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Nuclear Power

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:42 pm on 22nd October 2002.

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Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo Shadow Secretary of State (Trade and Industry) 8:42 pm, 22nd October 2002

No, I do not believe that that would be right. I do not see that it would help the current problems in any way. Whether the company is owned privately or publicly would not alter the fact that the costs of production are higher than the prices that it can receive. There is no advantage to be found in taking the business back into public ownership.

Will the Minister also clear up doubts that have surfaced recently about the Government's intentions with regard to the creation of the Liabilities Management Authority? Recent press reports have suggested that the Bill to create that authority may not appear in next month's Queen's Speech, and it would be helpful if those doubts could be set aside. If that Bill does not appear, it will raise further questions about the Government's attitude to the industry.

Looking ahead, the Opposition support the Government's target that 10 per cent. of electricity should be generated from renewable sources by 2010, although we realise that achieving that target now looks a challenging task. We support the mechanism—the renewables obligation—that the Government have chosen to achieve the target, and we are sympathetic to the suggestion in the PIU report that a further, higher target could be set in the longer term, perhaps for 2020. However, Britain will struggle to meet its climate change obligations if the portion of electricity currently generated by nuclear power is generated in future exclusively by fossil fuels. In my view, it would be folly to rule out nuclear power today. A responsible Government would want to keep that option open.

Future generating capacity will have to meet economic and environmental objectives. The environmental costs and benefits of nuclear power would have to be reflected properly in future electricity markets, and the value placed on the instruments will change as our understanding of the scale of the threat from climate change develops and our appreciation of the true cost of the nuclear legacy is refined.

We have the opportunity—but it is only brief—to take advantage of a lull in the development of new non-renewable generating capacity to improve our knowledge and to develop policy instruments that will reflect those costs and benefits fairly in a free market. A future Conservative Government would not take a decision to replace nuclear with nuclear; nor would they rule out new nuclear-generated electricity if, with the legacy costs provided for and the associated risk accounted for, it proved to be the most economic way of continuing to meet the global requirement of addressing climate change.