. That arose partly because Conservative Members were prepared to put their shaky seats at risk, which underlined the fact that they would not accept at face value the assurances given by Ministers and others about the absolute safety of the proposals. Indeed, we have moved rapidly since then.
Ministers and the general public often tend to misapprehend science. At one moment they treat scientific evidence almost as if it were absolutely believable, and the next as if it were absolutely unbelievable. There is a balance between the two, which we need if we are to have a sensible policy. The Government, in their rejection of some parts of the Committee's recommendations, and in many other ways, have failed to understand the deepening fears and anxieties of the public on these matters, and to reflect them in this short debate.
I was impressed, as I think many others were, by Yorkshire Television's pictures, which appeared shortly before Christmas, showing the new estimates of the danger of cancer and leukemia in areas with nuclear plants. I shall not go into the details now, as I wish to say much in a short time. Anyone who looks at the letters which I sent to the Prime Minister, and which were available for publication, although she did not choose to publish them, and at the details in The Lancet on 14 February, which showed that there was a greater danger in some of those areas, particularly for children aged under four, will see that the figures seem to illustrate and almost to prove that. I demanded that that matter should be part of the inquiry. and I demand that it should be part of the major inquiry for which the Opposition are calling now.
An even more alarming aspect of the whole matter has been revealed in the developments of the past few days, particularly in response to what happened in the Soviet Union. One of the most important accounts to emerge in the following days—it has not appeared much in the British press, and, indeed, it has not been fully published in Washington—is a report to which Senator John Glenn referred. His views should not be dismissed, as he is an authority on many of these questions. Within a few days of knowing of the disaster and the overwhelming tragedy in the Soviet Union, he ensured that a much fuller account of the report in which he and others were engaged should be made public to the world.
That report showed that nuclear power plants in 14 countries had experienced 151 significant nuclear safety incidents since 1971.
What this means,
said another Senator in the Committee,
is that accidents are occurring out there but that these countries have been lucky so far, just like the Russians were lucky until now and like we've been lucky.
Britain has also been lucky, but the luck broke for one of the great powers engaged in nuclear production.
The report went on to describe what will develop if no proper international control is exerted. It said that 306
nuclear power plants are operating in the world with a total of 3,100 reactor-years of experience.
Another 224 reactors are under construction or on order. While the rate of new construction has slowed in much of the industrial world, it is rising in the less-developed countries.
Can we not understand what the perils are for the world as a whole if that plan proceeds? The way in which the radiation has crossed frontiers in the past two weeks should impress upon us how much danger there is.
Much of the dissemination of this knowledge is taking place in defiance of treaties that have already been agreed, according to Senator Glenn, who has every right to be respected on such matters. He correctly claims that the Reagan Administration
had not abided by a provision of the nuclear non-proliferation pact of 1978 that requires the Government to work closely with countries that buy US-made reactors to ensure safety.
Along with the measures in the Opposition's amendment there must be far greater exertion on the international front than the Government have shown any understanding of, or any willingness to undertake. It is extremely difficult for a Government who have not shown the slightest interest in a comprehensive test ban or in taking international measures in any other sectors to try to control the dissemination of such knowledge, to turn round and say that we must now embark on a full international programme. However, nothing but that can save the world in these circumstances.
In the history of mankind there has never been such a display of cosmic arrogance as these super-powers have displayed—often, I am sad to say, with the eager compliance of Her Majesty's Government and Ministers, who show no understanding of this matter. The other countries which are under threat from such nuclear production have a right to be heard, and it is high time that our Government responded to what they are saying.
Following the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), I take up his theme about public opinion. He is right to say that at the moment there is no public confidence in the state of the nuclear industry. I came to this issue nearly a year ago when my constituency was first threatened, through a rumour which, in spite of denials and counter-denials, turned out to be true. I recognise that it is incumbent on any hon. Member who takes the stance that I have taken on this issue to accept that, if the proposal to dispose of low-level nuclear waste in a near-surface facility is unacceptable for his constituency, by definition it follows, if he is to accept the injunction from the Chairman of the Select Committee on the Environment, that he also acknowledges that it is not an appropriate facility in any other constituency. I fully accept that I have to address that responsibility.
The hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) was frank when I asked where his party stands on this issue. My constituents are listening closely to the debate, which I suspect will be relayed later this afternoon and tomorrow through the air waves. I must address my attention to the question of what to do with the nuclear waste and to the future of nuclear power.
I am not in a position to pass a vote of confidence or no confidence in the nuclear power industry or its expansion. However, I know that we cannot pursue a nuclear policy without consent. Plainly, there is no consent for the expansion of the nuclear industry. If my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy does not believe that, I invite him to come to my constituency and share a platform with me. He will find, wherever I go and whatever the political opinion of those whom I am addressing, that there is no consent for an expansion of the nuclear power industry. It is plainly wrong, until there has been a national debate or an opportunity for pause and reflection and until the Government are able to take public opinion with them and reassure it, to go ahead with expansion. I accept that my stance towards the Government's nuclear policy requires me to deal truthfully and openly with the House and my constituents.
I deal, first, with nuclear waste disposal. I acknowledge that nuclear waste is produced, and will continue to be produced, from nuclear power, whatever policy this or any other Government may take. I am assisted in addressing the problem of what to do with nuclear waste by the report of the Select Committee on the Environment, which posed alternatives. It took evidence from organisations, which suggested alternatives, such as the method proposed by ENSEC Ltd for intermediate radioactive waste disposal and the pipeline operated waste energy disposal method. The Select Committee's report was scathing about the Government's scant regard to those alternatives.
The Select Committee, in paragraph 99, states:
Considerably greater emphasis must be given in research, development and policy to sea-bed options, especially to the use of tunnels under the sea-bed from land.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has disposed of the question of intermediate-level waste for these four facilities. I am grateful to him for that, but if he thought that he could buy my support and that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), of my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) or of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lyell), he is mistaken. All that has happened is that they, the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), and my hon. Friends the Members for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Hickmet) and for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh), who have been marvellous in the support that they have given to me in this campaign, have felt their attitudes harden. We and the general public whom we represent
recognise that, having won a victory and made the case on political grounds against the scientists about intermediate-level waste, we need not stop at that. Why should the politicians who represent those areas not also succeed on political grounds against a shallow burial facility for low-level waste?
My constituency—I am sure that I speak for the other three constituencies involved—is not in the business of dividing and ruling and putting the burden on somebody else. I would not want to put any hon. Member through what I have had to contend with during the past year. The Government must recognise that there is no public consent for the disposal of nuclear waste on land in a shallow burial facility. The sooner they face that reality, the sooner they will be able to buy public confidence in their nuclear policy. I must confess that even I did not fully recognise—although I had a good idea—how much the feelings of my constituents, whatever their political party, had matured following the announcement of the proposed nuclear waste site. The Government, whom I support, ignore that lack of public confidence at their peril.
Many hon. Members, except those who have had to address this subject—for example, the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) who represents people working in the nuclear industry and those hon. Members who face the threat of nuclear waste disposal in their constituencies—are not sufficiently aware of the depth and strength of public feeling. Until the public's feelings are acknowledged, the Government will not succeed in purchasing public confidence, even if they try to do so via compensation. We need public consent.
I reiterate the commitment that I made on 21 February this year—it is in the Offical Report and is immutable—that, so long as I am the Member of Parliament for Brigg and Cleethorpes, I shall resist totally the idea of disposing of nuclear waste of any kind in my constituency.
Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), I am passionately opposed to the existence of nuclear weapons, but I equally passionately support the idea of nuclear power. I am anti-nuclear weapons and pro-nuclear power. As a Socialist, I believe that there are profound, powerful social arguments in support of the development of nuclear power.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent should relate the fears that he has rightly expressed to his beloved India, of which he is a dear friend. India cannot survive the future in the absence of nuclear power. People talk about massive catastrophes in engineering development. Has my right hon. Friend forgotten what happened in 1979, when 15,000 Indians were killed when a dam burst in Gujarat? Most British newspapers did not mention that calamity. The Socialist alternative for Indians is not to build dams of that sort, but to build an industry which they can understand and can harness to meet their needs and achieve development. As a Socialist, I remind the House that a Socialist advance will occur only in times of affluence, not in times of poverty. The emergence of a Socialist society in Britain will come from affluence, not from poverty. We cannot have affluence in Britain in the absence of a nuclear power industry.
Imaginative ideas on what will happen in the next 20, 30 or 40 years have been pitched in to support the development of the nuclear power industry. Lord Marshall, once the head of our nuclear industry, may have gone, but I say in his absence that the most important quality of genius is humility. He should not forget that, because the nuclear power industry's attitude to society generally has become arrogant. Aggressive conceit is a weakness of leadership, and Lord Marshall should remember that.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent referred to 150 significant incidents. We have all become obsessed with price comparisons. That is the very weakness of the industry. people involved in the nuclear industry work under great pressure to design safe reactors within cost constraints. Practically every one of those 150 significant incidents has been reported. The reports by the International Atomic Energy' Agency—including the report on Three Mile Island—bear out the fact that the problem lies with the quality of mechanical engineering. None of those incidents has been the result of a nuclear failure or a lack of nuclear understanding. They have all resulted from inadequate mechanical engineering or inadequate metallurgy. I have no doubt that Chernobyl will prove to be the result of inadequate mechanical engineering or inadequate metallurgy.
We should be designing reactors according to a belt-and-braces philosophy. What is good enough for Rolls-Royce is good enough for the nuclear industry. Rolls-Royce provides dual brake systems and dual injection pumps and, indeed, most reactors are designed with two of everything. However, further precautions are needed to ensure engineering quality. Nuclear engineers talk about the loss of coolants and so on, as being responsible for weaknesses in their plants. We should ensure, for example, that both the valves and the pumps used in nuclear plants are of much better quality. Superb pumps are included in the PWR equipment of nuclear submarines—those damnable things under the sea's surface which the House should decide today to abolish—and we should recognise the beauty and the quality of their design and use them as a basis for civil construction.
Let me give another example. Britain or any other country can make concrete that will last a thousand years. If such concrete was used with stainless steel, there should be no seepage from tanks for a thousand years. I would sack the engineers who designed and constructed concrete containers that leaked. Those responsible for the concrete structures that have leaked at Sellafield, and so on, should be sacked for that sort of nonsense. There is no call to cut corners and save money in that way.
One point stands out clearly—Britain cannot have its nuclear engineering on the cheap. We should not expect or demand that. There should be ministerial directives to designers to adopt a much safer attitude, so that the simple design problems in reactors do not occur.
The Labour party is in danger of becoming an anti-science party, and we must be careful about that. We must be careful also about what we say today. Last year the Labour party's annual conference decided that the Labour party would be anti-nuclear, but the debate was confused and mixed up. It was an emotive debate; reference was made to bombs, environmentalism and the miners' strike. If it had not taken place during the miners' strike, many of the remarks that were made about the nuclear industry generally would never have been made.
Waste is another aspect. Instead of just demanding the safe containment of high-level waste we should deal with waste in the proper way by initiating the fast reactor programme.
I intervened earlier to talk about fast reactors, because this is the most effective way of dealing with high-level nuclear waste products. We would not have our current problems if we had pursued a policy of that sort. Some environmentalists say that they even prefer acid rain to the nuclear industry. What sort of illogical nonsense is that? Surely we should design a society which does not call upon men to go down into the bowels of the earth to dig coal and be murdered by the demands of our society. We should devote ourselves to designing safer industry in which people can work without those dangers.
The Labour party must stop itself lurching from one emotional spasm to another. It must prevent itself taking an anti-science and anti-technology attitude. The Conservative party has already shown itself to be anti-manufacturing, because it pays not only lip service but total service to the needs of the City. As a result, it has become pro-money and anti-manufacturing. It has decided, probably quite rightly, that it is possible for it to make money but not possible for it to make anything else. That is what it has said, and if that is Conservative philosophy we must not go to the opposite extreme. We, in fact, must do everything to avoid it.
The tragedy is that unfortunately the debate so far has not been about nuclear engineering or nuclear science, but about all those other things. The great danger is not some China syndrome—it is the syndrome of propaganda. That is what we must avoid. We must talk about the essential needs of our country and the rest of the world. We must move towards a manageable nuclear industry which can solve many of our problems, especially those suffered by the Third world.
I intervene in the debate because I know that hydro-electricity and nuclear-powered electricity in other countries have given, for instance, electric steel melting and cheaper electricity than is available from coal-fired power stations. In Sheffield that is one of the causes of a high level of unemployment and destruction of an industry. I also intervene because a nuclear accident in one country now concerns the whole world.
I support the Government's motion, which deals with information on the accident at Chernobyl, safety of the complete nuclear cycle and, of course, the proposals to deal with radioactive waste. I agree with various aspects of the Opposition motion, such as safety, health and environmental protection. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment covered that.
I agree with the need for a safety review of Britain's nuclear power stations, but what about power stations elsewhere in the world? The House must look outside Britain. I would also support some aspects of the alliance motion dealing with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Layfield report.
Two weeks ago I learnt of the accident at Chernobyl, because I had flown into London without reading a newspaper, at the Institute of Energy lunch. Many leaders of the atomic energy industry were there, including my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy. I feared then that the sort of accident I had feared for some 35 years had taken place. The past two weeks have proved that. Of course public opinion has lost confidence in the nuclear energy industry, according to the opinion polls. There has been no shortage of comment from the media. There has been criticism by the greens and by the alliance, judging by the contribution of the Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce). It means that those who believe that a safe nuclear programme has a role to play must put their case as well.
In a few months I may find myself in a debate at a university dealing with the motion "That this house has no confidence in the nuclear energy industry." I shall he hard put to win that motion.
I came across a paper written by Walter Marshall, delivered to the International Atomic Energy Agency, on big nuclear accidents. That paper dealt with the effect of such accidents on hundreds of thousands of people. I believe that is what will happen in the Ukraine. Therefore, my sympathy goes out to those people. Walter Marshall pointed out that when a jumbo jet crashes we expect 300 to 400 deaths. If it were to crash on a crowded city, the death toll would be much higher. When we read an announcement, such as "Earthquake kills 10,000," we know that that means 10,000 people were killed instantly. An announcement, such as "Cigarette smoking killed 50,000 in 1981," would mean that the deaths occurred gradually over the year. However, if we read about a reactor accident killing 104,000, as referred to in a German report on risk, we must bear in mind that the majority of these people will suffer from leukaemia or cancer in 10, 20, 30 or 40 years' time and there will be a diminution in their lifespan. There has been experience of that in other fearful accidents.
Risks and the cost of safety are important and have to be balanced. The Soviet Union is a closed society, and it has been all the greater during this incident. I welcome the fact that nuclear scientists, especially from the International Atomic Energy Agency, have seen the disaster. Towards the end of this month the British branch of the Inter-Parliamentary Union will be going to Moscow, led by Lord Whitelaw and the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey). It will include two hon. Members who have knowledge of the subject, my hon. Friends the Members for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) and for Hastings and Rye (Mr Warren). I hope that they will go with sympathy and understanding to a nation which has had to face an accident of such immensity.
The Economic Community may not have reached an agreement on the banning of food and vegetables from eastern European countries, but what will the people of the Ukraine eat now? Do they not have a need for fresh milk, fresh food and vegetables, and can they be obtained from the Soviet Union? Can the rest of the world help? I believe that the mission should go with a message of sympathy and understanding. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy was recently invited to the Soviet Union. Surely he has been in touch with his opposite numbers in the last two weeks.
Because of time, I shall cut out my observations on the accident. That will have to be debated on another occasion. About 18 months ago I had drawn to my attention a book by Helen Caldicott called "Nuclear Madness". I read that book with interest because I would have found many of the statements hard to refute. Since then, I have read some of the literary criticisms of that book, making the point: how safe is safe enough?
It is interesting that costs, availability of competitive sources of energy—mainly cheap coal—and the complexity of financing the utilities means that no or few new nuclear power stations are likely to start construction in the United States until the turn of the century. Key decisions will have to be made in that country, as there will be a growing need for electrical energy.
Ten years ago, when I was a member of the European Parliament, I went to Ispra. We were all concerned with emergency core cooling. About 30 years ago I was involved in the supply and design of boron steel reactor control rods. I think that I gave this story in the House, but I could not find my record of it. I visited one of the small prototype reactors in Harwell. I discussed with the operator of what, by today's standards, would be a simple control desk the circumstances in which the rods would be used. He told me that if the level of radiation and temperature went up, he moved a switch over and the temperature and radiation would go down. I was not allowed to pursue with the operator what he would do if the temperature and radiation did not drop. That was the problem at Three Mile Island to a certain extent, and it was certainly the problem at Chernobyl. Therefore, knowledge, education and training are all important aspects of nuclear safety.
I have concentrated on the weakness of an industry that I support. Some 35 years ago I was a supplier to de Havilland at the time of the first Comet disaster. I had no doubt that the jet airliner, as has been the case, would replace the prop and turboprop in time. I have no doubt that there is a role for nuclear energy in the generation of electricity in the years to come. Nuclear energy is a feature of modern society now. France has 43 commercial reactors producing 65 per cent. of its electricity supply. Belgium's reactors produce 60 per cent., Sweden's produce 43 per cent., and Switzerland's produce 40 per cent. In Britain, we are approaching 20 per cent., with 38 commercial reactors.
