HC Deb 11 May 1987 vol 116 cc81-124 7.23 pm
The Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Peter Walker)

I beg to move, That this House, recognising the advantages to the country of having a diversity of energy supply, including coal, gas, oil and nuclear power, welcomes the Secretary of State for Energy's decision to give consent to the construction of the Sizewell B PWR and thus recognises the important contribution that nuclear energy is making and will continue to make to the provision of cheap and efficient electricity and the strength of the British economy; also recognises that the industry is a major source of employment; and deplores the policies of the Opposition parties that would sacrifice that employment.

Mr. Speaker

I have selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Walker

This is an important debate. In fact, one could argue that it is a historic debate. We on this side of the House have been anxious to hold it, but since the announcement of the Sizewell B decision, one of the most remarkable factors has been the seeming lack of enthusiasm by the Opposition to hold such a debate and discussion. Their passive approach to this problem has been remarkable. Not one Opposition spokesman took part in a debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill. Recently a Committee decided to provide £500 million for British Nuclear Fuels but nobody, either from the Labour party or the alliance, even turned up for the Committee sittings. We have been under no pressure to hold this debate. It was only because we were eager that there should be a debate that time is being provided this evening for it.

The same is true of the protests of our countrymen. Before publishing the Sizewell report, I warned my Department that it must be ready to handle the substantial volume of post that was likely to follow its publication. I announced later that we received fewer than 300 letters. I presumed that people were waiting for my decision before they wrote, but since I made my decision on the Sizewell report, we have received fewer than 100 letters. Therefore, the great campaign that was suggested by the Opposition parties has not taken place.

I want to probe the reasons and to suggest to the House that it is vital for this country always to have available a diverse energy supply, if that is at all possible. We are very lucky, in that we have very good reserves of coal, oil and gas. There is a great deal of activity over energy efficiency and renewable energy, and there is a very substantial nuclear industry.

During the last six years, this Government's policy has been to ensure that all those options remain active and are advanced. The productivity figures now being reached by the coal industry were not dreamt of by the last Labour Government, and, despite the drop in the international price of oil, there has been more exploration for gas and oil reserves in the North sea during the last two years than at any time since exploration started. I welcome the fact that the alliance and the Labour party are now beginning to take an interest in energy efficiency. When the Labour Government were in power—I include the period of the Lib-Lab pact—there was quite remarkable inactivity over energy efficiency.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)

Will the Secretary of State tell the House by how much energy consumption was reduced in the last year for which figures are available when the campaign was running?

Mr. Walker

During that year production was rising substantially, the economy was improving and there is plenty of evidence that hundreds of millions of pounds were saved through energy efficiency. I repeat that during the period of the Lib-Lab pact nothing was done about energy efficiency. Their policy was deplorable.

As for renewables, the anti-nuclear lobby—in this connection I include the Opposition's motion—says that the Government should do more about them. While this Government have been in power we have spent £100 million on research into the various forms of renewable energy. Throughout the four years of the Labour Government, and the Lib-Lab pact, the total was not £100 million but £7 million. That shows their total lack of interest in both energy efficiency and renewables.

The nuclear industry has been developing fast worldwide during the last 30 years. In 1956, we embarked for the first time, on the application of nuclear energy for civil purposes. It is remarkable that in 1986 the amount of electricity that was generated worldwide by the nuclear industry equalled the whole of the amount of electricity that was generated in 1956. That shows the enormous role that the nuclear industry has played in the development of energy policies worldwide. The pace worldwide is not declining; it is accelerating. Both the alliance and the Labour party will have to come to terms with the fact that while every one of our major competitors is going down the nuclear route at an accelerating pace they have decided to destroy the nuclear industry in this country.

France has under construction more nuclear reactors than the entire volume of existing British nuclear reactors. Germany is to complete four new nuclear reactors by 1990. Japan has decided to increase its nuclear capacity by 40 per cent. by 1995, and it has decided to embark on a trillion dollar investment programme after that. The United States has completed 13 new nuclear power stations in the past two years and a further 11 are under construction. That dwarfs any programme in this country. The Soviet Union——

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, East)

Is it not a fact that the United States has not ordered a new nuclear power station for 10 years?

Mr. Walker

I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman has always accepted that sort of Greenpeace propaganda. Is he really suggesting that the 13 nuclear power stations to be completed in the next two years were all started 10 years ago?

Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)

They were ordered.

Mr. Walker

Nonsense. Over a period of five years the Americans will have built and completed 20 to 30 new nuclear power stations. They have a massive nuclear industry.

The Soviet Union has made two important announcements since Chernobyl: first, that it intends to treble its nuclear power programme by 1995 and, secondly, that the programme will involve not Chernobyl-style reactors but pressurised water reactors, because of the safety factors involved. As well as America, Germany, France and the Soviet Union, many Third world countries. including India, Pakistan and many South American countries, recognise that nuclear power represents the one available untapped energy supply which can be used to develop their economies.

Opposition Members have made a great contribution to the nuclear industry. Labour Governments have given consents and approvals for power stations and until now the Labour party has always supported the nuclear industry. Its present policy is a complete reverse of that. This will be the first general election in which the Labour party has stood on a platform of destroying the nuclear industry. Opposition Members do not concentrate on the need for improving international safety or on the need for better collaboration or on anything other than an energy policy that will eradicate our nuclear industry over the 20 years of the decline of our North sea oil supplies. Having got rid of the oil and gas industry—its reserves will have been used up—the Labour party will make this country totally dependent upon the National Union of Mineworkers. [Interruption]. That is what it is all about. Perhaps we might recall that it was a motion proposed by Arthur Scargill at the last Labour conference that obtained a substantial majority. It said that a Labour Government would eradicate the nuclear industry during the lifetime of a Parliament.

Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)


Mr. Walker

That motion was passed by a large majority. I hope that the country will realise that such a policy would massively damage our energy supplies and massively increase their price.

Mr. Barron

What the Secretary of State said about the Labour party eradicating the nuclear industry in five years—in the lifetime of a Parliament—is not true and I ask him to withdraw it.

Mr. Walker

I repeat that at the last Labour party conference a motion tabled by Arthur Scargill to abolish the nuclear industry in the lifetime of a Parliament was passed by a very large majority. Would the hon. Gentleman like to deny that?

Mr. Barron

The policy of the Labour party, formulated at the last conference, was to get rid of nuclear power stations not in five. years but at the end of their own lifetime. The right hon. Gentleman knows that quite well.

Mr. Walker

I know that there were two motions. The motion to which the hon. Gentleman referred was carried but the one that would have made the policy favoured by Mr. Scargill mandatory on the Labour party was lost by a handful of votes. If that handful of votes go in favour at the next conference, that will be Labour party policy.

The nuclear industry has considerable advantages to us. It has the national advantage of being a substantial industry and the industry now has £2.5 billion-worth of export orders. It creates jobs for about 150,000 people, and a further 800,000 people in intensive energy-using industries need the safe, secure and cheap supply of energy that the nuclear industry provides. All those jobs are put in great jeopardy by the Labour party's change of policy. The present policy does not recognise the international potential of the industry. It would be disastrous to eradicate that international potential.

The Labour party is endeavouring to conceal that fact. The right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) has been going to power stations round the country telling the employees that it will not happen quickly and that their death will be a slow one, so they need not worry in the immediate future. The hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) has one policy for his constituency—where BNFL operates—and another for the shadow Cabinet. He tells his constituents that no Government would be foolish enough to damage such a great industry and that no country interested in its balance of payments would eradicate the enormous foreign earnings of an organisation such as BNFL. However, the very motion that became Labour party policy states categorically that there will be no further imports of nuclear waste for reprocessing. But anyone who knows anything of BNFL knows that its whole investment programme is related to that and that its future expansion depends on it. Therefore, what the Labour party is really saying to those who work for BNFL is that they have a limited future and one of deep and swift decline and that they cannot contribute to the country's balance of paymants as they would under a Conservative Government. Labour Members pretend that they will continue with BNFL for a while only because of the position of one member of their shadow Cabinet.

The alliance nuclear policy is a perfectly typical alliance policy. The Liberal party has been passionately opposed to nuclear energy for a long time. Anybody who has studied the proceedings of the last Liberal party conference knows that the favoured policy was to get rid of the nuclear industry as quickly as possible. However, the Social Democratic party was not quite so keen. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"] First, the leader of the Social Democratic party was once a member of a Labour Government who strongly supported the nuclear industry and, secondly, it so happens that a member of the SDP represents Dounreay. The SDP would therefore experience some embarrassment if it went into an election campaign saying "Let's get rid of nuclear power." On the one hand here was Liberal party policy, on the other there was SDP policy, and they were brought together to form the great alliance policy. What is that? In the end, the alliance said, "We shall do nothing. We shall consider it and we shall continue to consider it until after the election. Where we have candidates in areas in which the nuclear industry operates, we shall say that it will probably be all right. Where we have a good green vote, we shall probably say that we shall get rid of it." That is a typical, irresponsible alliance policy, which needs to be exposed vigorously in the campaign.

We examined PWRs with great care before embarking upon the programme. Indeed, we held the biggest inquiry that has ever taken place. We have been the motivators in achieving greater international collaboration on safety. The industry, most of which is based in the north-east and north-west of England and in Scotland, now rejoices that we are moving towards the day when we can use our scientific and technical skills in this vital industry. The international application of those skills and the opportunities in worldwide business will be on an enormous scale. During the lifetime of this Government, we have radically improved the coal industry and our oil and gas industries offshore have become the envy of the world. On nuclear energy, we have had to delay to make the fullest possible inquiry. We now give the go-ahead to create a fine, safe and excellent industry which, the electorate must be aware, the Opposition parties are out to destroy.

7.39 pm
Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, East)

We have heard a typical speech by the Secretary of State putting forward the case that he was not able to put forward when we had a debate on Sizewell. The right hon. Gentleman catalogued what had and what had not been done by the Opposition, but he may remember that we made our position clear in the Sizewell debate. I should like to underline and to reiterate what I said on the Labour party's behalf: we will not proceed with the PWR at Sizewell and a future Labour Government would cancel this order. That is the Labour party's position, and I should like to explain in some detail our reasons for taking that decision.

The design of the PWR is being sold to this country by the American company, Westinghouse. Since 1973, a large number of nuclear stations have been cancelled in the United States, 37 of them Westinghouse PWR stations. The Secretary of State went into some detail on the number of nuclear stations coming on stream in the United States, but not one nuclear station has been ordered in the United States in the past 10 years. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Japanese, but Japan, Sweden, Austria, Italy and many other countries are examining their position.

Mr. Peter Walker

I must correct this myth about the United States. I shall give the exact figures. In the United States, over the past three years, 18 new nuclear power stations have been completed; over the past two years, 12 have been completed; and, by 1995, another 13 will have been completed. The construction on the majority of those power stations started after Three Mile Island. That programme dwarfs our programme.

Mr. Orme

The Secretary of State has not refuted the fact that I gave—that not one new order has been placed in the United States in the past 10 years. The attitude of the American electricity utilities to the PWR was summed up by Robert Scherer, the pro-nuclear power chairman of Georgia Power, as reported in Time magazine. He said: No utility executive in this country would consider ordering one today"— that is, a Westinghouse PWR. Westinghouse has moved on and is now, in collaboration with a Japanese company, developing another PWR design. We are asked to approve already out-dated technology.

In 1979, the then Conservative Secretary of State for Energy announced a large and rapid expansion of nuclear power. This was, of course, an integral part of the Conservative Government's political programme. However, that has not proved possible. The present Secretary of State for Energy is the first since then to have given consent to the construction of new nuclear capacity. He has clearly explained his hostility to coal as opposed to nuclear, and we take note of that. The decision to construct new nuclear capacity is based, we are told, on cost and need. I did not hear the Secretary of State say anything about cost this evening. Neither of those criteria stands up to scrutiny and we must therefore assume that this decision remains integral to the broader political programme of the Conservatives.

The standards used in determining the cost of nuclear power have always been dubious. The standards used in the inquiry into the construction of a PWR at Sizewell are flawed in a number of ways. First, there are the capital costs. We cannot ignore the record of construction of nuclear power stations in this country. Not a single nuclear power station has been built to cost or has performed to specification. Construction time overruns have ranged from 61 per cent. to 254 per cent. In the United States, the average construction time for a Westinghouse PWR has been 127.6 months compared with the CEGB's 90-month estimate—a 40 per cent. difference. The CEGB claims that the experience of the AGRs is not comparable, yet the construction of the PWR in this country is untried and unproved. The capital costs of Sizewell B have soared since the inquiry closed. The central estimate taken by Layfield was £1.18 billion. The CEGB's latest estimate is £65 million more than that—before a single brick has been laid. Previous experience can lead us to construe only that those costs will continue to escalate.

Secondly, Sir Frank Layfield rejected the CEGB's evidence on competing fuel costs. Two projections which he accepted were those of the National Coal Board on coal prices and the cost impact analysis of the independent company, Cambridge Energy Research Ltd. That evidence was heard by the inspector—note this—in 1983, arid prepared even earlier. Time has moved on and the situation has changed dramatically. Sir Frank Layfield was not able to take those changes into account because of the inquiry's length—I do not criticise that—but the Secretary of State has an obligation to do so. British Coal's estimate on coal prices has almost halved since its 1983 forecast. The fact that fossil fuel prices are now much lower than the central estimates used by Layfield has a crucial impact on the economics of Sizewell.

