Nuclear Industry

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24 March 1993.

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Photo of John McAllion John McAllion , Dundee East 12:00, 24 March 1993

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to meet environmental groups in the near future to discuss the impact on the environment of the nuclear industry in the United Kingdom.

Photo of John McAllion John McAllion , Dundee East

Is the Minister aware that the President of the Board of Trade once described Magnox nuclear power stations as old and unsafe? Is he also aware that the nuclear installations inspectorate has identified serious safety problems in five Magnox stations and that there is therefore a risk of a serious accident? Will he explain to the House why he has allowed Nuclear Electric to continue to operate those stations far beyond their design life and why, in view of the serious safety problems, he has not ordered their immediate closure?

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister (Department of Environment) (Environment and Countryside)

I am also aware that we have the toughest regulatory framework in the world for our whole nuclear industry, which operates only if the independent inspectorate believes that it is safe for it to do so.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale , Colchester South and Maldon

Does my hon. Friend agree that nuclear power stations are the most environmentally friendly means of generating electricity and are responsible for producing virtually no greenhouse gases? Does he further agree that early closure of the Magnox nuclear power stations, such as Bradwell in my constituency, would make it more difficult for us to meet the targets set by the Rio convention?

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister (Department of Environment) (Environment and Countryside)

My hon. Friend is right. The nuclear power industry makes no contribution to our CO2 and greenhouse gas problems—[HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish!"] The authentic voice of the Labour party is emerging—it opposes nuclear power. Labour Members should talk to one or two of their hon. Friends, especially the shadow Foreign Secretary. He may put them right.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Is the Minister aware that his answer to the question reveals that the Government have no plans to discuss the White Paper after its production tomorrow until it comes to the House for a vote next week? That shows that the White Paper is meant to be a general fiddle, as well as a quick fix. The implications for the environment, energy use, employment and the economy are meant to be obscured, as the Government make a dash for safety and buy the votes of their Back Benchers. When we are asked to consider the future of the coal industry, we shall not even have the chance to consider the finances of the nuclear industry. Is not that madness, as well as a fiddle?

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

So why did you vote for the Government?

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister (Department of Environment) (Environment and Countryside)

Far be it from me to suggest that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) may have made a valid point, too. Perhaps the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) should concentrate more on the facts, instead of preparing sound bites for question time.