Agreements required before withdrawal

Part of Nuclear Safeguards Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:45 pm on 8th May 2018.

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Photo of John Woodcock John Woodcock Independent, Barrow and Furness 7:45 pm, 8th May 2018

I rise to speak in favour of Lords amendment 3.

It is a pleasure, as ever, to follow Trudy Harrison. She spoke powerfully about the contribution of civil nuclear power to our local economy. As she knows full well, every day several hundred people from my constituency go up that basket-case road and on that awful coastal rail line to Sellafield. I hope the Minister was not taken the long way around, and so avoided that awful bit of the A595 and that dreadful bit of the Cumbria coastline. Those routes are truly appalling, and we need his and his Department’s help in trying to unlock our dreadful logjam with the Department for Transport.

Before I reach the substance of my brief remarks, I would like to say how nice it is to hear that the husband of the hon. Member for Copeland is in the Gallery and that she has brought him to hear her speak on Lords amendment 3 to the Nuclear Safeguards Bill for his birthday. That shows, despite all the rumours to the contrary, people from Millom really know how to have a good time. [Laughter.] I really should not say that, given the boundaries may expand and I might end up asking for the votes of the people of Millom at the next election.

In this place and elsewhere, we often end up getting cross with the wrong people. I have a great deal of sympathy for the Minister because, as has been talked about at length in the Chamber today, he has listened. If we were to tally the people who are broadly on the right side of this debate, he would be one of them. The people we should be cross with—those who made the wrongheaded, deeply Europhobic decision to exit Euratom at the time of our leaving the European Union—are not here. We still do not accept the legal advice that he quotes. To my knowledge—he could set us straight either way—even when the Government are talking about associate Euratom status, or whatever is put in place, they will still not accept the jurisdiction of the European Court in those decisions, although I believe they have already conceded this in other areas, such as civil aviation.

The hon. Member for Copeland spoke well about the importance and power of the civil nuclear industry. She posited this Bill as essential to it, and in one case it is, but let us not forget that the Bill is necessary only because of that wrongheaded decision to leave Euratom, which, even at this late stage, could still be unpicked. Surely this is just common sense. The Lords considered these amendments at great length, and I had the privilege of reading back the speech of my predecessor, Lord Hutton of Furness, who was saying how catastrophic this would be not only for the many, many thousands of jobs currently in Sellafield and for the up to 18,000 jobs that could come through as part of the NuGen power station in Moorside, but for our whole energy security framework. In the words of Lord Hutton, it is not right for us to be playing fast and loose with this.

I hope that, even at this late stage, the Minister will reconsider the opposition to the well-put proposal from the Lords. Ultimately, however, there is still time for the Government to make this decision and say, “Forget this, we don’t have to pursue associate membership. We don’t have to enact all of this scrabble to get new nuclear inspectors in place.” He may tell me if I am wrong about this, but if we have Euratom status, will these inspectors that we are recruiting be needed? We do not have to go through with this process if the Government swallow their collective pride and admit they were wrong to put us on the path to leaving Euratom in the first place.