The Cambridge group, which provided Layfield's committee with an independent model—a model which, he says, was not criticised at the time—has now published a report which takes into account changes since 1983. The Cambridge group said: the results of our analysis do not correspond with the general economic conclusions drawn from the Sizewell report …it would appear that the probability of coal being able to compete on economic grounds with nuclear power is substantially above the 2.5 per cent. indicated in the Sizewell Report. The group's report highlighted the economic risks associated with pursuing the nuclear option, particularly in relation to capital cost overruns, exchange rate fluctuations and upward pressure on discount rates. It reached the following conclusion: Do the results of the study confirm the view often held by senior planners in both government and utilities that nuclear power will inevitably offer significant economic advantages over coal? We believe the answer is 'no'". We heard not a word tonight from the Secretary of State about the future costs of the PWR. As the analysis by the Cambridge group played such a vital role in the conclusions reached in the Layfield report, is not its up-to-date analysis of the same value to the Government. or is the Secretary of State prepared to accept independent evidence only when it matches the Government's prejudices?

Thirdly, the Layfield report takes no account of the national income, of other resources or of the "fifth fuel"—energy conservation. We have heard a lot tonight about energy conservation. The Labour party has campaigned vigorously on the issue of conservation and will continue to do so. We look at what has been done by the Government. Much more can and will be done by a Labour Government. Layfield suggested that the Government might consider the effects of the construction of Sizewell B and other PWRs on employment in the coal industry. If that has been done, it certainly has not been made public. The Secretary of State should make public any such review. The exclusion of wider economic considerations, such as job losses and the impact on trade, is yet a further reason to reject the inspector's conclusions.

None of the evidence suggests that the construction of Sizewell will lead to lower electricity bills for the consumer. On the contrary, the latest estimate suggests that it would add to them. The Secretary of State has provided us with no real justification for his decision in the light of those changes and has failed to convince us that, given that the assumption of economic benefits has been destroyed, there is any need for the construction of Sizewell B.

The demand for capacity could be satisfied in other ways, through new coal-fired stations or through the refurbishment of existing ones. To provide alternatives for the future there should be real commitment to developing combined heat and power and renewable sources of energy.

Sir Frank Ladyfield was less than reassuring about safety. After frequent criticisms of the nuclear installations inspectorate and the CEGB on specific safety considerations he concluded that such matters could be left in their hands. He asserted that a catastrophic accident would almost certainly not occur. How reminiscent that would sound to those people in the Soviet Union who, before Chernobyl, were told that that could not happen there.

Certainly the reactor type at Chernobyl is different. We are not suggesting that an identical disaster could happen in United Kingdom reactors. I have said on previous occasions, and I repeat now, that the British nuclear industry is probably the safest in the world. Although I say that without equivocation, it does not mean that accidents will not or cannot happen. We must take into account the undeniable potential for human error. Both of the major accidents in nuclear power stations, Three Mile Island in the United States and Chernobyl in the Soviet Union, have been directly attributed to human error. Wherever people control technology, there is the possibility of mistakes.

Other factors contribute to human error. Professor James Reason, the head of psychology at Manchester university, has studied this and concluded that the ingredients for disastrous human error unfortunately prevail in Britain also. He stated: The systems are complicated and a plague to the people running them … We have operators that don't understand everything that is going on. We have monolithic management structures. We have complex systems that make violations of operating procedures inevitable. The Government must take that seriously and answer it.

Our nuclear watchdog cannot cope with its work load. In the debate this afternoon, reference was made to Mr. Eddie Ryder, the chief inspector of nuclear installations, who told the Energy Select Committee only last week that the trade union that represents nuclear inspectors stated: Sizewell will involve more work from the nuclear inspectorate when it can't cope with its present workload". Nor, on its own admission, does the inspectorate have enough staff and resources to assess the lessons of Chernobyl. Mr. Ryder told the Select Committee: if we do not keep up, then we may miss something. These problems may accumulate. I ask the Secretary of State what action he is taking, following Mr. Ryder's statement to the Select Committee?

Mr. Peter Walker

I am delighted to inform the right hon. Gentleman that I took action before that statement was made to the Select Committee. Last September we reviewed the salaries on Mr. Ryder's suggestion and increased them by £3,500. Further recruitment has taken place since then and quite a number of people have been recruited. Mr. Ryder and I share the objective of having 120 inspectors in place by the end of the year. My Parliamentary Secretary discussed with Mr. Ryder the comparative positions and put proposals to the Treasury, which were accepted. Further increases in salary are being made so there is no possibility of the inspectorate not recruiting its full establishment.

Mr. Orme

I welcome that important statement. Mr. Ryder highlighted the problem to the Select Committee and brought it to a head, and if the Government have taken that on board, I shall not criticise that. I am concerned about the safety of those people who work in the nuclear industry. Their safety is essential.

The country is still suffering the after-effects of Chernobyl, and is still paying the price of that. This country is ill-equipped to deal with monitoring the safety of new nuclear power stations. Mr. Ryder raised that issue also. The people of this country have no confidence in the bland assurances given to them by the Government and the CEGB.

The Labour party's opposition to this development has not and will not change. As I have already said, we shall not build the PWR in this country. When the Labour Government come into office we shall cancel any such measure. We shall reduce the risk of nuclear power, not increase it. Contrary to the Government's propaganda, our policy on nuclear power is responsible and realistic.

Our Magnox stations are nearly all over 20 years old. The design of that first generation of nuclear power plant is obsolete and, according to the nuclear inspectorate, would no longer be granted a licence to operate. Corrosion problems have proved worse than the designers expected. The Labour party will turn its attention to such stations. Our plans to phase out those older stations will involve many years of work on decommissioning and will mean more work on reprocessing at Sellafield, with increased emphasis on improving environmental considerations.

Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned Magnox stations. I wholly disagree with his comments about safety. In the light of his statement, will he state in which year the Labour party will begin to decommission the two Magnox stations at Calder Hall and Chapelcross?

Mr. Orme

Calder Hall is already in the process of being decommissioned. When I visited it, I met some of the people working on it. I was quoting the comments of the nuclear inspectorate, which stated that today it would not give a licence to a Magnox station. Those were not my words.

Mr. Keith Best (Ynys Môn)

The right hon. Gentleman will recall that some time ago, shortly after Chernobyl, Greenpeace published a full-page advertisement in several national newspapers listing all power stations, those in the first category that it thought should be closed immediately, and those in the latter category that should be phased out. Is he aware—I thought it was an oversight at the time—that Wylfa in my constituency did not appear on either of the lists? When I contacted Greenpeace about that, it said that it had deliberately omitted it because it was perfectly satisfied about its safety. Why will the right hon. Gentleman's party close down Wylfa and not replace it?

Mr. Orme

I said that we shall assess all the Magnox and older stations and then start to phase them out. That assessment will be made when the Labour party is in government and in a position to decide.

The construction and refurbishment of coal-fired stations will create up to 30,000 jobs, with many more involved in our drive to develop renewable sources of energy and combined heat and power, to carry out a major programme of insulation and draught-proofing of people's homes, and to revive the coal industry. Jobs in power engineering and in research and development into the problems of nuclear waste will be maintained and others created. More staff are clearly needed to ensure the safety of existing nuclear power stations, and to develop methods of decommissioning.

We believe in creating jobs that respond to the needs of the nation, in manufacturing, construction and power generation. That is the basis on which we shall conduct our energy policy. The Government have had an irresponsible and irrational approach to meeting the nation's energy requirements. They have never shown the slightest concern about workers losing their jobs, or about the state of manufacturing industry.

We shall plan to meet the country's needs, to create jobs and to ensure the safety of people and the environment. We welcome the chance to put this issue before the British people at the general election.

7.58 pm
Mr. Norman Miscampbell (Blackpool, North)

I shall be brief and simply mention one or two matters which arose from the investigations of the Environment Select Committee. We almost inevitably concentrated on nuclear waste, so we were bound to learn of the environmental consequences of not following the nuclear road.

It became abundantly clear on an environmental calculation that, provided a nuclear accident was prevented, the production of electricity from nuclear power was considerably more benign than from coal. Coal has inevitable unhappy environmental consequences, even with the scrubbers in place.

The great anxiety about nuclear energy arises from the public's perception of it. It is extraordinary that Sellafield appears in the press month by month and, at times, week by week. We are seeking to cure radiation leaks from Sellafield costing about £250 million, yet less than three times that amount of radiation comes from ill-protected medical equipment which could be cured for a fraction of the cost. It is entirely a matter of public perception.

What we are prepared to agree to by way of danger is also a matter of public perception. By the time the debate has finished in about three hours, two people will have died on the roads, and, by the time we prorogue at the end of the week, about 100 will have died. The public face that with a great deal more equanimity than the much less real problems arising from nuclear power stations.

The Secretary of State said that all our competitors were following this road at varying paces. Indeed, they are following it fast, regardless of what they say. The case of France is most pertinent. Between 50 and 60 per cent. of its electricity is generated by nuclear power and several French nuclear power stations are nearer to where we stand now than is Sizewell. The French will not stop. What is more, whatever nit-picking questions are raised about costs, the French export electricity to every neighbour, including the United Kingdom.

Mr. Michael McGuire (Makerfield)

What about the enormous debt involved?

Mr. Miscampbell

I shall not go into the French economy, but it is undoubtedly in remarkably good shape.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that Elecricite de France is the largest corporate debtor in the world and is largely responsible for the fact that France is the third biggest debtor nation in the world? Does he further accept that, although the Secretary of State will not give the figures, the French electricity industry exports at below cost price for economic opportunity?

Mr. Miscampbell

I know that that is said, but extremely acute economists and business men, as the French are, continue with nuclear energy, and they do not do so to court bankruptcy. They can make their calculations as well as anybody.

We, too, must bear in mind what the consequences will be. In my constituency, for example, unemployment is running at 14 per cent., in Whitehaven it is II per cent. and in Preston it is 11 per cent. Will we improve those figures by turning our backs on the technological revolution in this sphere as in every other? We in the Conservative party are not asking that we follow a solely nuclear policy. We are a long way behind many of our competitors and we produce a much lower proportion of energy through nuclear plants. We are merely saying that we should progress steadily down a technical road which will be inevitable in the next century. There is no way that anything else will produce our electricity at competitive prices in the next 50 years.

Mr. Barron

The hon. and learned Gentleman talks about the cost of electricity generation in 50 years' time. Does he know that the Layfield report could hardly look 10 years ahead? The Secretary of State dodged the issue altogether. How can the hon. and learned Gentleman tell us what the price of electricity generated by any fuel will be in 50 years' time?

Mr. Miscampbell

The hon. Gentleman has mistaken what I said. Obviously, we have coal and there is much cheaper coal in the world which we shall not import. I am saying that it does not matter what the price will be in 50 years' time and that the only way demand for electricity can be met then will be through a nuclear-based industry. There is no possibility of the world producing the electricity required by burning fossil fuels.

Mr. Barron

Talk about Britain.

Mr. Miscampbell

I am taking about the world.

Nuclear energy is inevitable. The Government have taken a modest step and they are right in saying that we should continue down this road because it will give us a balance between coal, which fortunately we have, and nuclear power, which is a path we should follow.

8.5 pm

Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)

Mr. Speaker, who preceded you in the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, announced that the amendment in the name of the leader of the Labour party had been accepted. During the past four years, I have become used to hearing that announcement, but it has a couple of consequences that I should like to put on the record. First, it means that the alliance must again choose between voting for a Tory motion and a Labour amendment, although our motion is on the Order Paper. The public should know that opportunities to vote on our amendments are strictly limited. Secondly, I look forward to returning to the House on 15 June when I may speak from a different place and when, perhaps, our amendments will be selected on a more regular basis.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)

As the policy of the SDP conference was the same as that of the Conservative party and the policy of the Liberal conference the same as that of the Labour party, should that not make it easy for individual alliance Members to know how to vote?

Mr. Bruce

I am not sure that the Secretary of State has addressed himself to the progress that has been made, but over the next four weeks he will discover that we have a policy on this and every other issue which is clear and coherent and which will command a great deal more support than he and his party would like to see.

Although the Secretary of State for Energy has left the Chamber, I wish to reply to one or two points that he raised. I welcome the great regard that he and, indeed, his colleagues have for the energy of the Liberal party. What we failed to achieve during the 15 months of the Lib-Lab pact would fill three full Parliaments of any normal Government. I appreciate that Tory Members know that we have considerable talent and energy, but it is unreasonable to suggest that, because policies were not implemented at that time, they will not be implemented in future. The real answer to that is, give us a chance to run the country and we shall show what will be implemented.

The Secretary of State made a sarcastic jibe about our apparent commitment to energy efficiency. My personal commitment goes back many years before I was elected to this House. Moreover, energy efficiency is and remains the apex of our policy because it alone achieves most for the least pounds expended. Despite the Government's trumpeting and great publicity about their commitment to energy efficiency, they have achieved little.

The Secretary of State could not answer me other than to admit that during Energy Efficiency Year energy consumption in the United Kingdom rose substantially, although the stated objective of the Energy Efficiency Year was to reduce energy consumption by 20 per cent., which is far more than the growth in the economy would have required. If the policy had been successful, we should have been able to sustain economic recovery and reduce overall consumption. Indeed, most of our continental competitors have not only achieved or gone far towards achieving the first 20 per cent., but are now considering ways of achieving the next 20 per cent. In this sector the Government have failed conspicuously to respond to the challenge.