I said that I was concerned about the high cost of electricity in Sheffield. If Britain's competitors using nuclear and hydro power have advantages, that is of concern to industry. The point has been raised by the chemical industry and put to the National Economic Development Office, that the high cost of electricity has made the industry and smelting uncompetitive and has decimated hopes for competitive electric steel melting in a city such as Sheffield.
There are risks in other areas. No one has talked about acid rain and sulphur dioxide. The cost of a retro refit in the British coal-fired power station programme could be high. This morning, at the Natural Environmental Research Council, I discussed the CO2 content of the atmosphere, which has gone up by 40 per cent. since the start of the industrial revolution. It could double by the middle of the next century. I have discussed with the council the effect that it could have on our climate, changing the world's meteorological patterns and, above all, melting the ice caps, which could raise the sea level by 30 m, as reported in the council's annual report. Therefore, other solutions present problems, too. Risk in all those areas must be reviewed.
The debate is about nuclear waste disposal, too. About 18 months ago the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) took part with me in a public hearing in Sweden, organised by the Council of Europe, on nuclear waste disposal. The hon. Gentleman produced an excellent report—as rapporteur—which illustrated that every Council of Europe country has similar problems. too.
The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) said that he would not under any circumstances accept nuclear waste in his constituency. He also faced up to the fact that it was unlikely that any other hon. Member would. Unfortunately, he did not go to the length of saying, as he took that attitude, that he would be opposed to any further extension of nuclear power. I would not accept nuclear waste in my constituency, but I am opposed to the use of nuclear power.
I agree that the action of the Russians in hiding the scope of the Chernobyl disaster in the early days was reprehensible. There was a good deal of Russian-bashing for the sake of it, although it is interesting that, after a couple of days, even from America there was an attempt to play it all down because the Americans had cottoned on to the fact that if they went too far in thumping the accident and the dangerous results that could follow, it would rebound on the nuclear industry all round the world.
Comfortable and self-satisfied statements were rnade in the House that the standards in the Russian nuclear power station would not be acceptable in the United Kingdom. That may be so. I was surprised at what the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) said. He terrified me more than ever by his description of present nuclear power stations in this country. I had accepted in good faith that, although they could not be 100 per cent. proof against an accident, they had not been designed by Heath Robinson. However, it appeared from the hon. Gentleman's comments that they had been slapped together by somebody who did not know much about it.
The point is that those power stations are human artefacts. No matter how good the material and careful the design, one cannot guard against human error and metal fatigue. There is a story that, although the gauges at the Russian power station at Chernobyl had been showing that there was a malfunction, the man on duty was asleep. That story has not been confirmed, but it shows what can happen. All the warnings could be activated, yet the human being concerned might be otherwise occupied or fail to take account of them.
People have said, or implied, that such an accident cannot happen here. When they say that, there are echoes from 1912, when people were assured that the Titanic was unsinkable. It could happen here, wherever there is such an atomic plant.
It is not true that British standards are the highest in the world. I am used to hon. Members saying that our police force is the finest in the world, our Civil Service is the finest in the world, and our system of justice is the finest in the world. Those claims may be true, but those who say that do not know it any more than I do, because they have never made a comparative study of all the other systems. Such people fall into line and say that the British have safety standards that the Russians would never dream of, but it now turns out that the West Germans and the USA have more stringent safeguards than we have.
One of the standard defences of the nuclear power industry and its apologists is that more deaths have occurred in the mining industry. That is both factually correct and totally misleading. If men are killed in a mining accident, it is a tragedy for the individuals and their families. People are sympathetic and sorry that such accidents occur, but they do not affect anyone else. It is different when there is an accident in a nuclear power plant. Would anyone equate the six deaths at Chernobyl with six deaths in a mining accident? Of course not.
The number of power plants in France was mentioned by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Sir J. Osborn). It is right that there is nothing much we can do about that. France may have no alternative, but that is not so in the United Kingdom, certainly not in Scotland. We still have plenty of fossil fuels. The amounts spent by the Government on alternative sources of energy has been derisory.
I am sorry, but I do not have time.
People say: what about all the jobs in the nuclear power industry? I can tell them that 2,000 jobs have been created in Denmark in research and development on, and the manufacture of, wind power systems. Therefore, one cannot say that if the nuclear industry goes, all those jobs are lost.
In Scotland, there is now an inquiry at Dounreay. As that hearing is under way, I shall not say anything about it, although a sub judice rule does not operate. I say only this. If a country that calls itself "Great" Britain is going to look for an income from laundering dirty radioactive waste from Japan and other countries, what a prospect that is for the future.
Torness is due to go ahead, with indecent haste. The Government say that we need the power for industry. The Government, who have removed industry, are saying that. If we do not need power for industry in Scotland, it is as a result of their actions. There is less need than ever. If Torness comes on stream, we shall be 100 per cent. in excess of our needs. Why must it continue?
I should like to conclude by quoting The Times in 1980. Sir Kelvin Spencer, who was chief scientist at the Ministry of Power in the 1950s and who helped to launch Britain's nuclear power programme, was reported as saying that
increased knowledge of the dangers had forced him to change his mind over the issue. The hazards were too terrifying".
Sir Kelvin's message, which I repeat, was:
Drop it. Mankind cannot handle it".
In the 10 minutes that are permitted to me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I hope that you will forgive me if I confine myself to one aspect of the debate. I wish to consider what we can do with the byproducts of the nuclear age.
In late February this year, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment announced that Fulbeck in my constituency was to be one of the four designated sites where explorations were to be carried out for nuclear waste disposal. Since that time, opposition to the proposals by NIREX has been total and absolute. I want to make it utterly clear that my constituents and I are, remain and will be wholly opposed to any suggestion that nuclear waste of any kind or quality should be brought into my constituency. My main, prime, overriding and paramount objective is to persuade the Government to change their policy.
I urge the Government to make it a matter of policy that all nuclear waste should be put into some deep facility. Everything that I have to say now, that I have said in the past and that I will say in future, must be set against that main policy objective. We do not want any quality of nuclear waste in Fulbeck. We do not believe that shallow repositories should be used for the disposal of nuclear waste.
Before I expand on my general theme, I should like to consider the Government's response. In addition to our general opposition to the NIREX proposals, we have been seeking specific changes. It would be churlish not to acknowledge that the Government have moved their policy in some part. The most important concession that the Government have made is that the only nuclear waste for disposal in near-surface facilities will be of a low-level quality. That is an important concession. However, I want to make it plain that that concession is not sufficient. It will not defuse local opposition. We will build on the concessions that we have obtained: we will not rest on those concessions.
I should like to note three points about concessions. First, NIREX has introduced a limited compensation scheme for compensating property owners. That is not enough. We want more and we do not regard what NIREX has done as anything like sufficient.
Secondly, if there should be a public inquiry, we believe that public authorities, the Government or NIREX should fund the objectors who are obliged to state their arguments at the public inquiry.
Finally, and perhaps most important, we believe that very stringent conditions must be imposed, not merely on the classification of nuclear waste, but on its packaging, identification and monitoring. I trust that the Government response to those points will not be silence. I should very much regret such a response.
In a sense, these are secondary issues. I should like to return to my main objective. I want to persuade the House and the Government to change their policy on these matters. I recognise that that will be difficult. In a clear and unequivocal statement made by the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), the Labour party has revealed that it is committed to supporting the disposal of nuclear waste in near-surface facilities. I intervened in the speech made by the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), the Liberal party spokesman on energy. There would appear to be some discord on these matters between the Liberal party Chief Whip, the hon. Member for Liverpool. Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) and his hon. Friend the Liberal party energy spokesman.
I should now like to consider persuasion. We must recognise that there are other methods of disposing of nuclear waste. My hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) listed these in detail. Dr. Wheeler and ENSEC have described the oil-related technologies. The Germans advocate the deep-mined approach and the Swedish Government are following the "tunnel under the sea" policy. These technologies exist for all classes of nuclear waste, both intermediate and low-level.
These methods are not simply theoretical. A common theme applies to all methods of disposal—one method must be adopted for the disposal of intermediate-level waste. It is absolutely clear that intermediate-level nuclear waste must be put into a deep facility. We are pressing for an enlargement of that concept and a recognition that all qualities of nuclear waste should go into one facility and not into two.
Arguments of cost, volume and urgency are made against that proposal. On analysis, these arguments do not stand up. Where does the urgency exist? The Select Committee report made it clear that, by pursuing policies of incineration, compaction and proper discretion, the site at Drigg could be extended for some time. The same argument applies to volume. The argument for cost does not stand up, because we are considering marginal cost. The Government are committed to two sites. I believe that there should be one site. The marginal costs are small and, in any event. is that cost not a price that we will have to pay?
I would ask the House to consider two matters. Can any hon. Member guarantee that the disposal site will be safe? Of course, it will probably be safe. The solid material will be inside steel drums and placed in engineered containers surrounded by clay. Yes, it will probably be safe, but who will guarantee that it will be safe? What would happen if the steel failed or if there were problems with the clay? What if there were some mishap in the handling or transport of the waste? What if there were a combination of all these things? If these things happened, who would dare say that additional expenditure was not necessary?
Never before has the nuclear industry been as vulnerable as it is today. It would take very little to turn the public wholly against the nuclear industry. It is against that background that I ask for a change of policy. I want all quality of nuclear waste to be put into a deep facility.
Perhaps hon. Members would care to bear in mind this final point. I am not asking of hon. Members anything that they would not ask of me if our positions were reversed.
We have heard several expressions of sympathy for the Soviet peoples tonight, and I associate myself with such comments. However, I remind the House that when we make reference to Chernobyl, we do not make reference to a Russian problem. In fact, we make reference to a global problem. We cannot afford to be parochial about these matters.
As we discuss these matters, the House should bear in mind that, when the Secretary of State for the Environment talks about trivial accidents within the British industry, he seems to be implying that, because these accidents are minor, they carry low risk. Nothing could be further from the truth. One is not synonymous with the other.
I could discuss many aspects of these issues, but in the short time available I must confine myself to information and regulation.
We have been told that the information given as a result of Chernobyl was full, frank, open and free. In fact, the full information that it is claimed was given came in a report based on a scant sampling in minuscule, almost illegible handwriting.
I would dispute that the information was frank. We were told that a similar design to the Chernobyl reactor was rejected in Britain on safety grounds. That, quite honestly, is less than honest. The design that was rejected in Britain was rejected on the grounds of lack of efficiency and economy. To suggest anything else would be untrue.
The comparison with jumbo jet accidents and the incidence of hazards from smoking is, once again, misleading. Those accidents and smoking hazards strike only at the existing generation. When we discuss radioactive elements we discuss issues that strike at subsequent generations. They strike at creation itself. They have the propensity to turn back the very clock of creation and evolution.
Let me give two quotations to show how open has been the information that we have been given. First:
It would have been a precaution to have kept children inside on Saturday when it rained … But that is in retrospect. Try not to put that statement out because people could he frightened by it.
That was a statement by the National Radiological Protection Board to a member of the media and can be substantiated.
We don't have the policy of divulging area breakdowns of the radiation figures for milk … The tendency would be for members of the public to buy their milk from areas with a less radioactive level and that would be no good for the milk suppliers.
That is a quote from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to the same member of the media. In other words, what it is really saying is that profits matter, people do not.
At the time that the Government were criticising the Soviet Government for their inability to release information relating to the possible exposure of British subjects to radiation, they were refusing information about the possibility of British subjects consuming the same damned stuff in irradiated food.
When we talked about the kind of things that govern regulations, let us remember that it is already acknowledged that those regulations are based upon data which are already flawed, so much so that we have had to return to the database supplied by Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to examine it with the more sophisticated and recent developments in data analysis.
We are told that our standards equate to international standards. That is another misleading piece of information. The legally enforceable limit in Britain for the ordinary member of the public is 5 mSv per year. The international standards of acceptability—not safety, note—is 1 mSv per year. In Western Germany it is 0·3 mSv per year. In the United States it is 0·25 mSv per year.
If one concentrates on those figures and develops them, they mean that the Americans are 20 times safer than we are, the West Germans are 17 times safer and anywhere else in the world which accepts international standards is five times safer.
The right hon. Gentleman may take issue with me—please do. I suggest that all the information has been, to some degree, deceiving. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to dispel the deception, he should answer my questions.
Derived emergency reference levels, as published by the NRPB, are based on a dose limit to the public of 5 mSv a year, as I have said. Is there not now a case for limiting supplies of food on the basis of the new limit of 1 mSv per year, even though this is only an average dose limit?
Could the Government explain definitively why derived emergency reference levels differ, for example, for iodine-131 in milk, by as much as a factor of four in the countries of western Europe?
What are the levels of actinides and strontium-90 in the environment and food at the present time as a result of the Russian reactor incident?
When will the Government make available to the public in a simple form the implications for holidaymakers, and indeed delegations of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, of the levels of radioactivity in other countries that they may visit?
Finally, does the Secretary of State agree that one organisation—I hope that he is listening—similar to the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States, should both collate and disseminate monitoring data to the British public, this one organisation to have both governmental and independent representation and to provide information in a simple, understandable manner on risk to the public from all sources, not just from radiation?
Will the Secretary of State try to answer those questions as a means of, to some extent, dispelling my suspicions of previous deception?
I think the House knows that Elstow in my constituency has had hanging over it for two and a half years longer than anybody else the worry of a repository for short and intermediate-level nuclear waste. I welcome the Government's decision to remove the intermediate-level waste from that threat. Nevertheless, I make no apology for saying that I do not believe that any inland site in a crowded county is the right place to put any sort of nuclear waste of this nature.
It is worth remembering that no country in Europe is proposing to solve the problems, which we all recognise must be tackled and solved, in that way. Centre de la Manche in northern France is the only broadly similar example, but that does not rely on the concept of total containment alone. It has fail-safe drainage to the sea. The concept of total containment is really not credible to anybody who believes in Murphy's law. There must be a risk that sooner or later on a 300-acre site, which, by definition, will become waterlogged, drums may rupture, concrete may fail and water-bearing radionuclides may leach away into the aquifers and thereby find a pathway to man. We and the industry hope that that will not happen, but it is hard to persuade the public. I sympathise with and support what my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) said in that respect.
In Bedfordshire we oppose the NIREX proposals constructively. I think that the vast majority of us support the nuclear industry and realise that there must be a solution. I have had the problem for two and a half years, and I have studied it closely. I believe that there are solutions. My request to the Government in this debate is to look again closely at three things.
I ask them to look at the quantities of low-level waste that have to be dealt with, to look at the methods which are available for its disposal, and to look with a jaundiced eye at the comparative cost. Remember that we have to solve the problem of intermediate-level nuclear waste which the Government and the Select Committee have made clear is bound to be dealt with by some sort of deep-mine facility.
The quantities of low-level waste are, to my astonishment, much lower than any of us had realised. If one looks carefully at the best practical environmental options that have been produced for the Government, and at the Government response to the Select Committee's report, one finds that they are proposing to put into Drigg between 350,000 and 1·2 million cu m of waste, depending on how much it is compacted. All the low-level waste that they are proposing to put in elsewhere amounts to 191,000 cu m, which will cut down at least to a third—about 63,000 cu m—and may well be cut down much more. At the moment that low-level waste is not properly monitored because it was not considered worth while when compared with the cheap cost of putting it into Drigg.
When one considers the higher costs, and monitors the waste carefully, vast quantities can be excluded which could perfectly well go on a council tip. One would be able to burn or compact the gloves and coats, and one would be able to treat a great deal of the remainder. Even if one was left with 63,000 cu m of low-level waste, which is the maximum, that is a third of the 200,000 cu m of intermediate low-level waste which the best practical environmental options study said would have to be put into a deep-mined site.
The costs which the Government put forward for Drigg were a mere £25 per cu m. The waste was merely dumped, as in any other council tip. A similar site was proposed for Bedfordshire. NIREX has now said that a site at Bedfordshire, Fulbeck or anywhere else, would be a fully engineered site. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi), the Chairman of the Select Committee, said that there must be a fully engineered Rolls-Royce solution. The cost of such a site, according to the BPEO document, was £615 per cu m. I do not know whether that is broadly accepted by the Government. The mininum costs for a mere concrete shell would be £125 per cu m.
We must consider the alternative of the deep disposal solution and consider the proven technologies of the oil and gas industries in the North sea. Dr. Wheeler has referred us to such technology. Westinghouse has been doing similar work and the suggested costing is £400 per cu m. That is less than the cost of the Rolls-Royce solution for a near-surface, or shallow, land burial site. That cost is likely to come down as a result of the economies of scale that would follow. The residual 60,000 cu m of low-level waste would be added to the 200,000 cu m of intermediate-level waste.
I recognise that my figures ignore, as indeed the answer to my parliamentary questions ignored, the extra low-level waste that could come from the decommissioned Magnox reactors. The timing of such decommissioning is doubtful. It is doubtful whether we should shift the low-level radioactive material when the high-level radioactive cores are left on the site.
I ask my right hon. Friends to invite NIREX and their Departments to study the matter again and to consider the quantities that will be dealt with. My right hon. Friends should insist, as the public rightly insists, that everything that is to go either into a repository or into a council tip—much of the waste could go to a tip, as it is perfectly harmless—is properly monitored before being moved anywhere. That would greatly enhance public confidence. When one discovers that the quantities involved are low, on may find a deep-mined or sub-sea manifold solution looks much more attractive.
