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Mr. Weir: The Secretary of State seems to be hung up on that issue. The question of what will happen if Westminster decides to overrule the democratically elected Scottish Parliament will be decided when that happens. I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan said on the matter. He clearly answered the right hon. Lady's question and I have nothing to add. I say to her that there is a long history. I will make an admission in that regard: way back in the 1970s, I visited Torness, which did not have a nuclear power station at the time, but was being occupied as a protest against the building of such a power station. It is sad that, 20 years later, we are having to advance the same arguments yet again.
It was interesting that the Minister of State seemed quite happy to be described as the Baldrick of Scottish politics. I seem to recall that Baldrick's only friend was a turnip, so perhaps the description is fairly appropriate.
Mr. Weir: Democracy also extends to the Scottish Parliament. We have a devolution settlement that has been overridden unilaterally from Westminster. That is the implication of what has been said, and that is why the Scottish people are prepared to protest. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman, who I believe has a long history in the trade union movement, is opposed to such use of civil disobedience, which has played a large part in the history of the labour movement and, indeed, in parliamentary democracy. I would therefore ask him to think again. [Interruption.] Unlike Labour Members, I am capable of writing my own speeches and I do not pass them around.
We must examine our position in view of, for example, our undertakings under the Kyoto protocols. The performance and innovation unit report lumps nuclear power together with renewables as low carbon producers. It treats nuclear power in the same way as renewable resources. The hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (John Thurso) made a good point about sustainability, which we ultimately seek in energy supply. However, since the advent of the Kyoto protocols, the nuclear industry has absurdly pushed itself as environmentally friendly. It conveniently forgets that, although we might reduce carbon emissions, we would store up a huge problem of nuclear waste which would take generations to tackle. Perhaps we could never deal with it.
The hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) mentioned the market. We are considering a nuclear industry that will create a problem that will last not for years but for generations. We have witnessed all too clearly what can happen even to large energy companies.
The Government appear to have swallowed the nuclear argument hook, line and sinker. The latest spat between Ministers is simply another straw in the wind. The creation of the assets management agency was announced recently. It is an expensive excuse to make nuclear generators more acceptable to investors by removing their historical liabilities. However, they will continue to accrue if new stations are built.
The Scottish Parliament's planning powers present a substantial road block in the way of the nuclear industry in Scotland. I believe that the Government's attempt to remove it has led us to our current position. The SNP's policy is clear. We have consistently called for investment in renewables. I have done that in this Chamber and in Westminster Hall. Different forms of energy are available in Scotland.
David Hamilton: An energy policy should be a British policy. Does the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that the Department of Trade and Industry has invested between £40 million and £50 million of subsidy in Scottish Coal? Could the Scottish Parliament have done that? It would not have had the money; a British Government had to do it. Energy policy should be left not to Scotland but to Britain. We should discuss a British energy policy. I shall not mention nuclear power or civil disobedience, but I
We must invest in a basket of different sorts of energy. Nuclear power has no place in it. We have discussed the cost of nuclear power, but the Government's advisory group for the PIU's energy review mentioned the cost of different forms of energy. It stated that, without Government subsidy, the cost of nuclear power was approximately 6.5p per kW. The cost of current new-build designs was down to 3.9p per kW, but onshore wind costs less than 2p a kW and offshore wind, between 2p and 3p a kW.
Nuclear energy is much more expensive in the first instance than other forms of energy, especially renewable energy sources. That has been mentioned in the Select Committee on Trade and Industry report on the security of energy supply, but when the Committee took evidence from representatives of the nuclear industry, they clearly stated that financial assistance was required to bridge the gapthat is, to make nuclear power more acceptable economically. They talked about a subsidy of about 1p per kW. So going down the nuclear energy route is much more expensive than the renewable and sustainable route.
The hon. Member for Beckenham is correct to say that the nuclear power stations are due to come off stream in the next few years. As I have said on numerous occasions in this Parliament, if we are to bridge the gap that will be created, investment must be made now in all the renewable sources. Although the Government always talk about renewable energy sources, they have not made that significant investment.
Let us compare the investment in the nuclear industry with that in renewable sources. For example, in 1999 alone, £26 million was investment in research and development in the nuclear industry. Some £3.7 billion will be needed to cover the liability of the Magnox stations, which have been mentioned already, and United Kingdom electricity consumers have already paid some £2.6 billion to fund nuclear energy through the non-fossil fuel levy. So there has been massive investment in the nuclear industry over the years, and it will continue to need a subsidy if we are to go down the nuclear route.
The hon. Member for Hamilton, South (Mr. Tynan) clearly made a pro-nuclear intervention. He talked about an integrated coal, wind and wave system, but the point is that, to have an integrated system, investment is needed now, and we have been trying to make that point. There is nothing strange or hidden about the SNP policy on energy; it has been made clear, particularly by me, on many occasions.
Mr. Connarty: The hon. Gentleman has not mentioned the policy on the present state of Scottish Coal. The last deep mine is in trouble; it needs £5 million to get through a major fault, but it has not been mentioned by the SNP. Is the SNP abandoning Scottish Coal and the last deep mine in Scotland?
Today I want to signal our intention to increase that target . . . we will consult on it . . . but I hope we can work towards 30 per cent. of our electricity coming from renewable sources by 2020."