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Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, will he clarify something? I was surprised that he suggested that there was no need to have this amendment because disposal included long-term disposal. In that case, is he saying that there will be no need to create new institutional arrangements for handling long-term disposal separately if that is a recommendation of the committee that is currently sitting? Will the Government simply pass the committee's recommendations to the NDA to give effect to them if they agree with the recommendations?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I think that the noble Lord might be presuming too much in those terms. He will recognise that these are challenging and difficult issues. That is why the committee is one of the longer lasting committees. It has developed its deliberations over almost a decade. I was merely seeking not to pre-empt any position with regard to it. As far as the Bill is concerned, I reassure the noble Lord that what we mean by disposal will not inhibit the responsibility of the NDA in any way. Therefore, we do not need the amendment that spells out responsibilities in this slightly more extended way.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I did not actually hear the Minister's response as to whether or not spent plutonium was a substance covered within the designation of disposal or long-term waste.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I understand that plutonium is not currently classified as waste. The noble Baroness asked me quite specifically whether it was in the category. It is not.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, the Select Committee recommended that a decision should be taken as to how much plutonium would be needed for future use and that the rest should be designated as waste. That responsibility rests upon the Government.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I understand that. I am not able immediately to verify that position. However, I am grateful to the noble Lord for indicating that plutonium could fit into two categories.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, is he content for surface waste to stay there at Sellafield indefinitely?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, no. I am as anxious as everyone in the country is for us effectively

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and adequately to solve these difficult problems. However, because the issues are so difficult the noble Earl will recognise why it would be superficial in the extreme for me to make some kind of gesture of response to a question of that magnitude at this moment.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, will he be in a position by Third Reading to say what proportion of spent plutonium will be classified by the Government as waste?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, indicated with his helpful intervention, as we have not yet taken such a decision, we have not yet decided on the proportion.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, mentioned the problems of Nirex. The Select Committee touched on that and recommended a long period of public education about the problems of waste disposal. I am not very happy with the Minister's answer. I do not propose to test the opinion of the House because we need to make progress on other matters. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 7:

    Page 3, line 18, at end insert—

"through the employment whenever reasonably possible of appropriately qualified and experienced persons having regard to the safety, health and environmental expertise of those persons"

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall deal with Amendments Nos. 7 and 15 together. I shall do so briefly. When I moved them in Grand Committee with the support of the other opposition party I pointed out that I found it strange that in all the directions given to the NDA, the Bill does not require the NDA to have regard to the importance of a strong safety culture among companies competing for and receiving contracts, or individuals seeking senior managerial positions.

I do not intend to repeat the same arguments that I used in Committee. I thought that they were self-evident but obviously not. The reply of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, was far from satisfactory. He failed to give me any assurance that the all-important culture of safety would be impressed upon the NDA and more particularly that it would be the responsibility of the NDA to ensure that those to whom it awarded contracts and those to whom it delegated its duties were all duly qualified.

The noble Lord told us about the general duties of the NDA as specified in Clause 9(1). That is okay as far as they go. However, what needs to be explained is the objection to spelling out this important facet—the employment of suitably qualified persons in an area where safety is a matter of serious public concern.

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What we do not want to see is some serious accident, however small, followed by crocodile tears from the Minister and the regulator. We do not want to see an exercise in buck-passing by the Government and the regulator on "failures in management", capped by the usual promise, "we will learn useful lessons from this".

No one can get a job as a doctor, as an airline pilot, as a bus driver, or any other skilled job, without having the necessary qualifications. It is essential that in this field we are protected by the NDA. That body should have the responsibility for seeing that only qualified persons are employed. There can be no possible logical or reasonable objection to this duty being made abundantly clear on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Lord Triesman: My Lords, I thank noble Lords profoundly for such a warm reception.

Amendments Nos. 7 and 15 impose an additional requirement on the NDA to employ appropriately qualified persons in respect of its principal functions, although as drafted the amendment would in fact apply only to the decommissioning NDA facilities in Clause 3(l)(f)). There is a corresponding addition to the NDA's duties in this regard.

I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, will not take offence at what I am about to say, as certainly none is intended. As I think that she may have hinted, the amendments do not—I went back over what was said on 15 January—say anything about the duties of the contractors. They are limited to the responsibilities and duties of the NDA in relation to the health, safety and environmental record of site management contractors. It is right to ensure that people are properly qualified to do the work and have the ability to do it. No one would want anything else to be the case. It must be an extremely important part of the competitive tendering process for the NDA to make an assessment of the viability of the bidders for site management contracts in these terms—it would be negligent were it not to do so—especially whether the environmental and safety record of potential contractors will meet the strict terms of a nuclear site licence. There will no doubt be informal contact between the NDA and regulators on this matter, and the regulators will certainly play a significant role in the licensing of the successful bidder. It is the regulators who will need to agree any change in the organisational arrangements at nuclear sites under the terms of the licence, which in terms of safety is specifically covered by the Nuclear Installation Inspectorate's licence condition 28.

Clearly, the NDA will want as much comfort as possible that a contractor it is minded to appoint will be acceptable to the regulators. It is hard to imagine the process going ahead were it to do other than that. This is addressed in the memorandum of understanding which will be put in place between the NDA and each regulator, and which has been agreed in generic form as a draft document. But the regulators

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will not want to be drawn into a detailed consideration of the merits of individual bidders in advance of the selection of a preferred contractor by the NDA which might compromise their independence in sanctioning the organisational change which would be necessary on the appointment of a new contractor.

Finally, the NDA is also under a duty to ensure that it has the necessary expertise in place, now and in the future, so that it can successfully carry out its decommissioning task. Specifically Clause 9(2)(a) puts the NDA under a duty to ensure the maintenance and development of a skilled workforce able to undertake clean-up. But that is a means to an end. The NDA's role will be to set the strategic direction for clean-up across the UK, manage the framework for delivering it and ensure the necessary conditions are in place for it to be carried out successfully.

So in the final analysis it is not just a matter of employing the right sort of people, although we expect this to be a very important element, and enshrined in ways which I hope I have persuaded noble Lords are present. For the step change in nuclear clean-up we are seeking to achieve, we cannot detract from the NDA's focus on actually delivering on clean-up.

It is, of course, essential that the NDA's contractors have the appropriate credentials in this respect. It will be one of the acid tests for involvement in nuclear clean-up. Indeed, not being appropriately qualified to do the job is simply not an option. All bidders will have to show that they can meet the requirements of the nuclear site licence, and if they cannot do so they will be excluded.

I urge noble Lords to think about what I have said about withdrawing these amendments. We accept the need for the kinds of expertise and ability that the noble Baroness laid out in her proposals on this amendment. We believe that all the conditions that she seeks to achieve are already in the legislation, the documents and the memoranda to which I have referred.

5.15 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that fuller answer. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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