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Nuclear Waste Disposal

Volume 447: debated on Tuesday 6 June 2006

I thank my right hon. Friend for that expansive answer. The lack of solutions on the disposal of nuclear waste has been used by opponents for as long as I can remember. He will be aware that CORWM is to publish an extensive report at the end of July. Will he ensure that the findings are published in full and that the issues raised by the report will be debated in an adult and sensible way and not for short-term politics? Some parties seem to spout off without knowing what they are talking about.

I thank my hon. Friend for his gracious thanks for my earlier answer. I make it clear that the CORWM process, which has been marked by an open and consultative approach, will continue in that vein. CORWM will publish the final report in full in due course. However, I cannot take responsibility for how other parties choose to respond to what I believe will be a substantial and significant work.

The west of Ireland is protected from being used as a nuclear dump, as Ireland is a successful nation and independent from Westminster. What will the Secretary of State do to ensure that the west coast of Scotland and, indeed, the rest of Scotland are similarly protected?

The first thing that I should make clear is that I will not indulge in ill-informed scare tactics. People in the Western Isles and the west of Scotland deserve better from some of their elected representatives. The establishment of CORWM was a joint initiative by Scottish Executive Ministers and the UK Government, and it is clear that there has been a serious and substantial attempt by both the Scottish Executive and the UK Government to address the important issue of legacy nuclear waste. In terms of the prospect of further steps being taken in the future, let us be categorically clear that planning restrictions and the treatment of nuclear waste are both devolved matters, which are appropriately dealt with by the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament.

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the chief executive of the Met Office warned yesterday that the UK’s nuclear power stations, many of which are on the coast, could be in particular danger if climate change leads to more severe storms and increased coastal flooding. Will he assure the House that we can have an adult and mature debate on what that means for the cost of dealing with nuclear waste and the cost of eventual decommissioning of existing and perhaps future nuclear power stations?

My hon. Friend makes my case that it is important that this matter is dealt with in a serious fashion. That is why we have brought together leading academics and a range of voices in the CORWM process. It is why it is important that the Scottish Executive and the UK Government have worked together effectively to access the best knowledge and learning on what is a huge challenge, not just for one part of the UK but, given the legacy of nuclear waste that has accumulated, the whole of the UK.

It would be helpful if the Secretary of State confirmed what he said earlier—that the final decision on the burial of nuclear waste in Scotland will lie with the Scottish Executive. Is that correct?

I confirm that, post devolution, both the disposal of radioactive waste and the planning that would be required in order for such a disposal site to be established lies within the list of competences of the Scottish Parliament, rather than the UK Government.

That is a helpful answer and puts into context some of the activity in the Scottish political climate at the moment. Will the Secretary of State join me in condemning those politicians who run around Scotland claiming that it will be turned into a nuclear dump, when it is the case that, whatever the final decision on new nuclear power stations, we will still have to deal with legacy nuclear waste? Those who fail to face up to that reality or who pretend otherwise are unfit to govern Scotland.

The hon. Gentleman makes clear the risk of prewritten questions in Scottish questions. I made it clear just a few seconds ago that I condemn those politicians who choose opportunistically to raise fears rather than deal with facts on this issue. I am happy to confirm that. However, in light of the rather desperate attempts by the Scottish Conservatives in recent days to find coalition partners in the Scottish Parliament, I am not very keen to join the hon. Gentleman in any invitation that is extended to me.