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Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 2nd February 2012.

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Photo of Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lords Spokesperson (Attorney General's Office), Lords Spokesperson (Wales Office), The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Scotland Office) 4:45 pm, 2nd February 2012

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, for introducing this issue. I take the point he made that the pegs on which he hangs it are perhaps not details that he wishes to address. Rather he wishes to open up the wider issue of energy policy and, more specifically, nuclear energy policy with regard to the devolution settlement.

That said, it is important to note that decommissioning gives rise to important issues regarding substantial amounts of nuclear waste. We do well to remember that decommissioning the civil nuclear legacy and managing the radioactive waste produced as a result is a joint project across the UK, and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority reports to both Scottish and UK Ministers, although it is funded centrally by the UK Government through DECC. There have been good working relationships on that point.

The noble Lord, Lord Sewel, raised the more general question about energy policy. The balance that has been struck, with the United Kingdom in the driving seat with regard to UK energy policy, is one that we endorse. The Calman commission received a number of representations on these issues and indicated that it believed that a UK-wide approach is essential to ensure a continuing national supply, that international targets and obligations are met and that consumers have access to a competitive and modern energy market. It concluded that the current arrangements remain appropriate and provide a balance between powers appropriately exercised at devolved and reserved levels, although it encouraged proper engagement between the two Governments.

The UK nuclear energy policy has been set out in the national policy statement EN6, which was ratified in 2011. I am grateful that my noble friend the Minister at DECC is in his place. He will, no doubt, correct me if I get any of this wrong. This national policy statement provides for enough sites across the United Kingdom for a significant build programme going forward for new nuclear sites. I do not know the detail of the extension times for currently operational nuclear power stations. Scotland currently has five nuclear power stations, three of which are in the process of being decommissioned-Hunterston A, Dounreay and Chapelcross-and two are still operational-Hunterston B and Torness. There is also an MoD site, as my noble friend Lord Maclennan will know, the Vulcan Naval Reactor Test Establishment adjacent to Dounreay, which ran a test reactor for the nuclear submarine programme. I will get confirmation to the noble Lord, Lord Browne, about the remaining lifetime of those plants.

I think it is fair to say that the noble Lord perceives that there may be some inconsistency in the view taken by the Scottish Government with regard to extension as opposed to their stated view with regard to new build.