Leaving the EU: Civil Nuclear Industry

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th November 2017.

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Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat, Bath 12:00 am, 7th November 2017

What assessment he has made of the effect of the UK leaving the EU on the civil nuclear industry.

Photo of Richard Harrington Richard Harrington Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

The Government have made clear their commitment to the continuing success of the nuclear sector, including nuclear research, in this country. We are aiming for a maximum level of continuity with the current arrangements. My Department has held discussions with the sector to ensure we understand and address its concerns.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat, Bath

Does the Minister agree that the uncertainties over leaving the EU, as well as the falling prices of solar energy and the timescale for delivering the projects, will make nuclear energy projects such as Hinkley Point deliver very little value for money?

Photo of Richard Harrington Richard Harrington Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I very much disagree with the hon. Lady’s assessment. The Government’s policy is to go for a mix of different types of energy, of which nuclear power is firmly and clearly one, as are renewables and all the others.

Photo of John Stevenson John Stevenson Conservative, Carlisle

As the Minister knows, the nuclear industry is extremely important to Cumbria. Does he agree that leaving the EU has its issues, but that it is far more important to ensure that we have a nuclear sector deal as part of the industrial strategy, which will mean real investment and growth in the sector?

Photo of Richard Harrington Richard Harrington Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I agree with my hon. Friend and I commend him for all his work to support the nuclear industry. We are very well aware of the nuclear sector deal. I met leaders of the industry last week, as I do repeatedly, to ensure that their sector deal is important and will be relevant to carrying the industry forward for a long time in the future.

Photo of Layla Moran Layla Moran Liberal Democrat, Oxford West and Abingdon

The civil nuclear industry is getting increasingly twitchy about Euratom transition arrangements. Will the Minister today clarify whether Euratom membership can continue during the transition period and, if not, will he support the cross-party amendment 300 to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which would protect the civil nuclear industry from a cliff-edge Brexit?

Photo of Richard Harrington Richard Harrington Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

The hon. Lady will be aware that these matters are being discussed in the Bill Committee. The Government intend to build a consensual view to ratify the problem. I know she has a keen constituency interest. The Government are aware of all the issues. It is our intention to have the closest possible relationship with members of Euratom.

Photo of Mark Pawsey Mark Pawsey Conservative, Rugby

It is very important that we achieve an agreement with the EU that enables us to retain as many of the benefits of Euratom as possible. Will the Minister say something about the future of small modular reactors in the UK?

Photo of Richard Harrington Richard Harrington Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. The Department is looking closely at small nuclear reactors. We have had presentations from many different companies and entities involved in developing this technology. We hope this will be brought to a conclusion very quickly. I commend him. I visited his constituency to see the research work going on there. We are very supportive of it.

Photo of John Woodcock John Woodcock Labour/Co-operative, Barrow and Furness

Exiting the EU is introducing an added complication into the efforts to rescue the Moorside deal, with all the jobs and security it would bring. Are the Government open to the idea of offering a stake in the Moorside project if the conditions with a particular buyer are right?

Photo of Richard Harrington Richard Harrington Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I would make two points to the hon. Gentleman, who is also a worthy champion of the nuclear industry: the Moorside arrangement is a private commercial matter for Toshiba; and in my view what is happening with Euratom and the EU is not really relevant here.