Submitted by British Energy
British Energy welcomes the opportunity to submit
views to the inquiry being undertaken by the Select Committee
on Public Administration into the government's draft Bill on Freedom
British Energy was formed on 13 December 1995
as part of the restructuring of the UK nuclear power generating
industry and was privatised by the Government on 15 July 1996
through flotation on the London Stock Exchange. The Company has
two main subsidiaries: British Energy Generation (UK) Limited,
which operates two nuclear stations in Scotland; and British Energy
Generation Limited which operates six nuclear stations in England.
Turnover for the financial year 1998-99 was £2,067 million
and 5,129 staff are employed throughout the Group.
British Energy is a significant and competitive
player in the UK generation market being one of the largest electricity
companies in Great Britain. All of our production is sold either
through the Electricity Pool (in England and Wales) or to the
vertically integrated electricity companies (in Scotland). We
also have a supply business which currently only sells to large
industrial commercial organisations and are currently in the process
of purchasing the SWALEC supply business from Hyder which is subject
to regulatory approval.
Public acceptance is a vital pre-requisite to
continued nuclear generation and British Energy wishes to be recognised
as a safe, responsible and environmentally aware company. We therefore
operate an "open door policy" which seeks to ensure
that reliable information about our operations is readily available.
This policy is designed to enable the public to make an informed
judgement about our operations.
British Energy already makes a wide variety
of information available either because it is required to do so
by law or as part of its communications programme. In the course
of each year it produces an Interim Report together with an Annual
Report and Accounts under companies legislation and annual reports
on its health, safety and environment performance. All significant
company news is communicated promptly to shareholders through
the Stock Exchange and to the general public through the media.
Additionally, regular monthly statements on
output and power station performance and operation are published
in the same way. Each station sends a fortnightly newsletter to
local residents and media, reporting on station operations during
the preceding period. A contact name and number also provides
the opportunity for interested readers to follow up any item of
note, or indeed any matter relating to station operations, with
station management. Station Directors also meet several times
a year with a local consultative committee comprising members
of the public and representatives from local organisations.
Other statutory provisions such as the Electricity
Act 1989 also require the company to publish statements of environmental
policy and provide regulated accounts to the Director General
of Electricity Supply on its generation activities. In addition,
and uniquely among private sector generators, each of its stations
is open to the public and schools for guided tours. Station operations
are explained and demonstrated in purpose-built visitor centres
where trained guides are on hand to answer any questions the public
British Energy comments on the Consultation
Document Cm 4355 as follows:
As regard the power to amend or repeal
enactments prohibiting disclosure of information (clause 65) we
are concerned to note that the review of existing statutory prohibitions
on disclosure is not yet complete (paragraph 10 of the Consultation
Document). It is important for there to be a clear understanding
of which remains properly protected so that the new system is
credible. We are also concerned at the wide discretion given to
the Secretary of State by way of this power to amend or repeal.
However, we do note that clause 69(2) requires that no order shall
be made under clause 65 unless a draft of the order has been laid
before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.
The test of confidentiality confirmed
in clause 32 we feel is unduly high. Information which it is intended
be confidential under the terms of a confidentiality agreement
should be protected whether or not disclosure by a party would
constitute a breach of confidence actionable by the other party
The Government intended to draw up
a list of public authorities and other organisations to be covered
by any Act and these are confirmed at Schedule 1 of the draft
Bill. The intention was so that there would be no ambiguity about
which bodies are included and which are not. The power to designate
further public authorities raises uncertainty and it is not clear
on what criteria the secondary designation orders are promoted.
The public's right to know must be tempered by the right of any
group or organisation which in the future falls under the definition
of a public authority to conduct their business on a level playing
It is to be hoped that the Codes
of Practice by the Secretary of State (clause 38) and that by
the Lord Chancellor (clause 39) will be available shortly and
in good time before any Act comes into force.