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Mr. Tynan: There is a danger that, if we try to perpetuate a lie, people may come to accept that as a truth. The position is quite clear. The reply to the hon. Gentleman from the Minister of State stated clearly that
Mr. Alan Reid: If an application to build a nuclear power station in Scotland was turned down by the Scottish Executive, but the Government promoted legislation in this House to overturn that decision and grant planning permission, would the hon. Gentleman support that legislation?
Mr. Tynan: My position is quite clear: I do not expect that situation to arise, and I cannot answer a hypothetical question. The answer is the one that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave. The hon. Gentleman should accept it, as it suits his argument.
The SNP would rather be involved in splits and create division between the Scottish Parliament and Westminster than accept the fact that those two bodies work well with each other in the interests of the people of Scotland.
Mr. Peter Duncan: The hon. Gentleman rightly points out that the SNP is trying to create splits and division. I accept that, but as a Scottish Conservative who has a genuine interest in creating unity in the United Kingdom, I do not understand it. Before we began the debate, the confusion seemed to be whether this issue was the responsibility of Holyrood or Westminster. It now seems that either it is the responsibility of Holyrood or we do not know whose responsibility it is. That is my understanding, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman knows better.
Mr. Tynan: I do not want to go down that road, because I have already made it clear that I do not intend to speculate on what might happen in the future. However, as the Minister of State said to the hon. Member for Angus, it is clear that the Scottish Executive are able to grant planning permission for a power station.
I want to examine the SNP's energy policy, which is a shambles. The sooner we acknowledge the need for a balanced, integrated energy policy including coal generation, wind and wave generation and nuclear power, the sooner we can consider how best to develop that policy.
I think every Member is in favour of renewable energy. That is why the Government have invested in research and development relating to sources of such energy. Not only are they exempting them from the climate change levy; under the renewables obligation, they are pumping some £260 million into alternative energy sources.
Mr. Simon Thomas: I am interested in what the hon. Gentleman has said about the money that the Government are spending on renewables. Will he tell us how much was spent on renewables in 1999-2000, and how much was spent on nuclear energy research?
Even British Energy, a private company, is currently prepared to invest £600 million in wind farms off the Isle of Lewis that have the potential to produce 600 MW. But our position would be untenable if we ruled out nuclear power per se; if we did so, we would end up without a policy to meet the requirements of our people.
The hon. Gentleman said that it would be dangerous to rule out the decommissioning of nuclear plants. Like me, he is interested in the pursuit of policies in other European countries. It may not be well known that, in Germany, our allies in Europe are in government along with the hon. Gentleman's allies in Europe. Both parties, the Social Democrats and the Greens, have passed policy in favour of decommissioning all Germany's nuclear power stations. If that is right for Germany, why is it so wrong for us in Scotland?
Mr. Tynan: Whatever Opposition Members may think about the demise of nuclear power, 31 reactors are being constructed in 11 countries. Finland is on the verge of ordering a new nuclear power station. Moreover, 35 per cent. of the European Union's electricity comes from nuclear power stations, which makes nuclear power the largest single source of electricity in Europe. We must look again at nuclear power stations, and decide whether we are prepared to become dependent on other nations for our electricity.
John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross): When I first read the motion, I considered it rather lighta bit of a Woolton pie, lacking in meat. As the debate has progressed, however, it has become clear that far from being a Woolton pie, it is something of a Beef Wellington. SNP members certainly seem to have found something pretty interesting below the crust.
Initially I concluded that the motion posed a pretty simple question, and that there ought to be a pretty simple answer. The pretty simple question was "Who is responsible for saying yes or no to planning for a nuclear plant, or any other power generation plant, in Scotland?". Was it Holyrood, or was it Westminster? The simple answer, I thoughthaving consulted the Scotland Act
I have listened to this evening's debate, and believe that it amounts to the longest "don't know" in history. It is perfectly clear to me now that I do not have a clue whether it was a simple question with a simple answer.
The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) has quoted already the comments of the Minister for Industry and Energy. However, he left out a sentence. The Minister said, "The position is unambiguous", but he also said:
Of course, Westminster Governments are always able to revisit the Scotland Act 1998, and the devolution settlement. Clearly, the concept of devolution is based on this Parliament remaining sovereign, with certain powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament. It is possible for any Government to propose to go back on the powers that have been so devolved. However, all supporters of devolution and of the settlement finally enacted by this House would find it unacceptable if a Government were to go back on the current settlement.
On countless happy evenings in another place, my noble Friends and I sat opposite Lord Sewel, trying to get the Government to accept a variety of amendments that would have widened the powers of the Scottish Parliament on a range of issues. In each case, the Minister knocked us back. We were told that we had to be careful and to ensure that what was put in place was right. We were told that the mechanism had to be workable, without ambiguity.
For many who took part in the debates in the other placeand I am sure that the same applies to those who took part in the debates in this Housethe devolution settlement that we got was the minimum. It was really quite conservative, with a small "c". We were happy to get it, but we believed that, if anything, it was a settlement that could be taken further in the future. We did not think that the Government could go back on it, but there is a worrying undertone that the Government are considering bringing powers back to Westminster. I sincerely hope that the Government will not go down that road, and that the devolution settlement will be honoured.
Mr. Foulkes: The history of the past two and bit years has not been as the hon. Gentleman has described. The Government have introduced one executive order after another under section 63 of the Scotland Act, giving more devolution and power to the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament. Most recently, that has happened in relation to the ferries running between Rosyth and Zeebrugge, and between Campbeltown and Ballycastle. The picture is entirely different from the one that the hon. Gentleman has painted.
There are only so many ways in which a question can be asked and still secure a "don't know" for an answer, so I shall move on from a matter that I think has been done to death. I turn now to Wales, which my party believes would be better served with a devolution settlement that more closely resembles the settlement for Scotland. Such a settlement would give Wales a Parliament with the ability to enact primary legislation. People who believe in devolution, as I do, do not understand why it should not be right for the Welsh to have the same devolution settlement as the Scots. One day, the English may be able to have it too. We live in hope.
I hope that the Government will listen to the voice of the people of Walesalthough, in that respect, the power clearly lies here in Westminster. I hope that the Government will accept the spirit of what is meant by the phrase "listening to the Assembly".
It seems to me that the real substance of what I had hoped would be debated this evening under the motionI did not anticipate what was debated earlier, so I should learn to read Scottish National party motions more carefullywas energy policy generally for Scotland. To be perfectly honest, I thought that I would not find it too difficult to support the motion in the name of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) and his hon. Friends. However, I have read part of it reasonably carefully, and its defect is that it does not refer to the sustainability of energy. It refers to a strategy for developing indigenous sources of energy, and it refers to coal, gas and renewables. The key point missing, the inclusion of which would have made the motion perfect, was that the strategy should be one of sustainable energy.
Ultimately, sustainability is the key in terms of producing energy andlying behind this whole debateour commitment to Kyoto. We must reduce emissionsCO 2 emissions are one of the biggest dangers that we face.