The Secretary of State referred to the expansion of nuclear power elsewhere. However, with a few conspicuous exceptions most countries—most of which are politically vulnerable and have no alternative sources of energy—are reviewing nuclear power, and nuclear developments are being curtailed. The use of the United States as an example by the Secretary of State is becoming a tired old chestnut which does not stand up to analysis. The reason why nuclear power stations are being completed in the United States is that they have been delayed by so many bankruptcies, cost overruns and design changes, and power stations that should have been completed years ago are still under construction, and many people have been locked into considerable financial disadvantage.

The Secretary of State used the argument that we need to go further and more rapidly down the path of nuclear power because the oil and gas fields are running out. Oil and gas are not major fuels for electricity generation, and they are certainly not the most efficient way of producing electricity, so one does not effectively substitute for the other. I represent a constituency which is heavily dependent on North sea oil activity. We take a dim view of the Secretary of State going abroad, selling our industry short, giving the impression that North sea oil and gas has only about 20 years to run and that our fields are running out. We know that we have considerable potential and a long-term development industry which is not helped by the Secretary of State for Energy implying that it will run out in less than a generation. We know that that is not true.

One point that the Secretary of State omitted when he was throwing about general comments on the Opposition parties was the recent volte face of the Government on the issue of nuclear waste disposal and the exploration for nuclear waste disposal sites. It is fair to say that there is proper and genuine concern on both sides of the House about the problem of nuclear waste. Regardless of whether we develop nuclear power or phase it out, it is a problem that we shall have to address. That point must be acknowledged.

The Government have been panicked by some senior, and some not so senior, Tory Members of Parliament because of the sheer hostility that the dumping proposals have engendered in their constituencies. The Government have now put up a spurious argument for cancelling the proposals on the ground that they were not economically proven. I visited one of those sites at Elstow and as a complete layman I was appalled that anyone could be seriously suggesting that nuclear waste could be disposed of on a site which had a water table less than 6ft below the ground. We are justified in being 'cynical about the Government's attitude in that sector. I accept that it is a problem that we will have to return to collectively and preferably with all-party support. The answer must be deep disposal in safe sites, and, if I can make a Scottish plea, we do not want it on Scottish islands because I can assure the Government that the opposition and hostility to that will be very strong.

I turn to the substance of the debate, the case for Sizewell. The Secretary of State omitted to mention whether Sizewell was to be the first of a generation or was to be one power station in isolation. Other parts of the country would like to know whether the Government would take the recommendation of the Layfield report and regard Sizewell as a prototype and withhold any further developments until it has been proved or whether they will steamroller further developments.

Sizewell's contribution to our overall energy requirement is small one way or the other and no one can suggest that it is an urgent necessity with regard to supply. The CEGB has shown its concern by ordering coal-fired power stations which it knows it can deliver on time and to a certain cost and specification, which is not yet proven to be the case for Sizewell.

The economic arguments for Sizewell, even at the time of the publication of the Layfield report, were less than convincing. My party's "hostility", to use the Secretary of State's word, to nuclear power has been substantially based on our complete lack of conviction about the economic arguments. It has not produced the cheap electricity that was promised. That has not been the experience of France or other countries. On the contrary, it has often been more expensive than forecast because of delays and overruns. The economic arguments have changed substantially as the price of alternative sources of fuel have fallen, and, given that it was a finely balanced judgment based mostly on subjective figures from the CEGB, there is every reason to deduce that Sizewell is not economic.

Mr. Neil Hamilton (Tatton)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for clarifying that the reason for the Liberal party's hostility to nuclear power was basically an economic one. How does he reconcile that with the motion that was passed at the SDP conference which said: Subject to a satisfactory outcome of this review we will construct additional nuclear power stations, if and when required".

Mr. Bruce

That is exactly the point. "If and when required" assumes that the economic and safety arguments add up. In the present circumstances neither of them does. That is a perfectly reasonable position to take and is one that the British public would find perfectly acceptable. The argument is quite simple. If it is safe and economic by all means build them, as the Government are doing, but the economics are extremely questionable and safety still remains a matter of concern. We must bear in mind that Sir Frank Layfield did not give Sizewell a clean bill of health on safety grounds. Indeed, he qualified it substantially on safety grounds.

The general thrust of the nuclear industry in the United Kingdom post-Chernobyl has simply been to say that it could not happen here. There has been no review of the evacuation radius of nuclear power stations and no indication that the Government have any idea how to deal with an accident if it happened. The arguments simply seems to be, "We do not need to do that because it could not happen here." That is what the Russians thought, and look what happened to them.

Dr. Michael Clark (Rochford)

The Liberal party's policy seems to be to build nuclear power stations if and when desired. Will the hon. Gentleman tell us how soon before they are desired he would contemplate building them?

Mr. Bruce

I am coming to that. If the hon. Gentleman listens to the rest of my speech he will realise that our view is that there are a considerable variety of alternative options which are likely to bear fruit. There are certainly no pressures on us in the present circumstances to build nuclear power stations in the future, if at all. We have consistently expressed that view.

We believe that the potential for energy saving through conservation is substantial. The Government have endorsed that by producing their own figures but they have failed to come up with a policy that is likely to achieve it. It has been generally accepted, especially in the United States where commercial considerations on power generation are sharper than here, that the best return on investment in the energy and electricity industry is in conservation. One gets a better return for one's dollars or pounds by putting the money into conservation rather than power stations.

I asked the Secretary of State when he announced the go-ahead for Sizewell—he never answered this question—whether he had any idea how much energy could be saved by an investment that was equivalent to the cost of Sizewell. He could not answer that, but the calculations that have been done in the United States suggest that it would be substantially more than the amount of electricity that Sizewell will generate. It would also create a considerable amount of employment in the process and would be more job efficient as well as more energy efficient. That is something which, sadly, the Government have overlooked. They have cut back on matters such as the homes insulation programme and in sectors where a greater degree of comfort as well as efficiency could have been achieved. I often find when I talk to visitors, especially from Scandinavia and some of the other north European countries, that they are amazed when I talk about our problems of black mould, condensation and dripping walls in houses. That is not something that they experience because they design and insulate their houses properly, and thus they can then afford to heat thern adequately.

The other course that we believe has more potential—I hasten to add that experience elsewhere suggests that it would be secondary to the return that one can get from energy efficiency—is the development of alternative renewable energy sources. The Secretary of State has made great play of the fact that he is spending on alternatives some fanciful amount which is far more than anybody else. However, it is still a derisory sum and it is still mostly being spent on research when we are ready to implement a number of alternative energy factors. The particular alternative on which I would be interested to hear a reply, especially if the Secretary of State for Scotland is replying to the debate, is the role of wind energy. I understand that a number of prototype developments in Scotland have proved remarkably successful. The British Wind Energy Association makes the extravagant claim—I report it to the House as such—that we could produce all the energy that we need in Britain more cheaply through wind power than from any other source. I do not necessarily accept that claim, but if I were Secretary of State for Energy I should spend a good deal of time investigating it because if the figures are valid they offer considerable potential. As the Secretary of State for Scotland knows, one of the great pioneers of wind turbines is James Howden of Glasgow, the company having had the opportunity to develop them on the backs of CEGB and hydro board research projects and having secured export orders from California, where such schemes are going ahead due to changes in the tax regime.

I shall not go through all the other alternatives as they are well known. Too often, like is not compared with like. For instance, energy conservation investment is expected to prove itself by normal commercial rate of return while investment in energy generation is required to produce only a 5 per cent. rate of return. If they were put on an equal footing, there would be a massive change in circumstances. I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will confirm that such a move should be encouraged.

Sir Frank Layfield also referred to the lack of implementation of combined heat and power schemes in the United Kingdom compared with other countries. To be effective, this requires a move away from massive generating capacity to small and medium-sized units, developed on a co-operative basis between electricity utilities and other enterprises and sited close to built-up areas. Nuclear power stations are too big and, by definition, sited a long way from anywhere, so such efficiency cannot be achieved on any significant scale. That being so, it seems that we have closed our minds against a substantial energy benefit which could be achieved and on which this country is lagging far behind.

Throughout the life of this and the previous Parliament, the Government have shown an excessively political approach to energy. The Secretary of State has boasted that it is his policy not to have an energy policy, implying that the market will solve the question. The greatest enthusiasts for nuclear power are on the Conservative side, although nuclear power is the one area in which the market does not operate. To the extent that a market operates at all, nuclear energy does not obtain funding because nobody wants to take the risk. We have seen a mish-mash of unco-ordinated, incoherent policies, and I do not take it kindly when the Secretary of State for Energy comes to the House in an excitable state, as he did today, and lectures us about energy policy when he has a record of failure to grasp opportunities which could provide far more jobs and export opportunities throughout the country rather than in a few isolated patches than any policy that the Government have put forward.

The Government have totally and abysmally failed to make a case for Sizewell. Nothing that they have said today changes the argument and we remain completely unconvinced.

8.23 pm
Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)

The hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) must have a painful posterior from sitting on so many fences and trying to cover the gap between Liberal and SDP policy on nuclear energy. It seems odd for him to say that nuclear power stations should be built if they are economic and safe as Liberal policy seems to be to close them down whether or not they are safe and economic. The hon. Gentleman was also out of touch with regard to emergency plans. He should know that the BNFL installations have extremely up-to-date emergency plans which I am sure have been approved by the Government, although I am convinced that they will never need to be put into operation. As the hon. Gentleman spent so much of his speech talking about conservation, I was surprised that he did not mention the £179 million announced by the Government last week to reduce the likelihood of acid rain from coal-fired stations.

I am glad that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is to wind up the debate as nuclear power is important in Scotland. He can take credit, as can the whole of Scotland, for the developments at Dounreay and Hunterston, operating at very high levels of safety, and also Torness in the future. The Government dealt very effectively with the emergency last year and all farmers welcomed the steps taken by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to help them with the problems that arose.

I appreciate the importance of the Sizewell decision and I entirely support the Government, having looked carefully at the Layfield report which agreed that it should go ahead. I wish to refer to Chapelcross in my constituency. This was the second Magnox reactor and it has been on stream since 1960 producing 190 MW. It is highly efficient—98 per cent. on load and 86 per cent. even including shutdown periods. That is world class efficiency and the reactors are in great shape. The power goes to the South of Scotland Electricity Board and the plant is regularly checked by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate and the Health and Safety Executive. The safety record is exceptional, as it should be, and tribute should be paid to the superintendent and his staff.

In responding to my intervention, the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) inadvertently misled the House as the two Magnox reactors and Calder Hall and Chapelcross are not being decommissioned. An old test AGR reactor at the Windscale-Sellafield site is being decommissioned, but that has nothing to do with the other two Magnox stations which are producing electricity. The right hon. Gentleman was thus quite wrong to imply that there was any concern about the safety of either station.

Mr. Barron

That is not surprising as no one has been able to produce an up-to-date report on the safety of those stations. That has been going on for years.

Sir Hector Monro

As usual, the hon. Gentleman contributes nothing to the debate. He has been intervening all evening without saying anything sensible.

With no new major power station scheduled to be completed for eight years or so, it is incredible that the Opposition should be talking about running down the industry. France has 70 per cent. nuclear power and Belgium 67 per cent. Sweden, which takes great interest in environmental matters, has 50 per cent. This country has only 19 per cent. Yet the Opposition say that that is too much.

Some experts have referred to the Magnox stations as having a design life of 20 to 30 years, but I believe that that is a matter of accountancy rather than safety. As we approach the election, however, it is an important issue because it is Labour party policy to run down both stations soon and the whole industry over a period with the loss of perhaps 100,000 jobs, not to mention the rise in electricity costs that would result. The Liberal party takes the same view while the SDP sits on the fence. The Scottish National party is against nuclear power, but for electoral reasons it has a different policy for each constituency and is prepared to let Chapelcross continue because that suits the SNP candidate there.

There is no case for a rundown for safety reasons. If the power is required—and on every United Kingdom analysis it is required—there should be no question of closure provided that the safety standards are met and maintained. Labour Members and others try to curry votes by talking of opening the Canonbie coalfield, and believe that in some incredible way the 650 highly qualified workers at Chapelcross nuclear power station will suddenly become underground workers in a deep mine. That, of course, is absolute nonsense. I checked on the Canonbie coalfield, and the chairman of British Coal, Sir Robert Haslam, tells me that it is a deep mine, that it does not figure in British Coal plans and is only a distant possibility. Deep mines are expensive and environmentally contentious. The mine would certainly not bring work to local people. My hon. Friend the Minister responsible for coal matters confirms these points, as does the Minister responsible for Energy, who says that there is no likelihood of a tidal power barrage on the Solway Firth or of any harnessing of wind power in that area. In short, the energy supplies for that area can come only from Chapelcross.

Mr. Alexander Ladle (Midlothian)

The hon. Gentleman talked about Canonbie. Will he try to get the facts about it right? It is probably the largest unproved coalfield in Scotland—it is not only a mine. It stretches from Lesmahagow to Cumbria.

Sir Hector Monro

I took the trouble to get the chairman of British Coal to give me the facts. He assured me that it was a deep mine which is not in British Coal's present plans. There is no likelihood this century of any development whatever there.