There are powerful reasons why an inland site at Elstow is wholly unsuitable. I could mention that the depth of the clay is probably insufficient, or that the clay is an important mineral reserve for the brick-making industry, which is one of the principal local employers. I have put forward carefully thought out reasons why there is a much more acceptable solution to these problems. I hope that my right hon. Friends will say that they will go away and consider them carefully.
I should like to express sympathy for the terrible tragedy that the Soviet people have suffered, in terms not only of the immediate loss of life but of the loss of life that may come later and of the contamination of their crops. I am aware that it is not the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Energy, but if it were possible to make a gift of food, which is at present held by the Common Market, that would assist the Soviet Union at this time. I believe that would be much appreciated and would contribute to better relations between East and West, which may result in lessening the risks of nuclear war.
I have risen to put on record the reasons why I take the view, to which I have come slowly over the years, that we should have an energy policy that does not incorporate a nuclear component. I say that, having been responsible for the Atomic Energy Authority as Minister of Technology, from 1966 to 1970 and again as Secretary of State for Energy from 1975 to 1979.
I express my respect for the scientists and people who work in the industry. Many of them were motivated to work for civil nuclear power because they believed it was an alternative to the military uses of nuclear energy. The Atoms for Peace campaign, which was launched by President Eisenhower, was seen as a major development of technology in the interests of mankind. It was certainly considered as such by my generation who remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was a classic case of swords into ploughshares, which my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) expressed powerfully in his speech.
Nuclear energy was to be a peaceful development; it was to be cheaper and safe; and we were to be open about it. I regret to tell the House that my experience, over many years from that Dispatch Box, taught me that none of those arguments was true. I wish to point out one or two of the facts that the House should take into account.
Nuclear power began as a military operation. In the countries which have adopted it, it remains primarily necessary for military purposes. In India, Pakistan and Iran, and in Britain, it was wanted for military purposes. The first British reactor was built when Mr. Attlee decided that Britain needed the bomb. That desire was not confided to his Cabinet or to Parliament. That was the origin of the development of British nuclear power.
The proliferation which has followed has been a proliferation with military consequences. The House may be aware that within Euratom, of which we are members, there is no safeguard to prevent the French, who have not signed the non-proliferation treaty, from obtaining uranium for its bomb programme, even though that means that it is no longer possible for Canadian uranium to come to Britain because it would go outside its safeguards.
It is an expensive technology, concealed by the fact that the research and development has been paid for by the Ministry of Defence. Recently the French stated that it would cost 40 per cent. of the cost of construction of a new power station to decommission a nuclear power station. It would cost about £600 million to decommission each nuclear power station.
We have no answer to the waste problem. I accept that whether we proceed or—as I believe we should—stop and phase out nuclear energy, there will a residual waste problem. Is nuclear energy safe? It was only by an act of God or of chance that the accident occurred in Chernobyl, not here.
In 1969, I was Minister of Technology when the corrosion occurred at the Magnox stations. I was told in great detail how a meltdown might occur if it was impossible to close the reactor down and if the heat exchanger ruptured. At Windscale there was a serious fire, and serious leaks also occurred. Another leak occurred at the end of my period as Secretary of State for Energy. A soil sample was taken in December 1978, but it was not analysed until March 1979. I was informed of the analysis a few days later, and 2,200 gallons of highly toxic waste had seeped into the earth. It lies there today under the clay, just above the water table. When I asked about cleaning it, I was told that a new plant would be required for the clean-up operation. For that reason, one of my last acts as a Minister was to state that there should be an inquiry into Windscale.
There was a near-disaster at Three Mile Island. But people may not be aware of what happened at Brown's Ferry in America. A fuse blew at that site. A scientist was sent to look for the fuse box with a candle, and he set fire to the safety circuit.
There was serious corrosion at Winfrith. It was discovered that a dissatisfied employee had urinated into the equipment, and Scotland Yard had to be called in to discover how the corrosion had occurred.
At Hunterston a valve was turned the wrong way and sea water was brought into the station. As a result, the power station was out of action for a year.
One cannot exclude human error. There have been many cover-ups. When there was a big explosion in Kyshtym American intelligence picked it up and told the International Atomic Energy Agency in 1958, but American intelligence also told it not to tell British Ministers. When 200 tonnes of uranium was stolen from Euratom in 1968 I was Minister, but I was not told, on the ground that Britain was not a member of the Common Market.
The biggest cover-up of all, for which I shall never forgive those responsible, was that throughout the period when I was Minister plutonium from our atoms-for-peace reactors was going to America to make bombs and warheads that would return to American bases here. That view has been confirmed by Ministers in this Government. I was cross-examined about it at the Sizewell inquiry, and only recently has it been admitted that the atoms-for-peace power stations are in reality bomb factories for the United States.
The environmental hazards of nuclear power both now and later are too great for us to take. The cumulative effect of radioactivity is very different from the reassuring statements that we receive about little doses that may come from time to time. The military implications of what happened at Chernobyl are phenomenal. People must now know that if we bomb Russia, the bombs that we drop will release radioactivity that will ultimately destroy us, and if conventional weapons are dropped on our nuclear power stations radioactivity comparable to that from a nuclear attack will be released.
The civil liberties of which we are so proud are bound to go by the board when dealing with such a dangerous technology that has military implications. I have been to the plutonium store in Dounreay. It is like a bank vault. One can understand why the Atomic Energy Authority constabulary is armed with orders to shoot to kill in the event of an attempt to steal plutonium. We must phase out nuclear power. We must cancel the PWR, abandon the Dounreay project, close Sellafield and decommission nuclear stations, beginning with the older stations. Anyone who thinks that the industry's skills will not be required should bear in mind that it will take the skill of every nuclear engineer for 10 years to clean up what has, alas, been created.
The miners were right to say that coal should be the basis of our future energy needs. In the 1960s the pits were closed on the ground that oil would always be cheaper. In the 1980s they were closed on the ground that nuclear energy was better. We should go for a coal programme. Even my Department admitted that, even with the fiddled figures for nuclear energy, coal was as cheap as nuclear power. We should also go for conservation and for alternative sources of energy.
I fear that Chernobyl will not be the last accident. I listened to the debate and wondered how different it would have been if that accident had occurred at Bradwell, Hunterston, Oldbury or Torness. I share the view expressed today. This is a technology that humanity cannot handle, and, not for the first time, the public are ahead of Parliament in perceiving that.
The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) spoke from his experience in government. I speak as someone who has been involved in the sphere of energy in Parliament for about 12 years. During that time we have seen major changes in different parts of the energy equation. We saw oil prices rocket, causing alternatives to come into play. We then, of course, saw prices fall. Coal went out of favour through needless political militancy, and natural gas developed as a major source of both domestic and commercial fuel.
During all that time, the concept of nuclear power as a one-fifth component in our electricity generation has remained constant, although various systems for its generation have gone in and out of scientific and political favour. But in this country the underlying factor in our debates and discussions has always been that of safety, even if the cost in design and construction terms has meant that we have been slower and less economic in our nuclear development.
With a massive over-capacity of generating power throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, and with the seven AGRs coming into commission between 1976 and the late 1980s, there has been no urgency for new nuclear capacity except now on the grounds of maintaining a low-cost baseload generation of electricity, of needing to keep the nuclear construction industry in existence and of requiring replacements for the Magnox stations which began their careers in 1956, 30 years ago. The debate in recent years has essentially become one of choice of design of thermal reactor. It has been a debate about the thermal reactor that we will need for the next half century and about whether it should be the AGR or the PWR, gas-cooled reactors or water-cooled reactors. There has also been the parallel debate, which the right hon. Member for Chesterfield recreated, of nuclear energy versus coal.
I have never believed in a picture of the next century of power generation comprising anything other than mainly nuclear reactors, with oil fading off the scene and coal replacing oil as the main industrial feedstock, and not being used for electricity generation. In any case, coal is a heavy polluter of the earth's atmosphere and produces a death toll many times greater than that of nuclear power. In the United States, it is estimated that some 25,000 people die each year as a result of coal burning. Nevertheless, in the short term, coal is available, albeit at a high cost to the consumer and at a high cost in terms of security of supply.
Alternatives such as wave or wind power, or even solar power, could assist a little in the overall electricity equation, but we should still be left with the need for that crucial 20 to 25 per cent. baseload supply of low-cost nuclear power. Even on that basis, we should be far behind other European countries, such as France with 60 to 75 per cent., Belgium with 60 per cent., or Germany with 45 per cent. or more, which all supply electricity 20 per cent. more cheaply to our competitors in industry.
The recent Tokyo summit declaration stated:
Nuclear power is, and properly managed will continue to be an increasingly widely used source of energy".
I support that international view, and I hope that the House and the country will also support it. But the declaration went on to say:
For each country the maintenance of safety and security is an international responsibility and each country engaged in nuclear power generation bears full responsibility for the safety of the design, manufacture, operation and maintenance of its installations".
The Russian nuclear disaster, like other high-tech disasters that they have experienced, was due to their failure to maintain the high standards required. It is essential now that the Soviet Government should join fully in the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency to achieve safe international guidelines. But we would be wrong, and would fail in our duty as legislators, if we allowed ourselves to panic over this issue. The consequences would rebound on future generations just as surely as would our failure to effect proper safeguards over the use of atomic power for peaceful purposes.
That also means the processes of dealing with nuclear waste, with which the Select Committee concerned itself. A few weeks ago, I visited Sellafield and was reassured to find a new realisation among the management that the ways of the past were no longer acceptable and that much more effective safety controls must be introduced.
The Select Committee report was wide-ranging, hard-hitting and constructive. I am pleased that the nuclear industry's response was not to rubbish the report but to agree to look at each recommendation very carefully. The public, quite naturally, are deeply concerned about the dangers of radiation, and until they receive proper explanations and reassurances from the experts—I do not mean just those working within the reprocessing industry—it is understandable that they should give the thumbs down to nuclear power developments.
At the moment, any release of radioactivity causes alarm, even if the level is well below that received from other normal processes in life. The nuclear industry must find a language that is clearly understood by everyone, so that very low-level activity such as that from discarded clothing or gloves is understood to be less than that from a television set. When we talk of safe nuclear reactor systems, we must be able to explain to the layman exactly why they are safe.
The Chernobyl reactor was by all accounts a reactor waiting for a disaster. The complacency of the Russians in allowing poor manufacturing standards and compromise technology led to the world's worst nuclear disaster. Yet warnings had been given by our own nuclear experts back in 1978 when they pinpointed the Russian RBMK reactors as having crucial flaws in design, with the absence of secondary containment vessels. reactor shutdown devices and emergency cooling systems. The use of graphite as a moderator and the extremely high operating temperature of 750 deg. C meant that, if steam came into contact with the graphite, a violent reaction would set in and the subsequent generation of hot hydrogen gas would lead to ignition and explosion.
Therefore, pending the outcome of the Sizewell inquiry, we should redouble our efforts to secure every piece of information we can get through the international agency, not only about every type of nuclear reactor being used in the world, but about all the small incidents which have occurred and which will help us in ensuring the integral safety of the system that we eventually decide to develop.
For example, not far from here is the French nuclear system. Some of their older gas reactors also use graphite as a moderator. Electricit é de France has announced that its technology is completely different. So there is no intention to close down those reactors; it says that they have concrete screening anyway. The French have more than 50 nuclear reactors in operation or under construction. Apart from the four older gas graphite reactors and the two fast breeder reactors, all the others are PWRs and are judged to be considerably safer than the older plants.
The Sizewell PWR design is also considered to be far safer than the older PWRs like the Three Mile Island reactor, which is 20 years old. The French are massively engaged in nuclear generation. I hope that our scientitst and safety experts are co-operating closely with the French, so that all the information about their nuclear experiences can be made known.
There must be no secrecy. If nuclear power is to play the part that I believe it should in our future energy scene, it must be on the basis of total understanding of the technology and the safety system that is built into the reactors. The public perception that by opting out of nuclear power and declaring Britain a nuclear-free zone we will in one bound be free from any possible radiation danger, is obviously false. The use of this immense source of cheap energy is an international concern and the Chernobyl disaster has brought home that fact, even to the Russians. Such a disaster should not, and must not, be allowed to happen again. The extra costs inherent in a safe system of nuclear generation are a burden that mankind is prepared to pay, just as we must pay the extra costs for safety in chemicals manufacture and in coal burning.
If the Chernobyl accident had happened in the United States, the political anger and furore would have been immense. The other side would have been deafening in its accusations of cutting corners, of placing profit before safety and of lack of concern either for employees or for the neighbouring community. But the accident did not happen in the free West and we can justifiably argue that, under our system of public inquiry, licensing regulations and safety requirements, the Chernobyl form of reactor would never have been built here.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy was right to state that there would have been no disaster at Chernobyl had the Soviet Union followed the procedures of the democracies. But what has happened has happened, and many people and families, while acccepting the points that I have just made, are still extremely worried about the possibility that, given all the safety we can build into our systems, we could still have the risk of a nuclear accident, however remote.
So a major task faces the international agencies of government and industry. I am confident that we can resolve the problem and continue to have the low-cost energy for the future which only nuclear power can provide.
It is such a rare occurrence for the Government, in the face of the evidence, to take a sensible decision to change their mind that we must begin by welcoming the Government's decision, in their response to the Select Committee, that they no longer intend to place intermediate-level waste, however short-lived, in shallow disposal facilities. That is a small step in the right direction and is much to be welcomed.
However, the Government's initial response to the Select Committee is, I fear, severely inadequate in other respects. In dealing with the shallow disposal facilities, the Government have not taken on board the Select Committee's recommendations about the definition of low level waste, about the alpha emissions of such waste or about the radionuclides that are contained in much of the waste that goes into Drigg, for example. There should be a much tighter definition of low-level waste which may well go into one of the four sites for which NIREX is currently prospecting.
In addition, the Government have said nothing about what they intend to do with the intermediate-level waste. The long-term answer is to stop the reprocessing operation, because it is only through reprocessing that intermediate-level waste is produced. None the less, we have such waste and something has to be done with it. As the Government have said nothing about how they propose to deal with that waste, there are severe inadequacies even around the one concession which they made on receipt of the evidence produced by the Select Committee.
The Government have also failed to deal with some of the major proposals of the Select Committee about the operation of Drigg and the need to have a much more carefully engineered and monitored facility for the disposal of low-level waste. We must recall that the Select Committee said unequivocally that Drigg is an unacceptable model for the disposal of any waste, however low-level. I have been to Drigg and have found that it is operated like a municipal rubbish tip, with none of the safeguards which any reasonable member of the public would expect on a disposal site for low-level waste. If we are to continue with the shallow disposal of even the lowest level of radioactive waste, there must be much more careful monitoring of the waste when it arrives at the disposal facility. It must be packaged properly and its disposal must be carefully engineered; it should not just be tipped in, as happens at present.
The Government have not dealt properly with any of those recommendations in their response to the Select Committee. They say that improvements can be and are being made in line with current practice, but that is not good enough. That will not satisfy the enormous public concern which justifiably exists about the way in which the by-products of the nuclear production process are handled and disposed of.
Much to my disappointment, the Government have not yet replied to the Select Committee's comments on the transport of nuclear waste. Nearly every night, trains carrying nuclear waste pass through my constituency. The Select Committee had graphic evidence about what might happen, admittedly in remotely conceivable occurrences, if an accident took place to one of those trains. The evidence was that, if a train carrying nuclear waste were to catch fire, radiation could spread over a wide area. The Select Committee made specific recommendations about the timetabling of the movement of such trains. The Government have not yet responded to those recommendations. The matter is urgent. The Government should carefully consider those recommendations and should produce early answers about the future transportation of nuclear waste around the country and particularly through my constituency.
Having said that the Government's initial response is inadequate in those respects, I must also say that the root cause of the nuclear waste problem and of the Government's reluctance to deal with nuclear waste properly lies in their long-standing love affair with the nuclear industry. The Government are moving firmly in the wrong direction. About 17 per cent. of our electricity production comes from nuclear generation. The Government intend—they revealed this to me in a parliamentary answer some months ago—to increase that percentage to 25 per cent. by 1990. That is a move in the wrong direction. We shold move down from 17 per cent. instead of up.
Britain's future energy production should be based on the principal production of coal-fired power stations using cleanburn technology. Much rubbish has been talked about acid rain being produced by coal-fired power stations. Of course acid rain is produced by the gases that come from coal-fired power stations, but the technology exists to remove the gases and to burn coal cleanly. That is the way forward for our electricity production, coupled with major programmes of alternative energy, research in conservation measures that are badly needed in much of the rotten housing in which many of people must live and combined heat and power schemes in power stations, which could provide good, cheap energy resources. That is the way forward for a sensible energy policy.
I have heard nothing from the Government or from their Back-Bench Members—who protest too much about their worries—to convince me that the Government have a sensible energy policy. We need an energy policy that uses our indigenous resources and that commands widespread public support. The way forward is clear and the Labour Government who will come into office next year will follow that much more sensible policy.
