New Clause 4 - Report on proposed payments to a nuclear administrator or relevant licensee nuclear company

Nuclear Energy (Financing) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:30 pm ar 25 Tachwedd 2021.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

“(1) Prior to making payments for the purpose described in section 41(2)(c), the Secretary of State must prepare and publish a report on the proposed payment and must lay a copy of the report before Parliament.

(2) Before the payment is made, the report under subsection (1) must be approved by the House of Commons.”—

This new clause would require any payments under clause 42(2)(c) to be approved by the House of Commons before being made.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I will be brief. The new clause could have been an amendment to clause 41. I am concerned that the financial provisions under clause 41 are open-ended. The Secretary of State can make decisions, and subsection (1) begins:

“There is to be paid out of money provided by Parliament”.

It is effectively saying that Parliament will pay for whatever decisions the Secretary of State makes. As I say, that is open-ended; it is a blank cheque, if something is enacted under clause 3. That is why I simply ask that, before making any payments, information be provided to Parliament, and the anticipated level of expenditure be approved by Parliament itself.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

New clause 4 would add another new report for the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament, as the hon. Gentleman said, to detail the funding that the Secretary of State would propose to make to a nuclear administrator or relevant nuclear licensee company, and further requires that the report be approved by the House of Commons. As I have already made clear, I think the clear and transparent process that we have already laid out in the Bill achieves the objective overall, but in this particular case such an amendment could have negative implications for the operability of the SAR, or the special administration regime. This may place additional risk on consumers being unable to realise the benefits of the plant that they have contributed to building and significant sink costs. Of course, these are powers that we hope the Secretary of State will never have to use, and money that will never need to be spent.

As well as the need for pace, there is also a need for all relevant parties to be comfortable that the SAR is deliverable. In order to take on the administration appointment, the administrator would need to be assured that funding in the form of loans, guarantees or indemnities would be available from day one of the SAR. That is a crucial part of how a SAR regime operates. The administrator must know that funding is available from day one. The proposed amendment could introduce a degree of uncertainty over the funding pending a report from the Secretary of State to be deposited in Parliament, such that the administrators might be reluctant to take on the appointment.

I remind the House that the objective of the RLNC administrator is to commence or continue the generation of electricity, and we expect that in doing so the administrator must be able to act swiftly. It is imperative that an administrator has quick access to the funding required to ensure that such outages do not occur—we are talking, after all, about a nuclear power plant—and security of supply is maintained. More importantly, such swift action must also be conducted safely, and any lapse in funding could result in safety-critical operational expenditure not being spent. I therefore consider that such a reporting obligation on the Secretary of State would hinder the effectiveness of the special administration regime, so I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the motion.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

I really do not buy the argument that getting approval for expenditure somehow jeopardises getting that expenditure and getting the plan operating. It makes no sense whatever. I think the Minister just wants to retain the open chequebook policy that allows the Secretary of State to do whatever he wants, but he argued it was necessary for security of supply.

It feels as though the end is in sight. I am not going to press this to a vote, given that we will simply lose it, so I am happy to withdraw, but, again, I would like to reconsider it because, to repeat myself, I want greater clarity and transparency on the costs that could be committed in future. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.