Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240-259)|
TUESDAY 9 JULY 2002
240. And some of that money cannot be depended
upon as remaining in BNFL's books for any great length of time?
(Ms Lambert) When we do the transfer agreement, as
I said, we have to balance between ensuring that new BNFL as a
business has enough operating cash to operate, but also making
sure that we have as many of the assets as possible to fund the
liabilities. That is what the taxpayer will be getting.
241. Although we do not know how large that
figure is because we do not have BNFL's 2002 accounts?
(Ms Lambert) Exactly.
242. Going back to the regulatory side, this
morning we had a discussion about BNIF and the first point that
came out was the number of regulatory bodies that are involved
here, and I think without quoting them that they made it quite
clear they thought a lot could be done in terms of co-ordination
not only between the various regulatory bodies but also in terms
of transparency with third parties looking in. Really my question
is what plans does the Department have to streamline the regulatory
(Ms Lambert) I think the Department is not necessarily
the person who is going to be controlling this process but as
the White Paper makes clear, the regulators themselves are very
conscious of this issue. I am talking about particularly the HSE
and the Environment Agency and SEPA in Scotland. They have made
a lot of effort to work together: they have published memoranda
of understanding: and the White Paper makes clear that the government
wants to see that process continue so that they work together
and I think the LMA could play quite a positive role in this.
There is no way that the LMA is going to cut across the regulator's
relationship with those they regulate or powers of enforcement,
but we do envisage that the LMA will work very closely and in
close consultation with the regulators, particularly in drawing
up the site remediation plans and work programmes that will underpin
the contracts, and all experience elsewhere, particularly also
from AWE and from the States, is that that close working relationship
towards a common purpose of clean-up is very beneficial in terms
of streamlining the process.
243. If the regulatory side is going to be streamlined,
is not the time at which the LMA is created the best time to be
doing that as well?
(Ms Lambert) It might be in that you have some momentum.
Equally, I would not want to try and change everything at once,
and really what the government is seeking to do on the regulatory
process is continuous improvement; build on what we have and use
the momentum of the LMA to reinforce that process rather than
I think a radical change which might cause more disruption and
hinder us from getting on with the task.
244. So it will be looked at at the time of
(Ms Lambert) I am sure, and I am quite sure, when
the legislation goes through, that it is an area Parliament will
want to look at.
245. I know we have just been over the accounts
and £2 billion may not be in the picture but I just wonder,
because we are so close to the accounts coming out for 2001-02
or a month or two off, surely you must have an indication whether
the money is still there or not, or whether it has increased?
(Ms Lambert) I think it is unlikely that it has increased
but you can ask BNFL about the accounts.
246. I would prefer you to answer the question.
That is why I am asking you. I am aware I can ask BNFL and I do
not need to be told that.
(Ms Lambert) These are commercially confidential figures
until they are published, and I do not really want to reveal figures.
247. Do you think there will be an indication
that it will still be there?
(Ms Lambert) I think it will be reduced.
248. That is interesting. Secondly, and we have
touched on this but you failed to answer it, do you believe that
this is preparing BNFL for the sell-off?
(Ms Lambert) I know the motivation for this is to
get a better grip on clean-up. That is what is most important
and what the government says in the White Paper is that in 2004-05
we will look again at BNFL's future, and that is the future of
new BNFL, see how it is done and what its track record is, and
one of the possibilities that ministers will consider is whether
new BNFL could be the subject of a PPP.
249. In which case is it fair to say that the
DTI are now preparing for that?
(Ms Lambert) We are at the moment one hundred per
cent concentrated on getting the new arrangements setting up,
and our focus is clean-up, and when we look at and advise ministers
on the future of BNFL the main consideration, as the White Paper
says, will be how that will affect the government's priority of
clean-up and, of course, value to the taxpayer.
250. That is very interesting. One hundred per
cent focused on this and this alone, so no other time is dedicated
to any other issues within BNFL? It is just the clean-up and nothing
else. Are you sure you want to stand by that comment?
(Ms Lambert) What I want to say is that is all of
our objective, what we are all working toand BNFL too.
By refocusing their business they are focusing on clean-up, but
I have of course a team, headed by Dennis Walker, who is safeguarding
the taxpayer's interest in the ownership of BNFL.
251. So Dennis is preparing himself!
(Mr Walker) No.
252. Well, I think we all know what the motivation
is. Let's move to Nirex. Why does the White Paper not suggest
Nirex' independence from the nuclear industry? Why have you failed
to put it in there?
(Ms Lambert) The future of Nirex needs to be considered
not just in the context of the White Paper but also in the parallel
considerations going on with the government led by DEFRA which
is setting the policy framework for waste management. Everybody
is agreed that the developments, the setting up of the LMA, mean
that the status quo is no longer appropriate. Everybody is also
agreed that we do not want to lose the good work and the expertise
of Nirex but what form Nirex institutionally will take in future
very much depends on the new institutional arrangements currently
being considered by the Department for Environment, Food, and
Rural Affairs in the context of their consultation on managing
radioactive waste safely. I do not think I can pre-judge what
that is going to be.
253. Do the DTI support Nirex's own view that
it believes it will be better off independent?
(Ms Lambert) We are entirely at one with what the
White Paper says. We recognise the arguments for independence.
The focus now should be on the core functions and looking at independence
in the context of the new arrangements that DEFRA may announce.
254. So does that mean you do support Nirex?
(Ms Lambert) We need to look at it in the context
of the new arrangements on the waste management policy.
255. So we can take that as a yes, or a no?
(Ms Lambert) I think you can choose how you want to
256. In other words, you do not wish to answer?
(Ms Lambert) I stick by my answer. Until we know what
the framework will be, I do not think you can pre judge one bit
Mr Hoyle: Just for the reporter, is it yes or
Chairman: As Ms Lambert is the author of the
White Paper in which the choices are posed, I think she has the
right to stand by what she has written.
257. That was not the question. It is whether
the DTI supports Nirex's viewyes or no. That was the question,
not about how you put the report or what the DTI's views on Nirex
(Ms Lambert) I do not think it is yet ready to be
able to answer that question. We need to know the context.
258. Would you let us know when you will be
in a position to answer that question?
(Ms Lambert) It will come out when we are clearer
on DEFRA's next steps on the consultation on their policy framework
for waste management.
259. Do you think that will be before the Bill
is published or not? The impression we get is that DEFRA has a
rather relaxed view as to the development of a waste management
strategy. You might not necessarily want to associate yourself
with the word "relaxed" but it does seem to have a rather
longer term view than the short term character of the process
(Ms Lambert) It is certainly correct
that the September consultation envisaged quite a long process
until at least the endpoint, but without wanting to pre judge
what my colleagues may say I think there are a lot of intermediate
steps; it is not a question of putting out that document and saying
that we will decide in seven years' time. There is a lot of work
to be done in the meantime particularly on what the appropriate
institutional arrangements should be and what intermediate steps
there should be, so I think it is not a question of sitting back
and doing nothing. There is a lot of work to be done and I expect
we will see some signs of progress shortly.
Chairman: Thank you very much. I think we will
wait for the signs of progress, and we are very grateful for the
time you have taken.