Of course, Opposition Members tend to forget the social aspects of decommissioning nuclear power stations with 650 workers in an area of high unemployment. That would be catastrophic to the community, and the local authority would lose £600,000 in rates. Has my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State been able to give any thought—with his colleagues in the Department of Energy—to the possibility of the dry buffer store that has been raised by the CEGB, and to whether or not that might be built at Chapelcross, or Heysham, or at any other site in the United Kingdom.

Two major decisions are needed: is the store needed at all—one has to hear in mind its high capital cost—and on what site would it be built? Thereafter, one would have to have intense discussions with the local authority about planning, and with the community about its acceptability. Can the Secretary of State give me any indication of when those decisions will be made?

I am pleased that British Nuclear Fuels has appointed a director of the reactor division to work with the superintendents on developments at the Magnox reactor stations. If my right hon. Friend has any information about future developments, it would be welcome.

Finally, will my right hon. Friend respond to the point about nuclear waste in Scotland, because the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) and other Opposition Members have been trying to cause difficulties by saying that we shall reopen the burial of nuclear waste at Mulwarchar, in Galloway, and in the Scottish islands and elsewhere? I do not believe for one moment that any of that is true, and it is wrong to raise concern where none exists. If my right hon. Friend could say a little about the future of waste disposal possibilities in Scotland. that would be welcomed in Scotland.

I am glad that the Government have supported the nuclear industry in the way that they have, and have insisted on the highest standards of safety in the environment. I am sure that the motion to approve Sizewell B and the general policy for nuclear power is the right one.

8.34 pm
Mr. Jack Thompson (Wansbeck)

I wish to make four declarations of interest: I am a sponsored millers' MP; I am a sponsor of the Druridge association, which is campaigning against the building of a nuclear power station in that area; and, more importantly, I am a human being; and a British citizen. Those are all good reasons for opposing Sizewell B.

It is appropriate that the debate is taking place on the day on which the general election has been announced, because it highlights the issue of the development of nuclear power in this country. In my constituency the issue will be in the forefront of the campaign for the next four weeks, alongside unemployment, education and social benefits—and it has been so for the last eight or nine years.

Although the Government have made up their minds about building the first PWR in Britain in Sizewell, today's debate is an exercise in trying once again to convince public opinion that the economics and the environmental and safety aspects of nuclear power generation, and especially the introduction of PWR, are wholly beneficial to the nation and will not require a Government health warning on the side of the packet saying that this form of energy is dangerous and can damage one's health.

The Government have said nothing in this or previous debates to convince millions of people in the country that all is sweetness and light. The Government say that, standing next to Sizewell A, which is a Magnox station, Sizewell B will become profitable with regard to capital and revenue costs. It is of course an ugly feature on the Sizewell coastline, but the people in that area can rest in their beds satisfied that they will not suffer in any way from accidents at a nuclear power station.

To be economically viable Sizewell B will be a gamble. Since the inquiry ended, the odds have shortened considerably. Volatile oil prices affect the fuel economy of the world and prices now are well below those quoted during the inquiry. There has been a complete change in the coal industry, internationally and in Britain. There has been a major breakthrough with the introduction of new equipment to British mines, and output levels, as the Secretary of State constantly reminds us, are breaking records almost weekly. New technology in coal burning and pollution control has altered the prospects for PWR development in the past two years. It is now possible to make a more positive prediction about future coal-burning generation. Sir Frank Layfield has said that the figures quoted by the CEGB in the inquiry were much too high, confused, insufficient and skilfully uncertain. The British Coal forecast, made during its presentation at the inquiry, suggested that world coal prices would be about $75 a tonne. It has now changed its forecast to suggest that coal prices in the year 2000 will now be $40 a tonne. That affects the thinking on Sizewell.

The CEGB now admits that the capital costs have increased between £60 million and £100 million and further increases are anticipated. None of the board's nuclear stations has yet operated as cheaply as coal stations. Capital costs for Sizewell have increased dramatically and they are forecast to increase further before it is built. The huge costs of decommissioning have not yet been identified and the recent announcement of the abandoning of the four sites for depositing low-level nuclear waste because of political and public pressure, or a combination of the two, shows the insurmountable problems that are facing all forms of nuclear waste disposal. The other sites that were identified were for low-level waste, and the problems and the public outcry accompanying high-level nuclear waste will be even greater.

The effect upon the environment is another issue that has become increasingly predominant in the minds of individuals. I had the opportunity to visit the Sizewell A station at about the time of the proposal or announcement to build the B station. That was when the PWR design was introduced.

I recall my first sight of the A station. I was a stranger in the area and I saw it as such. I saw the station from the National Trust car park—I noted this at the time, and I still have it on record—at Dunwich common. That is close to the Minsmere nature reserve, which is two miles north of the power station. The coastal area between the common and the station is open and the main buildings are conspicuous. There is only a low sand dune formation along the beach. Although attempts have been made superficially to screen the site, they have not been very effective. The military style security fence around the site is not an attractive feature.

The proposed B station would be built to the north of the existing station, and according to the CEGB's figures it would probably be longer and wider. It would certainly be higher than the existing building. It would create an even more significant blot on the landscape than the present station.

There will probably be changes in the nature of the sea as such changes have already been identified in other areas where there are huge power stations. A tremendous amount of water has to be taken from the sea, which passes through the station for cooling purposes. It is then returned to the sea at a somewhat higher temperature. There are coal-fired power stations at the north and south ends of my constituency and it seems that changes in the life of the sea have been substantial, although there has been less of a change in the temperature of the water.

There are major doubts about safety. When the Sizewell inquiry was opened, serious doubts were expressed about the safety of nuclear power throughout the world, and especially in countries such as Sweden. The figures quoted by the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) suggest that 50 per cent. of Sweden's electricity is still generated by nuclear power, but different figures were given to me while I was in Sweden. Public alarm in Holland, West Germany and the United States has triggered off a serious examination of potential disasters as a result of nuclear accidents. Design faults and human error have been blamed, and it has been claimed that these problems can be overcome. Arguments have been presented for and against future development, and the Sizewell inquiry completed its work before the Chernobyl accident took place. When the world learned of that incident, design fault and human error were again attributed.

The CEGB defended its case for Sizewell by saying that the Chernobyl disaster could not happen in Britain. Before I came to this place I spent much of my life as an engineer. I have the greatest respect for engineers throughout the world, especially in Britain, but no engineer is infallible. Every one of us is susceptible to human error. I made my mistakes in my time and others will make theirs. That will apply whether the engineer is on a ship, in a nuclear power station, in a mine or anywhere else. There are those who claim that we are more expert than anyone else in the world in designing power stations and that our operators are better than anyone else in the world, but I do not think that a British engineer would ever make those claims.

Other European countries have shown more sense than we have, along with the CEGB. Sweden is increasingly determined to reduce its commitment to nuclear power stations and Austria has dismantled its one unused station. Italy, Holland and Spain are mothballing their stations. As the Secretary of State has said, West Germany is trying to push ahead with a nuclear programme, but one that is being opposed strongly by state Parliaments. Denmark, Greece, Portugal, Luxembourg and Ireland have no nuclear plans, and in the United States nuclear station orders have been cancelled.

It is evident that the Government's policy on nuclear power development is a political response to the miners. It seems that they are unaware that the real power lies with the electrical generating industry. The one group of workers that is far more powerful than the miners or those in the oil and gas industries comprises those who are employed in the power industry. Is it suggested by the Government that power industry employees will never take industrial action, will not have strikes and will not engage in any industrial disputes? Are they saying that they will not close down power stations? That will be the position only if the workers in the power industry are the elitist blue-collar workers, and it seems that that might be the Government's objective. Perhaps there will be this elitist group of workers, for we know that the workers in the power industry could close down our power stations almost immediately. They could bring the country to a standstill overnight, if not within 10 minutes.

It might seem that my comments about a rural part of Suffolk are not relevant to my constituency. However, I have a deep interest in energy matters and the Sizewell proposals are reflected in the board's proposal to build a nuclear power station in the constituency which adjoins mine, which is represented by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), who is in his place. The proposed station would be close to my constituency, and that is an important interest. The Sizewell proposals are the proposals for the power station at Druridge bay, and I know that the attitude of the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed to the proposed station is similar to mine. He and I will continue the battle with almost everyone else in the north-east to ensure that a power station is not built at that site. There are positive counter-proposals that have the almost total support of the people in the region. A coal-fired station could be built on the existing site in Blyth at a place called Cambois, or the existing stations could be refurbished. If the Government wish to give the hon. Gentleman and myself something with which to win our seats, they should bear in mind that they have already given us the Sizewell inquiry.

8.48 pm
Mr. Neil Hamilton (Tatton)

If the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Mr. Thompson) does not want a power station to be in the north-east, I can assure him that there are many employed in the nuclear industry in the north-west who would be delighted to have it. As I have the great honour to be a constituent of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, and as we are both north-west Members, 1 think that it would be right for me to draw to the attention of the House the great importance to the north-west of the nuclear industry. Within 20 miles of the centre of my constituency about 10,000 people are employed by British Nuclear Fuels plc. The National Nuclear Corporation has its headquarters in my constituency. As a result of the Government's decision to license the new station at Sizewell, several hundred new jobs have come to Knutsford already.

As we enter the election campaign, the general election having been announced today, the Conservative party is the only party that is clearly in favour of an advance in nuclear power. It is in favour of expanding our nuclear power programme. In spite of tergiversations of the various sectors of the alliance and the attempt of candidates in constituencies where nuclear votes are to be won to deny what their parties actually stand for, it is only the Conservative party that promises an expansion of jobs in the nuclear industry, with all the cost-cutting in energy prices that that promises for the rest of British industry.

The Labour party's policy is clear and it has been outlined by the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme). It proposes that no new stations should be built, and it proposes also not to fuel the Heysham and Torness stations when they are finished. In short, it proposes to eradicate the nuclear power industry in Britain. The only Opposition Members who take a different view are the hon. Members for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) and for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), and for obvious reasons.

I was interested to hear what the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) said about the so-called policy of the alliance. He said that the alliance was united on this issue. That is interesting when one considers that the Liberal party has a long history of opposition to nuclear power. In 1979 the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel), the leader of the Liberal party, said that we must halt the dangerous and unbelievably costly expansion of the nuclear industry. That was a policy platform endorsed at the Liberal party assembly last September when the Liberals voted to halt the commissioning of future nuclear installations and to commence a planned phasing out of all nuclear power. There was nothing there about safety review or any ifs and buts. However, in 1981, in Warrington, the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) said: The SDP supports an on-going nuclear power programme as being necessary for the future of the country. I do not know whether that ringing declaration in favour of nuclear power had anything to do with the fact that British Nuclear Fuels employs several thousand people in Warrington and that, at that time, there was a by-election in Warrington in which the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) was the SDP candidate. It would be base of me to suggest that the alliance was attempting to play any such crude, electoral calculating advantage.

It is clear that the SDP would like to be able to support the nuclear programme—presumably that is why none of its representatives has been here for the entire debate. However, the sandal wearers, nut cutlet eaters and beardy weirdies who inhabit the Liberal assembly will not accept such an idea. Therefore, the alliance has had to cobble together a curious compromise whereby, subject to a safety review, the SDP says it would commit itself to building new nuclear power stations. The Liberal party is prepared to go along with that for the time being because, by so doing, it will be able to gull the electorate into believing that no decisions have been taken. Therefore, the Liberals can say what they like in any constituency to suit that constituency.

If there is a genuine doubt about the safety of nuclear power stations, they should be shut down, if only on a temporary basis. One could never justify the country running the type of risks that have arisen as a result of the Chernobyl disaster. If such a disaster is thought conceivable in Britain, I do not understand why we should wait for the results of a safety review before taking the necessary steps to prevent it. It would not have to be thought likely but merely conceivable that such an accident could occur. The fact that the alliance policy hinges on such a safety review demonstrates, as dramatically as possible, that the alliance is trying to pull a cynical electoral trick to seek some temporary advantage in the coming election.

The truth of the matter is that, if we are alive to the future energy problems not only of the country but of the world, and if we wish to capitalise on what will, undoubtedly, be the way forward for future energy production we must develop the nuclear industry and take advantage of the expertise that will be developed. The 21st century will be the century in which the finite known energy reserves of fossil fuels will run out, whether they are oil, gas or coal. That is inescapable. We will be faced with the problem of what to do when fossil fuels run out. If energy demands continue to expand at their present rate, we will certainly face that problem within the next 100 years.

The Government are committed to alternative energy supplies. They have poured millions of pounds into the study and will continue to do so. However, such projects will produce only a partial solution to the problem. Such projects will supply only part of the increased demand for energy. Certainly they will do nothing towards replacing the existing 20 per cent. of energy needs that is supplied by the nuclear industry.

Mr. Michael Stern (Bristol, North-West)

If we were foolish enough to go ahead with the much-vaunted Severn barrage, given the doubts about the project, it would produce the equivalent of less than one year's electricity, given the current increase in demand. That underlines my hon. Friend's point.

Mr. Hamilton

My hon. Friend is perfectly correct. If there was a Mersey barrage or a Dee barrage as well as a Severn barrage, it would produce only the equivalent of 5 per cent. of the increased demand for energy that will arise between now and the end of the century. At best such projects represent minor elements in our calculations.

