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Nuclear Waste

8. Annette Brooke (Mid-Dorset and North Poole) (LD): If she will make a statement on arrangements for dealing with nuclear waste. [47601]
 
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The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley): The Government are committed to solving the radioactive waste problem. The independent Committee on Radioactive Waste Management—Corwm—is due to report in July this year.

Annette Brooke (Mid-Dorset and North Poole) (LD): A recent report by the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management predicts a fivefold increase in highly radioactive waste storage from the new generation of nuclear power stations. Will the hon. Gentleman discuss the full costs of proceeding with a nuclear power programme with his colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry?

Mr. Morley: As I mentioned earlier, the DTI has embarked on an energy review. All forms of energy will be considered and there will be an opportunity for an open and transparent debate. The priority for Corwm is to deal with the legacy of nuclear waste in this country, which has not been addressed for decades. It is time that we had a proper strategy for dealing with that and I hope that that will be the outcome of the report published in July.

Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend know the latest estimate for the cost of dealing with legacy waste? Is it not the case that those costs rise annually and are calculated within a very wide margin of error? If we cannot achieve reliable costs for managing the current decommissioning and waste management problem, how can we be expected to trust the costs for the management of future waste generated by nuclear new build? If we do not have reliable costs for that, how can we assess objectively the economic case for nuclear new build against the alternatives?

Mr. Morley: Costings for decommissioning have been published by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. As for the legacy issue of nuclear waste, costings are not yet available, because a preferred solution has not been decided. I am quite sure that, when there is agreement on that solution, there will be substantial costs, which, of course, will be made public. When nuclear power was originally embarked on a long time ago, the very high costs of legacy, decommissioning and nuclear waste were not taken into account.

Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): When are we going to start to be honest with ourselves about this issue? Fifteen years ago, I had junior ministerial responsibility for nuclear power. We have not moved on at all, and we have not advanced one inch towards a solution for BNFL or Nirex. The position is still exactly the same as it was 20 years ago. The Minister, in talking about meetings in July, is in a fairy tale. We have not found a solution for the storage of low-level nuclear waste. Until we do so it is irresponsible to talk about a new generation of nuclear power stations. Moreover, the costs—

Mr. Speaker: Order. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can drop a note to the Minister.
 
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Mr. Morley: The hon. Gentleman clearly feels strongly about this issue, Mr. Speaker, but his concerns are premature. An energy review is under way, but there is a bit of an obsession with its nuclear energy component. It is right and proper that it should be part of the review, but issues such as costs and the energy mix will be taken into account and there will be an opportunity to comment. The hon. Gentleman said, perfectly reasonably, that there has not been a solution to the long-term storage of nuclear waste for decades. In the previous attempt, Nirex made a recommendation for deep storage, which was the subject of a public inquiry in 1996, but it was turned down for various reasons. Personally, I did not think that the process was as open and inclusive as it should have been. We do not intend to make that mistake with Corwm, which has considered all the options and narrowed them down to a number—

Mr. Speaker: Order. We must move on.

Rural Development (EU Budget)

9. Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): What assessment she has made of the likely effect on rural development of the recent EU budget deal. [47602]

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett): I am pleased with the outcome of the EU budget deal. Member states now have greater freedom to transfer funds from pillar one to pillar two, which gives us the flexibility to deliver our ambitions on environmental stewardship and rural development. The deal also secured a review clause, which will lead to a full reassessment of common agricultural policy funding.

Mr. Drew: I have just returned from Brussels with the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. It was depressing that the one area in the negotiations to be sacrificed was pillar two, which includes rural regeneration. We are not alone in our approach to those negotiations, but until we make a serious effort to move moneys out of production subsidies into support for rural areas, we will have a dysfunctional CAP and, dare I say, even worse. Will my right hon. Friend confirm whether that is the Government's intention?

Margaret Beckett: I rather share my hon. Friend's view. It is somewhat depressing that a substantial number of member states were wholly unwilling to make any change in production subsidies under pillar one. That had a knock-on effect on pillar two. That is why it was important to us to get the flexibility of further voluntary moves of moneys from production subsidy into other payments under this heading, because we believe that that is the right direction for farming not just in the UK, but right across the European Union. As a result of that additional flexibility, other member states, particularly the new members, may be willing to undertake such moves, whereas they were not willing to do so before because all the modulation was compulsorily co-funded, and that presented them with a budget difficulty. My hon. Friend is right about the
 
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direction in which we believe funding should move and we will continue to press for it, as the UK did during the negotiations, although this was a presidency deal.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): As part of the recent EU budget deal, substantial changes were agreed to the beet regime. Will the EU compensation for beet growers, many of whom are in East Anglia, be directed at the growers themselves, or will it simply be absorbed into the single farm payment across the whole country?

Margaret Beckett: We have yet to get further guidance and further detailed information from the Commission about how exactly compensation for sugar producers will be handled, but I envisage that ultimately it probably will be integrated into the single payment scheme. We have to consider how that will be taken forward.

Climate Change Targets

10. Mr. Shailesh Vara (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): If she will make a statement on recent progress towards meeting the UK climate change targets. [47604]

The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley): Latest estimates of the UK's emissions show that greenhouse gases will be around 19 per cent. below base levels during the 2008 to 2012 Kyoto protocol period. We therefore remain on course to achieve comfortably the UK's Kyoto target. Domestic CO 2 targets are currently subject to the climate change review.

Mr. Vara: Last year, aviation CO 2 emissions increased by 12 per cent. The aviation White Paper envisages a trebling of airport capacity in the south-east. What specific measures is the Minister proposing to ensure that, despite the increased airport capacity, aviation CO 2 emissions will decrease, rather than continue to increase?

Mr. Morley: Our preferred option is to include aviation in cap and trade schemes. I am glad to say that, under the UK presidency, we reached political agreement that aviation will be included in the EU emissions trading scheme. There may well be a case for further measures, which should be considered on their merits.

Ed Balls (Normanton) (Lab): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made it clear in an earlier answer that, to achieve progress on meeting our climate change objectives, we need measures and action rather than press statements and warm words. The climate change levy is such a measure. May I urge Ministers not to wait for others to make proposals, but to lead an effort to build a cross-party consensus in support of the climate change levy, or do they think the position is hopeless?

Mr. Morley: I am surprised at the position of the Conservative party on the climate change levy. There have been independent assessments of its effectiveness, and we know that it has been effective. It has reduced
 
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emissions by millions of tonnes in the UK. It is not an easy decision to put such a measure in place, but we must do so if we are serious about tackling climate change.

Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle) (Con): A far more ambitious and radical strategy for renewable microgeneration and decentralised energy is essential to help Britain meet its long-term climate change targets, so apart from welcome first steps in the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Bill going through Committee, why are the Government not doing more actively to promote market conditions in which new British microgeneration technologies can break out of their niche and into the mass domestic consumer market?

Mr. Morley: We are taking action, and microgeneration could have a significant role to play in this country in contributing to renewable energy. A Department of Trade and Industry working group is considering potential barriers to the expansion of microtechnology, and it is not impossible that we might support microtechnology as part of our Warm Front programme, or the energy efficiency commitments, under which there is a pilot scheme to fit micro-wind generators, which are UK produced. I am sure that there are further measures that we could consider.


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