Monday, 3 June 2013

Nuclear U-Turns send Coalition into a spin

Three years ago, when the Conservatives and Lib.Dems cobbled together their policy programme for Government, called the “Coalition Agreement, they agreed on this paragraph:

“Liberal Democrats have long opposed any new nuclear construction. Conservatives, by contrast, are committed to allowing the replacement of existing nuclear power stations provided they are subject to the normal planning process for major projects (under a new national planning statement) and provided also that they receive no public subsidy.”

Extraordinarily, both parties have performed U-turns in government: with Lib Dem Energy Secretary Ed Davey now a cheerleader for new nuclear in the UK, and nuclear exports abroad.

His Conservative energy minister, Michael Fallon, is now twisting and turning to redefine the word “subsidy” in such a contorted way to accommodate the demands of EDF as the fixed future price for nuclear electricity is agreed at double the current  value (in secret), he is like  Humpty Dumpty in Alice through the Looking Glass, where words mean whatever he wants them to mean whenever he wants them to!

On Monday and Tuesday this week, MPs have the opportunity to return  the Coalition to its own agreement, by supporting several amendments  tabled to the Energy Bill, which would ensure attempts to allow nuclear to enjoy massively  preferential subsidies are illegal.

One key amendment, tabled by Green MP Caroline Lucas, supported by 3 Lib.Dem MPs and two Labour, aimed at blocking preferential nuclear subsidies, reads:
“Payments offered under a contract for difference relating to the supply of electricity generated by nuclear power must not exceed payments offered under any contract for the supply of electricity from renewable sources.”
Another amendment by Dr Lucas, seeking to bring accountability and oversight to Parliament of these murky deals, would require the Secretary of State for Energy to ask the independent National Audit Office (NAO)  to carry out an examination of and produce a report on whether the terms of the contract for difference offer value for money.
It would also require the NAO report and recommendations must be published one month before a contract is laid before Parliament, to allow proper scrutiny by our elected representatives.

Notwithstanding the latest bad odour surrounding MPs over the latest lobbying scandal, surely Coalition MPs cannot vote against amendments seeking to enforce their own coalition agreement. Can they?

Surely The Speaker is duty bound to select these amendments for debate.Isn’t he?

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