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Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I understand that we are debating Amendment No. 4 and Amendment No. 6. The two amendments are tabled in my name and in that of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. I should tell noble Lords that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, to whom I spoke this morning, fully supports the amendments but is not with us because he has to attend to a serious family crisis. I am sure that the House sends good wishes to him and to his family.
During the progress of this Bill, we have heard noble Lords speak from various parts of the House about the serious impact of plant closure and decommissioning on the social and economic well-being of local communities. I speak with particular feeling on this, having been for many years a Member in another place for a Cumbrian constituency close to Sellafield.
Noble Lords will recall that at the Report stage the Government clarified that this was a supplemental role for the NDA. It had the function because it had a role in providing "some" support. Responding on behalf of the Government on 18 March, the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, made it clear that the Government did not see the NDA as the right body to take responsibility for addressing the social and economic impact of decommissioning. That responsibility resided with local or regional bodies. My aim this evening is to demonstrate that that is the wrong approach.
The amendment I now propose seeks to address and clarify in the legislation this important role, and to seek to turn the Government's fine words into positive action. Here I reflect the previous debate during which my noble friend Lord Peyton made exactly the same point about nuclear energy in seeking to turn the Government's fine words into positive action.
I recall years ago the example of BNFL which, in Cumbria in particular, contributed significantly over a long period to the economy and social well-being of the locality through its employment practices and the funding it has committed to the support of local communities. Many people in the areas where BNFL operated remember with great warmth the hard work of the late Sir Christopher Harding, the chairman of BNFL, on these endeavours.
The NDA will take over responsibility for decommissioning and clean-up and, with its substantial resources, will be a significant employer. It will have within its control the entering into large contracts for securing the decommissioning and clean-up work. Through those contracts there will be an opportunity to incentivise the successful operation of the contracts in terms of providing new employment opportunities, the commercialisation of technologies, encouraging local spend, and so forth. Opportunities will also arise for the NDA to release clean-up sites for development, thus helping to stimulate regeneration. Those are just some of the examples of how, during the course of its work, the NDA can benefit local
In the previous debate the Minister, when refusing to have the NDA bear responsibility for nuclear matters, made a particular point when he said that its role was "decommissioning and clean-up". I ask the noble Lord: can there be any more important part of clean-up after decommissioning than to try to clean up the ravages which the decommissioning has caused to local communities? I would have thought that that was an essential part of "clean-up".
It is important to recognise that these measures to provide support can be carried out only by the NDA and not by development agencies. The incorporation of this amendment into legislation has two purposes. First, to help embed these values into the culture of the organisation in the way it operates in its dealings with others, it is important that these considerations are given proper weight in contractual negotiations. Secondly, to engender confidence in the NDA within the local communities affected by decommissioning that the support previously given by BNFL or other operators is maintained and enhanced. The support of local communities is crucial to the successful operation of the NDA.
I turn now to Amendment No. 6. At Report stage the Government were asked about the level of funding the NDA will feel it is appropriate to commit to supporting local communities. Again, the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, stated in reply that the NDA would have a total budget initially in the order of £2 billion. While it was indicated that there may be margins of discretion and judgment, it was made clear that there was limited provision for the support of local communities.
I have to recognise that the Government have responded positively in setting up a strategic response task force at Dounreay and, more recently, a similar task force for west Cumbria. Those strategic task forces will prepare a long-term vision for those areas and oversee its implementation. While they welcome the setting-up of the task forces, local communities are concerned that the funding available to deliver the vision will not be forthcoming on the scale required or continue in the long term, as administrations and priorities change. Here we are back to the same problem of turning fine words into positive actions.
It is recognised that the task force is a vehicle for getting access to spending from government departments, and that is welcome. However, there is no guarantee that sufficient funding will be forthcoming from government departments, or indeed from the Government through regional development agencies. Complementary to the establishment of the task force, a commitment is sought from the Government that the money will be forthcoming to deliver what the task forces agree is required.
While the NDA will not be a primary regeneration body, the proposed amendment allows for funds to be provided in the NDA's funding to facilitate regeneration activities through the task forces; otherwise I would ask the Government how their commitment to address the problems will be seen in the long term to give the communities confidence to help to rebuild their local economies. Perhaps the Minister can advise the House how the Government may otherwise demonstrate that the funding will be guaranteed to deliver the outcomes agreed to be necessary by the task force. Clearly, the Government have a vested financial interest as well as a moral duty to secure economic recovery in those areas. Encouraging self-sufficiency of the areas will reduce the reliance on government spending in the long term on economic and social problems.
Finally, what price can be put on the readiness of local people to co-operate in the future? The nuclear industry has not always been popular, but areas such as west Cumbria and Dounreay have stood by it loyally over the years. To ensure trust and co-operation, long-term and guaranteed commitment is absolutely essential. I beg to move.
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