HC Deb 26 November 2001 vol 375 cc733-4

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

7.45 pm
Mr. Dalyell

The clause deals with Atomic Energy Authority special constables, and subsection (1) extends the places within which the Atomic Energy Authority constabulary has powers of constables to include any licensed nuclear sites—and not just those of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, British Nuclear Fuels and Urenco Ltd.

I wish to say a word about Urenco to my hon. Friends on the Front Bench. In the early 1980s, I tabled oral and written questions to the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, about the activities of a young research student, as he was then, at the university of Brussels. He had gone to Almelo Urenco in Holland and pinched—I think "pinched" is the right word—not only important physics formulas but lists of where the parts and equipment for making nuclear devices could be obtained. The research student's name was Abdul Qadeer Khan and he was the "father" of the Pakistan bomb. To be fair to Margaret Thatcher, she took the issue extremely seriously and I went to see her. One can check that by examining the history of the 1980s.

The fact is that crimes relating to nuclear devices and the problems with which the clause deals are likely to be perpetrated by extremely skilled and often trusted people. Surely if we are to take the matter seriously, we should examine carefully the CVs of all who now work in nuclear installations. That is a tall order, but if security is to be maintained, there must be far more detailed examinations particularly of students from abroad. That is why I raise the question of Abdul Qadeer Khan and what happened previously

I do not know whether I am going over the top, but is my hon. Friend the Minister concerned to ensure that extremely expert people have their credentials examined far more seriously than ever before?

The Minister for Industry and Energy (Mr. Brian Wilson)

I assure my hon. Friend that all aspects of security at nuclear installations are closely examined. He would not expect me to comment further but, on his wider point about Urenco, it is policed by the UKAEA constabulary and the enhanced powers of the constabulary will apply to such installations. Other than to note his comments, I cannot go beyond that tonight.

Mr. Dalyell

I have a very straight question. Is more being done than was being done before 11 September?

Mr. Wilson

The fact that we are introducing the Bill suggests that more is being done than before 11 September. I hope that my hon. Friend is satisfied with the extension of the constabulary's powers. On his point about checking the CVs of applicants to work in nuclear power stations, I have no reason to believe that the process has hitherto been deficient. I am therefore reluctant to enter into a cosy consensus with him on that point. However, I can positively say without prejudice that future practice will no doubt be enhanced by the Bill and that CVs will be extremely closely monitored.

Mr. Dalyell

So that the issue is considered in the light of day, may I ask for a letter of reflection to be placed in the Library? It is a very serious subject.

Mr. Wilson

I would never refuse my hon. Friend a letter of reflection.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 76 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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