A vast market for nuclear services is developing abroad. If 25 per cent. of the world's electricity is nuclear generated by the year 2050, the market for fuel services will amount to £25 billion per annum. There will also be capital investment of £20 billion per annum. Britain is in the forefront of the nuclear industry and, on the assumption that, under Conservative Governments, we will continue to maintain our lead, we will be in a perfect portion to take advantage of the opportunities.

I welcome the support the Government have given to the nuclear industry and the lease of life that has been given to the industry by the licensing of the new Sizewell reactor. I reiterate that it is the Conservative party alone that will continue the advancement of nuclear power upon which the future prosperity of the country depends.

8.45 pm
Mr. Michael McGuire (Makerfield)

On two previous occasions I said that it was probably the last time I would address the House. Today I am on surer ground and I believe that this will be the last time that I will address the House. This is Custer's last stand and everybody knows what happened to Custer.

I am delighted to take part in this debate because we can appreciate the political messages coming across. The lads behind me, the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) and his hon. Friends, will get some flak. My hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Mr. Thompson) will also receive such treatment. When my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) gives the Opposition reply to this debate he will give his usual ebullient speech, which will convince everyone except the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton). He is a dyed-in-the-wool nuclear reactor man. He believes that everyone should have one in their house and, if he could provide them, he would do just that.

In a previous debate on this matter I described the people who advocate nuclear power by using the analogy of a card game when one man tries to kid his opponents. Today I will give the analogy of the man trying to sell gold bricks on Waterloo bridge. He says to a chap, "You can have this gold brick. It is the biggest bargain of your lifetime and you can have it for £100." The fellow shows some doubt, so the man says, "As it's you, you can have two for £100."

There have been four ages in the nuclear debate. The first was the age of innocent expectations and that occurred between 1946 to 1966. I remind the House that one of my late colleagues, Fred Lee, when he was Minister of Power in 1964, swallowed the argument, like all those before him, that nuclear power would be so cheap and so profitable that it would not be sensible to monitor it nor meter it. He believed that people should get it for nothing. We know that that idea soon went.

The second age was the age of doubt, and that lasted from 1967 to 1974. We have had two further ages. The first of those was the age of anguish that occurred between 1975 and 1980. The nuclear advocates were saved by the tremendous increase in oil prices and coal prices and they were able to capitalise on those increases.

We are now coming to the last stage—the age of justification, from 1981 to the present. Why do we have such concern? Why is there disaffection? Why are people worried? They are worried because there have been sufficient signs to justify worrying about nuclear power. Chernobyl happened one month after the Layfield committee finished taking evidence. It is staggering that there is no mention of Chernobyl in the report. We must not allow Government supporters or anybody else to get carried away. When he had heard all the arguments, Layfield said that the Sizewell station justified itself provided it could be built to time and cost. That has not happened. The Magnox programme overran by several years and about £900 million. It has not been proven. We cannot say that, given what happened, it can be justified. It has not been justified.

We know that, many years ago, Sir Arthur Hawkins, a previous chairman of the CEGB, was PWR-mad when he appeared before Select Committees. He wanted to build 15 of them. We must remember that Sizewell B is a prototype. The Government have said that they will build replicas. People say that Chernobyl was different. What about Three Mile Island? That is a PWR station and is still contaminated. The principle is not sound. Some people say that we shall be the poor man of Europe, that we are isolated, and that we shall choose energy sources that will impoverish people. That is a lot of bunkum. I am glad that the Secretary of State for Scotland is present. He intervened earlier and tried to get a Scottish point of view across. I shall refer later to the difference between the SSEB and the CEGB. It is important.

The hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) mentioned Sweden. He said that the Swedes are super-keen on environmental matters and that 50 per cent. of their energy is nuclear. The hon. Gentleman should bring himself up to date. They are committed to phasing it out. The hon. Member for Tatton, with all his wisdom, told us that gas, coal and so on are finite and that supplies will finish fairly soon. There was a newspaper report that an English scientist, of all people, who has always had a theory about how gas and oil were created, did not go along with the dead fish concept. He believes that there is something deeper. We cannot believe everything that we read in the papers. If we did, we would believe that the Tories are a lot further in front of us than they are—[Interruption.] The House considered the matter in 1970. Government Members should not count their chickens before they are hatched. The public can be fickle. Thank God for fickleness; they might swap over.

The scientist whom I mentioned said that oil supplies would satisfy world requirements far into the distant future. Oil is a fossil fuel. The hon. Member for Tatton said that such resources are finite. The English professor has done some deep drilling in Sweden and has come up with what looks like a winner.

We have an international picture. Grave doubt has been expressed. No new stations are being ordered in America, the land from which we get nuclear technology. They are completing one or two that are too far advanced to stop. but they will not build any more. Every country with any sense is learning the lessons of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. They have said that the next time could be worse. We should learn that lesson, too.

The South of Scotland Electricity Board put forward a strong case. It said that an AGR programme is better, that it would be better to sustain it, and that the cost saving would be several hundred million pounds. The SSEB believes that the system is proven and that the CEGB would be better going down that road. It opposes the PWR system. I have referred several times to Chernobyl and have said that it staggered me that it was not mentioned in the Layfield report. Chernobyl has changed people's views on the matter. Before Chernobyl, The Economist stated: Nuciear power is as safe as a chocolate factory. After Chernobyl, it stated: Chernobyl has convinced many people, and not just what we describe as greens, that nuclear power is too dangerous at any price. The European Commissioner for Energy said: It is very difficult to plan long term after Chernobyl. I have described the change in the European scene. The Danes have asked the Swedes to close down a nuclear plant 12 miles across the Baltic from their territories. The Italians have pledged a period of careful reflection following Chernobyl. France is held up to us as the country that we should try to copy and it is said that we should try to get our energy production from nuclear sources up to that of France. France is in an economic shambles and its debt-ridden economy resembles that of a Third world country. It has debts of over £20 billion. That is why France wants to flog power stations to anybody who will take them. The French Government, unlike us, have a system where they can ride roughshod over public opinion. In France, public opinion would not delay a similar discussion for this length of time. In France the Government get their way. If we want a Third world economy we should go down the French road, as we will finish up with £20 billion of debt, quite apart from whether the station is safe or not.

The economics of the argument have not been made out by any measuring stick. There are disagreements between sectors of the electricity supply industry. The SSEB argument cannot be discounted as some sort of small-time rivalry. It is a very serious argument.

I began by saying that this may be the last time on which I address the House. I can say with some conviction that that is a certainty. All through the four ages that I outlined we have been sold a pup. The case for nuclear power has not been made out economically or safely. The PWRs at Three Mile Island and at Chernobyl cannot be laughed off as not being quite as good as ours. The Government should listen to the voices that are saying, "Re-examine the arguments". I mentioned before the arguments about coal. As soon as the report I mentioned previously was written it was almost out of date because of forecasted coal prices. The bedrock of the argument is that Sizewell could only be justified if it was built on time and to cost. No nuclear power station in this country has yet achieved that. They have all overrun, sometimes grotesquely. The cost has been enormous. The hon. Member for Gordon mentioned alternative sources and energy conservation. When about £10 million is given to energy conservation as opposed to about £256 million for research into nuclear power one should not expect credible comparisons. One will be emphasised more than the other and it is not fair play. The savings are enormous and I believe that people would be gratified, willing to listen, and delighted to hear the Government say that they will have another look at Sizewell.

9.7 pm

Dr. Michael Clark (Rochford)

I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McGuire). I am sorry that that was his last speech in the House. I am sure that he is leaving just when he has reached his own age of justification and that he will be replaced in due course by someone from his constituency in his age of innocent expectation. We bid him farewell if that was his last speech.

Tonight I should like to speak about the views that people have about nuclear energy and nuclear generated electricity. Not much thought is given to electricity generation in general. People do not wish to understand how turbines or generators work as long as they work and electricity goes into their households. As soon as the electricity is generated from a nuclear source, many people take an interest and quite a few appear to become experts. I wonder why nuclear power has that effect on people. Perhaps it is because nuclear power is rightly conceived as complex and is little understood by laymen. Those who understand it may well think that it is wrong and risky to change the nature of the atom. The fact that the nature of the atom is being changed all the time on the sun, which gives us our energy through nuclear fusion, is generally ignored. It may be that nuclear power has a special place in people's minds because of the nature of the risk and the difficulty in defining that risk.

To a greater or lesser extent, everyone accepts risks in crossing the road, working with machinery or flying off on holiday, but in nearly every case the risk can be quantified in terms of possible damage and the extent of the damage. Nuclear risk is not perceived in that way, and is generally thought not to be quantifiable. That is not so. We can quantify nuclear risks and in doing so we should also quantify the risk of not having nuclear power and what effect that would have on the economy and the life of this country.

Human casualties caused by nuclear accidents like the recent one at Chernobyl arouse great emotion, probably because in people's minds there is a link between nuclear power, nuclear warfare and nuclear bombs. The enrichment of the fuel in a bomb and in a nuclear power station is brought about in wholly different ways and there is a complete difference in basic engineering. Those facts are not generally understood or acknowledged. When Chernobyl went up just over a year ago, a bomb was created. First, there was a steam explosion and thereafter an explosion caused by the release of hydrogen. However, that was a conventional explosion and there was no mushroom cloud to prove otherwise.

We have to look at the extent of Government involvement in nuclear energy and wonder whether that is one reason why the population at large treat nuclear energy as something special. The high capital cost of nuclear installations, the special planning inquiries, the safety scrutiny and the disposal of radioactive waste mean that Governments have to take an interest in nuclear matters. Some people say that, because the fuel could be diverted to military programmes or hijacked by terrorists, it is essential that Governments take an interest.

Unfortunately, the more interest a Government take in nuclear power, the more special it appears to become, and that interest is perceived by many as a sign of control and even as a sign of preference. Governments then tend to play down their nuclear power programmes and begin to show a reticence about propagating the virtues of nuclear power. The exception is France, where a massive nuclear programme is proudly and openly proclaimed and generally accepted by the public. On the one hand, Government are seen to be protecting nuclear power. As all Governments are almost, by definition, of the Establishment, and as anti-nuclear groups seem to get linked with Left-wing organisations, nuclear power has, unfortunately, become a political issue. I say "unfortunately" because I should prefer to see nuclear power viewed not as a political issue, but as an educational issue and an environmental challenge.

By their very training, scientists are taught to reveal the truth and have a high reputation. However, from time to time it seems that nuclear scientists have lost that reputation and are mistrusted by the public at large. One must ask why that is so. Is it because those scientists are not educating the public sufficiently well in nuclear matters, or is it because nuclear scientists are getting too closely involved with politicians and the politicians are tainting the scientists, thus giving rise to a lack of trust?

Nuclear matters are matters of national pride, rather like state airlines. To have a nuclear power station or a nuclear programme is a status symbol of maturity and wealth. Even Governments in developing countries have nuclear research programmes and nuclear generating programmes. Some even carry out work on designing and modifying reactors. The more developed countries compete with each other to introduce refinements to their nuclear reactors so that they can sell them at home and abroad. Nuclear engineering then becomes just another international business operated by a whole series of multinational companies. Many people see the multinationalism of nuclear power as more important than international safety. I have some sympathy with that view.

We all know that, as has already been said, the Chernobyl design was thought to be faulty by Western experts many years ago. Why did not those experts shout louder and longer if they thought that Chernobyl was unsafe? Had they done so, it is perhaps unlikely that the RBMK-type reactor would have been decommissioned by the Russians, but it is highly likely that they would not have dared to carry out the experiments which led a year ago to that disastrous explosion.

Do the experts who kept quiet in years gone by have reservations about other nuclear power stations, in their own countries or abroad? If so, they should reveal those doubts, now. Should there be another incident like Chernobyl—God forbid—it will be no use their crying out after the incident "Yes, we knew that it was not safe; we would not have had one in this country." They must cry out now if they feel that any power station anywhere in the world is intrinsically unsafe. More international cooperation, particularly with regard to safety and the interchange of information, is perceived as necessary by individuals worrying about nuclear issues.

I also ask whether the nuclear industry in this country has portrayed a sufficient image of confidence in itself. We were confident up to 1956. That was the age of innocent expectation referred to by the hon. Member for Makerfield. We built a series of Magnox power stations. Then we entered an era of technical confusion, with steam-generating heavy water reactors, AGRs, and now the PWR proposed for Sizewell. Does the nuclear industry not realise that the more uniformity of view and consistency of approach it has within itself, the more it will project an image of self-confidence and the more that self-confidence will help people in the country at large to accept its decisions, and to accept more readily a power station at Sizewell?

Once again, France has got it right. It has a programme of power stations which has not gone in fits and starts. It has stuck with one design. In France, nuclear power is no longer a technical novelty; it is merely a way of generating electricity to boil a kettle or light a room, and it is even a way of earning exchange from this country.

Before the accident at Chernobyl, the nuclear industry could proudly claim that it had nearly 4,000 reactor years of safe experience worldwide. That is no longer so. The accident that the "antis" feared has happened. The pro-nuclear people, realising that they could not prove a negative, argued using astronomical odds that an accident would never happen. Unfortunately, it did happen, and it is very difficult now for the pro-nuclear people to go back to arguing on probability.

