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Nuclear Power

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:27 pm on 22nd October 2002.

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Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Labour, South Thanet 9:27 pm, 22nd October 2002

I cannot, because other hon. Members want to speak and I have only a few minutes in which to make my key points.

My hon. Friend the Minister and his team have to address the following issue when they are preparing the White Paper. The reason why intervention in the marketplace is necessary is that if we rely solely on a market mechanism, we will not achieve the balanced energy supply that we need. We will be forced into consuming increasing amounts of gas and into becoming net importers of energy—in fact, we became net importers about two weeks ago. Ultimately, we will be forced to buy our energy from Scandinavia and then the countries of the former Soviet Union. That is no way to build a stable energy supply for this country. We must not only keep the nuclear option open, but force it forward.

Everyone seems to forget the health consequences of energy policy. We talk about global warming, but ignore air pollution. The United Nations estimates that 3 million people die each year as a consequence of air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels. The Minister for the Environment estimates that each year 24,000 people in this country die prematurely as a result of the burning of fossil fuels. Every year, the 25 per cent. of our energy production that is currently produced by nuclear generation saves 4,000 lives in this country. If our efforts to build a broad energy portfolio result only in our replacing the 25 per cent. nuclear production with 25 per cent. renewables, we will have made no contribution either to cutting greenhouse gas production or to reducing the huge number of people who die prematurely as a result of inhaling pollutants.

I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to think carefully when he is drawing up the White Paper. Not only must he keep the nuclear door open, but he must kick it down and make sure that we start actively to pursue a nuclear policy. That is right for our energy policy and right for the environment.