Clause 61

Part of Energy Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:15 pm on 4 March 2008.

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Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks Minister of State (Energy), Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform 6:15, 4 March 2008

Let me briefly refer to the clause and the earlier debate on companies disappearing or demerging. I want to emphasise that, if at any time, the circumstances of an associated body with obligations under the Bill changed, that would trigger a modification to the funded decommissioning programme and would need the Secretary of State’s approval. I want to emphasise that theme, which I was developing earlier.

We are making good progress, which is a relief particularly for me, as I am cast in the role of speaker, and for hon. Members, who are cast in the role of listeners. I know that some have finished before me.

Clause 61 makes it clear that, even if the operator complies with section 11 of the Nuclear Installations Act 1965, which contains an offence of contravening the restrictions on uses of a nuclear site, they may none the less commit an offence if they fail to comply with clause 43. I remind the Committee that clause 43 will prohibit the use of a nuclear site in the absence of an approved funded decommissioning programme.

Clause 43 sets out the penalty for a person who is guilty of that offence—I do not want to trigger another death-by-hanging from the hon. Member for Wealden. The penalty on summary conviction is a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, which is currently £5,000 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine, or both.

Criminal sanctions will ensure that the operator of a new nuclear power station complies with the waste and decommissioning framework in the Bill. That will enable the Secretary of State to ensure that operators meet their duty to have an approved funded decommissioning programme in place. It is important to have a criminal sanction, because without a funded decommissioning programme, the power station operator might not make adequate provision for back-end liabilities. That would create the risk of taxpayers having to assist in meeting those liabilities. Operators must take full responsibility for meeting the cost of decommissioning and waste management, and the clauses in this chapter seek to ensure that the operators of any new build do so.