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Some Opposition Members have simply been confused, but I am sure that others have been perverse. The provision that the Government have made for the making of grants, loans and guarantees relates in particular to future costs which the industry could not have been able to forsee, arising, for example, out of changes in Government policy or changes in the policy of the responsible regulator. This would be true, for instance, if a policy were introduced rapidly to speed up the process of decommissioning. The industry will certainly be expected to continue to make full and proper provision for all foreseen decommissioning, reprocessing and waste management costs. It does so at present for England and Wales at a cost of between £2 billion and £3 billion.
We have said that, while the consumer will pay, as he does now, for the benefits of diversity which nuclear-generated electricity provides, in future—the Opposition have consistently failed to understand this point—he will pay on a transparent basis and not, as now, on the basis of accounts which confuse nuclear and other fuel sources in such a way as to make them unidentifiable.
We expect—unlike the right hon. Member for Devonport—that the introduction of modern and highly efficient PWRs will lead in time to the need for special treatment for the nuclear industry falling away. It is certainly our desire that all forms of power generation should ultimately compete on the same footing. The argument that coal is being unfairly treated compared with nuclear—the theme of the speech of the hon. Member for Rother Valley—is absurd when one considers the £9 billion of taxpayers' money that has been spent in the past nine years and add to that the enormous amounts—currently running at £550 million a year—which consumers of electricity have been paying, over the odds, for British coal.