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David Miliband: For obvious reasons, we do not have widespread discussion of the counter-terrorism measures that we take in respect of those sites. The work that is done by the constabulary is very important, but it would not be judicious to venture further into that area.
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However, many people believe that long-term geological disposal is by far the safest security option, compared with the interim storage we have at present.

Mr. Michael Clapham (Barnsley, West and Penistone) (Lab): I heard what my right hon. Friend had to say about the CoRWM report in relation to new waste from a new generation of stations, but when the Trade and Industry Committee took evidence we were told that the radioactive waste would not be of as great a volume, but would be much more radioactive than that from the existing stations. That has implications for geological disposal. Will my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Minister for Energy continue to try to reach some understanding that no new build should take place unless the appropriate geological depository is in place?

David Miliband: I acknowledge my hon. Friend’s long-term interest in the issue. It has certainly been the case that the failure to come to terms with a waste-disposal option has blighted the discussion of nuclear power in this country and I hope that today’s statement will allow us to debate the pros and cons of nuclear power with the waste issue in a different context. The discussions that he mentions should continue, and he is right about the difference between volume and activity, but CoRWM made it clear that in technical terms the principles that it set out would continue to apply. It is important to emphasise, however, that it did not take a view on the desirability or otherwise of new nuclear build.

Mr. Edward Vaizey (Wantage) (Con): As the Member of Parliament for Nirex—

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): For Nirex?

Mr. Vaizey: To say that Nirex is based in my constituency might be a better way to put it. I hope that the Secretary of State will move as quickly as possible to reassure my constituents who work for Nirex about their future. I simply cannot understand why the Secretary of State has made this decision. On the one hand, he says that it is because of the potentially overlapping responsibilities with the NDA, and on the other he tells the Liberal Democrat spokesman that it is a cost-cutting measure. The Secretary of State also claims that he wants to retain the expertise and the jewel in the crown status of Nirex. He should save much time and effort and keep Nirex as an independent body that gives independent advice on one of the most important issues in the country—the safe disposal of high-level nuclear waste.

David Miliband: I wish to correct the hon. Gentleman on one point. The fundamental issue that has weighed with me and my colleagues from the DTI and elsewhere when we discuss this issue is that it is far more effective to regulate one organisation that is responsible across the whole cycle than it is to regulate two organisations with overlapping responsibilities. The discussion that I had with the Liberal Democrat spokesman about costs was in a different context and it is wrong for the hon. Gentleman to suggest otherwise. I
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hope that he will join me in sending the important message to his constituents that the work they do is invaluable, and the skills they have need to be preserved and delivered in the most effective way in the new organisation.

Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the design of any repository will ensure that the waste is indefinitely retrievable and that any design that proposed sealing the waste would be rejected? Is he inclined to build on the recommendation from the royal commission on environmental pollution that the nation’s plutonium stockpile should be defined as waste?

David Miliband: On the first question, the CoRWM report addressed the issue of retrievability in some depth. I do not know whether my hon. Friend considers 100 years to be a short or long time, but CoRWM said that retrievability would be preserved for up to 100 years. In the context of nuclear waste that would last for 10,000 years, it proposed that after about 100 years—I do not suppose that it intends to be kept to the month—there should be a ceiling on the waste emplacement. That is the best scientific advice, although I do not know whether that will reassure my hon. Friend.

In respect of the royal commission on environmental pollution, we have responded to that at length and I am happy to go into details with my hon. Friend on another occasion. The report made 36 recommendations and we should perhaps consider them in a different context.

Mr. Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby) (Con): I congratulate the Secretary of State on facing up to this vexed issue, and not before time. In terms of the way in which cost is apportioned, does he think that a distinction should be made between the legacy waste from, for example, the nuclear weapons development programme and the waste directly generated by power generation?

David Miliband: I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is referring to new build, because we have made it clear that waste costs should be incorporated into any new plans. The costing exercises are difficult and complex, and as they emerge I hope that they will show in the round how the nation can face up to the long-term financial as well as scientific challenge.

John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): May I, too, congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement today? I wish to register an interest as I am chairman of the all-party nuclear energy group. From that, the House may gather that I am pro-nuclear.

Although I share some of the concerns expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Watson) about putting everything into the NDA, my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Mr. Reed) assures me that that is the right way to go, and I look forward to examining the arguments as time goes on. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor) that it is important to have retrievable waste that one day, when we are more technologically aware and expert, we might be able to use as an energy source. In addition, I hope that my right hon. Friend
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will ignore the chirpings from Liberal Democrat Front-Bench Members, who make the sort of noises in this House that the Scottish National party makes in Scotland.

