New Clause 5 - Report on transfers falling within section 32(3)

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 a transfer falling within section 32(3), the Secretary of State must lay a report before Parliament.

(2) The report under subsection (1) must set out—

(a) the liabilities associated with the nuclear company;

(b) any estimated costs of getting the plant operational again if it has been temporarily shut down;

(c) the estimated lifespan of the nuclear power station; and

(d) decommissioning costs and confirmation of any funding provided by the nuclear company for this purpose.”—

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to publish a report on the matters listed prior to any transfers falling within clause 32(3).

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.

Lastly and briefly, new clause 5 ties in with the debate that we had earlier on amendment 18 to clause 32. These are the key considerations that the Government would need to consider before committing to maintaining the operation of a nuclear power plant. In the case of a company becoming insolvent, it cannot be taken over as a going concern and cannot be transferred. In terms of the going concern aspect, what liabilities are associated with the nuclear costs? Obviously, there are the actual costs of getting the plant operational again if it has had to shut down. The estimated lifespan of a nuclear power station and the decommissioning costs and confirmation of any funding that is provided by the nuclear company for that purpose again gets into the value for money argument and making a sensible decision. Do the Government take over the operation of the plant, for example, or do they start the decommissioning process and shut it down to get best value for the taxpayer?

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

I thank the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun for describing his proposed new clause 5. It is important to understand that the new clause, like the previous ones, would oblige the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament a report, in this case detailing the liabilities associated with a nuclear company, the estimated costs of restoring operation in the event of a shutdown, the estimated lifespan of the nuclear power station and the decommissioning costs of the project.

Obviously, I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s desire to increase transparency and the robustness of the Bill. However, I would like to bring to the Committee’s attention that it is of course the court that has the final say, as it is the court that appoints the time at which the energy transfer scheme is to take effect, following approval by the Secretary of State. It is a matter for the court. Therefore, the proposed reporting obligation on the Secretary of State must be considered unnecessary, as sufficient transparency is already offered through the court process. The courts will make an informed decision and will have ultimate responsibility for the decision on when an energy transfer shall take effect.

The proposed reporting requirement might oblige the Secretary of State to publish sensitive material, including of a commercially sensitive nature, which could have implications for the effectiveness of the RLNC administration order, the ability to achieve the objective and also to bring the administration to an end. It might well act against the public interest. The new clause risks the failure of the RLNC administration order’s objective and considerable sunk costs to consumers. I therefore ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the motion.

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

In each response, the Minister says that he welcomes my desire for greater transparency, but he then rejects all my requests for greater transparency, so it does not quite feel like that. Presumably it means that we will be able to agree something on Report to get the transparency that we desire. Again, I am not convinced that doing this report would jeopardise the process, but I am happy to withdraw the new clause at the moment and to try to find ways to get the answers and transparency that I am looking for. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the Chair do report the Bill to the House.

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

On a point of order, Mr Gray. I would like to thank you and Ms Fovargue for your excellent chairing of the Committee, getting us through this important process efficiently and effectively. This has been a very interesting debate on a very interesting Bill on a very interesting topic, which attracted broad interest across the House. I have to confess that this has none the less been a relatively uneventful Committee, but for connoisseurs of the topic, it will provide many future years of reading as to how nuclear financing was scrutinised by the House of Commons so effectively and in significant detail.

I thank the excellent witnesses whom we heard from last week and all members of the Committee for their constructive debate. That has allowed the Bill to go through significant scrutiny, and facilitated important discussions. I also thank the Whips—the Whips must always be thanked—on both sides for their efforts and their effective management of the time. I offer my thanks to the Clerks, the Hansard reporters, the Doorkeepers and, indeed, all the parliamentary staff, and to my excellent team of Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy officials, for the smooth proceedings and ensuring that we have all been well looked after and have finished with the Bill well scrutinised, but in good time. I look forward to the next stages of proceedings on the Bill and the continued insight from colleagues across the House.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

Further to that point of order, Mr Gray. I would like to associate myself with the Minister’s remarks about the passage of the Bill and with the thanks that are due to the many people who took part in its processes, from witnesses to hon. Members here today. A number of them were, I know, somewhat tested on occasion by the detail into which some amendments went. But overall, we have had good scrutiny of the Bill, facilitated by the courteous way in which the proceedings were conducted. I thank the Minister for those courtesies in how our debates proceeded, and I thank you, Mr Gray, for your excellent chairing of our proceedings.

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

Further to that point of order, Mr Gray. In a similar vein, I thank yourself and Ms Fovargue for chairing the Committee. I especially thank the Clerks for all they have done, and for the assistance they have provided with drafting amendments and new clauses. I must admit, although the Minister has said that some were not relevant, I trust the Clerks’ judgment more than I trust the Minister. I do not mean that to be facetious.

The Minister has said that people will be able to review how we have debated nuclear financing and what this Bill might achieve. I actually hope that this Bill ends up getting dusty sitting on a shelf and is never required to be used; I am not going to change my viewpoint on what the endgame of this is. However, it has certainly been an interesting debate, and I thank the Minister for the good spirit he has shown. It was funny when the hon. Member for Southampton, Test made the joke about how long we have spent on some amendments: it is amazing that we have got here after our sitting dealing with the first amendment, but I thank everybody for their participation.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Ceidwadwyr, North Wiltshire 12:45, 25 Tachwedd 2021

All three points of order are, of course, entirely bogus, but are none the less very welcome indeed. I put on the record my view that the bulk of the work of the chairing of the Committee has been done by my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield. Nevertheless, I am grateful to all three Members for their entirely bogus points of order.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly to be reported, without amendment.

Committee rose.

Written evidence reported to the House

NEFB06 Sizewell C Consortium

NEFB07 Stop Sizewell C