|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Brookman: My Lords, I could not help but rise to make a comment about the steel industry. The noble Lord is correct in saying that tremendous help was given to communities at the time of the steel closures, but that was also part of the European Coal and Steel Community funds. European funds played an enormous part in helping those troubled areas. The Conservative government stopped us being members of that fund because it required government support, as well as a levy from employers.
Planning will always be a controversial matter, where energy supply is concerned. The Minister probably knows better than anybody that generating plant and transmission lines are immensely difficult to slot in across the country, despite the rather easier regime that they appear to enjoy in Scotland, for whatever reason. I hope that the Minister will assure me that I need not be concerned about the matter and that the decommissioning process would not go so far as to rule out the possibility that the sites might subsequently be available for the generation of electricity in whatever form the times required, when the situation arose. If the Government can give me
Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, may I say how welcome is the debate stimulated by the amendment? In the community of Caithness around the establishment of Dounreay, there is some concern that the tight focus on the decommissioning of the site by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to restore it to a greenfield situation may mean that we miss an important opportunity to develop there or close to it and under the umbrella of one management alternative energy sources that are proximate.
The north Caithness coast is already viewed as a potential location for experimentation with tidal power and wave power. One experiment proved abortive, but it took place. It would be a great mistake if the technological facilities and skills in the area and the physical location, along with the availability of transmission lines, which the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, mentioned, were not considered as a source for experimentation and for the development of alternative energy. It would be unfortunate if the principal function of the NDA is to be regarded as excluding responsibility for that kind of development. Partnerships may be appropriate for the development of such alternatives. It would seem desirable that the NDA should have a responsibility not to preclude those developments. I hope that the Minister will find the opportunity during the course of the debate to clarify how he and the Government see the position.
Earl Caithness: My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith on this amendment, particularly in view of what has just been said by the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan of Rogart, who knows the Dounreay situation better than I. He has put the matter in a far better way than I could. It is a crucial issue for the north of Scotland where there is good access to the grid system. It takes me back to a point raised on earlier amendments. It took a long time for it to dawn on people in Caithness, which is a fairly flat landscape, that one of the problems of wind farms, although extremely beneficial in many areas, is connecting them to the grid. Where one has a site which is part of the base of the grid it would be foolish not to give it flexibility for use in the future.
I wish to ask the Minister two questions. I gave him notice of one of them in connection with Amendment No. 3, but as the noble Lord did not move it, I told him that I would raise it on Amendment No. 5. Before I do so, I wonder whether the noble Lord would like to comment as to whether one of the designated responsibilities of the NDA should be to make a centre of excellence for decommissioning. If that is the case, would it not be right that the centre should be at Dounreay where the decommissioning process is going to the front of modern technology which can then be sold and distributed around the world for the benefit of all?
The second point I mentioned to the Minister concerns the constitution of the NDA and whether further thought has been given as to the members of that organisation and whether in particular there will be a representative from Caithness who know Dounreay well. It is the second largest establishment and given the contribution it has made and the expertise there, it would be extremely wise of the Government to include somebody with knowledge of that area.
Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, I wish to add briefly to what the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, said. I live very near the plant at Chapel Cross, about two miles away, and I have been there throughout the life of the plant. What may happen there is exactly what may happen at Dounreay. There is very good reason that we should look to securing the site for possible future reactors. There is a tritium plant at Chapel Cross, but whether that can operate without a nuclear reactor I am not technically knowledgeable to say. We want to keep these sites available until final decisions are made about nuclear reactors. That is why I support the amendment.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I hope to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, on the main thrust of his amendment that nothing precludes the NDA from pursuing a policy where a site would be designated in the way he identified. The Bill does not preclude any decision in those terms. It is open in that respect. Therefore, if a particular site appeared as though it should be preserved for nuclear generation that may well be so. The Bill does not preclude it and that is why the amendment is unnecessary.
I am in greater difficulty in responding to what I recognise are the extremely precise representations as regards Dounreay. The noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, would not be his true self if he participated in a debate of this kind without representing that area, which he has done in another capacity for so many years. I recognise the significance of the point that he made. Obviously, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority will be a centre of excellence. It will pursue a strategy that will require an enormous amount of expertise at the highest levels that we can command. There is no decision about where the NDA will be located at this stage. We could not possibly think in terms of putting that in the Bill. However, the representations of the noble Lord and those of the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, have been heard.
I will make an obvious point: we are not expecting local representation on the NDA. We are expecting expertise and it may beas I am sure both noble Lords would contestthat there is a level of expertise at Dounreay that would be enormously advantageous to the NDA. That may well prove to be the case, but I am not in a position to pre-judge any decision now. However, we do not look upon the NDA as having a board that is representative of local communities that may have experience, expertise and a long association with nuclear generation.
I hope that the House forgives me if I dare to tread upon the two long debates that we have already had, but I wanted to emphasise the obvious fact that the Secretary of State has clear responsibility, as does Ofgem, for ensuring electricity security over a long period of time. We will live to see whether that follows the lines that some noble Lords have suggested in previous debates. I assure the noble Lord that nothing in the way in which the Bill is drafted in any way inhibits the basis of the arguments that he has put forward in his amendment.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I listened carefully when he said that nothing precluded the NDA from doing exactly what my noble friend wanted. However, having read through the relevant pieces, I cannot see where it encourages that either. Perhaps the Minister can point me in the right direction.
Lord Davies of Oldham: No, my Lords, because we have not set out to detail all the potential objectives that the decommissioning authority might have with regard to the significant number of sites with which it has to deal. I mentioned that they are to be dealt with on a site by site basis. The kind of arguments that have been advanced so ably by the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, are not arguments that would easily be adduced in favour of one of two other sites that I can think of in the country. The value of that representation is to identify its uniqueness. I am merely saying that, on the face of this Bill, we are not setting out to be specific about the NDA's objectives. We are saying that, within those broad objectives, this could certainly be one in relation to any particular site.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page