There is no escaping the seriousness of the Chernobyl accident. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell) mentioned deaths on the roads, and said that the number of such deaths between now and next week would be about 100, compared with the 30 people killed at Chernobyl. However, the accidents are not strictly comparable. The magnitude of the Chernobyl disaster cannot be compared with road accidents over a week in a Western country.

It is ironic that, as the risks of nuclear war appear to diminish, the public see the risks in civil nuclear power increasing. What can the Government and the nuclear industry do to reduce that worry? First, there should be a greater awareness of radiation in general. Do the public know the strength of background radiation—for instance, radiation from rocks in Cornwall or Aberdeen? Do they know that the radiation received by the average citizen in this country as a result of Chernobyl was no more than the radiation received by any of us during a chest X-ray?

Next, I wonder whether the modern scientists could get their units in order so that old scientists like me and, I hope, the general public can begin to learn something about radiation. There is no chance of them learning much about radiation with rads, rems, roentgens, sieverts, and becquerels that very few of us understand. Communication techniques need to be improved. At the time of the Chernobyl disaster I heard a National Radiological Protection Board spokesman constantly repeat that the accident was not the end of the world, but the more he said it the less reassuring he became.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food did a splendid job in protecting the health of this nation by adhering to very strict and even over-cautious rules regarding food, including vegetables. It took away the practical fear of the population, but unfortunately all that the scientists continued to do was to talk about rems and rads and positive void coefficients. That did not help at all.

If there is to be less public anxiety about nuclear power stations, it is to be hoped that the communication machine of the nuclear industry will be overhauled and restructured so that in future there may be more prompt and professional utterances, should there be any incident, however minor. Above all, international co-operation is expected on the treatment and effects of radiation. The work of Dr. Gale, the American doctor who went to Moscow, and the Russian openness about the accident are seen as positive sides of this terrible disaster. The general public expect this togetherness, forged in adversity, to continue and will not understand a return to positions of national jealousy and mistrust.

The anti-nuclear lobby has been demanding for some years the closure of all nuclear power stations, maintaining that an energy conservation policy and the use of renewable sources of energy for generation would allow demand and production to be equated. That is not so. Unfortunately, the view of the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) that we can generate all our electricity from renewable sources and supplement it by energy efficiency would not allow demand to be met. Some energy will probably come from renewable sources. I hope that it does, and I support it. However, only 7 per cent. by 2020 will come from renewables. As for hydrocarbons, even if the big hole in Sweden is right, hydrocarbons are finite and should be conserved as a valuable premium fuel for the chemical industry and aviation.

The challenge of providing energy for our grandchildren as hydrocarbon fuels run out is just as great as the challenge of protecting them from radiation. If we do not find an alternative source of energy, we shall have high energy prices that will mean that many of the old people whom we wish to protect will be unable to afford to keep themselves warm in winter and that the Third world will be unable to buy the fuel that it needs to power its industry at a time when energy is running short.

In conclusion, there is individual and collective concern about nuclear power, enhanced to a considerable extent by lack of understanding and lack of technical education. Naturally, the public turn to the easier options, ignorant of the arithmetic that would reveal the weakness of their choice. It is unlikely that the anti-nuclear energy lobby will cease its campaign against nuclear power, but it is to be hoped that the nuclear industry will respond to the need for uniformity, simplicity and figures in its public relations approach if it is to earn the measure of public acceptability that I believe it deserves.

9.24 pm
Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)

The Secretary of State is to be congratulated on his honesty about the need for nuclear power when he opened the debate. He showed more honesty than has been evident in many previous debates. Having listened to the right hon. Gentleman's remarks, we can have no doubt at all that the reason why the Government are determined to go ahead with Sizewell B has little to do with evidence about costs or safety and everything to do with weakening the position of the coal industry and its trade unions.

The right hon. Gentleman made great claims about the activities of our competitors, giving as examples the only two countries to have substantially expanded their nuclear industries in terms of orders over the past 10 years—France and Japan. However, it must be remembered that Japan, which has massively increased its activities in the nuclear industry, has been importing 90 per cent. of its energy for a very long time because it has none of its own and that 90 per cent. of the imported energy has been oil. Obviously, after the oil crisis in the 1970s Japan had to look for an alternative source of energy. In Britain, we have never needed to do that. We have hundreds of years' worth of coal, and the Secretary of State knows that quite well.

There is no doubt that the international price of fossil fuels calls into question the cost argument for going ahead with Sizewell B. No one can move away from that fact. Even those who advised Layfield in the first instance now say that because of the fall in the cost of fossil fuel there may be no justification on cost grounds. There is even less justification on safety grounds. Hon. Members have mentioned Chernobyl, but we have not really discussed the outcome of that accident, even in this country. We have heard recently of an outlay in compensation to sheep farmers in north Wales and Cumbria of £4 million, with a further £1 million spent on monitoring the sheep. There are still thousands of sheep that cannot be moved from one part of the country to another or put on the market because of the Chernobyl accident. It is extremely likely that we do not yet have anything like a proper knowledge of the eventual costs.

The Secretary of State and others talked about jobs in the nuclear industry as affected by Labour party policy. Let me say to hon. Members and to the nuclear industry that there are generations of work in the nuclear industry—in the decommissioning of nuclear power stations when their useful life has ended, and in the disposal of nuclear waste. None of us suggests that we would cut employment in the nuclear industry to the levels that have been suggested today. The Labour party certainly does not want to take on the mantle of the present Government, who have put 3 million people into the dole queues since 1978–79. That is certainly not what we are about. We are here to protect and enhance employment rather than to get rid of it.

9.28 pm
Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)

The Secretary of State is invariably robust when he has a bad case, and he made a very robust speech today. I think that he was uncertain not because of his future political prospects—although I gather that those are limited—but because he ignored three issues. First, he ignored the fact that the costs of the Government's nuclear waste policy have suddenly been transformed in recent weeks. He knows that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) said, there is already an overrun on the PWR programme. Secondly, he ignored the requests of several Labour Members, made when we last debated PWRs. We pointed out that the House was considering documents relating to health near nuclear power stations, and that, in case after case, the authors of those documents had suggested that further research was needed. We asked the Government for an assurance that that medical research would be continued, and we still await a serious commitment from them on this very important matter.

Another aspect of the Secretary of State's speech that concerned me was that he told us how rapidly the whole world was moving towards a dependency upon nuclear energy. Yet the world lacks adequate capacity to deal with the waste that it is increasingly producing. The Secretary of State should have commented more fully on that aspect.

Since I wish to be brief, I shall conclude by saying that I agreed with one part of the speech of the Secretary of State, when he reminded the House that SDP Members were absent. They were absent throughout the last debate on PWR. They have been absent throughout this one. All three of the SDP's local election candidates were absent from the count last week in my constituency and so far the party has forgotten to appoint an SDP candidate in my constituency—perhaps it will not bother. If it does, it will be reminded of the irresponsibility of its absence, just as I remind the Secretary of State that a great deal of his speech was irresponsible. Perhaps the greatest irresponsibility was the fact that he overlooked referring to health, to cost and to the fact that, since the last Sizewell debate, he has received submissions from senior scientists of professorial rank who have asked him to think again. It is time that he did.

9.30 pm
Mr. Alexander Eadie (Midlothian)

I hope that the House will forgive me if I comment on my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McGuire), who told us that he was making his last speech in the House. As usual, it was a robust speech, and I am sure that he enjoyed it as much as the House.

The general climate surrounding this debate has been, to put it mildly, a bit unusual. Nevertheless, many hon. Members have been successful in getting their views on the record. Perhaps in a more sober time, and if we had had longer, there could have been more of the cut and thrust of debate on the issues.

I remember as a boy seeing the slogan, "Smoking factories, not smoking guns." It is doubtful that such a slogan would today capture the same imagination and receive endorsement in the light of the pressure that many groups exercise for a pollution-free environment. After the second world war, a body of public opinion was shocked at the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Arising from that, a progressive movement took root which adopted as its slogan "Atoms for Peace." I beg to suggest that that was the forerunner of what we know today as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. It was not a sloganising movement. As a movement, in general it took the view that scientific and technological study should be used for the benefit of mankind. Its members were not, therefore, Luddite in believing that the atom could not be harnessed for peaceful purposes and that never again should there be a repeat of the horror and consequences of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Britain was the first country to develop thermal nuclear power and, between 1956 and 1971, it built 11 Magnox reactors as a first generation of nuclear power stations. 1956 was a significant date, for it was the year of the Suez crisis, our withdrawal from the middle east in ignominy, and the closure of the Suez canal. The advent of Britain into civil nuclear power was seen by many at that time as part of the answer to build up a self-reliant indigenous source to counter the uncertainties and instability of the middle east. But, looking back to that period, the consensus among practically all the main political parties and the approval of all the trade unions was remarkable. For years, the main thrust of criticism was that industry was too secretive and that its costs were open to serious question. Although there have been incidents at nuclear power stations, the secret nature of industry meant that there was little reportage to them, and they have only recently started to be more prominently catalogued.

The major event which laid the basis for the breaking of the consensus support of civil nuclear power was the partial meltdown of a civil nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island in the United States of America. It was an American-designed pressurised water reactor, which uses more enriched fuel than the AGR, which is the second-generation thermal nuclear power station that Britain has built. I shall deal with that later. American PWRs operate at a far higher temperature than advanced gas-cooled reactors. In fact, they operate at double the pressure and at a far higher temperature than the RBMK reactor that gave rise to the Chernobyl disaster.

Since the Layfield inquiry was first launched, in a campaign the Central Electricity Generating Board has been promising orders all over the country and has coupled that with rubbishing other nuclear reactor types in Britain. It did that even before the decision was known. At this stage, I should point out that the South of Scotland Electricity Board was not in favour of a pressurised water reactor. The actions and decisions of the CEGB to build a Three Mile Island type of nuclear reactor have played a not insignificant part in increasing doubts and fears about civil nuclear power. I have described it in many speeches in this House as a bastard type of PWR that will be built in Britain. We have never built one before. We say that it will be different. However, experience of virgin reactors is of delays, difficulties and high costs, as my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield has described.

Today—several billlion dollars later—we are receiving reports about attempts to clean up the Three Mile Island reactor. Apparently, life has been found within the site. However, I suspect that in part that owes something to the discovery that was made in the 18th century by Dr. Louis Pasteur, of pasteurisation fame, of what he described as "spontaneous generation". Whatever else the Chernobyl accident may have done, it has illustrated the fact that civil nuclear power is too unforgiving. Whatever the advance of technology, the margin for human error can be present in a fail-safe system. Irrespective of the designs of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, that aspect has been identified.

We must examine nuclear power and its problems. For much of the time since the initial development of nuclear power as a source of energy, it was assumed that it would provide limitless energy cheaply, cleanly and safely. However, those assumptions have proved untenable. In many cases, they have been disproved by the realities of the cost of construction, the technical difficulties of production, the increasing problems of the disposal of waste, and the security of materials.

Chernobyl realised grave doubts about the safety of nuclear power stations. Against that background, it is reasonable to ask whether there are other satisfactory means of meeting our energy requirements. In Britain, we can identify reserves of coal for 300 years; they could even last for 1,000 years. We also have oil and gas resources. An energy conservation policy would extend the life of our fossil fuels. It would raise the standards of insulation and the quality of housing and help to sustain employment.

Although our present reserves of fossil fuels are finite, there are enough of them to give us valuable time to get on with the task of developing alternative means of power, heat and light such as the renewable energy sources, of solar, wind, tidal and geothermal power. Last year in the House I led in a debate on alternative energy sources, and I identified the fact that the total Government budget for research and development in 1984–85 was a paltry £15 million compared with a parallel budget for nuclear power of £154 million.

Mr. Peter Walker

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that £15 million in one year from this Government is better than £7 million in five years from the Labour Government?

Mr. Eadie

I concede that immediately, but revenues from North sea oil under the Labour Government totalled £800 million, whereas this Government have received £53.4 billion. The amount spent on alternative energy sources has been a disgrace.

Two dangers must concern all of us. The first is the risk of a major accident at a nuclear power station. Chernobyl has given us a chilling account of what a serious nuclear accident can involve. Some 50,000 people had to be evacuated from a 19-mile zone around Chernobyl and radiation was so intense that it was lethal in two hours. Many square miles of Soviet earth are now poisoned by radioactive isotopes which will pose a threat to human life for decades ahead. Last autumn I visited Norway with the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) and we learnt that the reindeer herds in the north had to be slaughtered because of the radiation.

The second danger involves the disposal of nuclear waste which is an unavoidable byproduct of the nuclear industry. Yet the serious problems of its disposal and the dangers of pollution have yet to be dealt with satisfactorily by any country.

Other countries have responded to Chernobyl. In Yugoslavia plans have been cancelled for a second reactor; orders in Belgium and the Netherlands have been postponed; Italy's new reactor project has been brought to a halt by the local council; Austria is dismantling an unused reactor; Finland has suspended a decision to build another reactor; in Sweden, where nuclear power generates about 50 per. cent. of its energy requirement, it is planned to phase out nuclear power in under 25 years; and in the United States, although nuclear power is planned to increase by 40 per cent. in the next few years, it will come from reactors whose construction began 15 years ago. There have been no new orders since 1978 and there are no plans for the foreseeable future. Therefore, there should be no more civil nuclear power stations built in this country and a start should be made on phasing them out.

