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Nuclear Power

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:46 pm on 22nd October 2002.

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Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell Shadow Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 9:46 pm, 22nd October 2002

The debate has been lively and interactive. There are many points about which I wish to speak, but it is simply not possible to do so.

After six and a half years, we do not have a Government energy policy, and the payment of #650 million to one company constitutes another contradictory bombshell. Other companies are in the queue, holding out their begging bowls.

The Minister produced some good, knockabout stuff, which I enjoyed. I suggest that he speak to my hon. Friend Dr. Pugh, who is desperate for an offshore wind project near his constituency; he has been denied one by the Ministry of Defence.

British Energy is 20 per cent. above the market price. If Conservative Members believe that a 20 per cent. price premium should be paid to keep the company afloat, good luck to them.

On security, more than 20 per cent. capacity above maximum peak demand is available. On diversity, my hon. Friend Dr. Cable referred to the necessary portfolio of technologies. On safety, I point out that a series of nuclear plants have been successfully closed down in good order in the past 10 years. There is no problem about closing down the remainder.

It is important to keep the environmental impact of our energy policy in focus. My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham made our position clear. If anyone wants more detail, I say for the third time in the Chamber, XPlease buy my book." It deals with the matter in depth.

The #650 million has been wasted. The Energy Saving Trust made it clear that if the money was invested in achieving the 20 per cent. improvement in energy efficiency in the domestic market, we could save the amount of energy that such plants produce.

The Energy Saving Trust has a budget of #28 million rather than #650 million. Much more could and should be done. I tell those people who claim to be in favour of both nuclear and renewable energy that there is a competition for resources in this country. The Government must decide whether to pump the limited money into a failed nuclear giant, renewables or energy efficiency and conservation. It is competition for resources that this argument is blowing to smithereens; this is not about pro and anti-nuclear arguments. The Government have so far failed to explain how high a price they are prepared to pay to keep British Energy alive. How will they be able to justify refusing bids from other firms and other technologies if they have rescued British Energy?

We had 20 minutes of knockabout from the Minister, followed by 10 minutes of evasion and three minutes of departmental brief, but we are still no clearer about where the Government stand on these matters. What is the Government's long-term energy policy?