Will my right hon. Friend allay my fears about the openness and transparency that the entire industry—as well as both Opposition and Labour Members—says are so necessary? Does he agree that it is important that we know what is going on at every stage?

David Miliband: My hon. Friend speaks on this issue with considerable expertise, and I completely agree with him—I want that openness and transparency as much as he and the Opposition do. What is going on should be transparent to me, as Secretary of State, but also to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, to the House and to the wider public. If anything has been made clear by the 30-plus years of what CoRWM calls failure, it is that a secretive approach—sometimes described as “decide, announce, defend”, although it often became “decide, announce, defend, abandon”—does not work. We must have full openness at every stage, and public confidence is critical.

I appreciate that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, North-West (John Robertson) wants to look at the details, and I said in my statement that a detailed response to all of CoRWM’s recommendations has been made available to the House. It contains more detail than I was able to supply in my statement. If my hon. Friend reads that, he will see that the Government are committed to transparency and to independent and rigorous scrutiny and intervention by the statutory regulators, which are the only bodies with statutory responsibility in these matters at the moment. Although Nirex has played an important role in advising the industry, it does not have any statutory powers. The independent regulators are the only bodies with statutory powers, either under the current system or in the future. I believe that that is the right approach, and the existence of an additional oversight committee made up of scientists and lay people means that we have an important double lock on these matters.

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Mr. Siôn Simon (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): I share the admiration expressed already for the courage shown by my right hon. Friend, but despite his assurances about the independence of the oversight, what is the rationale behind designing an infrastructure that contains an obvious and inherent financial conflict of interest and then saying that everything will be all right because it will be regulated? He had an opportunity to set up an organisation that was clearly and obviously independent.

David Miliband: The simple answer is that having two organisations with overlapping responsibilities would blur precisely that accountability that is so necessary.

Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD): Nonsense!

David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman calls that nonsense, but if he thinks that regulating two organisations with overlapping responsibilities would help the regulatory process, enhance transparency and tackle confusion, I am afraid that he will have to return to the land of the living.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Simon) made an important point. The NDA structure contains clear checks and balances, as set out in debates held in this House and in the legislation that we have passed. That is the best safeguard for the sort of independent, effective and properly regulated waste management system that we need.


Local Planning Authorities (Energy Generation and Efficiency) Bill

Colin Challen presented a Bill to enable local authorities to make requirements for energy saving in local development plans and in the determination of planning applications; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 17 November, and to be printed [Bill 232].

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Mini Motos (Regulation)

1.24 pm

Anne Snelgrove (South Swindon) (Lab): I beg to move,

I aim to show that legislation on miniature motorbikes, which exist in a legal grey area, is necessary, popular and overdue. A new law is necessary because the situation that exists for my constituents, and for those of many hon. Members, is intolerable. I am introducing this Bill on behalf of the people whom the problem affects and on behalf of the legitimate motorcyclists to whom it is giving a bad name.

Today, people will be tearing around roads and paths in South Swindon on mini motos, terrifying residents. In my first year as an MP, that has been one of the main antisocial behaviour problems that my constituents have come to me with, and they have every reason to expect action.

I can tell those who have never seen a mini moto that they are replica motorbikes, only a quarter of the size of a regular bike but with a two-stroke engine that can take them to over 50 miles per hour. In theory, they are to be used only on private land, but in practice they are driven over public land, paths and, most terrifyingly, on roads. In Swindon in just one small period of this year—between 1 May and 19 June—there were 128 complaints about antisocial behaviour and dangerous driving involving mini motos. That amounts to about five complaints every two days.

I have raised the issue of minibike misuse on the paths between Eldene and Liden with PC Phil Young, and various similar problems in the Parks and Toothill areas with Inspector Steve Bridge. The police in Swindon are doing fantastic work, often involving crushing illegally ridden mini motos, but they are fighting against the tide. According to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, there has been a twentyfold increase in recent years in the number of mini motos imported into the UK from China, and representatives of the motorcycle industry believe that there could be 300,000 machines in circulation.

However, the police in Swindon are not required by the Home Office to collate the number of accidents, serious or otherwise, that mini motos cause. That is a problem that I want rectified. I want the Home Office to supply updated guidance to chief constables to require police to report mini moto accidents separately. We need access to statistics to see if the number of injuries caused by mini motos is exploding at the same rate as that at which the bikes are flooding in.