I echo the remarks made by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) about the nuclear industry meeting the needs of the people, but we also need politicians who will be a little more honest with the people about the risks. The hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) criticised the National Radiological Protection Board and regaled the House with a record of a conversation in which a board representative said that giving advice not to play in the rain could create public panic. That is right. On 3 May, in Glasgow, when the radiation in the rain was measured at 10,000 becquerels per litre—which I understand was one of the highest recorded levels in Britain—even if someone had gone out and drunk rainwater throughout the day, the effect on his health would be the equivalent of smoking one cigarette every 50 days. It was negligible.
From the accounts broadcast by BBC Scotland and the rest of the Scottish media, the public were left with the clear impression that there was a major cause for anxiety. Constituents telephoned my home and asked whether it was safe for children to touch the grass. That unjustified public hysteria was created and promoted by some politicians, notably the hon member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) and some of his Liberal friends, who have now left the Chamber. They deliberately sought to wind up public concern to further their position, which is difficult to define but which is broadly hostile to nuclear power.
The facts are that in no part of Britain were the public health effects of the fallout from the Chernobyl disaster—all hon. Members have considerable sympathy for the people who were affected by it in the Soviet Union—any worse than they would be for someone taking a fortnight's holiday in Cornwall. I say that because in parts of Cornwall, as in parts of the constituency of the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), the background count was considerably higher because of the presence of radoactive granite. Indeed, 1 per cent. of the homes in Cornwall—that represents 4,000 people—are exposed to radiation from the rocks which make up their homes at a greater level than would be tolerated at Sellafield, which is 5 rems.
Liberal Members, especially the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey, who talk about emergency levels in milk would do well to read the report of the Kemeny commission, which was set up to investigate the effects of the Three Mile Island disaster. Its conclusion was that the worst effects on public health came from irresponsible politicians and irresponsible people in the media, who needlessly created great public anxiety and stress. More people's lives were shortened through that stress than were ever in danger from radioactivity. I recognise that there are worries, but in this debate people should examine the facts and try to communicate them instead of fanning the flames of hysteria.
The British nuclear industry has a remarkable record. Despite the scares and some of the speeches that we have heard, it remains true that the average family watching television for four hours a day receives far more radiation than anyone living within five miles of a nuclear power station.
The hon. Gentleman says that, but he is wrong. We are talking about the effects of electromagnetic radiation on people's health.
Apart from background radiation, the largest doses of radiation received by most people come in the form of medical applications, including X-rays. Workers in nuclear power receive larger doses than most of us. The right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) said that we should concentrate on coal and that six deaths at Chernobyl are not the same as six deaths in the mines. He would do well to remember that, since 1975, there have been nine deaths in the nuclear industry—none of them because of radiation, and all of them conventional accidents—compared with 399 deaths in coal mining. If our worry is for workers' health, nuclear power wins hands down. If hon. Members are worried about exposure to radiation, they should turn their attention to British Airways, because aircraft crew are exposed to twice as much radiation as the rest of us on the ground.
If we consider the facts and statistics about the risk of premature death from accidents and cancer, we discover that, in deep-sea fishing, the figure is one in 400; in coal mining, it is one in 4,000; in construction, it is one in 5,000; the average for all employment is one in 20,000; and for radiation workers, the figure is one in 20,000. Nuclear workers are at less risk than workers in those other industries.
The Liberals wish to have it all ways. They tell us that they wish to decommission nuclear power stations. They should address their minds to the costs of doing that, because there are risks from other means of generation. We shall lose tremendous advantages if we give up nuclear power. Whatever the hon. Member for Gordon says, the French enjoy a 1 billion cost advantage over British industry because of their nuclear power, yet he continually tells the House that we should do more for our manufacturing base. We could hardly do more damage than by removing the opportunities to be competitive on energy.
Indeed, this Scottish Member had the cheek to come to the House and tell us that he wants to see the Magnox stations decommissioned, when in Scotland electricity is 25 per cent. less expensive that it would otherwise be, thanks to nuclear power. The Opposition made a great fuss about cold weather and heating allowances. The great benefit that Scotland enjoys is cheap electricity, and that is due to the investment that has been made in nuclear power. Pensioners in Scotland and the poor who are worried about their heating bills should know for certain that the Liberals and the Labour party will put up their fuel bills so that there would be more deaths from hypothermia and, indeed. in the coal mines and elsewhere.
If it is employment that hon. Members are worried about, they can explain to the people in the west of Scotland working for Babcock Power and Wear Pumps, who have 1,200 man-years of work riding on the other of a nuclear power station after Sizewell, why their jobs were lost because of the ideological opposition of those Members.
Those who seem to think it is possible to duck the question of disposal simply by saying that we will not have a nuclear power industry can also explain to the people in hospital and elsewhere who benefit from radiation treatment that there will be no place to dispose of the radionuclides in use. There is a tremendous gap between the public understanding of radioactive waste and the reality of the danger that it presents.
I commend to the House the excellent paper presented to us by the nuclear industry. It shows that the average surburban garden contains 4 lb of uranium and 13 lb of thorium and that the natural radioactivity that exists all round us presents a far greater threat than the low-level waste that we are discussing. Indeed, the idea that garden fertiliser containing radioactive potassium should have half the level of waste of what is exercising my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) in itself shows the extent to which the debate has got out of hand.
The Select Committee states that it believes that no alpha-emitting low-level waste should be disposed of. I conclude by pointing out that in Scotland the granite chips to be found on everybody's drive emit alpha radiation containing long-life nuclides in the form of uranium. Opposition Members are saying here that in no way can we allow this sort of material to be buried in the soil, when in Scotland it is placed in drives to prevent motor cars from sinking into the soil. I believe that we need a debate in the country, but it must be a responsible one, based on rational choices and real information.
We are discussing not only the Select Committee's report and the Government's partial response to that part of it which deals with the disposal of low-level and intermediate-level waste, but the accident that everybody—including the Secretary of State for Energy, who recently visited the Soviet Union and came back and reported that Soviet nuclear energy was safe—said could never happen. To blame the Soviet Union and suggest that its systems are so different from ours that it could never happen here is to insult the intelligence not only of the House but of the British public.
Other matters have not been dealt with adequately in the debate. After the speech of the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), who eloquently produced the nuclear industry's brief, I want to deal with some of the points on which he touched and which affect the recommendations of the Select Committee, to which the Government have not yet responded.
I deal first with the consequences and risks in nuclear energy. The nuclear industry argues that new technologies, ideas and ventures have always been resisted. Nuclear energy, the industry argues, is like electricity. It is said that some people used to believe that, if one left the plug out, electricity would escape. That is not true, but it is certainly true of nuclear power and nuclear energy. To compare, as the nuclear industry always does, the background radiation of a television set or flying in a jet with what happened at Chernobyl and what could be released into the environment if a major accident happened at a nuclear power station is again to insult the intelligence of the British people. To compare the kind of accidents in which people are killed in coal mines—ignoring those being killed in the uranium mines—with the possibility of a nuclear accident, which, as my hon. Friends have said, affects not only those working in the industry and, as happened in the Aberfan disaster, those living near the area, but future generations and the genetic structure of human beings and those yet unborn is to compare things that are very different in nature. Nuclear accidents are quite different in kind from any accidents in the coal mining industry or in factories.
We are talking about different levels of waste and radioactive discharges. First, there are discharges to the environment and radioactive water going into the Irish sea. Any single discharge has a background radiation level lower than that in bricks and on the television screen. It was thought that the sea would disperse it, but it has not done so. That statistic does not take account of the buildup of a continuing discharge of low-level radioactivity. The build-up is such that even worms go through it and become radioactive; fish eat the worms; and that is the chain reaction back to mankind. Nobody knows the consequences of a build-up of discharges to the environment, which must be stopped.
As to the low-level waste that will be put in shallow-burial engineered trenches, the Government have now accepted the recommendations of the Select Committee. That is despite the fact that the Secretary of State for Energy, pre-Chernobyl, was rubbishing the regulations and saying that these were merely the views of a few Back Benchers with advisers who were passionately antinuclear. The Secretary of State for Energy, pre-Chernobyl, praised the safety record of Sellafield and described the Select Committee's report as "lovely, emotive phrases" to which he said he would be responding formally after studying the report.
Now we have the Secretary of State for the Environment, in the aftermath of Chernobyl and public opinion, saying that the Select Committee on the Environment in its report on radioactive waste has helped to clarify the issues involved. Indeed, I believe that it has, because there is the acceptance that low-level waste should not be put in shallow-burial sites unless they are engineered and sealed off as the dangers are recognised.
It is also said that intermediate-level waste should not be put in the same sites. The hon. Member for Stirling compared that low-level waste with the high-level waste from the nuclear industry. No high-level waste comes from hospitals or any other industry. The high-level waste is the spent fuel waste that has to be stored disposed of or reprocessed. The reprocessing produces liquid high-level waste, which is now stored in huge tanks at Sellafield and stirred to stop it settling, and it has yet to be vitrified and disposed of.
The Select Committee toured nearly every nuclear advanced country in the world. Not one country, as yet, has conclusively proved that this high-level waste can be safely disposed of in deep geological disposal sites. If the Government want to put low-level and intermediate-level waste in deep geological disposal sites in hon. Members constituencies, they must prove that it is safe. Nobody has yet disposed of any high-level waste anywhere in the world. It is still stored in France, which is the most advanced country, vitrified and ready for disposal. Research is going on in every country in the world, except this country, as to how, or whether, one can dispose of it.
If it is put in a mine, in granite, clay or salt, as the Germans are doing, one has to be certain that, not for 100 years, not for 1,000 years, but for 1 million years that radioactivity that has been sealed up will not get back into man's environment. It can return to man's environment if water passes over it and through it and it gets into the water course. No one has proved conclusively anywhere in the world—the onus is on the Government and the industry to engage in research and to produce proof, and if it cannot it must stop production—that it can be disposed of safely.
I was pleased when my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said that the next Labour Government would review THORP. The Government have not dealt with the issue raised by the Select Committee, which is whether reprocessing should continue and whether THORP should be completed. When the THORP contract arose and we were to start reprocessing, the world price of uranium was high and it was felt that it was necessary to recover uranium and to produce plutonium. As my right hon. and hon. Friends have said, plutonium is required for bombs, and it is needed also for the fast breeder reactor.
When I visited America with other members of the Select Committee, we found that President Carter had stopped all the reprocessing of civil spent fuel rods. He had separated the specific reprocessing plant that would reprocess what plutonium was needed for American bombs. At that time he was getting plutonium from us secretly. President Carter costed this and separated the reprocessing plant from the rest of the programme. At that time the Democrats were committed to non-proliferation and they did not want to produce more plutonium than they needed for themselves. President Reagan has said that production can increase if it is economically viable, but it has not increased because it would not be commercially viable to take that course. That is because the world price of uranium has dropped dramatically. In Canada, for example, it is coming out of their ears. There needs to be a reassessment.
I was pleased to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland say that the next Labour Government would repeal the Official Secrets Act and end the military production of plutonium. How dare the Government attack the Russians for their secrecy? British Members of Parliament who were members of the Select Committee that went to the United States were shown the costings for the military and civil nuclear programmes. They were shown where the plutonium was produced for military purposes and they were given the facts and figures that were denied to them in Britain because of the Official Secrets Act. The Government would not tell us the truth about what was happening at Sellafield. Those who doubt me—[Interruption.] there is no need for hon. Members to shout at me—should speak to those Conservative Members who were part of the group that went to America whether what I have said is true.
I and other members of the Select Committee went to Drigg, and we saw things that would not have been allowed in any other country. We found that low-level and intermediate-level waste—at first it was denied that intermediate-level waste was being handled in this way—was dumped into shallow trenches and covered with soil. Water leached through it, and the result was radioactivity in streams. None of the other nuclear countries that the Select Committee visited would have tolerated that. Not one of them would have allowed that activity to continue.
As members of a Select Committee, we were not able to compare the economics of the nuclear industry with those of coal-fired power stations. That was because we could not obtain the facts about the cross-subsidisation of the military and civil processes. We were not able to obtain any real costings of the necessary research to deal with the disposal of high-level nuclear waste. I am convinced to this day that the long-term consequences of controlling, monitoring and disposing of nuclear waste will be so costly that the economic case that has been argued so far, which is based on the cost of producing electricity from nuclear power, will be proved to be entirely wrong.
The nuclear industry and the Government must rethink their cavalier attitude in the light not only of public opinion but of an accident that many said would never happen. Chernobyl has demonstrated clearly to the British people the consequences of a major nuclear accident. The public feel that it could happen here, and they need more than reassurance. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Senn) said, they realise that if such consequences can flow from an accident in a civil nuclear power station, the consequences would be immensely more severe from a nuclear weapon containing plutonium. At least the accident at Chernobyl did not put plutonium into the air, but that would happen if one small bomb exploded. No Government can offer any defence against nuclear weapons and their use. A nuclear power is in effect saying to its enemy, "If you attack us, we shall commit suicide." That has become more and more obvious during this debate.
I hope that the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) will forgive me if I do not take up his remarks. I am not sure that I agree with all of his conclusions, but I listened to his speech with great interest, as did the rest of the House.
I shall confine my remarks to the NIREX proposal that the four sites which have been proposed should be surveyed for their suitability for the disposal of low-level waste in a near-surface disposal facility. I welcome the Government's decision to reject the proposal that the sites should be considered for the disposal of intermediate-level waste. It is a significant move and one which has been welcomed widely. I accept that the nature of the waste that will be deposited, should one of the sites be selected ultimately, will not necessarily be as dangerous as those who are concerned about the proposals would have us believe. We have a nuclear industry, whether we abandon it tomorrow or not, we know that industrial research involves the use and production of some radioactive material, and we know that medical research and treatment in hospitals leads in certain areas to radioactive byproducts. It follows, therefore, that we must address ourselves to the disposal of radioactive material.
I do not believe that the nuclear industry will be served by foisting on those who live around any one of the four sites a near-surface disposal facility when they do not consent to the same, when they do not want it, and when they object wholeheartedly to it.
My constituency is about 18 miles from the proposed site of South Killingholme and objection to the proposal has been mobilised in the constituency to tremendous effect. I believe that more than 120,000 people in the Humberside area have signed a petition that rejects the proposal, especially on the south bank. The people do not want it, principally because they are afraid of the consequences and implications.
I do not believe that we can get the public to accept the proposed disposal facilities unless they are fully informed, unless they understand, and unless they give their consent. If, in the face of overwhelming objections, the Government, or NIREX, proceed to survey the sites, go through the process of a public planning inquiry and ultimately select a site—we know that one will be selected, whatever may be said now—no good will be done to the nuclear industry. I speak on behalf of a constituency where steel is made, and if there is one thing that is important to the steel industry it is cheap energy. Even if we accept that the radioactive waste that we are discussing is safe and can be disposed of in the way that is proposed, it is arrogant of the Government and NIREX to proceed in the face of opposition of the sort that now exists.
Only France and the United States are using near-surface disposal facilities. They are not doing it in Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Sweden. Belgium. Finland or, from the point of view of containment, in France. All those countries are using deep geological disposal methods for all waste—not just for intermediate and high-level waste, but for low-level waste, too. It is impossible to persuade the public that this type of facility is suitable for low-level waste when all those countries have decided that it is not suitable and are using alternative methods.
This policy does not depend upon demonstrating to right hon. and hon. Members or to experts that this method is safe. Safety is not the issue. The issue is public acceptability, consent, understanding and knowledge. If consent or acceptance cannot be obtained in the face of such objections, the Government run the risk of losing the nuclear argument altogether. If, willy-nilly, this policy is thrust down people's throats, the momentum of objections will build up to such an extent that the nuclear argument will be lost.
Therefore, I say to my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench—who no doubt, as soon as I got to my feet, went somewhere else—that they should look at the alternatives. They should examine what the countries that I have mentioned have done. They should consider deep sea disposal and deep-mined disposal. We know that Drigg can be used for another 25 years. If the Government have responded to public pressure by making a concession on intermediate-level nuclear waste, I urge them to respond in the same way to the disposal of low -level waste.
No research whatsoever seems to have been carried out in the United Kingdom into the method of disposal of this type of waste. There should be a period of reflection, investigation and research. Unless at the end of the day the British public—I speak in particular of my constituents and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Brigiz and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown)—can be persuaded that this type of facility is desirable, the Government run the risk of losing the nuclear industry argument altogether.
The issues that have to be faced in this debate are safety of technology and information about that technology. The nuclear industry is a public industry. A massive amount of public money is invested in it. Such a high level of public investment means that there must be full public accountability.
I was pleased that the Secretary of State for the Environment told us at the beginning of the debate that all kinds of incidents will now be reported. Responsible station managers in the Central Electricity Generating Board, such as the present manager at Trawsfynydd, are already doing that. That is because the public in the Trawsfynydd area, the media, myself and others demand it. Any incident at that station is reported immediately to members of the local liaison committee and to the media in the locality. That must apply to all stations and to all nuclear installations.
After his statement this afternoon, I assume that the Secretary of State for Environment will make it clear that all incidents, of whatever type—whether or not they relate to a reactor, or whether they are engineering or nuclear incidents in the stricter sense of the term where there is radiological danger or the minutest radiological emission, either on site or off site—should immediately be reported.
