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Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, I should like to add a word or two in support of my noble friends Lord Peyton and Lord Gray, who, between them, have put a very powerful case for continuing nuclear development. I have lived within two miles of Chapelcross Magnox Power Station all its life. One can see the huge disappointment among its 400 highly skilled workforce that it is to be decommissioned. Everything is logical in this world. As my noble friend Lord Gray has indicated, power stations will be needed by the year 2020. Surely, it would be sensible to keep these licensed nuclear sites ready and prepared for the next generation. As my noble friend said, to build a modern nuclear power station is much easier than it was in the 1950s and 1960s.
My second point is that the Government grossly overestimate the progress that will be made with wind power. I have sheaves of correspondence and newspaper cuttings demonstrating mounting opposition to wind farms, some of them 400 feet high and with transmission lines running through much beautiful countryside. The population will not stand for the spoilage of much of our attractive countryside by those ghastly wind farms and transmission lines.
I have another interesting cutting about Eskdalermuir Observatory, of which your Lordships have probably heard as the coldest and wettest place in Scotland. It is a seismographic observatory and it states that it does not want a wind farm within 50 miles, because it would upset its instruments. If we take out that area of the south of Scotland, that will remove an awful lot of projected wind farms immediately.
So the Government want to think again about their reliance on wind farms to provide the power that we have lost through nuclear energy. When they have thought about it, they will realise that it would be foolhardy to throw away the immense expertise that we have in the design and operation of nuclear power just because the Government do not like nuclear power.
Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, I would not want my noble friend to feel that support for the continuation of nuclear power exists only on one side of the House. I do not propose to speak for long, but simply to make it clear to him, as I have previously, that I am not in favour of one form of energy at the expense of another. I have nothing against all the plans for renewablesI
One of the first responsibilities of a government towards their nation is to be able to fuel its economy. That means the provision of sufficient energy to meet the rising demands made on the system. Therefore, I support the broad view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, that we would be foolhardy indeed to get rid of any existing form of supply of energy unless and until we have guaranteed certainty of the alternatives. I do not propose to join the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, in the Division Lobby tonight, because that is not where the issue will be determined. The issue will be determined by having a clear and frank discussion on the future supply of energy.
I am not sure that this is the appropriate place at which we can sort that out for all time. The noble Lord's amendment does nothing other than to send a clear signal to the Government about what needs to be done. There will be differences about the alternatives. I would not want to join in anything that appeared to be an attack on renewables, but I sound the warning to my noble friend that, when it comes to the guaranteed supply of energy, in my opinion, nuclear will continue to have a role until we have a proven and guaranteed alternative.
Lord Jopling: My Lords, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, I shall be happy to join my noble friend Lord Peyton in the Lobby later because I agree with everything that he said, as well as with the comments of my noble friends Lord Gray and Lord Monro. I rise for only one purpose: to say how distressed I am at the Government's attitude to the whole matter of nuclear energy.
Their approach is totally flabby, compared with what I remember of a previous Labour government many years ago. One of the bravest speeches that I ever heard in my life was in another place, when the late, lamented Lord Shore of Stepney, whom many of us miss very much in this House, made a speech proposing the establishment of the nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield. There was a great deal of opposition from his own party to that, but the government of the day took a brave and strong line, realising that something had to be done because the futureor part of the futurefor energy resources lay in the nuclear option.
Now we have a Government who appear to be hoping that the whole problem of energy resources will go away and that, when the decision finally has to be taken, as it will because it is inevitable, they will not be in office and will be able to sit and shout and oppose it. It is a sad reflection on the bravery of a previous Labour government that this Government are so utterly flabby in their approach.
Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, those of us who are convinced of the need to move fast on some new nuclear commissioning can take some comfort from the fact that during the course of this long process of discussion of the Bill in Committee, on Report and, now, on Third Reading, what one might call the
The Government, having produced a White Paper only a year ago, are unableso would be any Conservative, Liberal Democrat or any other governmentto signal that in the Bill, as the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, suggests. But, having talked to many people about the matter, the debate itself has been the occasion for a marked change in the public perception of our energy needs. The Kyoto factor is involved; the question of security of supply from the Middle East, Russia, Central Asia and so on is also involved. As has correctly been pointed out, an enormous number of wind turbines15,000, I thinkof 3 megawatts would be needed to replace the nuclear industry.
I am sure that all of those speeches have been well noted across government and that it cannot be too long before there is a shift of policy by the Government. Along with my noble friend Lord Tomlinson, I will not be supporting the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, in the Division Lobby, for self-evident reasons, but the debate has marked a great step forward.
Lord Ezra: My Lords, I consider the contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, to be of great importance. He has drawn attention to what was a major gap in the energy White Paper. We must resolve what we are going to do about the nuclear option. I also listened with great care to the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Gray of Contin. He referred to recent developments in new forms of nuclear generation and the need to assess those developments with care. We need to know whether that is being done. As I understand it, there are about four new processes either actually achieved or on the drawing board. We need to know how they stand up to existing processes and how they meet the various reservations that many people have about nuclear power generation.
My one reservation about the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, is that it does not fit in very well with the Bill. I know that he did not regard that as a serious reason for not including it, but I should have thought that his message was clear. I hope that in his response, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, will take it seriously and tell us what the Government are doing to assess the various possibilities that now exist that did not previously exist for generating nuclear power, alongside all the other forms of energy generation. We could therefore make use of this interesting debate to obtain a firm statement from the Government about how they propose to develop their whole approach to nuclear power.
Lord Christopher: My Lords, I had no intention of speaking in this debate, mainly because every time that I do, I must declare the terrible interest that I have as having responsibility in British Nuclear Fuels. It has neither asked me to speak nor given me any brown envelopes, so I feel reasonably free to express my views.
Broadly speaking, I support the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Peyton. I hope that he does not push the matter to a vote, because that would defeat his own objective. Around the House, there is a view that nuclear power must re-enter the view of government. I do not wish to repeat what other noble Lords have said today and in Committee, but the Government's approach seems to lack any objective assessment of world energy needs in 20 or 25 years' time.
Almost every day one reads in a newspaper of increasing demands across the globe. Russia is now in the enviable position of having to decide whether to build its pipeline to service Japan or to service China. My guess is that it will decide on China, because that is the best long-term bet. Pakistan has now decided that it requires another nuclear power station. Who is building it? The Chinese. We need a very objective, realistic assessment of world energy needs. I would not have thought that any government, certainly not the one that I support, would take any comfort from somebody in 10 or 20 years' time, or perhaps sooner, looking back and saying, "They may have saved us from nuclear energy, but at least they produced the blackout". There is a real risk of that happening and an even more serious risk if it applies to an increasingly competitive global industry.
The challenge for all those who support that view is not so much to decide the matter today. I certainly do not support the view that it is cowardice on the part of the Government; that is a ridiculous observation. It is a challenge to both the Opposition and ourselves to ensure, if we can, that something sensible appears in our manifestos, because there will be no change before the next election and we have about 12 months to put that right.
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