In Britain we have 11 first generation Magnox stations, 10 of which have been operating for 20 years. It was intended that a safety review should be carried out before they continued beyond that age. Our second generation stations include five AGRs and a further two are under construction.

The PWR is discredited on cost. The capital cost of Sizewell B has already increased more than 30 per cent. above its original estimate. To judge from the United States experience of building PWR stations, the present estimate of £1.5 billion will undergo considerable slippage before Sizewell B is built.

The CEGB provided the Energy Select Committee with information showing that the decommissioning costs for each Magnox station would be £270 million. Individual Magnox stations cost £500 million to construct at today's prices. However, no full-size commercial station has yet been decommissioned anywhere in the world.

Decommissioning costs are likely to be even more than 54 per cent. of capital costs. The Government always mention France when the costs of nuclear power are discussed, but they always ignore the fact that the capital indebtedness of electricity to France is some £20 billion, which is not taken into consideration in pricing. The French argue that they have no alternative to nuclear power because they have no gas or oil and only small reserves. We do not accept that. Britain by contrast has huge reserves of all three and is a net exporter of energy.

There is no need for nuclear energy, especially when renewable energy such as one-way solar and geothermal heat is taken into account. Therefore, the safety element is discredited. It is a too unforgiving technology, and that is why I say to my hon. Friends that we should phase it out and that they should support our amendment.

9.45 pm
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)

The hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) has followed his predecessors in seeking to draw some relevance from the fact that the United States has not ordered any new nuclear power stations since 1978. He might like to reflect on the fact that it is also true that the United States has not ordered any new coal-fired power stations since 1978. Therefore, it may be reasonable to conclude that, because of its massive nuclear programme, the United States has met the capacity of its requirements.

I should like to pay tribute to the speeches that have been made, particularly the constructive and thoughtful speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford (Dr. Clarke) and the supportive speeches of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton). My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) inquired about the future of Chapelcross. I pay tribute to the work that is done in that nuclear power station and I say to my hon. Friend that there is a long-term review occurring with regard to the Magnox stations, including Chapelcross. The consequences of that review will he taken into account in determining their future. But the safety of Chapelcross and other stations can be considered to be reliable at the present time, which is in part due to the high standards of work of the employees at that station.

The issue in the debate is not one between those who are passionate supporters of nuclear power and those who wish to remove it completely, because the Government's postion is quite simple. We want a balanced energy programme; not one that is dominated by nuclear power but one that relies on a spectrum of sources of fuel and of means of generating electricity. The Labour party and the other Opposition parties are committed to what can properly be described as an extremist position because they wish to phase out all nuclear power. The line-up of those on either side of the debate shows that on one side, completely against nuclear power, is the Leader of the Opposition, and on the other side is his colleague the shadow environment spokesman, the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham). On one side of the equation against nuclear power is the Labour party. On the other side is not only the Conservative party, but the Scottish TUC. The hon. Member for Midlothian should have referred to that fact. One finds on one side of the debate at least one half of the so-called alliance and on the other side the other half of it.

I was interested by the wording of the Opposition's amendment for the debate because in a short few lines it encapsulates at least three fundamental errors and misconceptions. First, it suggests that within this country nuclear power, has not in practice provided the country with … a cheap and safe electricity supply". We have not had any evidence to suggest that electricity has not been supplied safely in this country. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) repeated his statement that he believed that the British nuclear industry was probably the safest in the world, thereby going against the assertions in the amendment. If we are concerned about safety records, for many years the coal industry, as the hon. Member for Midlothian will be the first to admit, sadly and tragically, has suffered fatalities and injuries of a kind that the nuclear industry has not experienced.

The amendment also suggests that a non-nuclear energy policy would allow greater use of British technology than would the Government's approach. To refute that argument, I do not ask the House merely to listen to the views of the Government. In a document published only last month the Scottish TUC referred to its belief that there would be an energy gap and a need for nuclear power in the future and stated: A shutdown of the British nuclear industry now would almost certainly mean total reliance on imported technology in the future—technology in the development of whose safety standards we would have little say. When the Conservative Government and the Scottish TUC agree, which does not happen often, the Opposition should appreciate the force of the argument.

Mr. McGuire

The right hon. and learned Gentleman sought to give the impression that the dangers of coal mining were comparable with the dangers of nuclear power. The most dangerous industry in this country is agriculture. Does the Secretary of State want to close that industry down? A few years ago in what was then my constituency there was a tragic explosion in a coal mine, but it did not spill over and contaminate half of the western world. Why does the right hon. and learned Gentleman draw such stupid analogies?

Mr. Rifkind

The Opposition amendment states that the safety record of the nuclear industry in this country is not one in which we should have confidence. The hon. Gentleman cannot deny what his right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East is the first to admit—that this country's record is the best of any in the world.

If we are really interested in the prospects for the British economy, the employment implications of our energy policy must be a fundamental consideration. The Opposition amendment seeks to suggest that employment prospects would somehow be advanced if reliance on nuclear power were phased out, but there is no evidence to substantiate that claim. At least 100,000 jobs depend directly or indirectly on the nuclear industry and fully 44,000 of those are in the various nuclear organisations. Moreover, in a number of communities around the country reliance on the nuclear industry is of enormous importance. Dounreay, for instance, is not just the third largest employer in Caithness—[Interruption.] I imagine that the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) is not here because he is trying to persuade his constituents how much he supports the nuclear industry.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

The Secretary of State has a bit of a neck talking about jobs associated with energy and about Scottish communities depending on those jobs when he knows how many people relied on the coal industry before the Government deliberately destroyed their jobs.

The Secretary of State has merely skated around the safety question. Why was the chairman of the South of Scotland Electricity Board, whom the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself appointed, so critical of the safety record of PWRs and how can the Government be satisfied with a mere three kilometre evacuation zone around nuclear installations in Scotland?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman should be the first to be cautious about intervening in this debate. We shall long remember how, when he first sought election to the House, he professed himself to be a great supporter of Torness and only when he thought himself safely elected to the House did he suddenly support Labour party policy. A period of silence from the hon. Gentleman would be well advised.

The implications of the Opposition policy concern not only the jobs that would be directly or indirectly lost as a result of phasing out nuclear power stations—there is also the effect on electricity tariffs that such a policy would produce; because the SSEB estimates that to abandon support for the nuclear power industry would mean an increase in such tariffs in Scotland of between 20 and 30 per cent. We know that the Finnish pulp mill that is to be established in Irvine with about 1,000 jobs and a major investment would have had no opportunity of being won for Scotland if the policy of the right hon. Member for Salford, East had been adopted.

Mr. Orme

Why is the South of Scotland Electricity Board opposed to the PWR and in favour of the AGR? Where does the right hon. and learned Gentleman stand on that?

Mr. Rifkind

The right hon. Gentleman should appreciate that I regularly meet Mr. Miller, the chairman of the SSEB. He has emphasised to me, and has said publicly, that he is satisfied with the safety record of either system but, naturally, as he had had AGRs at Torness and Hunterston, the evidence that he gave to the inquiry pointed out the particular advantages of the AGR system.

I do not want to leave out the alliance. We know that on 14 September 1986 the SDP conference voted for an expansion of the nuclear power programme. We know that 11 days later the Liberal assembly voted to abandon the nuclear programme. We know that, on matters of principle, it is a fundamental characteristic of the new alliance that it is different from other parties. It does not like to conceal matters from the public; it likes to apply a holier than thou attitude to these important issues. The right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), the leader of the SDP, had anticipated the possibility of a difference of view because he had commented some time earlier that, with regard to nuclear power, we cannot have an uneasy fudge". He was quite right: we did not end up with an uneasy fudge—we ended up with the easiest fudge imaginable. Faced with a choice between expanding nuclear power—which the SDP wanted—or abandoning it—as the Liberal party wanted—this great alliance of principle decided to abandon both policies and ended up with a little bit of both. It decided to end up with a policy that said, "We will not get rid of existing power stations, nor build any new ones." That, we are told to believe, is an example of new integrity in public life on the part of a party that puts principle before expediency and seeks to impress the public.

This holier than thou attitude is not peculiar to the modern Liberal party. One recalls how, 100 years ago, Labouchere said of Gladstone: I don't object to Gladstone always having the ace of trumps up his sleeve, merely to his belief that the Almighty put it there". The British public faces a clear choice. Does it want an energy policy that is balanced with regard to sources of supply for generation of the power that this country needs? Does it accept the views, not only of the Government, but of the Scottish Trades Union Congress which said: There is a serious danger that in the not too distant future Britain and the rest of the world could encounter an energy gap without the maintenance of a significant contribution from nuclear power. This is a real problem". We recognise that that is a real problem and that the Third and developing worlds need nuclear power if they are to have any chance of meeting the requirements for energy that so many in the industrialised world take for granted. We realise that there are literally tens of thousands of jobs in this country and the rest of the world that are dependent on nuclear power either for direct employment, or because the increased electricity costs that would otherwise obtain would be devastating to their economies. The Opposition, having committed themselves to phasing out nuclear power, know that that is a policy that is fundamentally against the interests of the Labour movement, as expressed by the Scottish TUC, and the interests of the energy industry as a whole. It is for that reason that I have no hesitation in asking the House to reject the irresponsible amendment of the Opposition and to give thumping approval to the Government's motion.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 182, Noes 340.

