Select Committee on Trade and Industry Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-148)

MR DENIS TUNNICLIFFE, DR JOHN MCKEOWN AND MR STEPHEN WHITE

TUESDAY 9 JULY 2002

  140. Nirex itself recognises the historical package that it carries. They believe that independence will be the way forward to ensure that. As I said earlier, I think I am correct in saying that public confidence is something that you all aspire to. Surely this will be the first start to see that by becoming independent.
  (Dr McKeown) I do not think we are arguing with you. All we are saying is that if there is a process in place to review it we have no difficulty in waiting for that process to complete and supporting whatever the conclusion is.

  141. So at the moment, just so that we get this right for the record, you do not wish to express a view; you will wait and see what everybody else says?
  (Dr McKeown) No. What I am saying is that there is a consultation going with DEFRA.

  142. What is your view on the consultation on the independence of Nirex? Support it or not?
  (Dr McKeown) My main objective is to make sure that there is a disposal route for the wastes that Nirex is responsible for. If, in making them independent, that would facilitate that, then I am for it.
  (Mr Tunnicliffe) The present role of Nirex is modest and, providing it is done transparently and is well understood and so on, we are indifferent to ownership and control. The key issue is the long term issue about disposal routes. There we are not at all clear who should be in charge of that but it seems to us that clearly it has got to be in the LMA's general overview. It is no good going ahead with these programmes if somebody is not tackling the disposal routes. That is the key challenge. What mechanism those disposal discussions are held in is of course the challenge of the DEFRA consultation.[5]

  143. Can I go on to something slightly different? In the case of the UKAEA Police Authority do you support the White Paper recommendation?
  (Mr Tunnicliffe) Basically yes. The present situation with a smallish player running it is anomalous and we are very comfortable with the proposals to make it an independent force. Our concerns in the future will be that it continues to provide a good service for us.

  144. And you believe that it will be beneficial because hopefully we should see some more transparency in the bidding process as well?
  (Dr McKeown) Yes.

  145. So at least we can get one?
  (Dr McKeown) Yes.

Linda Perham

  146. The White Paper says that competition will be central to the LMA's approach. Mr Tunnicliffe, you said earlier about being a supplier of choice. Initially it is going to be assumed that BNFL and yourselves will get the managing contracts, but what do you feel about other players coming into the market? Are you confident you can keep it?
  (Mr Tunnicliffe) I think weighing up the areas where competition is mentioned, the key area where large monies are spent in this industry is amongst the sub-contractors who supply the site licensees or, in our case at least, actually do the doing for the site licensees. I believe much of the reference to the value of competition is in that area. When it comes to the competition for site licences the White Paper is less clear in its outcome because it does say fairly flatly that providing we can show that we have improved and continue to improve such that they are confident that we should be the supplier of choice to the LMA, so be it, and indeed in those circumstances they would see perhaps some value in us partnering with parts of the private sector for other sites. Our objective will be in a sense for ourselves not to become a question but so to provide the service to the LMA for our own sites in that initial period that we become their supplier of choice. I am not saying that we cannot envisage mechanisms where that competition will not happen but our first objective is to provide through efficiency, through cost effectiveness, through safety, through public assurance, so that we are the supplier of choice for our present sites.

Chairman

  147. Thanks very much, gentlemen. That is very helpful. We appreciate that you came at fairly short notice. If you have any other points you would like to send on to us we will be more than happy to receive them.
  (Dr McKeown) We are very happy with what we have said. We do have an easy to read version of our corporate plan which we think is very apposite at this moment and we will be sending you copies tomorrow.

  148. That is very helpful. Thank you very much. I am not quite sure if the Committee will return to Dounreay. Some of them feel that it is a threat that I have over their heads but we certainly have enjoyed our visits there in the past and we know that there is a changing story to be told, so it may be that before too long we will see you.
  (Mr Tunnicliffe) You will be most welcome.





5   See also UKAEA's comments about Nirex in its Supplementary Evidence: Appendix 5. Back


 
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