There must be openness and accountability about the way in which the effects of the Chernobyl disaster were reported in Britain and discussed in Britain by representatives of the nuclear industry. There must also be openness and accountability about the way in which the amounts of radioactive fissile material that affected our environment were treated. I wish to refer briefly to each of those issues, and I shall begin with the last, the level of discharges in this country.
Britain is not geared to monitoring effectively a release of fissile material into the atmosphere. Confused data from different sources were released. I live in an area that is close to a nuclear power station which has its own district monitoring sytem. Both I and the people who work at the station knew reasonably clearly that there was a massively increased level of radioactivity, compared with the background level, in that area following the high rainfall of that weekend. I had telephone calls both at home and at my office from staff at the station who were concerned about the fact that the levels of radioactivity that they were monitoring had not been made public.
The use of the CEGB network, on behalf of the National Radiological Protection Board, to provide material meant that in certain localities there was a fairly good picture of what was going on. However, it appears that the amount of information that was made available by the NRPB, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Welsh Office and the Scottish Office was completely inadequate. The information was confused and it was not properly interpreted.
I am particularly concerned about the level of radioactive iodine in milk. I am concerned that a political decision might have been taken either by MAFF or by the Department of the Environment that the real levels of radioactive iodine that were being measured in milk during that period of high rainfall should not be released to the public and were not used to advise Ministers that there should be a cessation of milk consumption. particularly by young people and children.
The levels that were reached were at least 30 per cent. of the derived emergency reference levels, not only in milk, but in rainfall. Those were levels at which action should have been taken. We are dealing not with absolute levels but with levels which have been laid down relative to what is regarded as tolerable.
There is increasing argument about the so-called permitted dosage. This issue concerns me as a representative of nuclear power workers. It also concerns me as the representative of constituents who live in a high rainfall area. We need to look carefully at the way in which this information was handled and disseminated to the public. We need also to look at the ministerial action that was taken on this information.
Many right hon. and hon. Members feel that the initial statements by the relevant Departments and, indeed, the statements made to the House by the Secretary of State for the Environment, were misleading. When he made his initial statement to the House, the Secretary of State for the Environment stated that water and milk were safe, but he did not make it clear whether he was referring to aggregate United Kingdom levels, or to specific areas, or whether he was speaking in general terms. The quality of the data that were available from different areas in the United Kingdom was insufficient to enable the public to decide whether they wanted to consume milk or to expose their children to that hazard.
Conservative Members have today used a spurious argument about the risk factors that are involved in different levels of exposure during different kinds of activity—what I call the cigarette syndrome. This argument no longer washes with the public. The public need to know the additional risk to which they are exposed from radiation from the nuclear power industry, the generating industry and, finally, from the nuclear processing industry. The public will not be fobbed off with spurious comparisons.
Certain spokespersons for the nuclear power industry, and certain right hon. and hon. Members said in a programme in which I took part earlier this week that if the public were given the information about the number of becquerels involved and other technical information they would not understand it. but it is of the same kind of complexity as the pollen count. Information about the pollen count is given regularly throughout the summer as part of our weather forecasts. If we had a proper level of scientific education in Britain, people would be capable of understanding information presented in specific terms. We do not have that yet, but we might have it as a result of the public interest now aroused. We must ensure that the figures are made available.
The second issue is not about information on the specific dosages and the results of exposure to the effects of the cloud, but about the lessons that Britain's nuclear industry must learn. I am concerned that experts in the nuclear industry should not only suggest that such an incident could not happen in this country, but apparently imply that there is no possible Chernobyl scenario for the existing reactor systems in Britain. I have lived close to the old type of Magnox reactor, so I am especially concerned that people are pretending that the combination of materials inside the Chernobyl reactor is not inside British reactors.
Lord Walter Marshall has made the famous statement that the reactor systems in Britain have forms of containment that are not available in the Soviet Union. I know the Trawsfynydd reactor intimately. I have seen it from all possible angles, except from inside. That reactor, like all the old Magnox reactors, does not have secondary containment. It has the major vessel and the biological shield, but the steam generating gas loops come out of the reactor vessel. That applies to all of the old Magnox reactors. The newer forms of reactors have a larger pressure vessel that contains the engineering aspects. The Magnox gas-cooled reactor is different from the form of coolant in the Soviet model. However, it is wrong to suggest that it is not possible to have a loss of coolant through a loss of gas from the Magnox reactors. Indeed, that has happened on a small scale and for example, water ingress to the reactor and loss of coolant.
To pretend that has not happened is to deny the information held by those who follow the nuclear debate. There may he a scenario that has a minimal risk, but as a result of Chernobyl the public now perceive that those pundits of the nuclear industry who have said that it could not happen here have been misleading them. The Secretary of State has picked up the new mood—even if some of his hon. Friends have not—of serious questioning and concern.
I represent a constituency which contains a nuclear power station employing 600 people. What will happen to communities such as Trawsfynydd if the climate of opinion in Britain means that we will not invest in a massive replacement of the Magnox generation? We may not build AGRs and we will certainly not build PWRs. There is an objection on the Opposition Benches, and by many Conservative Members, to constructing PWRs in Britain, whatever the Sizewell inquiry recommends. What will happen to communities, many in areas of high unemployment, which are dependent upon the nuclear industry? The Government and the Opposition must face that question. We must ensure that jobs are maintained in those areas. We want assurances now about jobs in areas such as Trawsfynydd which have the old Magnox stations which face decommissioning. We must tackle the issue now, not defer it until 1990 or 1995.
Conservation has been mentioned several times tonight, not least by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn). It is appropriate in this debate to say that we are products of our environment. I was at university during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when there was great concern about conservation of the environment and the safety of the civil nuclear industry. The two, of course, are inextricably linked.
In succeeding years it is not surprising that, in the battle for our very economic survival, those issues have been pushed into a backwater inhabited mainly by the far Left and political eccentrics. It is no less surprising that, now that the success of the Government's economic policies has given the country sustained growth and low inflation, there should once again be more talk about the environment, and I welcome that. I especially welcome the efforts of my hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment, Countryside and Local Government to ensure that the Conservative party dons its rightful mantle as the conservor of and carer for our environment.
We have to make two decisions on the nuclear industry—on Sizewell and on the disposal of nuclear waste—that raise fundamental issues about the future of our nuclear policy and concern about our environment. We are standing as it were on the threshold of a busy thoroughfare—traffic is coming towards us at great speed from the left and the right. I do not argue that we should stand still for ever or that we should vegetate on one spot, but we should stop, think, look and, above all, listen. I echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown)—it is time to pause for reflection.
There is no overwhelming urgency about either decision. There is no rule requiring elected, accountable—and, it must be said, disposable—Ministers to proceed at the behest of an unelected and unaccountable body such as NIREX, and to do so at a rapid pace. Much as we regret the publicity surrounding Sellafield—unfair as much of it may be—much as we regret the disaster at Chernobyl and much as it may be true that we rejected that design of reactor many years ago, public confidence in the nuclear industry has been shaken. We cannot ignore that fact.
I listened with great respect and care to my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), and I agreed with much of what he said. However, the fact is that public confidence has been shaken. The incident at Chernobyl has proved the argument put forward for many years by those of us in the National Council for Civil Defence against official complacency and for more resources to be put into civil defence. The radioactive cloud that drifted towards Lincoln did not part like the Red sea when it appeared over the nuclear-free city—it carried on. We need effective civil defence, whatever our civil or military nuclear policies.
I do not believe that it is statesmenlike or resolute to fly in the face of public concern about the nuclear industry and to proceed regardless, without pausing for reflection. That is merely foolish. Ina few days, 12,000 of my constituents—who were not given much time by the Government for consultation—signed a petition collected by West Lindsey district council objecting to the disposal of waste in Humberside and Lincolnshire. Barring a handful, they are not Greenpeace activists or flower-shaking dropouts—they are decent folk from villages and small towns who are both worried and concerned, and to whose views the Government should listen with sympathy and concern. They need reassurance.
I am the first to welcome the Government's decision to restrict the disposal of nuclear waste in shallow trenches to low-level waste. I know that we are now talking in terms of overalls and the like used in the nuclear industry and in hospitals. I know that the risks are small and I welcome the Government's concession, but I and my constituents need to be told the facts in full. My constituents need even more reassurance. Until they receive it, I cannot support the Government by voting for NIREX to be given powers to drill in either South Killirigholme or Fulbeck.
I repeat what I have said before in the House: that we in Lincolnshire cannot merely say, "Put nuclear waste anywhere, except on our doorsteps, please." No Government can govern on that basis, ignoring the national interest. Ultimately, waste must be put in the best, that is the safest, geological site. The moral is clear, and has been pointed out by my hon and learned Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lyell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg): Do as the Swedes do at Forsmark; put it in mines under the sea. Obviously, that is expensive, but if we are to have a successful, progressive nuclear industry, it must enjoy public confidence. As my hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Hickmet) said clearly, if we ignore the need for consent by the local population, we may put our entire nuclear industry at risk. No expense can be spared in ensuring that confidence.
I know that the volume of waste is large. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment talked about its being equivalent to eight Victoria towers in the Palace of Westminster. Would he like eight Victoria towers of low-level nuclear waste in his Mole Valley constituency or next door? We cannot ignore or despise public concern. My right hon. Friend mentioned the date 2010 when the Drigg site will be full. Does that not give us time for pause and reflection?
There is a perfectly good case to be made for the continued survival and growth of our nuclear industry in terms of the need for abundant and cheap energy to ensure our competitiveness. During the past 10 years, no fatality has been directly attributed to the nuclear industry in this country. It is necessary not to depend on militants in the coalfields, and the desirability of a four-fuel economy.
Safe nuclear power can legitimately be defended as better for the environment and for conservation than traditional coal-guzzling power stations. However, the analogy of standing on the edge of a busy road holds good. I beg the Government not to rush decisions, but to conduct a massive campaign, not of propaganda, but of information, and to reflect on the words written by William Deedes this weekend. When he was the Minister of Information in the 1963 Government, he was asked to conduct a massive campaign of information, not propaganda, on joining the European Community.
No expense should be spared on the campaign to explain patiently and at length where we are now and where we are going. If necessary, we should put the declared outcome of that consultation exercise in the manifesto, and let the people decide. That is fair, honourable, democratic and popular, and I commend it to the House.
I shall concentrate on the central issue of the debate, which is nuclear waste disposal. The spine of the debate seems to be a commitment by the Government to get waste disposal dumps under way, preferably cheaply, and certainly as quickly as possible.
The Government seem committed to that because they see it as a prelude, first to the expansion of the reprocessing industry, as if it were Britain's destiny to act as the nuclear laundry for the rest of the world, and, secondly, to an expansion of the nuclear programme. The Government see the problem of nuclear waste as a bottleneck delaying both expansions. There is no need for that impetuous commitment. The waste can be stored and Drigg is not full and has many years of service to come. The CEGB will do whatever it is told regarding storage. There is no need for this rush, but the Government are committed to it.
The Environment Select Committee has shown clearly what is wrong. Theirs is the first considered strategy with an intellectual base of research which has been presented to us. It is the first basic rethink on dumping and reprocessing. In Committeespeak, which is always fairly guarded, a strong case has been made out against both. The two are closely interconnected, whatever Ministers may say, because reprocessing produces 70 per cent. or more of the low-level waste involved. I have received confused answers from the Department of the Environment. One states that waste and reprocessed material will be placed in the dumps, and another states that they will not be, yet the answers were only six weeks apart. The two problems are interconnected.
The Select Committee's report is so good that it certainly should have been considered before any special development order on nuclear dumping sites is laid. It would be unforgivable to put the SDO first. Yet the Government are, in effect, doing just that. This is an inadequate half-baked reply to the report. We should be dealing with the report as a whole today, not merely with the little bits to which the Government have chosen to reply. The report hangs together as a whole and presents a considered new approach to the Government's strategy.
The Government, by replying to the report in bits, are changing their justifications for their nuclear waste programme, which is to continue. They are more apologetic about it, but it must continue. They make sympathetic noises about Chernobyl, but they are to soldier on with their commitment as if nothing had happened.
The Government's reply deals with only 13 of the 43 recommendations, and three of those recommendations are dealt with by half-baked responses, such as that "serious consideration should he given" to the matter. Only one recommendation has been accepted: to exclude intermediate-level waste from trench dumpings. The Government have ignored the recommendations on deep geological disposal, on dose limitations for the public, which I would have thought was central to the location and nature of the dumps, on reprocessing, on institutional responsibility, on co-ordination, on transport, on research and development and on the public.
To ignore all that is to produce a silly, shabby strategy which does not interfere with the Government's onward rush to nuclear dumping. It has led to an inadequate reply, and a messy debate tonight, because we have been mixing Chernobyl and Killingholme, CND and questions about the Select Committee's report, as if they were all one great glorious mess. The Government, backed by a three-line Whip, will refuse to change and smuggle through their rejection of what the Select Committee recommends them to do. The Government have treated the Select Committee with contempt. Their real concern is to get on with the special development order.
I hope that that is not so, and that the Front Bench will assure us that it is not so. It would be a dirty trick of the first magnitude to follow this inadequate debate with an SDO. The Select Committee report has knocked away the intellectual basis of the Government's policy, yet the Government persevere with their policy.
As soon as the SDO is laid, blight will begin on the four areas affected. The mere mention of the SDO means blight in terms of development, house prices and prospects, which will continue throughout the long period of research and examination until the eventual decision. That blight will be foisted on those areas without proper consultation, against the wishes of the inhabitants, and without any intellectual justification.
The Government are not doing several things mentioned in the report. It said that the Department of the Environment must be able to demonstrate to the public that the sites were selected logically and systematically. The Government will not tell us whether that is so, because they will not tell us the basis for the selection. How can local authorities object to the selection when they do not know its basis? How can they argue in those circumstances?
The report states that people need to know that the choice of their area is not simply the result of some quirk or quite extraneous factor, such as site ownership. Yet the choice is based on site ownership. It is convenient that either the Government or a NIREX partner owns all four sites. That is why South Killingholme has been picked. It is not suitable in any other way than that it is convenient for the Government because they burnt their fingers with ICI on Teeside and do not want to be in that situation again. The Minister admitted that that was the case in his presentation of the NIREX letter to the House.
The report says that the Department should shortlist, but it will not do so. It prefers to accept that work from NIREX. The report says that the Department should not go for the cheap option, but it is doing so. This is a cheap and nasty option, which is used in very few other countries. Are Sweden, Germany and other countries less immune to radiation than we are? Why have so many other countries refused to go for the option which the Department is trying to foist on us—a most dangerous option?
The report says that alpha emitters should be excluded from the waste. The Department says that there will be "very small" quantities of alpha emitters, of toxic wastes and of trace elements. It is not observing what the report wants. In other words, the Department of the Environment, in its reply to the Select Committee on the Environment, is abandoning its responsibility to protect the environment and serve the people who live in that environment. It is acting as if it were the political arm of NIREX, not a Department with responsibility for people and the environment. It has a higher destiny, role and responsibility than that.
There have been massive evasions and sudden changes in the basis of the dumping programme. The exclusion of intermediate-level wastes shows that the Department has not even thought the business through before starting the decision-making process. My constituency and those of other hon. Members where dumping is threatened get no benefit from the nuclear programme. I know that some hon. Members have said that these areas will get nuclear power, but so will London, and it is not argued that the dump should be placed in London, which uses so much of the power. No one has asked to be blighted in this way. Ministers simply want to get something—anything—decided.
What has been done in the nuclear dumping programme is foolish, unjustifiable and unforgiveable. It will not be forgiven, and it certainly will not be accepted.
There is one consolation in speaking towards the end of the debate—one can look over the labyrinth of the hours and meditate. One finds that the abolitionists have been at work. Some wish for the destruction of THORP—the thermal oxide reprocessing plant—at Sellafield, and of the nuclear fuel cycle. BNFL has secured overseas contracts worth £2·5 billion, all of which would be liable to be lost. Much of the cost of THORP has been paid for by the customers, and there are 50,000 jobs involved in BNFL investment, all of which will go by the board.
Some questions should be raised. We are likely to approach the end of the century with an incomplete electricity capacity. At the moment, we have 9,029 megawatts of nuclear capacity, and replacement is required not merely for the de-commissioning of the Magnox reactors in the 1990s but for the retirement of certain coal-fired power stations, and for the expansion of demand. I cannot see, with the long lead time involved—eight years or more—that the construction of suitable capacity by 2000 AD can be achieved. The Minister will have to work that out himself.
This has been a debate on many topics, and I know that the special development orders will come later. I hope that many of our remarks will be fully debated in about a week's time.
The Chernobyl reactors have serious defects and the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee has giver an analysis to its members of what caused the trouble in the one that exploded. How can we incriminate an industry in the United Kingdom upon the chance destruction of one Russian reactor, when some 370 reactors are operating in 25 countries and have been performing reasonably well over the past 30 years? The nuclear industry is under the shadow of political paralysis. A serious industry has become a plaything of political expediency. Confidence must be rebuilt, but not destroyed on the evidence of a single example. That would be like people saying that, because one house has burnt down, there will he devastation across the country. That is not the case.
