Power to amend legislation relating to nuclear safeguards

Part of Nuclear Safeguards Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:52 pm on 23rd January 2018.

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Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow Conservative, Taunton Deane 5:52 pm, 23rd January 2018

I am pleased to follow my hon. Friend Maggie Throup and all other colleagues who have spoken today in what I am sure everyone agrees has been a fascinating cross-party discussion. I want to contribute to debate because the Bill deals with a crucial issue that affects every single one of us and the safety of our nation. Getting the agenda and the legal framework right as we take the historic step of exiting the EU is imperative, because leaving the EU means also leaving Euratom—the European Atomic Energy Community—the body that sets the nuclear safeguards regime.

The Bill gives us the tools to ensure that an effective nuclear safeguards regime is established, enabling us to continue to meet international standards for nuclear safety, while maintaining the UK’s reputation as a responsible nuclear state. I have raised the question how we cope with leaving Euratom since the start of the discussions on EU withdrawal, always stressing that leaving the EU must not result in a weakening of our nuclear safeguards, on which we all rely and which are instantly recognisable on the global stage. I have often referred to the matter in wider speeches on the environment, because it is all related to the environment and is so important to us all.

I am confident that the Government have made it clear that future nuclear safeguards arrangements will continue to provide the quality, safety and robustness provided under Euratom and that we will continue to co-operate on standards. Our domestic regime will meet our international commitments on safeguards and nuclear non-proliferation standards. It is clear that the amendments proposed today—I listened carefully to the speeches made—would add nothing and lead only to delay and even obfuscation, especially the amendments relating to the transition period and an association with Euratom, which, as many colleagues have pointed out, simply is not possible.

The ONR, which already regulates nuclear safety and security, is the obvious route. It is also important to keep legislation relating to nuclear safeguards updated as they change on the international stage. The Bill will give the Secretary of State powers to do just that by updating existing international agreements once new agreements are reached.

Our nuclear industry is second to none on the world stage. It has a fine reputation, which we must maintain. Our standards have been a major draw in attracting investors to the nuclear industry in this country. Obviously, I am going to cite the Hinkley Point example, with its Chinese investment. One of the reasons that the Chinese want to engage with us is that we have very high standards on nuclear. That shows us off well on the wider stage and reflects well on us. Hinkley Point is the largest development site in the whole of Europe. I liken it to a James Bond film set. It is absolutely unbelievable how huge the development is. It needs to be seen to be believed. In energy terms, the power station will deliver 7% of our baseload energy, and it is low carbon, which is exactly the kind of energy that we are promoting, alongside all the other renewables. It is a clean source of energy.

Hinkley Point is not in my constituency but adjacent to it, and it has a massive knock-on effect for the people in Taunton Deane, from managers to engineers and from bus drivers to the caterers mentioned by my hon. Friend James Heappey. Ultimately, 26,000 people will be employed on the site. The industry is spawning many other jobs and creating a whole generation of nuclear businesses. My hon. Friend the Member for Erewash mentioned that she had a similar situation in her constituency with her micro-nuclear plants.

The first nuclear degree is operating partly from University Centre Somerset, which is in Taunton in my constituency. It is sponsored by EDF and the Ministry of Defence. It is critical that the industry should grow and enable all the young people who are doing this training to have a future. That is why the Bill is so important. We need the right checks and balances, so that we can go forward into a really positive future and be a world-leading industry. In mirroring Euratom, we are going to regulate civilian nuclear activity in the UK, including fuel supply, waste management—mentioned by my hon. Friend Trudy Harrison—and co-operation between nuclear states, which will be essential. I am confident that, through the ONR, we will achieve that, as well as new agreements with the IAEA.

I want briefly to touch on the subject of radioisotopes, because it has been raised with me by constituents. I welcome the cross-party work that is going on to ensure that there is no interruption in the continuity of supply of radioisotopes as we exit the EU. The Government are rightly listening on this. There seems to have been a lot of scaremongering, which is frankly not helpful. On nuclear research, the UK is a world leader in promising nuclear fusion technologies and we must maintain that lead. We must have the arrangements that the Government are negotiating, so that we can continue to participate on the world stage and attract the right nuclear brains to this country. I fully support the Bill. Nuclear safety and security are issues that deserve the utmost attention, and I am sure that the Bill will achieve its aims and set the Rolls-Royce standards mentioned by the Minister. I am optimistic that we will get the right system in place to keep us all safe.