Magnox: Early Contract Terminations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:41 pm on 27th March 2017.

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Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy 3:41 pm, 27th March 2017

This morning, I informed the House that the NDA has terminated its contract with the Cavendish Fluor Partnership for the decommissioning of 12 redundant Magnox sites. The NDA ran a £6.1 billion tender process from April 2012, which resulted in a 14-year contract being awarded in September 2014 to the partnership, which is a joint venture between the British firm, Cavendish Nuclear, and Fluor Inc.

CFP started work on the estate on 1 September 2014 and there then started a consolidation process to ensure that the scope of the 2012 tender matched the actual status of decommissioning. It became clear to the NDA that there is a significant mismatch between the work that was tendered for and the actual scale of the work that is required to be carried out. The NDA board concluded that it should terminate the contract on two years’ notice. Termination is made with the agreement of CFP and is no reflection whatsoever on its performance.

Dealing safely with the UK’s nuclear legacy is fundamental and non-negotiable. Decommissioning work will continue under CFP for a further two and a half years. The NDA will establish arrangements for a replacement contracting structure to be put in place for when the current contract ends. The NDA has also settled outstanding claims against it by Energy Solutions and Bechtel in relation to the 2014 Magnox contract. The NDA was found by the High Court to have wrongly decided the outcome of the procurement process. It is clear that the 2012 tender process was deeply flawed. The NDA has agreed settlement payments with Energy Solutions of £76.5 million, plus £8.5 million of costs, and with Bechtel of $14.8 million, plus costs of about £462,000—approximately £12.5 million in total.

Those are very substantial costs, which could have risen further if the case had proceeded. Taxpayers must be able to be confident that public bodies are operating effectively and securing value for money. Where that has not been achieved, such bodies should be subject to rigorous scrutiny. I have therefore established an independent inquiry into the original procurement process and why the 2014 contract proved unsustainable. Those are separate issues, but they need to be examined thoroughly. I have asked Mr Steve Holliday, the former chief executive of National Grid plc, to lead this inquiry. It will take a cradle-to-grave approach, beginning with the NDA’s procurement and ending with the contract termination. The inquiry will set out the lessons learnt and recommend any further actions it sees fit, including any disciplinary investigations or proceedings that may be appropriate. The inquiry will report jointly to me and to the Cabinet Secretary, and his report will be available to this House and to the Select Committee.

This was a defective procurement with significant financial consequences, and I am determined that the lessons to be learned should be exposed and understood; that those responsible should be properly held to account; and that this should never happen again.