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Nuclear Power

Volume 541: debated on Thursday 8 March 2012

The timing of investment decisions in new nuclear is a commercial matter. The Government are encouraging investment in new nuclear through a range of actions, including its proposals on electricity market reform. The Government have also committed to working with relevant developers to enable early investment decisions to progress to timetable, including those required ahead of electricity market reform implementation.

I thank the Secretary of State for that tortuous and absolutely uninformed answer. As secretary of the nuclear industry all-party group, I strongly support this industry, but the problem is that progress has been stalled for some time as it would appear that there has been not much talking and no action. The Government have to do more, because we are seeing the resources in this industry and the commitments to investment and technology going elsewhere and not coming to the UK as we hoped when we started to think sensibly about using this very low-carbon source of energy.

I have to say that I am extremely surprised by what the hon. Gentleman has said, given the Labour party’s record on this issue, as it dithered and delayed for all its time in office. I do not recognise the situation he describes. Three consortia are putting forward proposals for 16 GW of new nuclear. Let me tell the hon. Gentleman that people are investing serious money in this industry and that we are making real progress.

May I welcome my right hon. Friend to his new role as Secretary of State? How confident is he that Britain will possess the world-class skills necessary to create a thriving UK nuclear industry?

I am very confident. When I joined the Prime Minister for the Anglo-French summit in Paris recently, we were signatory to 12 commercial agreements, which included agreements with further education colleges that will be helping with that supply chain. However, it is not only FE colleges that will be involved, as there are supply chain improvements for training British employees in this new industry all over the country.

Apart from the wider policy issues arising from the Government’s attempting to skew investment towards nuclear through the carbon price floor, has the Secretary of State been able to consider the particularly adverse implications in the context of investment for energy in Northern Ireland, given the serious implications stemming from the single electricity market there.

I have to disagree with the hon. Gentleman. The carbon price floor is important if we want to move to a low-carbon future, to which I am completely committed. We understand the impact of the carbon price floor on energy-intensive industries. The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Charles Hendry) is talking with his colleagues in Northern Ireland to try to mitigate those issues.

23. Clearly, Labour Members forget that they dillied and dallied on nuclear power for 13 years. Following the UK-French summit, what action is my right hon. Friend taking to accelerate putting base load nuclear electricity into our grid, which is of course the cleanest form of energy we can have? (98681)

I am continuing the policies set out by my predecessor, who gave strong support for that. I have to tell my hon. Friend that when I was reading my brief on this issue, I had only one worry: the design of many of these new nuclear reactors is called European pressurised reactors, and I know that Europe can create pressures and get reactions in this House—but I hope that on this occasion, we can unite.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the concern that if Areva were to win the contract to build the reactor at Wylfa, the supply chain work may not be likely to go to UK companies? Given the comments in the Business Secretary’s confidential letter to the Prime Minister, which received some publicity earlier this week, what do the Government intend to do to maximise the opportunities for UK firms in the supply chain by encouraging contractors to buy where they build?

The Government have been focusing on this with great intensity from the Prime Minister down. Indeed, when we held discussions with our French colleagues and EDF, we made it clear that we expected there to be British involvement in the supply chain, and that is beginning to happen. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the many agreements that were signed in Paris, including a ground-breaking £400 million deal on nuclear projects between Rolls-Royce and Areva.