HC Deb 22 June 1994 vol 245 cc219-20
3. Mr. Simon Hughes

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what information he can now give about the timetable for the nuclear review.

Mr. Eggar

The industry's commercial case for new stations has now been published. The Government have invited submissions from all interested parties, including comments on that case, by 30 September. We will consider carefully all representations received.

Mr. Hughes

Is not the Government's timetable the latest in the rather inglorious series of privatisations of energy industries? First we have indecision, then we have delay and then we have botch up. Will the Minister come clean on the following questions? Why is the Green Paper being written by the nuclear industry, not the Government? Why are the Government being inconsistent by not saying that they will make anyone who buys the nuclear industry take responsibility for all the liabilities—past, present and to come?

Mr. Eggar

The hon. Gentleman should do two things. First, he should do the House the courtesy of studying exactly what the Government have said. There is no question of the Government publishing a Green Paper in the first place and there is no question whatsoever of the nuclear industry writing that Green Paper. Secondly, I suggest that he sticks to windmills.

Mr. Whittingdale

Will my hon. Friend take the opportunity to congratulate Nuclear Electric plc on the remarkable turnaround which that company has achieved, which has put it on course to achieve an operating profit by next year, before the nuclear levy? Will he seriously consider the submissions to the nuclear review from Nuclear Electric, which make it clear that the best thing that could happen to that company is for it to be freed from state ownership and allowed to compete freely in the private sector?

Mr. Eggar

We shall obviously want to consider carefully the representations that have been made, at some considerable length, by Nuclear Electric and the other elements in the nuclear industry. The banter that issues from the Opposition whenever reference is made to improvements in the record of the nuclear industry is not only a disgrace but unfair to the many thousands of people who work in that industry, a number of whom belong to trade unions that support the Labour party.

Mr. O'Neill

Whose review—that of the Department of Trade and Industry, that of the Department of the Environment or that of the Scottish Office—will be responsible for consideration of on-site dry storage? It seems that that aspect of nuclear waste management is being lost. There have been lengthy public inquiries into it, and there have been reports, but it has not been included in the current review. Therefore, it should be dealt with separately since it has gone through the judicial process. Should not there be a clear line on that, and does not it have to be resolved quickly, because it enters into all the commercial judgments that will have to be made?

Mr. Eggar

That relates to a decision that has to be taken by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. My understanding is that he has decided to await the radioactive waste management study that is being carried out by the Department of the Environment, but obviously waste management and storage must be considered carefully in the context of the nuclear review.