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Mr. Connarty: Some of us in Praseg—the all-party group on renewable and sustainable energy—are concerned that in Denmark, for example, a major wind farm proposal has just been withdrawn, and it is now admitted that there are problems with intermittent supply from sources such as wind power. The wind power strategy in Denmark is backed up with a punitive energy tax, which no one ever mentions when they talk about renewables. Renewables are attractive if energy is so expensive that people have to turn to other sources, as they do in Denmark.

Mr. Brown: My hon. Friend has a great deal of experience in such matters. As we all know, there is a price to pay for renewables.

UK-wide we have 15 operational nuclear stations and the effect of those stations is to reduce carbon emissions by 11 to 22 per cent., or 12 to 24 million tonnes of carbon. The figures vary widely, depending on whether we would replace that form of generation by gas or coal.

We should consider what is being said elsewhere about energy supply and energy policy. The House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union, in its report on the security of energy supply, recommended that the EU should aim at least to retain its present proportion of nuclear power and, importantly, that it should examine

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what is necessary to achieve that. The Select Committee also stated that it should be recognised that nuclear power is a key component of energy security and environmental performance, and provides more than one third of Europe's electricity. It will reduce the EU's CO 2 emissions by more than 300 million tonnes in 2010.

Mr. Iain Luke (Dundee, East): Does my hon. Friend accept that the growing involvement of the EU, as evidenced by the Green Paper published a year ago, means that the issue of consent on a national and regional basis may be circumvented by the need for the European Union to take powers to ensure the security of energy supply in future for the whole of Europe, on an individual nation basis?

Mr. Brown: I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. He is right. There is much happening out there. We cannot remain in isolation. I hope that we in the House will look at the matter UK wide. Our perspective needs to be much wider than that of the nationalists.

Annabelle Ewing: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Brown: Of course.

Annabelle Ewing: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way so graciously. Does he not agree, then, with his hon. Friend the Minister for Industry and Energy, who said:


Mr. Brown: The murmurings from the Front Bench are a noise to reckon with.

The House of Lords Select Committee recommended that the Government should maintain the UK's ability to produce not less than 20 per cent. of electricity from nuclear.

In its report on energy policy, the Select Committee on Trade and Industry made it clear that nuclear has a significant role in maintaining the security and diversity of electricity supply. It recognised that nuclear makes a key contribution to environmental objectives such as the reduction of greenhouse gases, and it urged the Government to make a clear statement on the future of nuclear energy as quickly as possible. It is that security of supply which means so much to the public.

At a local level, the nuclear power station in my constituency, Chapelcross, was the location of an incident in July last year, as some hon. Members know. The hon. Member for Angus (Mr. Weir) saw fit to table an early-day motion on 18 July last year, part of which stated

Frankly, that is politics at the lowest level. Had the hon. Gentleman checked with the site, he would have been told that all 24 rods were accounted for the previous day. At no stage did that company attempt to cover up the incident.

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I do not suppose that the hon. Gentleman will apologise to the House but, more importantly, he should apologise to the work force at the site.

A number of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues visited the site. Before their arrival, there was great talk in the Scottish press of the need to shut down the plant which, during the visit, developed into a need to close it at the end of its lifetime. They walked away from that site visit stating that position clearly.

Mr. Weir: The hon. Gentleman knows that it has always been the policy of the Scottish National party to close the plant at the end of its technological or economic life. I am not responsible for what is said in the press, locally or nationally, but at no time have we called for the immediate closure of Chapelcross.

Mr. Brown: Although I do not believe everything I read in the press, I have some confidence in the trade unions at the site which picked up that message from the SNP.

At the time of the incident, British Nuclear Fuels began to shut down other reactors on the site so that it could concentrate its efforts on examining the problem in detail. However, that action caused Scottish Power considerable anxiety because it threatened its security of supply, and there was serious concern that there would be blackouts and power cuts.

At the end of last year, the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets issued a consultation document on access to the Scotland-England interconnector. That is so vital to the economic viability of the Chapelcross site that a local petition was organised within the community which collected more than 5,000 signatures in a weekend. In addition, a number of individuals made representations on the matter, including politicians at a local and national level. If the SNP supports stations operating until the end of their lifetime, why was no support offered by the two list SNP Members of the Scottish Parliament from the south of Scotland, Christine Graham and Mike Russell? Mr. Mike Russell had previously visited the site, but those MSPs showed no support for it or its work force.

The Ofgem consultation closed on 21 January and it was due to issue its findings 10 days later. I want the House and the SNP in particular to be aware that Ofgem did nothing more than issue a holding statement last Friday, some four weeks late. Lying behind that delay is the fact that Ofgem has listened to the anxiety expressed by the work force, the company and local people, who are worried that the inability to use the interconnector will cause the site to close and the loss of 450 jobs.

In last week's statement, Ofgem said:

in other words, security of supply. A station that generates 196 MW may seem insignificant to many people, but it is fairly significant for the locality and greatly significant for Ofgem, the organisation that ensures that people receive a supply of electricity. Although the non-nuclear bandwagon sounds promising to those who want to climb aboard, once the lights are out it is not so easy to turn them on again.

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9.29 pm

Mr. Michael Weir (Angus): The one thing that has become clear in this debate is why the Minister for Industry and Energy chose not to be present to hear it—he was here earlier, but has decided to make himself scarce. When we strip away all the obfuscation and unpeel the Secretary of State's excuses and dancing on pin heads, it is clear that he was incorrect and that he did not know who was responsible for planning permission for nuclear power stations in Scotland. Frankly, that is a deeply frightening thought.

It seems clear, as eventually emerged from the Secretary of State, that she believes that Westminster, not Scotland, will ultimately make the decision. That flies in the face of what the Minister for Industry and Energy said not only last week, but in his letter to my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) and the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd). He made clear time and time again his belief that the ultimate decision lay in Scotland. It appears, however, that the Scotland Office is now overriding the Department of Trade and Industry on these matters. Again, that is deeply worrying.

The debate was opened by my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan, who set out, in a typically powerful speech, its context, which relates not only to nuclear aspects and energy resources but to the whole constitutional position. With regard to that context, the Minister of State said:

Will he tell us whether that means that, if the Scottish Parliament makes a decision that has an impact in England—I can think of several such decisions that might be on the way—Westminster will try to take back the powers from it? That is the subtext of what is happening, leaving aside the whole energy matter.

Mrs. Liddell: Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether he agrees with his parliamentary leader on the use of civil disobedience?

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