I can quote much anecdotal evidence on this matter from my constituency and from across the country. For example, one of Swindon’s Labour councillors, Barrie Thompson, recently received a complaint from an elderly disabled woman who said that she was harassed and nearly knocked over on the path that goes up to her house by a person riding a mini moto. In a separate incident in Peterborough, a 71-year-old woman was run into by a gang of young people on minibikes and received a broken foot and fractured knee. In addition, the brain injury association Headway is backing the crackdown on the riding of mini motos, on the ground
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that it could cause brain injury. My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) has his own mini moto story to tell. His leg was gashed as a result of what happened, and I am sure that he will tell the House about it at some point in the future. The Government believe that existing legislation provides adequate powers to combat mini moto misuse. However, that argument offers no consolation for my constituents who are putting up with the nuisance. Clearly, more could be done.

Mini motos have hurt children and can wreck lives, and it is entirely unreasonable that they should be treated by the law as toys. There has been confusion among enforcers—that is, magistrates and the police—about whether they are considered to be motor vehicles. Apparently, magistrates have tended to give the defendant the benefit of the doubt in these cases, and the police have been uncertain about which part of the legislation should be used in prosecutions.

I am glad that the Department for Transport acknowledges this problem and that it has issued guidance making it clear that it regards mini motos as motor vehicles. However, in the absence of legislation the Department has left clarification to be determined by the results of further court cases. The High Court has ruled on motorised scooters but not yet on mini motos. Treating mini motos as motor scooters, which are allowed on the roads, would not be an adequate solution.

Mini motos are not roadworthy. Unless they are modified, they do not come up to European construction requirements. By banning mini motos from the road we would send a clear message to enforcers and consumers, and the vehicles could still be enjoyed on tracks created for the purpose.

This measure would be a popular move with hon. Members, with the motorcycle industry and with my constituents. My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) introduced a ten-minute rule Bill two weeks ago to deal with scrambler bikes and my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley (Barbara Keeley) is introducing a similar Bill next week. Early-day motion 2040, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North (Helen Jones) was signed by 79 MPs and calls on the Government to ensure that minibikes are clearly defined as motor vehicles. That shows that the House wants to see action on tightening the regulation of off-road bikes.

The industry does, too. Honda, based in my constituency, is supporting motorcycle industry initiatives to tackle poor-quality, far eastern minibikes, which are flooding the UK market. My constituents also support action—78 per cent. of people in Swindon say that they want a ban, as shown in a poll in my local paper, the Swindon Advertiser, which has been hugely supportive of my campaign.

My constituents, including the police who wish to reach offenders, and youngsters and their parents who are actively involved in the fast-growing sport, have engaged extremely positively with me about the Bill. The commercial manager of Swindon speedway stadium is keen to work constructively with Swindon youth services and the police to tackle the disruptive use of mini motos. I have received a further positive offer of support from a track owner, Andrew Watts, and my constituent, James Carter, a parent involved in
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the sport. Mr. Carter is actively involved, together with his young sons, and he travels to a safe track to supervise their sport. He is confident that those who are involved with mini motos would welcome the Bill and he is encouraged by the local alternatives suggested as a result of the debate.

Support for my Bill has come from parents, police, youth services and members of the public. They want to see children having fun, but not endangering people’s lives—or their own—and blighting neighbourhoods. Instead of a complete ban, the best approach combines both enforcement and managed provision. The law needs to be changed so that mini motos are seen as vehicles, not toys, and are driven off our streets completely. We should legislate clearly in a way that the police, the courts and my constituents can understand and have trust in. I hope that I have convinced the House that this small Bill is what we need to defeat a massive menace.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Anne Snelgrove, Ms Diana R. Johnson, Dr. Nick Palmer, Helen Jones, Chris Bryant, Barbara Keeley, Charlotte Atkins, Mr. Ken Purchase and Mr. David Drew.

Mini Motos (Regulation)

Anne Snelgrove accordingly presented a Bill to make provision for the regulation of mini motos, and for connected purposes; And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 17 November, and to be printed [Bill 233].

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Point of Order

1.34 pm

Mr. Ian Austin (Dudley, North) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Earlier today, the Leader of the Opposition claimed that the Government were cutting 21,000 NHS jobs, yet when his own health spokesman, the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley), was asked by Andrew Neil a few days ago whether he and the Opposition claimed that these were job cuts and that 20,000 people currently in jobs would lose them, he replied that he did not claim that. Should not the Leader of the Opposition come back before the House to apologise for misleading us, however inadvertently, by using figures that his own spokesman admits are wrong?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): That is not a point of order for the Chair. The hon. Gentleman seems to be trying to continue an argument that occurred in our earlier proceedings, but there will be other more appropriate opportunities for rejoining it.

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Orders of the Day
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