Division No. 160] [10.00 pm
Alton, David Clelland, David Gordon
Anderson, Donald Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S)
Ashdown, Paddy Cohen, Harry
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Coleman, Donald
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Conlan, Bernard
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Corbett, Robin
Barnes, Mrs Rosemary Corbyn, Jeremy
Barron, Kevin Cox, Thomas (Tooting)
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Craigen, J. M.
Beith, A. J. Crowther, Stan
Bell, Stuart Cunliffe, Lawrence
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Bidwell, Sydney Deakins, Eric
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Dewar, Donald
Boyes, Roland Dixon, Donald
Bray, Dr Jeremy Dobson, Frank
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Dormand, Jack
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Dubs, Alfred
Brown, N, (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Duffy, A. E. P.
Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N) Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Bruce, Malcolm Eadie, Alex
Buchan, Norman Eastham, Ken
Caborn, Richard Evans, John (St. Helens N)
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Faulds, Andrew
Canavan, Dennis Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Fisher, Mark
Cartwright, John Flannery, Martin
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Clarke, Thomas Foster, Derek
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald O'Neill, Martin
Freud, Clement Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
George, Bruce Parry, Robert
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Patchett, Terry
Golding, Mrs Llin Pike, Peter
Gould, Bryan Powell, Rt Hon J. E.
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Hamilton, W. W. (Fife Central) Prescott, John
Hancock, Michael Radice, Giles
Hardy, Peter Randall, Stuart
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Raynsford, Nick
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Redmond, Martin
Haynes, Frank Richardson, Ms Jo
Heffer, Eric S. Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Robertson, George
Home Robertson, John Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Howarth, George (Knowsley, N) Rogers, Allan
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath) Rooker, J. W.
Howells, Geraint Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
Hoyle, Douglas Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Rowlands, Ted
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Sedgemore, Brian
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Sheerman, Barry
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Hume, John Shields, Mrs Elizabeth
Johnston, Sir Russell Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
Kennedy, Charles Skinner, Dennis
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Kirkwood, Archy Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'ds E)
Lamond, James Snape, Peter
Leadbitter, Ted Soley, Clive
Leighton, Ronald Spearing, Nigel
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Steel, Rt Hon David
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Stott, Roger
Litherland, Robert Strang, Gavin
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Taylor, Matthew
Loyden, Edward Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
McGuire, Michael Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
McKelvey, William Thorne, Stan (Preston)
MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Tinn, James
McTaggart, Robert Wainwright, R.
McWilliam, John Wallace, James
Madden, Max Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Marek, Dr John Wareing, Robert
Martin, Michael Welsh, Michael
Mason, Rt Hon Roy Wigley, Dafydd
Maynard, Miss Joan Williams, Rt Hon A.
Meacher, Michael Wilson, Gordon
Meadowcroft, Michael Winnick, David
Michie, William Woodall, Alec
Mikardo, Ian Wrigglesworth, Ian
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Tellers for the Ayes:
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Mr. Allen McKay and Mr. Allen Adams.
Nellist, David
Adley, Robert Bendall, Vivian
Aitken, Jonathan Benyon, William
Alexander, Richard Bevan, David Gilroy
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Biffen, Rt Hon John
Amess, David Biggs-Davison, Sir John
Ancram, Michael Blackburn, John
Arnold, Tom Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Ashby, David Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Aspinwall, Jack Bottomley, Peter
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Boyson, Dr Rhodes
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Brandon-Bravo, Martin
Baldry, Tony Bright, Graham
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Brinton, Tim
Batiste, Spencer Brittan, Rt Hon Leon
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)
Browne, John Hampson, Dr Keith
Bruinvels, Peter Hanley, Jeremy
Bryan, Sir Paul Hannam, John
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Hargreaves, Kenneth
Budgen, Nick Harris, David
Bulmer, Esmond Haselhurst, Alan
Burt, Alistair Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Butcher, John Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Butler, Rt Hon Sir Adam Hawkins, Sir Paul (N'folk SW)
Butterfill, John Hawksley, Warren
Carlisle, John (Luton N) Hayes, J.
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S) Hayward, Robert
Carttiss, Michael Heathcoat-Amory, David
Cash, William Heddle, John
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Henderson, Barry
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Chapman, Sydney Hickmet, Richard
Chope, Christopher Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Churchill, W. S. Hind, Kenneth
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Hirst, Michael
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Holt, Richard
Clegg, Sir Walter Hordern, Sir Peter
Colvin, Michael Howard, Michael
Conway, Derek Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Coombs, Simon Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Cope, John Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Corrie, John Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)
Couchman, James Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Cranborne, Viscount Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Critchley, Julian Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Crouch, David Hunter, Andrew
Currie, Mrs Edwina Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Dickens, Geoffrey Irving, Charles
Dicks, Terry Jackson, Robert
Dorrell, Stephen Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Dunn, Robert Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Durant, Tony Jones, Robert (Herts W)
Dykes, Hugh Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Eggar, Tim Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Emery, Sir Peter Key, Robert
Evennett, David King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Eyre, Sir Reginald King, Rt Hon Tom
Fairbairn, Nicholas Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Fallon, Michael Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Favell, Anthony Knowles, Michael
Fenner, Dame Peggy Knox, David
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Fletcher, Sir Alexander Lang, Ian
Fookes, Miss Janet Latham, Michael
Forth, Eric Lawler, Geoffrey
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Lawrence, Ivan
Fox, Sir Marcus Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Franks, Cecil Lee, John (Pendle)
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Fry, Peter Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Gale, Roger Lester, Jim
Galley, Roy Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Lightbown, David
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde) Lilley, Peter
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Glyn, Dr Alan Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Goodhart, Sir Philip Lord, Michael
Goodlad, Alastair Lyell, Nicholas
Gorst, John McCrindle, Robert
Gow, Ian McCurley, Mrs Anna
Gower, Sir Raymond Macfarlane, Neil
Grant, Sir Anthony MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Gregory, Conal MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Griffiths, Sir Eldon Maclean, David John
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)
Ground, Patrick McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Grylls, Michael McQuarrie, Albert
Gummer, Rt Hon John S Madel, David
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Major, John
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Malins, Humfrey
Malone, Gerald Sayeed, Jonathan
Maples, John Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Marland, Paul Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Marlow, Antony Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Mather, Sir Carol Shersby, Michael
Maude, Hon Francis Silvester, Fred
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Sims, Roger
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Skeet, Sir Trevor
Mellor, David Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Merchant, Piers Soames, Hon Nicholas
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Speed, Keith
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Squire, Robin
Miscampbell, Norman Stanbrook, Ivor
Moate, Roger Stanley, Rt Hon John
Monro, Sir Hector Stern, Michael
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Moore, Rt Hon John Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Morris, M. (N'hampton S) Stewart, Ian (Hertf'dshire N)
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Stokes, John
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester) Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Moynihan, Hon C. Sumberg, David
Mudd, David Tapsell, Sir Peter
Murphy, Christopher Taylor, John (Solihull)
Neale, Gerrard Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Nelson, Anthony Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Neubert, Michael Temple-Morris, Peter
Newton, Tony Terlezki, Stefan
Nicholls, Patrick Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Norris, Steven Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Onslow, Cranley Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Oppenheim, Phillip Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. Thorne, Neil (llford S)
Ottaway, Richard Thornton, Malcolm
Page, Sir John (Harrow W) Thurnham, Peter
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Tracey, Richard
Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abgdn) Trippier, David
Pattie, Rt Hon Geoffrey Trotter, Neville
Pawsey, James Twinn, Dr Ian
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian Viggers, Peter
Pollock, Alexander Waddington, Rt Hon David
Portillo, Michael Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Powell, William (Corby) Waldegrave, Hon William
Powley, John Walden, George
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Price, Sir David Wall, Sir Patrick
Prior, Rt Hon James Waller, Gary
Proctor, K. Harvey Walters, Dennis
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Ward, John
Raffan, Keith Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Warren, Kenneth
Rathbone, Tim Watts, John
Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover) Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Renton, Tim Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Rhodes James, Robert Wheeler, John
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Whitfield, John
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Whitney, Raymond
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Wiggin, Jerry
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Wilkinson, John
Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Winterton, Mrs Ann
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Winterton, Nicholas
Robinson, Mark (N'port W) Wolfson, Mark
Roe, Mrs Marion Wood, Timothy
Rossi, Sir Hugh Woodcock, Michael
Rowe, Andrew Yeo, Tim
Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Ryder, Richard Tellers for the Noes:
Sackville, Hon Thomas Mr. Robert Boscawen and Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 340, Noes 181.

Division No. 161] [10.15 pm
Adley, Robert Dykes, Hugh
Aitken, Jonathan Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Alexander, Richard Eggar, Tim
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Emery, Sir Peter
Amess, David Evennett, David
Ancram, Michael Eyre, Sir Reginald
Arnold, Tom Fairbairn, Nicholas
Ashby, David Fallon, Michael
Aspinwall, Jack Favell, Anthony
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Fenner, Dame Peggy
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Fletcher, Sir Alexander
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Fookes, Miss Janet
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Forth, Eric
Baldry, Tony Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Fox, Sir Marcus
Batiste, Spencer Franks, Cecil
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Bendall, Vivian Fry, Peter
Benyon, William Gale, Roger
Bevan, David Gilroy Galley, Roy
Biffen, Rt Hon John Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)
Blackburn, John Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Glyn, Dr Alan
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Goodhart, Sir Philip
Bottomley, Peter Goodlad, Alastair
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Gorst, John
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Gourlay, Harry
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Gow, Ian
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Gower, Sir Raymond
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Grant, Sir Anthony
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Gregory, Conal
Bright, Graham Griffiths, Sir Eldon
Brinton, Tim Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Ground, Patrick
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Grylls, Michael
Browne, John Gummer, Rt Hon John S
Bruinvels, Peter Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Bryan, Sir Paul Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Hampson, Dr Keith
Budgen, Nick Hanley, Jeremy
Bulmer, Esmond Hannam, John
Burt, Alistair Hargreaves, Kenneth
Butcher, John Harris, David
Butler, Rt Hon Sir Adam Haselhurst, Alan
Butterfill, John Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Carlisle, John (Luton N) Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hawkins, Sir Paul (N'folk SW)
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S) Hawksley, Warren
Carttiss, Michael Hayes, J.
Cash, William Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Hayward, Robert
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Heathcoat-Amory, David
Chapman, Sydney Heddle, John
Chope, Christopher Henderson, Barry
Churchill, W. S. Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Hickmet, Richard
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Hind, Kenneth
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Hirst, Michael
Clegg, Sir Walter Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Colvin, Michael Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Conway, Derek Holt, Richard
Coombs, Simon Hordern, Sir Peter
Cope, John Howard, Michael
Corrie, John Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Couchman, James Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Cranborne, Viscount Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Critchley, Julian Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)
Crouch, David Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Currie, Mrs Edwina Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Dickens, Geoffrey Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Dicks, Terry Hunter, Andrew
Dorrell, Stephen Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Irving, Charles
Dunn, Robert Jackson, Robert
Durant, Tony Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abgdn)
Jones, Robert (Herts W) Pattie, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Pawsey, James
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Kershaw, Sir Anthony Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Key, Robert Pollock, Alexander
King, Roger (B'ham N'field) Portillo, Michael
King, Rt Hon Tom Powell, William (Corby)
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Powley, John
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Knowles, Michael Price, Sir David
Knox, David Prior, Rt Hon James
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Proctor, K. Harvey
Lang, Ian Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Latham, Michael Raffan, Keith
Lawler, Geoffrey Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Lawrence, Ivan Rathbone, Tim
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)
Lee, John (Pendle) Renton, Tim
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Rhodes James, Robert
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Lester, Jim Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd) Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Lightbown, David Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Lilley, Peter Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Lord, Michael Roe, Mrs Marion
Lyell, Nicholas Rossi, Sir Hugh
McCrindle, Robert Rowe, Andrew
McCurley, Mrs Anna Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Macfarlane, Neil Ryder, Richard
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire) Sackville, Hon Thomas
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Maclean, David John St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury) Sayeed, Jonathan
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
McQuarrie, Albert Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Madel, David Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Major, John Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Malins, Humfrey Shersby, Michael
Malone, Gerald Silvester, Fred
Maples, John Sims, Roger
Marland, Paul Skeet, Sir Trevor
Marlow, Antony Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Soames, Hon Nicholas
Mather, Sir Carol Speed, Keith
Maude, Hon Francis Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Squire, Robin
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Stanbrook, Ivor
Mellor, David Stanley, Rt Hon John
Merchant, Piers Stern, Michael
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Stewart, Ian (Hertf'dshire N)
Miscampbell, Norman Stokes, John
Moate, Roger Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Monro, Sir Hector Sumberg, David
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Tapsell, Sir Peter
Moore, Rt Hon John Taylor, John (Solihull)
Morris, M. (N'hampton S) Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester) Temple-Morris, Peter
Moynihan, Hon C. Terlezki, Stefan
Mudd, David Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Murphy, Christopher Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Neale, Gerrard Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Nelson, Anthony Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Neubert, Michael Thorne, Neil (llford S)
Newton, Tony Thornton, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick Thurnham, Peter
Norris, Steven Townend, John (Bridlington)
Onslow, Cranley Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Oppenheim, Phillip Tracey, Richard
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. Trippier, David
Ottaway, Richard Trotter, Neville
Page, Sir John (Harrow W) Twinn, Dr Ian
Page, Richard (Herts SW) van Straubenzee, Sir W
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Viggers, Peter
Waddington, Rt Hon David Whitfield, John
Wakeham, Rt Hon John Whitney, Raymond
Waldegrave, Hon William Wiggin, Jerry
Walden, George Wilkinson, John
Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Wall, Sir Patrick Winterton, Nicholas
Waller, Gary Wolfson, Mark
Walters, Dennis Wood, Timothy
Ward, John Woodcock, Michael
Wardle, C. (Bexhill) Yeo, Tim
Warren, Kenneth
Watts, John Tellers for the Ayes:
Wells, Bowen (Hertford) Mr. Robert Boscawen and Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.
Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Wheeler, John
Alton, David Cunliffe, Lawrence
Anderson, Donald Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Ashdown, Paddy Deakins, Eric
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Dewar, Donald
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Dixon, Donald
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Dobson, Frank
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Dormand, Jack
Barnes, Mrs Rosemary Dubs, Alfred
Barron, Kevin Duffy, A. E. P.
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Eadie, Alex
Beith, A. J. Eastham, Ken
Bell, Stuart Evans, John (St. Helens N)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Faulds, Andrew
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Bermingham, Gerald Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
Bidwell, Sydney Fisher, Mark
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Flannery, Martin
Boyes, Roland Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Bray, Dr Jeremy Foster, Derek
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Fraser, J. (Norwood)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Freud, Clement
Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N) George, Bruce
Bruce, Malcolm Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Buchan, Norman Golding, Mrs Llin
Caborn, Richard Hamilton, James (M'well N)
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Hancock, Michael
Canavan, Dennis Hardy, Peter
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Carter-Jones, Lewis Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Cartwright, John Haynes, Frank
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Heffer, Eric S.
Clarke, Thomas Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Clelland, David Gordon Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Home Robertson, John
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S) Howarth, George (Knowsley, N)
Cohen, Harry Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Coleman, Donald Howells, Geraint
Conlan, Bernard Hoyle, Douglas
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Corbett, Robin Hughes, Roy (Newport East)
Corbyn, Jeremy Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Craigen, J. M. Hume, John
Crowther, Stan Johnston, Sir Russell
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Kennedy, Charles Robertson, George
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Kirkwood, Archy Rogers, Allan
Lamond, James Rooker, J. W.
Leadbitter, Ted Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
Leighton, Ronald Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Rowlands, Ted
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Sedgemore, Brian
Litherland, Robert Sheerman, Barry
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Loyden, Edward Shields, Mrs Elizabeth
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Shore, Rt Hon Peter
McGuire, Michael Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
McKelvey, William Short, Mrs H.(W'hampt'n NE)
MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Skinner, Dennis
Maclennan, Robert Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
McTaggart, Robert Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'ds E)
McWilliam, John Snape, Peter
Madden, Max Soley, Clive
Marek, Dr John Spearing, Nigel
Martin, Michael Steel, Rt Hon David
Mason, Rt Hon Roy Stott, Roger
Maynard, Miss Joan Strang, Gavin
Meacher, Michael Taylor, Matthew
Meadowcroft, Michael Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Michie, William Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Mikardo, Ian Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Tinn, James
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Wainwright, R.
Nellist, David Wallace, James
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
O'Neill, Martin Wareing, Robert
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Welsh, Michael
Parry, Robert Wigley, Dafydd
Patchett, Terry Williams, Rt Hon A.
Pike, Peter Wilson, Gordon
Powell, Rt Hon J. E. Winnick, David
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Woodall, Alec
Prescott, John Wrigglesworth, Ian
Radice, Giles
Randall, Stuart Tellers for the Noes:
Raynsford, Nick Mr. Allen McKay and Mr. Allen Adams.
Redmond, Martin
Richardson, Ms Jo

Question accordingly agreed to.


That this House, recognising the advantages to the country of having a diversity of energy supply, including coal, gas, oil and nuclear power, welcomes the Secretary of State for Energy's decision to give consent to the construction of the Sizewell B PWR and thus recognises the important contribution that nuclear energy is making and will continue to make to the provision of cheap and efficient electricity and the strength of the British economy; also recognises that the industry is a major source of employment; and deplores the policies of the Opposition parties that would sacrifice that employment.