If we have a nuclear industry, we must do something about it. The economics of necessity projected France into the nuclear age, and political expediency has bequeathed lost opportunities to the United Kingdom. The commercial reactors were first commissioned in the United Kingdom in 1962, and in France in 1965, but 24 years later, of total electricity, some 65 per cent. is generated by nuclear power in France and only 20 per cent. in the United Kingdom. For Belgium the figure is 60 per cent., for Sweden 43 per cent. and for Scotland—where power is cheaper than in England—some 40 per cent.
The total number of reactors worldwide is 374, plus another 150 under construction. Are we going to say that, because of an accident in one Russian reactor, of a type that we do not accept in the West, that had broken all the rules in the books—rules that we in the West do not break because we realise that precautions have to be taken—we have committed such a grave error?
I felt that the report of the Select Committee on the Environment would have been more balanced, and less one-sided, if it had been put together with the Select Committee on Energy. Perhaps there is no precedent for this, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy may have something to say. My right hon. Friend has already made a useful concession in that low-level waste only is to be included in the chosen of these optional sites. It will be recollected that Bedfordshire asked for consideration of sites additional to that at Elstow. There are now four sites, so why are some hon. Members against all four of them?
The four sites must be compared on their merits. One option may be accepted, or all four may be rejected. The acceptable site, in judgment, is likely to be on the coast or on property owned by the Ministry of Defence, property that may be remote from the population centres, and therefore more acceptable than a site close to a population centre, as in Bedford. The report on the best practicable environmental options from the Department of the Environment says:
It must therefore be concluded that near-surface disposal is the BPEO for over 80 per cent. by volume of all the waste considered.
I hope that the House will consider that point, even though part of the waste has been eliminated.
Hon. Members should bear in mind that more than 50 per cent. of the waste comes from the nuclear industry but from hospitals, industrial establishments, and so on. I hope that they will bear in mind also that, because of the strict rules which have been laid down, the risk of a fatality occurring in the nuclear industry is one in 1 million, compared with the risk at work of one in 40,000 and the risk from an accident in the home of one in 20,000.
We must be constructive if we are to have any sort of nuclear policy in the United Kingdom. It is not much good destroying everything in sight and hoping that we can create another industry out of the ashes. We have been told that there are alternative energy sources—that we could utilise that waste in the sea, but we do not know how to do that and that windmills could dot the countryside, like our population, but we do not know whether that approach will succeed in meeting United Kingdom requirements.
All over the globe nuclear power stations operate safely and there is no reason to suppose at this stage that great difficulties will arise anywhere, except perhaps in the Soviet Union. There was not a single death in the Three Mile Island incident in the United States. We should consider the number of miners in the pits and the numbers who have tried to extract black oil from the North sea who have been killed.
No, Sir. I have only a short time to speak and I must bear in mind my colleagues' requirements.
By considering the matter in a balanced way and taking the positive approach, one sees the nuclear industry in an entirely different light. Let us have wisdom, not folly.
Labour's amendment calls for a safer industry, and I wholeheartedly agree. I am conscious of the fact that in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) and in my constituency 22,500 people are either directly or indirectly dependent on the nuclear industry. I say to those of my hon. Friends who call for the industry's closure that putting those people on the dole, over the space of a couple of years, would have a catastrophic effect. West Cumberland could not support such unemployment, and no hon. Member has the right to impose so many redundancies on my constituents.
We in west Cumberland have been led to believe that our economy was to be built on the basis of a civil nuclear programme. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) made crucial decisions under a Labour Government, which included ordering two power stations. He made an even more crucial decision to develop a reprocessing plant in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland. In the past seven years, that £1·4 billion project has transformed west Cumberland's infrastructure and industrial development.
Only last week in my constituency I attended the opening of a factory which is devoted to the development of nuclear power. About 40 per cent. of its orders come from just one project, THORP. That is the real world in which we must live. It is unreasonable for any Government to lay out a pattern of industrial development in constituencies such as mine and Copeland, and then, because of a series of incidents at Sellafield, which arose only because of management's incompetence, and because of a stupid series of decisions in the Soviet Union, which lead to the construction of the RBMK plant—which everyone now says is unsafe—seven years later place a huge question mark over the future of employment in west Cumberland.
The recommendation of some to close the reprocessing plant at Sellafield is out. We cannot proceed on that basis. The industry itself has recognised that it is necessary to tighten up. Over the years I have seen massive investment in the nuclear power industry in west Cumberland to reduce discharges. About £450 million has been invested in three plants which are now coming, on stream. By 1991, a £150 million investment will be in place in the Floc precipitation plant. which will dramatically reduce discharges. Alpha emitters will drop from 5,000 curies a year in 1973 to 20 a year by 1991. Beta emitters will drop from 200,000 in 1973 to 8,000 in 1991. This will make it one of the safest civil nuclear processing plants in the world. It is on that basis that I say to the House that we should be very careful when we consider the recommendations that are being made in some quarters. The problem is that people do not realise, understand or recognise the massive investment that is taking place to reduce the level of discharge from the nuclear industry.
I want to comment on the confused debate that takes place about the nuclear industry. The confusion that has arisen from statements that have been made by Ministers, the industry and lobbies outside over the years has led to a series of errors in the way in which people in responsible positions present their case. Too often, those errors have led to lies that have been propagated in all quarters. Too often the lie, in turn, has been manipulated to become the propaganda of the day. The problem is that the industry is riddled with misrepresentations and it is very hard to know where to start to re-establish the truth.
I have been to meetings where I have heard things said which I know have been untrue. When I have challenged them, I have been howled down by people who insist on living by the misrepresentation. In that climate of hysteria it is impossible to get over a decent and reasonable argument about the industry. I have even gone to meetings where I have misrepresented the facts, not deliberately, but because I have been misled by people whom I regarded as responsible authorities.
There was the statement by the Energy Minister in 1983, which was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield. When the Minister was asked whether there was a connection between the Central Electricity Generating Board's nuclear power station and the manufacture of nuclear weapons, he said:
There is no such connection. No plutonium produced in any of the CEGB's nuclear power stations has ever been used for military purposes in this country. and there are no plans to use it thus in the future. Further, no plutonium from the CEGB nuclear programme has ever been exported for use in weapons."—[Official Report, 4 February 1983; Vol. 36, c. 206.]
We now know that that is not true. I have been telling people that that is the truth. How can we, who actually believe in the industry, be credible when we accept statements from the Minister at the Dispatch Box in good faith which turn out to be untrue in the course of inquiry, in this case the Sizewell inquiry?
When Lord Marshall was asked during the television programme "TV Eye" whether the plutonium had been used for military purposes, he replied:
I don't know what it was used for, but it has gone into the military stockpile. There is no secret about that.
I received an indignant letter the other day from a constituent who cannot understand why we are so inconsistent. He said:
I want to draw your attention to the article in 'Sanity' about the diversion to the military stockpile of plutonium produced in the CEGB civil reactors. I am outraged that in order to support its case for building a second reactor at Sizewell the CEGB's chief witness, John Baker, committed perjury, at least, if, as I presume, his evidence was on oath or affirmation. I feel this is a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
He went on to talk about his further outrage at the fact that
the Report by the Inspector of the Sizewell Public Inquiry is bound to consider only evidence there presented.
He pleaded with me to raise this matter in the House, and I am doing so.
There are many people in my constituency who feel as strongly as that. They want to know why the case is being misrepresented in this way. I appeal to the Secretary of State. We want an open, honest and honourable regime, where all the facts are made available. It is only in that climate that we can win the argument. I say to the Secretary of State that unless that climate is created in the United Kingdom, we shall never win that argument, and in the end we shall lose the industry.
This debate takes place in the shadow of the Chernobyl disaster. However, in the few remaining minutes available, I should like to try to broaden it out into a consideration of whether we should continue with our nuclear programme, and look at the matter on a world basis.
I have been disappointed by some of the parochialism in the contributions to the debate, particularly by the Labour party, which used to be the party of internationalism. The supply and demand for energy in this country is only a small part of the global picture. There is little doubt that the population of the world will more than double some time in the next century before it finally stabilises. The energy requirements of the developing world will increase even faster than that. The economic growth that those countries will need to feed themselves and provide themselves with the basic necessities will require energy.
Most of the responsible studies that I have seen suppose that the global demand for energy will more than double in the next 25 years, even with the most optimistic projections on conservation. I do not see, and I have not heard during the debate, how we can get through the next 25 years without nuclear energy.
Hon. Members have said that coal will play a major part. It is true that the same studies suppose that part of the gap will be closed by the additional production and use of coal, but can we continue to plunder the earth of its fossil fuels? Apart from anything else, coal, oil and gas create their own pollution. We have heard about acid rain and the ash produced by coal-fired power stations. We have heard how the combustion of fossil fuels uses up oxygen and produces carbon dioxide. We have heard about the possible greenhouse effect, with the heating up of the planet and the consequential melting of the polar ice caps. I wish that some of the enthusiasts for the coal industry would give equal attention to some of the long-term effects of the industry that they so enthusiastically champion.
Perhaps this is the main point. Fossil fuels are exhaustible. Will we pass on to future generations an earth that has been stripped of its easily accessible fossil fuels; an earth with a teaming population with a voracious appetite for energy; an earth where we have denied people the technical means to produce the energy that they require?
That is why I support nuclear energy. It behoves the advanced industrial countries to make use of that form of power so that we can leave the fossil fuels to the less developed, poorer nations. It is not that nuclear energy is a magic solution. To me, it has always represented an opportunity, to be controlled, managed and harnessed. Of course there are risks, but some are very small. The routine, normal discharges from the nuclear power industry in this country contribute much less than 1 per cent. to the normal background radiation to which every one of us is exposed every day of our lives. That is certainly a great deal less damaging to health, and in every other way, than most other forms of industrial pollution.
I was a little nervous to hear my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment suggest that every untoward radiological emission from the nuclear power industry should be reported and published. Does he really mean every untoward unauthorised emission? If so. he must include the coal industry. As we all know, there is a great deal of uranium ore in coal, which comes out by way of ash. If, during the normal operation of a coal-fired power station, the dust suppressors or effluent scrubbers are not working, presumably on a day-to-day basis there is a steep rise in the amount of radiation coming out of the power station. Is the Secretary of State going to put such a requirement on that industry? I would like a response on that from my right hon. Friend or from any other hon. Member who believes that the nuclear industry is unique in that respect.
Of course routine emissions should be further reduced, but if we are rational, we realise that it is better, if we are interested in saving lives, to concentrate on the many other sources of avoidable accidents caused by cars, aeroplanes and dams.
The nuclear industry in this country is spending millions of pounds on reducing the number of cancer deaths resulting from emissions from the industry from two deaths a year to one death. That money would be better spent on finding a cure for cancer, because hundreds of thousands of people all over the world would be saved.
My main concern—I am sure it is the main concern of the population—is not about routine emissions, but about the possibility of a major disaster. Almost the worst possible kind of disaster happened at Chernobyl. That was worse than the incident at Three Mile Island, where the Kemeny report showed that no one was killed as a result of the accident. We do not know the whole story about Chernobyl, but I hope that we do learn the facts. I would guess that the final death toll from the long-term cancer effects of the Chernobyl disaster will be far less than the 2,000 people who died at Bhopal in India. I do not think that we should close down the world's chemical industry because of the Bhopal disaster; equally, I do not think that we should seriously contemplate closing down the world's nuclear industry because of one accident in a badly designed reactor in the Soviet Union.
The hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), in a brave speech, gave certain assurances about what a future Labour Government might do. In passing, he said that none of Britain's nuclear power stations was ordered by a Conservative Government. The corollary of that is, of course, that they were all ordered by a Labour Government. It is strange that Opposition Members have so dramatically shifted their position. If we are in a mess out of which we must get, it is a mess which the Opposition have created.
It is startling that the Opposition should flatly turn down the possibility of a programme of PWR reactors before the Sizewell report has been published. The Labour party is always keen to have commissions, reports and inquiries. However, it has turned down any recommendations that the Sizewell report might make, even before the scientific evidence has been sifted and published.
Of course, there are lessons for the United Kingdom to learn. The nuclear industry has the most to gain from maximum disclosure. It is my experience that the more people know about the industry, the more willing they are to replace emotion and suspicion with a rational assessment of the risks. There is a need for clear, timely and acceptable information of a technical nature and of a more simple kind that the man in the street can understand. If that means organisational changes at Government level, so be it.
When submitting parliamentary questions about the nuclear industry, I have found that they tend to be shifted and shunted around between the Department of Energy, the Department of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. We must know who is responsible for what and who will publish the information.
The nuclear industry has the most to gain from being open and accessible. It is heartening that 180,000 people annually visit Britain's nuclear power stations and Sellafield. That is not enough. In France, 500,000 people visit nuclear power plants. As a result, it would seem that 60 per cent. of French people are in favour of their nuclear programme. Another factor may be that electricity in France is 20 per cent. cheaper than in Britain.
There are, of course, still technical, political and social hurdles to be cleared if we are to have a successful and continuing nuclear power programme. It is a paradox that although a great deal is known about the physics of radiation and the engineering aspects of radioactivity and although radiation is easy to detect and measure, the public still consider it to be mysterious.
We should not fall into the trap of leaving everything to the experts. The industry must create a partnership with the public and encourage maximum discussion. Some hon. Members have their own private reasons and interests for other ways of producing energy. Some are told what to say, and perhaps even what to think, by their trade union sponsors. But the rest of us have a duty to try to explain to the public the facts behind the industry. I endorse everything that has been said this evening about the need for maximum disclosure.
I end on a note of caution. In discussing this matter there is a danger that we will shift attention from what I consider to be the main threat to mankind—the proliferation of nuclear weapons. There is no direct correlation between a civil nuclear programme and a military nuclear programme. The fact that a country may possess a civil reactor does not enable it to produce weapons-grade plutonium. Similarly, the fact that a country does not possess a civil reactor does not. I am afraid, preclude it from obtaining enriched uranium or plutonium from a research reactor which is separate and distinct from any civil programme. That is the main danger.
We should be turning our attention to how we can encourage international inspection and increase the number of signatories to the non-proliferation treaty of 1968. Far too much concentration on the dangers of civil nuclear power leads to such facts being overlooked.
This has been a helpful debate, but we should never forget that the legacy that we must bequeath to the people is not one of an earth stripped of its fossil fuels. That would be far more dangerous than bequeathing to them the shorter term problem of the disposal of nuclear waste.
The magnitude of the disaster at Chernobyl has focused public attention on the issue of nuclear power. Therefore, it is right that the debate has ranged across the whole issue of Britain's nuclear power programme—the reprocessing of waste and every other aspect. It would not be possible to separate the issues of radioactive waste disposal from the power programme that creates that waste.
Public perception of nuclear power has been changing over the past few years. The Sizewell B inquiry and the publicity over Sellafield have heightened public awareness. The disaster at Chernobyl has further increased public fears. That has been underlined by many hon. Members on both sides of the House in what has been an important debate this evening.
Opinion polls show that increasing numbers of people oppose any further development of nuclear power, and nothing that the Government have done or said has allayed those fears.
The Secretary of State lost no time in making his position clear in an article in the Daily Telegraph on Friday 2 May. He and his colleagues have launched a great deal of criticism at the Soviet Union for its lack of openness. He said:
there would have been no disaster at Chernobyl had the Soviet Union followed the procedures of the democracies.
His predecessor, the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), described the disaster as
the failures of this furtive, secretive, over-centralised and inefficient society".
The Prime Minister joined in to emphasise Britain's openness compared with the secretive approach of the Soviet Union. Yet the self-same obsession with secrecy has dominated Britain's nuclear industry.
I can describe that attitude no better than the Financial Times did yesterday when it said that
secrecy, suppression, denial, evasion, subterfuge arrogance, and bland reassurance
have been the watchwords for the conduct of the nuclear industry in 13ritain. The reasons for that can only be, again as the Financial Times states, that the nuclear power industry is tied up with, and the by-product of, nuclear weapons.
The Secretary of State for Energy has declared that he will introduce a policy of total openness. He is reported as saying:
I desire to have no secrecy of any description, and the way to get public confidence is to make sure there is no secrecy.
He does not explain how this would be achieved other than by changing the highly technical language which the industry uses.
The undoubted links between civil and military nuclear power will make the right hon. Gentleman's task even more difficult. With Labour's policy of decommissioning Polaris and ending the Trident programme, the production of weapons grade material will be halted. The military need for secrecy will be vastly reduced and full public accountability can be achieved.
Meanwhile, will the Government take meaningful steps towards total openness by repealing the relevant provisions of the Official Secrets Act 1911? In the new spirit of international co-operation on civil nuclear power, perhaps the Secretary of State will tell the House whether he is prepared to grant full access to Euratom, the EEC's nuclear agency—access that has been under discussion since he was responsible for energy in a previous Tory Administration?
The Secretary of State has repeated several times that the accident at Chernobyl could not happen here. We know that the mechanics are different. The Magnox reactors share one design weakness which became evident at Chernobyl—there is no secondary containment to trap emissions in the event of an explosion rupturing the pressure vessel. Mr. Eddie Ryder, chief inspector of nuclear installations has said that the reactors
probably would not be licensed today.
