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Hinkley Point C

Volume 614: debated on Tuesday 13 September 2016

4. When the Government plans to make a decision on the timetable for the development of Hinkley Point C. (906277)

I said on 28 July that the Government would carefully consider all the component parts of the Hinkley Point C proposed project before reaching a decision on whether to agree to the proposed contract for difference. We have been doing just that, and as the Prime Minister told the House last Wednesday, a decision will be taken this month.

On my recent summer surgery tour of my constituency, a number of constituents raised concerns about the cost to the taxpayer of the Hinkley Point C development. Barclays estimates that even if EDF delivers four years late and 25% over budget, it would still make a profit on the deal, with the deficit being picked up by ordinary people over the next 35 years. Does the Minister think that such a gratuitous public subsidy provides value for the taxpayer?

As I said to the hon. Lady in my answer, we are looking at all components of the deal and will make our decision before the end of the month. However, I think it is a responsible act on the part of the Government to consider our energy supplies for the future in the long term. I know the Scottish Government have turned their face against new nuclear. We regard it as an important part of a diverse energy mix that gives resilience to UK consumers.

Given that the Brexit vote has thrown the energy sector into further uncertainty and given that we know that energy from renewable sources will be cheaper than nuclear by the time Hinkley is completed, is it not now time for the UK Government to follow Scotland’s example, end this unreasonable love affair with nuclear energy and embrace cheaper, safer and more plentiful alternatives?

Sir Winston Churchill said that in energy, “diversity and diversity alone” was the foundation for security. I think those were wise words, and I think we are wise to have a range of energy sources now and in the future—including, of course, renewables.

May I say how strongly I support the Prime Minister’s decision on this, given that China persists in trying to hack not only state agencies but our commercial companies and has put two fingers up to the arbitration court in The Hague, which ruled that the development for military purposes of uninhabited atolls in the South China sea was unlawful? These are people with whom we should sup with a long spoon. I commend to my right hon. Friend the paper written by the Intelligence and Security Committee under the chairmanship of Sir Malcolm Rifkind three years ago.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. He will know that the commitment we have made is to look at all components of the proposed deal and to make our decision very shortly. I shall of course report back to the House. when we have done that and explain the reasons why we have taken whatever decision we have.

14. The Government are very wise to take a deep breath before committing themselves to the massive cost of Hinkley. Evidence on new technology is mounting all the time, relating in particular to fusion rather than fission, mini-reactors and battery storage. I commend the Government for considering the decision very slowly indeed. (906287)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It is right when dealing with such an important decision to make sure that a new Government look at all the components with a view to the future for our energy supply. As I say, I believe it important to benefit from the full range of technologies, including some of those that my hon. Friend has mentioned.

The right hon. Gentleman came in on Question 1, which I have not forgotten, even if he has. We will save him up for later and keep him in the microwave.

I congratulate Express Reinforcements Ltd, based in my Neath constituency, on becoming the preferred supplier for 200,000 tonnes of reinforced steel provided by Celsa Cardiff from Bylor to Hinkley Point C. I am concerned that Hinkley Point C has been hit by multiple setbacks and is on hold. Will the Secretary of State please update us on the timetable? Do we need a plan B or even a plan C?

The hon. Lady is right that across all forms of energy generation we need to upgrade our capacity for it. Doing that—the Government are determined to do so—will secure important advantages for other companies, including steel suppliers, right across the United Kingdom. We will take the decision on Hinkley before the end of the month, as the Prime Minister has said.

Notwithstanding his earlier remarks, will my right hon. Friend confirm that, as well as the proposed nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C, the other part of the package, which is a new Chinese-designed station at Bradwell-on-Sea, remains very much on the table?

The decision with Hinkley Point C is on the particular contract for difference. That is what we are reviewing, and we will take the decision when that review has been completed.

I, too, welcome the Front-Bench Members to their new positions—along with my stalker friend. After putting 25,000 highly skilled jobs at risk and jeopardising 500 much needed STEM apprenticeships; after offending the Chinese Government and risking £18 billion of investment in the nuclear industry, which is a vital part of our energy mix; and after sending shockwaves through the investment community, which now thinks that the Prime Minister does not understand the meaning of fine investment decisions, does the Secretary of State agree with those in the industry who say that the Prime Minister’s cautious approach now looks more like dithering?

I prefer the Prime Minister’s cautious approach to the approach of the hon. Gentleman, which, as far as I can see, is completely inconsistent. He criticises the Government for, quite rightly, reviewing this important decision, but at the same time he says that we should take two to three months to review the decision seriously, so there is a contradiction in his position.

That does not surprise me, however, in view of the complete absence of an energy policy during the 13 years of Labour government when we knew that nuclear power stations were going to come to the end of their lives. Those power stations were not replaced. The present Government are making decisions in a proper, serious way, and making up for the lost time during the Labour years.