There are also similarities between the RMBK and the American PWR. Both depend upon a rapid and regular flow of water under high pressure to prevent overheating. An accident in a similar reactor led to the incident at Three Mile Island. In that incident, children and pregnant women within a five-mile radius were evacuated and thousands more left of their own accord. What is important is that the presidential commission that investigated the accident concluded that the fundamental cause was operator error. Nothing can be done to prevent human error, and nothing can compensate for it.
Since the inception of nuclear power, there has been a succession of worldwide accidents—none of them as dramatic or serious as Chernobyl. Senator John Glenn has quoted from a classified United States document that there have been 151 significant nuclear safety incidents in the past 15 years. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) referred to this.
That statement refutes the claim made by the right hon. Member for Guildford in an article in the Sunday Express on 4 May that, all around the globe, nuclear power stations are being run without harm or pollution. The Government are resting on their laurels when they say that the British nuclear industry's safety record is second to none.
The Secretary of State should have made a statement to Parliament regarding the recent incident at Dungeness. Why, in the new spirit of openness, was that not done? I do not wish to add to public anxiety or to scaremonger, but the people wish to know about this issue. The Government's complacency begs many questions the answers to which the House and the public are entitled to know. Most disturbing is the reported weakness of the nuclear installations inspectorate.
Last September, The Times reported that there were serious staff shortages at the nuclear installations inspectorate. At the end of 1985, The Times stated that more than 30 per cent. of the inspectorate staff would be nearing retirement age, but that a recruitment drive during the previous three years had produced only just more than a dozen members of staff and that it took at least two years to train inspectors. The chief inspector at the time said that the Sizewell inquiry had absorbed 25 per cent of the inspectorate's time, leaving other work to be delayed or left undone.
The NII told the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Nuclear Installations that reviewing the safety of Britain's Magnox and AGR stations was straining staff and resources. It complained that it could not pay
the desired amount of attention to industrial safety".
We are now told that none of the inspections of the Magnox stations is complete, and that there may be delays in the safety assessment of AGRs. The Secretary of State seems to find that funny, but the public are extremely concerned about the safety of the nuclear industry. They want to know why the inspectorate has been reduced and why there are insufficient people in that industry. The bland reassurances given by an Energy Minister in the House last year are not sufficient. The House must know what steps the Government are taking to ensure that the NII is adequately staffed to meet the inspectorate's great and increasing workload.
Ministers' attempts to convince Britain that all is well with nuclear power have failed, so what arguments are left? A major plank in the Government's attempt to sell nuclear power to the British people is that of cheaper electricity, yet the Department of Energy has admitted that modern coal-fired stations are cheaper to run than Magnox reactors. Recently, we have heard a lot from the Secretary of State about the benefit' of cheap electricity to the French as a result of their nuclear programme, but the reality of the French electricity industry is somewhat different.
Many people have argued that the price France is offering the United Kingdom amounts to a loss leader in an attempt to achieve at least some return on nuclear plant that would otherwise stand idle. The French electricity industry has lost money for the past two years, and its debt has soared to 200 billion francs. That has been criticised as "excessive" by the French watchdog body, which went on to state that the industry had made its investments
in the most inappropriate manner".
Financial analysts have predicted that, because of that debt burden, the French electricity industry will be forced to increase its tariffs. So much for the long-term benefits of a massive nuclear power programme.
But even if the Secretary of State's belief that nuclear power will reduce electricity costs has some foundation, the British people now say that the benefit is not worth the risks involved. Yet the Government are not even prepared to pause and take stock of the nuclear power programme. Mr. Eddie Ryder, the chief nuclear inspector, forecast that there would be a period of reflection before further decisions were taken about the future of Britain's nuclear power programme. However, he has been proved wrong, because the Government have not taken a period of reflection. He apparently also forecast that the Government's emphasis would be on persuading the public that the risk of a serious accident was so remote that it was judged acceptable when set against the benefits of nuclear power. If that is the case, the public relations exercise is clearly not working.
The Government are so wholeheartedly committed to expanding their nuclear programme that other areas of research and development have become the poor relations. Nuclear research continues to expand, with over £300 million allocated annually from a variety of sources, compared with just £14 million for renewable, or benign, energy sources. As the Energy Committee stated in its report entitled, "Energy Research, Development and Demonstration in the United Kingdom":
when the treatment of different aspects of energy R & D is so glaringly inconsistent, it is difficult to be satisfied that a sensible balance of priorities has been arrived at.
Renewables are an investment for the future. We accept that they will form only a percentage of supply, but even the CEGB admitted in evidence to the Sizewell B inquiry that it could accept a contribution of up to 20 per cent. from a mix of renewable resources without operational problems. That is far from a "marginal" contribution. By the end of the decade, the question of renewable sources will have become a serious issue. In consequence, we may find that that will be very important.
When the Gas Bill was in Committee, we attempted to induce the Government to oblige the British Gas Corporation to take responsibility for energy conservation. Once again, their commitment to the fifth fuel proved to be shabby as they totally rejected that possibility. Equally shabby is the Government's commitment to the coal industry. We have supplies of coal to last for hundreds of years; we have the technology to ensure that coal-fired power stations are environmentally acceptable; and we have the technology to turn coal into oil and gas. Despite that, the coal industry is being run down by the Government.
We must have an energy policy based on coal, using the most up-to-date technology. Work on pressurised fluidised bed combustion must be accelerated. There must be a major programme to install desulphurisaton processes in existing coal and oil-fired power stations which, while creating a large number of jobs, would also reduce acid rain emissions dramatically.
It is clear that the Government lack the will to develop new, safe and clean ways of providing Britain with sources of energy. They also lack any coherent approach to Britain's energy needs. We believe that the country's dependence on nuclear power must be reduced, and that our future lies predominantly with the use of coal as its major source of energy and as part of a planned national energy policy.
We would ensure that full reviews were carried out of the Magnox stations and that those that had reached the end of their useful design life were decommissioned and phased out. Nuclear power cannot be halted tomorrow, so we would have a planned reduction in Britain's dependence on nuclear power. Any replacement power station capacity will be provided by constructing new coal-fired power stations, using all the latest technology. The costs involved in this must be met in order to safeguard people's welfare and the environment. We remain totally opposed to the construction of all PWR power stations, at Sizewell or anywhere else in Britain. We will not consider the introduction of the fast reactor.
Following the Chernobyl disaster, which the world has shared, there should be no question but that the Government must pause in any expansion of the nuclear power programme. As a matter of urgency, the Government must ensure that any safety reviews of Magnox stations that have been completed are published, that those still outstanding are accelerated, and that the nuclear installations inspectorate is strengthened. They must halt the production of weapons-grade material, from whatever source.
The Government should accept the recommendation of the Select Committee on the Environment for an urgent economic re-appraisal of the THORP at Sellafield, but we recognise that Sellafield will be necessary when decommissioning takes place. The Government maintain that jobs will be lost if they do not go ahead with the PWR. Manufacturing industry disagrees. The Government have the facility to construct a 900 MW coal-fired station, with potential for export demand, which would ensure that jobs were safeguarded.
The Government must end the uncertainty and the speculation about the construction of the PWR. They should call in Sir Frank Layfield and Lord Marshall and tell them that the plans to build a PWR in Britain will not go ahead. That is what the Labour party stands for, and what we advocate tonight.
I will want later to compare the speech of the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) with the opening speech made by the Opposition Front Bench spokesman, the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), because there were considerable differences between the speeches.
In the debate there have been a whole range of differing views on both sides of the House. A number of my hon. Friends who represent constituencies where the storage of nuclear waste is being considered as a possibility understandably made vigorous and lively speeches suggesting various options to the system that is currently proposed.
It is interesting that the hon. Members for Copeland, for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) and for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) have constituencies or trade unions that are closely connected with the nuclear industry. With their knowledge and experience, all three were positive in their approach to the nuclear industry—as positive as were the last Labour Government.
In fairness to the last Labour Government, although we have been criticised by the Opposition Front Bench for our failure to go ahead with any form of nuclear reactor in the last seven years, which is a perfectly reasonable criticism, we cannot make the same criticism of the last Labour Government. It was that Labour Government who first embarked upon one particular form of reactor that they later decided to abandon. They then gave the order for two further AGR power stations now in the course of construction and moving towards completion. They opened the view that we should consider carefully the possibility of a PWR, and gave the go-ahead for the major investment programme of BNFL. I must confess, therefore, that in their contribution to the nuclear programme of the country the Labour Government of that era—with the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) playing a distinguished role in it—were very positive.
One must ask whether the Labour party now uses the argument: as we are self-sufficient in energy, why bother with nuclear energy? Why was it in that period, when we were fast moving towards self-sufficiency in energy, that the Labour Government decided objectively, reasonably and obviously after careful consideration that that was the right course to pursue?
In the debate, therefore, we have seen a recognition of the deep anxiety about the events that have taken place in the Soviet Union. As one future benefit of those events, it now appears likely that the Soviet Union will move to a greater sense of international collaboration on these matters than hitherto. I am not surprised at that. In the talks that I had in Moscow with the new personalities in the Government led by Mr. Gorbachev, those new personalities were very aware that their ambitious plans for the growth of the economy of the Soviet Union much depended upon a massive growth in the energy supplies that the Soviet Union was able to produce.
Unlike the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union has the benefits of massive coal resources and of oil and gas. It is a country that one can argue is self-sufficient in energy without nuclear energy. However, the Soviet Government have objectively decided that, in the massive expansion of energy production that they want between now and the end of the century, the fastest area of production required is in nuclear energy. The Soviet Government have done this for a variety of reasons, including what they consider is the best means of taking energy to the various parts of the Soviet Union and the general efficiency of that method. They were anxious to see the know-how of the West in terms of safety, and the disposal of nuclear waste is a matter on which they wish to collaborate and towards which they wish to work.
I am pleased to say that the Soviet Union has opened its information to the International Atomic Energy Agency after the initial clampdown. The leading figures in the agency have visited the site. They communicated with me today to tell me that the Soviet Union has agreed to give the fullest possible report on the accident and all the lessons to be learnt from it. A conference will be organised by the agency—it hopes that it will take place in June—during which the Soviet Union will present all the facts of which it is aware.
The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) said that he has been in favour of the civil use of nuclear energy and considers that international collaboration is an important element, which is the view that was taken at the Tokyo summit. Eastern European countries were critical of the lack of immediate information that was available from the Soviet Union, and I hope that as a result of the incident we can substantially improve international collaboration.
Criticism has been expressed from the Opposition Front Bench about the manner in which information was provided during the potential and actual event of radiation in Britain. Anyone who considers objectively the way in which Ministers concerned with nuclear energy quickly took the monitoring action that was necessary and the publishing of that material will accept that the Government need make no apology for their action. It was right that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, with his specific responsibilities, led the Government team that was responsible for the monitoring. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has knowledge and knowhow of identifying radiation levels on land and in the sea, and it started its operations as soon as we had knowledge of the accident. The Health and Safety Executive and the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate joined in to ensure that all necessary measures were taken.
Unlike other countries, responsibilities for inspection are with a range of Departments, and we should reflect on the wisdom of this approach. It is right that environmental protection should be with the Department of the Environment, which should have responsibility for ensuring that standards are maintained. Land, sea or food pollution is a matter for the Department which has the expertise and independence to deal with the problem administratively. It is right that the Health and Safety Executive, which has considerable independence, should lay down standards for safety factors.
It was suggested by the hon. Member for Copeland, when he opened the debate on behalf of the Opposition, that as soon as the report of the Select Committee on the Environment, under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi), was published, I issued a statement condemning it. That is untrue. I refused to make any comment on the report until the Government had prepared a proper reply.
My hon. Friend and I were involved together in work on environmental matters way back in the 1960s. I have immense respect and regard for his diligence and ability in these matters. He knows that shortly after receiving his report I had discussions with him about it and listened to the constructive case that is set out in the report.
My hon. Friend set out his views on compensation for those who bear the brunt of developments of the sort that we have been discussing this evening. My hon. Friend knows from his past ministerial experience that there are complications and difficulties. When one is dealing with straight compensation matters, one finds that, although something may be unfortunate, in its judgment, for the particular household concerned, it does not have a bearing on the valuation of the property. If one considers the enormous development at Sellafield and the very large work force that is employed there—and likewise at Heathrow—the result has been an increase in property prices. NIREX has stated that it wants objectively to examine the contribution that it can make and I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Government will carefully consider any proposals that are made.
My hon. Friend also referred to the importance of adopting Rolls-Royce standards for the treatment of all forms of waste. I understand that point of view. My hon. Friend's report shows that he agrees that Rolls-Royce standards are very much a means of giving confidence to the public.
I had discussions with British Nuclear Fuels plc last week and I understand that it considers that there are ways in which it can improve considerably its performance.
Can I say—[HON. MEMBERS: "No. Give way."] That element has been absent from this Debate. Naturally we have considered the immediate effects of the incident in the Soviet Union and its impact upon public opinion. But can I say—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Anybody who studies future essential needs knows that of all forms of energy known to man, that which is most likely to be an absolute necessity in the 21st century is nuclear energy, provided that it can be safely produced and safely presented. Can I just say—[HON. MEMBERS: "No.") It is estimated that by the year 2025 the world's population will have increased from 4·7 billion to 8 billion. On any estimate of nuclear and other forms of energy requirements, if we look at available fossil fuels it appears that, if we are to keep energy supplies at today's levels, by the year 2025, taking into account all the conservation measures that can be adopted, a ninefold increase in nuclear energy worldwide will be needed.
We have to contrast the two speeches that were made from the Opposition Front Bench. The hon. Member for Copeland said that it is essential to keep available the nuclear option. However, the right hon. Member for Salford, East said that this is the time to phase out the nuclear industry in this country. The Labour party must make it clear to the country whether or not it wishes to abolish the nuclear industry in this country. If it does. I hope that the right hon. Member for Salford, East will call together the shop stewards of the nuclear industry that he brought to my Department a few months ago to complain about the lack of expansion of the nuclear industry. I hope that he will say that now that there has been an incident in the Soviet Union, he has decided to phase out 100,000 jobs in the British nuclear industry. That is the policy that the right hon. Gentleman is pursuing, in sharp contrast with those who have a deep knowledge of the nuclear industry, such as the hon. Members for Copeland and for Tottenham.
The hon. Member for Tottenham raised an important aspect about Sizewell, PWRs and fast breeder reactors—it was the quality of engineering. As we all know, his union has made a great contribution to the nuclear industry, and considers that it is an industry of the future. The engineering industry believes that if we follow the suggestion of the Labour party that no decisions are made about the nuclear industry in the foreseeable future, as anyone connected with the industry knows, its existence in this country will disappear.
The Government have correctly decided to take great care before making any decisions on a nuclear reactor. The argument that the Government have been aggressively pro-nuclear is demolished by the manner in which we set up the Sizewell inquiry. It is remarkable that with an inquiry of that quality and duration, the Opposition have decided to ignore its findings even before they are published.
It is important to recognise that, of course, the Government would like the nuclear industry to succeed. We believe that of all the forms of energy known to man, nuclear energy is likely to be the front runner in the next century. However, it can be that only if it proves to be safe and if the engineering standards applied to it are of the highest quality. It is only on that basis that any democratic Government can pursue nuclear energy. This Government, more than any post-war Government, have taken the most enormous care to give every consideration to the quality of decision taking. Therefore, we await the Sizewell inquiry report, which is expected in September. We will study what comes before the International Atomic Energy Agency as a result of what has happened in the Soviet Union. We will then carefully discuss and debate the potentiality of nuclear energy in the years to come.
I believe and hope that we can secure standards of safety and environmental quality that will make that form of energy available to mankind. I hasten to add that if we fail in that task, we must not underestimate the damage that will be done to living standards throughout the world as the fossil sources of energy decline and there is no alternative form of energy. The hon. Member for Workington was correct to recognise that, in reality, it is the developing Third world countries, with the improving living standards of people now devoid of energy, that are dependent upon the success of nuclear energy.
Trying to achieve that success, in standards of environmental quality, total safety and good engineering skills, is the objective of the Government. One of my hon. Friends pleaded that one cannot pursue support for nuclear energy, if, at that time, public opinion is not with one. That is the basis of democracy, and Governments can be defeated if public opinion is not behind them. If any Government failed to put forward the public's basic need for nuclear energy, they would be guilty of a wrongful act towards the future of western civilisation.
|Division No. 175]||[10 pm|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Foster, Derek|
|Alton, David||Foulkes, George|
|Anderson, Donald||Fraser, J. (Norwood)|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Freud, Clement|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Garrett, W. E.|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||George, Bruce|
|Ashton, Joe||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Godman, Dr Norman|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Gould, Bryan|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Gourlay, Harry|
|Barnett, Guy||Hamilton, James (M'well N)|
|Barron, Kevin||Hamilton, W. W. (Fife Central)|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Hancock, Michael|
|Bell, Stuart||Hardy, Peter|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Blair, Anthony||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Boyes, Roland||Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Home Robertson, John|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Hoyle, Douglas|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Hughes, Dr Mark (Durham)|
|Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Hughes, Roy (Newport East)|
|Bruce, Malcolm||Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)|
|Buchan, Norman||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Caborn, Richard||Janner, Hon Greville|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J.||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||John, Brynmor|
|Campbell, Ian||Johnston, Sir Russell|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||Kennedy, Charles|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil|
|Clarke, Thomas||Lambie, David|
|Clay, Robert||Lamond, James|
|Clelland, David Gordon||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Leighton, Ronald|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S)||Lewis, Terence (Worsley)|
|Cohen, Harry||Litherland, Robert|
|Coleman, Donald||Livsey, Richard|
|Conlan, Bernard||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton North)||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||McDonald, Dr Oonagh|
|Corbett, Robin||McKay, Allen (Penistone)|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||McKelvey, William|
|Craigen, J. M.||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||McNamara, Kevin|
|Cunningham, Dr John||McTaggart, Robert|
|Dalyell, Tam||Madden, Max|
|Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)||Marek, Dr John|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Deakins, Eric||Martin, Michael|
|Dewar, Donald||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Dixon, Donald||Maxton, John|
|Dobson, Frank||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Dormand, Jack||Meacher, Michael|
|Douglas, Dick||Meadowcroft, Michael|
|Dubs, Alfred||Michie, William|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Mikardo, Ian|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Eadie, Alex||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)|
|Eastham, Ken||Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)|
|Evans, John (St. Helens N)||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Ewing, Harry||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Faulds, Andrew||Nellist, David|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Flannery, Martin||O'Neill, Martin|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Forrester, John||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Park, George||Smith, C.(lsl'ton S & F'bury)|
|Parry, Robert||Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'ds E)|
|Patchett, Terry||Snape, Peter|
|Pavitt, Laurie||Soley, Clive|
|Pendry, Tom||Spearing, Nigel|
|Penhaligon, David||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Pike, Peter||Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)|
|Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)||Strang, Gavin|
|Prescott, John||Straw, Jack|
|Radice, Giles||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Randall, Stuart||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Raynsford, Nick||Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)|
|Redmond, Martin||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)||Tinn, James|
|Roberts, Allan (Bootle)||Torney, Tom|
|Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)||Wallace, James|
|Robertson, George||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)||Wareing, Robert|
|Rogers, Allan||Welsh, Michael|
|Rooker, J. W.||White, James|
|Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Rowlands, Ted||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Wilson, Gordon|
|Sheerman, Barry||Winnick, David|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon R.||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Shields, Mrs Elizabeth||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Short, Mrs H.(W'hampt'n NE)||Mr. Frank Haynes and Mr. Mark Fisher.|
|Silkin, Rt Hon J.|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Burt, Alistair|
|Alexander, Richard||Butcher, John|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Butler, Rt Hon Sir Adam|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Butterfill, John|
|Amess, David||Carlisle, John (Luton N)|
|Ancram, Michael||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Arnold, Tom||Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)|
|Ashby, David||Carttiss, Michael|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Cash, William|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||Chalker, Mrs Lynda|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Chapman, Sydney|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)||Chope, Christopher|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)||Churchill, W. S.|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)|
|Baldry, Tony||Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)|
|Batiste, Spencer||Clegg, Sir Walter|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Cockeram, Eric|
|Bellingham, Henry||Colvin, Michael|
|Bendall, Vivian||Conway, Derek|
|Benyon, William||Coombs, Simon|
|Best, Keith||Cope, John|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Cormack, Patrick|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Couchman, James|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Blackburn, John||Critchley, Julian|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Crouch, David|
|Body, Sir Richard||Currie, Mrs Edwina|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Dickens, Geoffrey|
|Bottomley, Peter||Dicks, Terry|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Dover, Den|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Dunn, Robert|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Durant, Tony|
|Bright, Graham||Dykes, Hugh|
|Brinton, Tim||Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)|
|Brittan, Rt Hon Leon||Eggar, Tim|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Evennett, David|
|Browne, John||Eyre, Sir Reginald|
|Bruinvels, Peter||Fairbairn, Nicholas|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Farr, Sir John|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.||Favell, Anthony|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Fenner, Mrs Peggy|
|Budgen, Nick||Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Fletcher, Alexander|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel|
|Forman, Nigel||Lee, John (Pendle)|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Forth, Eric||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Lester, Jim|
|Fraser, Peter (Angus East)||Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)|
|Freeman, Roger||Lightbown, David|
|Fry, Peter||Lilley, Peter|
|Gale, Roger||Lloyd, Ian (Havant)|
|Galley, Roy||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Lord, Michael|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Luce, Rt Hon Richard|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Lyell, Nicholas|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||McCrindle, Robert|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||McCurley, Mrs Anna|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Gow, Ian||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)|
|Grant, Sir Anthony||MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)|
|Greenway, Harry||Maclean, David John|
|Gregory, Conal||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Griffiths, Sir Eldon||McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)||McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)|
|Grist, Ian||McQuarrie, Albert|
|Ground, Patrick||Madel, David|
|Grylls, Michael||Major, John|
|Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)||Malins, Humfrey|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Malone, Gerald|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Maples, John|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Marland, Paul|
|Hannam, John||Marlow, Antony|
|Hargreaves, Kenneth||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Harris, David||Mates, Michael|
|Harvey, Robert||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Hawkins, C. (High Peak)||Mayhew, Sir Patrick|
|Hawkins, Sir Paul (N'folk SW)||Mellor, David|
|Hawksley, Warren||Merchant, Piers|
|Hayes, J.||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Hayhoe, Rt Hon Barney||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Hayward, Robert||Mills, Iain (Meriden)|
|Heath, Rt Hon Edward||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Mitchell, David (Hants NW)|
|Heddle, John||Moate, Roger|
|Henderson, Barry||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Hickmet, Richard||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Moore, Rt Hon John|
|Hill, James||Morris, M. (N'hampton S)|
|Hind, Kenneth||Morrison, Hon P, (Chester)|
|Hirst, Michael||Moynihan, Hon C.|
|Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)||Mudd, David|
|Holt, Richard||Neale, Gerrard|
|Hordern, Sir Peter||Needham, Richard|
|Howard, Michael||Nelson, Anthony|
|Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)||Neubert, Michael|
|Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)||Newton, Tony|
|Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N)||Norris, Steven|
|Hubbard-Miles, Peter||Onslow, Cranley|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Hunter, Andrew||Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Osborn, Sir John|
|Irving, Charles||Ottaway, Richard|
|Jackson, Robert||Page, Richard (Herts SW)|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Patten, Christopher (Bath)|
|Jones, Robert (Herts W)||Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abgdn)|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Pawsey, James|
|Kershaw, Sir Anthony||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Key, Robert||Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'field)||Pollock, Alexander|
|Knight, Greg (Derby N)||Porter, Barry|
|Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)||Portillo, Michael|
|Knowles, Michael||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Knox, David||Powley, John|
|Lang, Ian||Price, Sir David|
|Latham, Michael||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Lawler, Geoffrey||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Raffan, Keith||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Raison, Rt Hon Timothy||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Rathbone, Tim||Terlezki, Stefan|
|Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.|
|Renton, Tim||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas||Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)|
|Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Thurnham, Peter|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Robinson, Mark (N'port W)||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'eath)|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Tracey, Richard|
|Rossi, Sir Hugh||Trippier, David|
|Rost, Peter||Trotter, Neville|
|Rowe, Andrew||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Rumbold, Mrs Angela||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Ryder, Richard||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Sackville, Hon Thomas||Viggers, Peter|
|Sainsbury, Hon Timothy||Waddington, David|
|St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Walden, George|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Walker, Bill (T'side N)|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Waller, Gary|
|Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)||Walters, Dennis|
|Shersby, Michael||Ward, John|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Watson, John|
|Soames, Hon Nicholas||Watts, John|
|Speed, Keith||Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)|
|Speller, Tony||Wheeler, John|
|Spencer, Derek||Whitfield, John|
|Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)||Whitney, Raymond|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Squire, Robin||Wilkinson, John|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Stanley, Rt Hon John||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Steen, Anthony||Wolfson, Mark|
|Stern, Michael||Wood, Timothy|
|Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)||Woodcock, Michael|
|Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)||Yeo, Tim|
|Stewart, Ian (Hertf'dshire N)||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Stokes, John||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Sumberg, David||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Tapsell, Sir Peter||Mr. Carol Mather and Mr. Robert Boscawen.|
|Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Division No. 176]||[10.15 pm|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Biffen, Rt Hon John|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Biggs-Davison, Sir John|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Blackburn, John|
|Amess, David||Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Ancram, Michael||Bonsor, Sir Nicholas|
|Arnold, Tom||Bottomley, Peter|
|Ashby, David||Bottomley, Mrs Virginia|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Boyson, Dr Rhodes|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)||Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)||Brandon-Bravo, Martin|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Bright, Graham|
|Baldry, Tony||Brinton, Tim|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Brittan, Rt Hon Leon|
|Batiste, Spencer||Brooke, Hon Peter|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Browne, John|
|Bellingham, Henry||Bruinvels, Peter|
|Bendall, Vivian||Bryan, Sir Paul|
|Benyon, William||Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.|
|Best, Keith||Buck, Sir Antony|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Budgen, Nick|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Harvey, Robert|
|Burt, Alistair||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael|
|Butcher, John||Hawkins, C. (High Peak)|
|Butler, Rt Hon Sir Adam||Hawkins, Sir Paul (N'folk SW)|
|Butterfill, John||Hawksley, Warren|
|Carlisle, John (Luton N)||Hayes, J.|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hayhoe, Rt Hon Barney|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)||Hayward, Robert|
|Carttiss, Michael||Heath, Rt Hon Edward|
|Cash, William||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Heddle, John|
|Chapman, Sydney||Henderson, Barry|
|Chope, Christopher||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Churchill, W. S.||Hill, James|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hind, Kenneth|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Hirst, Michael|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Holt, Richard|
|Cockeram, Eric||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Colvin, Michael||Howard, Michael|
|Conway, Derek||Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)|
|Coombs, Simon||Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)|
|Cope, John||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Cormack, Patrick||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N)|
|Couchman, James||Hubbard-Miles, Peter|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Critchley, Julian||Hunter, Andrew|
|Crouch, David||Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Irving, Charles|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Jackson, Robert|
|Dicks, Terry||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Douglas-Hamilton. Lord J.||Jones, Robert (Herts W)|
|Dover, Den||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine|
|Dunn, Robert||Kershaw, Sir Anthony|
|Durant, Tony||Key, Robert|
|Dykes, Hugh||King, Roger (B'ham N'field)|
|Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)||Knight, Greg (Derby N)|
|Eggar, Tim||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Evennett, David||Knowles, Michael|
|Eyre, Sir Reginald||Knox, David|
|Farr, Sir John||Lang, Ian|
|Favell, Anthony||Latham, Michael|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Lawler, Geoffrey|
|Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Fletcher, Alexander||Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Lee, John (Pendle)|
|Forman, Nigel||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Lester, Jim|
|Forth, Eric||Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Lightbown, David|
|Fraser, Peter (Angus East)||Lilley, Peter|
|Freeman, Roger||Lloyd, Ian (Havant)|
|Fry, Peter||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Gale, Roger||Lord, Michael|
|Galley, Roy||Luce, Rt Hon Richard|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Lyell, Nicholas|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||McCrindle, Robert|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||McCurley, Mrs Anna|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Goodlad, Alastair||MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)|
|Gow, Ian||MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Grant, Sir Anthony||Maclean, David John|
|Greenway, Harry||McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)|
|Gregory, Conal||McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)|
|Griffiths, Sir Eldon||McQuarrie, Albert|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)||Madel, David|
|Grist, Ian||Major, John|
|Ground, Patrick||Malins, Humfrey|
|Grylls, Michael||Malone, Gerald|
|Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)||Maples, John|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Marland, Paul|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Marlow, Antony|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Hannam, John||Mates, Michael|
|Hargreaves, Kenneth||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Harris, David||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Mayhew, Sir Patrick||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Mellor, David||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Merchant, Piers||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Miller, Hal (B'grove)||Speed, Keith|
|Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Speller, Tony|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Spencer, Derek|
|Moate, Roger||Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Squire, Robin|
|Moore, Rt Hon John||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Morris, M. (N'hampton S)||Stanley, Rt Hon John|
|Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)||Steen, Anthony|
|Moynihan, Hon C.||Stern, Michael|
|Mudd, David||Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)|
|Neale, Gerrard||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Needham, Richard||Stewart, Ian (Hertf'dshire N)|
|Nelson, Anthony||Stokes, John|
|Neubert, Michael||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Newton, Tony||Sumberg, David|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Norris, Steven||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Onslow, Cranley||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.||Terlezki, Stefan|
|Osborn, Sir John||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.|
|Ottaway, Richard||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Page, Richard (Herts SW)||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Patten, Christopher (Bath)||Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)|
|Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abgdn)||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Thurnham, Peter|
|Pawsey, James||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Tracey, Richard|
|Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Trippier, David|
|Pollock, Alexander||Trotter, Neville|
|Porter, Barry||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Portillo, Michael||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Powley, John||Viggers, Peter|
|Price, Sir David||Waddington, David|
|Prior, Rt Hon James||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Walden, George|
|Raffan, Keith||Walker, Bill (T'side N)|
|Raison, Rt Hon Timothy||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Rathbone, Tim||Waller, Gary|
|Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)||Walters, Dennis|
|Renton, Tim||Ward, John|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Watson, John|
|Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas||Watts, John|
|Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm||Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)|
|Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Wheeler, John|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)||Whitfield, John|
|Robinson, Mark (N'port W)||Whitney, Raymond|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Rossi, Sir Hugh||Wilkinson, John|
|Rost, Peter||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Rowe, Andrew||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Rumbold, Mrs Angela||Wolfson, Mark|
|Ryder, Richard||Wood, Timothy|
|Sackville, Hon Thomas||Woodcock, Michael|
|Sainsbury, Hon Timothy||Yeo, Tim|
|St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Tellers for the Ayes|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)||Mr. Carol Mather and Mr. Robert Boscawen|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Bagier, Gordon A, T.|
|Alton, David||Banks, Tony (Newham NW)|
|Anderson, Donald||Barnett, Guy|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Barron, Kevin|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Beckett, Mrs Margaret|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Bell, Stuart|
|Ashton, Joe||Benn, Rt Hon Tony|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Flannery, Martin|
|Blair, Anthony||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Forrester, John|
|Boyes, Roland||Foster, Derek|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Foulkes, George|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Fraser, J. (Norwood)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Freud, Clement|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)||Garrett, W. E.|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||George, Bruce|
|Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Godman, Dr Norman|
|Bruce, Malcolm||Gould, Bryan|
|Buchan, Norman||Gourlay, Harry|
|Caborn, Richard||Hamilton, James (M'well N)|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J.||Hamilton, W. W. (Fife Central)|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||Hancock, Michael|
|Campbell, Ian||Hardy, Peter|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Canavan, Dennis||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Clarke, Thomas||Hickmet, Richard|
|Clay, Robert||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Clelland, David Gordon||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S)||Home Robertson, John|
|Cohen, Harry||Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)|
|Coleman, Donald||Hoyle, Douglas|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hughes, Dr Mark (Durham)|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton North)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||Hughes, Roy (Newport East)|
|Corbett, Robin||Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Craigen, J. M.||Janner, Hon Greville|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)|
|Cunningham, Dr John||John, Brynmor|
|Dalyell, Tam||Johnston, Sir Russell|
|Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Deakins, Eric||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Dewar, Donald||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil|
|Dixon, Donald||Lambie, David|
|Dobson, Frank||Lamond, James|
|Dormand, Jack||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Douglas, Dick||Leighton, Ronald|
|Dubs, Alfred||Lewis, Terence (Worsley)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Litherland, Robert|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||Livsey, Richard|
|Eadie, Alex||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Eastham, Ken||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Ellis, Raymond||McDonald, Dr Oonagh|
|Evans, John (St. Helens N)||McKay, Allen (Penistone)|
|Ewing, Harry||McKelvey, William|
|Faulds, Andrew||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor|
|McNamara, Kevin||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|McTaggart, Robert||Rowlands, Ted|
|Madden, Max||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Marek, Dr John||Sheerman, Barry|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Martin, Michael||Shields, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Maxton, John||Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Short, Mrs H.(W'hampt'n NE)|
|Meacher, Michael||Silkin, Rt Hon J.|
|Meadowcroft, Michael||Skinner, Dennis|
|Michie, William||Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'ds E)|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Snape, Peter|
|Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Soley, Clive|
|Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)|
|Nellist, David||Strang, Gavin|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Straw, Jack|
|O'Neill, Martin||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Park, George||Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)|
|Parry, Robert||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Patchett, Terry||Tinn, James|
|Pavitt, Laurie||Torney, Tom|
|Pendry, Tom||Wallace, James|
|Penhaligon, David||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Pike, Peter||Wareing, Robert|
|Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)||Welsh, Michael|
|Prescott, John||White, James|
|Randall, Stuart||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Raynsford, Nick||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|Redmond, Martin||Wilson, Gordon|
|Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)||Winnick, David|
|Roberts, Allan (Bootle)||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Robertson, George||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)||Mr. Frank Haynes and Mr. Mark Fisher.|
|Rooker, J. W.|
That this House welcomes the steps taken by the Government to keep the House and the public informed of the consequences for the United Kingdom of the accident at the nuclear plant at Chernobyl in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics: endorses the Government's commitment to the safety of the complete nuclear fuel cycle in the United Kingdom: and in that context approves the Government's first stage response on 2nd May to the Environment Committee's report on radioactive waste (House of Commons Paper No. 191), setting out as it does the principles against which current proposals to dispose of low-level radioactive waste can be considered.