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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am in some difficulty in responding, for the simple reason that those who followed debates on the Bill over many hours on many days in Committee and on Report will know that we have spent hours on the issue. I have looked at the Hansard report of just one Committee sitting, when we discussed skills in the nuclear industry. My contribution at that stage was 15 minutes longI make no apology, as it was Committee stage. The debate on just the narrow issue of how we preserve and intend to enhance nuclear skills lasted more than an hour. Yet today I am asked to respond on the whole question of the Government's nuclear energy policy.
In moving his amendment with his customary skill and charm, the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, made a Freudian slip: he could not quite recall what NDA stood for. It stands for Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, not "commissioning" or "build". We do not need legislation in order to carry out a programme of build, if that is decided upon in government policy. The Bill creates an authority to deal with clean-up. That is what we have debated for weeks on end. I fail to understand how I can respond to a proposal involving the exact opposite of what we are doing.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that I feel that I am already at that stage, so I am at one with him on that. I sought to make the more serious point that NDA stands for Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The Bill is about how we deal with nuclear clean-up. It is about the nuclear industry's past and the inheritance that we need to address now, as everybody recognises; hence the creation of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.
However, Amendment No. 3 is about the possibilities of nuclear build. I recognise the points that noble Lords who spoke in support of the amendment made on the crucial issue of nuclear power. Those speeches were well presented, and we recognise the nature of the problem. However, I ask noble Lords whether they propose that nuclear build and the solutions to the energy gap issues that they have identified should be the responsibility of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authoritythat is where the amendment would appear in the Bill. It seems to make an absolute travesty of our proposals. We pride ourselves on our legislative role, the amount of time that we are prepared to devote to legislation and the care that we take. Does anybody who supports the necessity to address the nuclear question in a different timescale from the one proposed by the Government, as do noble Lords in some parts of the House, think that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is the agency that should do it? That is what the amendment asks noble Lords to support.
If, by some ridiculous mischance, noble Lords are tempted to go near the Lobby in support of the amendment in those terms, it cannot be the action of those who are concerned properly about our energy difficulties and the obvious necessity to meet the energy gap identified.
Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, I hope that when the Minister refers to noble Lords being tempted to go through the Lobbies, he is not talking to any of his noble friends behind him. His noble friends expressed very clear sympathy with the arguments and the view that this was not the appropriate place with which to deal with the matter. I hope that the Minister will not drive us into the arms of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, which I never find particularly appealingI could find much more appealing arms to get driven intoand will address perhaps the seriousness of the issue, with which the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, also dealt.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I was not addressing my remarks to any particular part of the House. I merely sought to identify that the amendment made the odd interpretation that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, established in the framework of the Bill to deal with nuclear clean-up, should be the focus of nuclear build to meet an energy gap and future provision that we all recognise is of
I could reiterate the arguments that we have had in Committee and on Report over all these issues, of the research positions that we are concerned about, of the questions of the research activity in which we participate, and of the issues that we have with regard to enhancement of skills in order to preserve the position for the nuclear future. I could enter into the debate of the whole issue of nuclear pricing and the relative costs of the nuclear industry at present. I have been invited to do exactly that, it seems to me, by the very nature and breadth of this debate. But there must come a time with a Bill, particularly at Third Reading, when we address ourselves to amendments that are realistic, and that give effect reasonably to what can be achieved in the Bill.
I maintain that it is perfectly obvious that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is not the authority to carry the burden of the points that have been made on the general energy policy. I have no doubt that we shall return to these debates on many occasions in the future. If one thing is certain about your Lordships' House, it is that there are manifest opportunities for debates on every issue, and I have no doubt that energy will feature over the course of the next few months and years.
I am merely making the point today that this amendment is grotesquely misplaced in asking the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to be responsible for nuclear build. It is on those grounds that I hope that the noble Lord will recognise that he has had a good debate, and he has made his case about nuclear issues, but it would not be right to ask noble Lords to participate in the Lobbies on an amendment that is so ill-construed.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, and before my noble friend comes back, I say to the Minister that he has slightly misjudged the occasion. The problem that we have had with this Bill throughout is that it is not a Bill about energy. The very issues that have been raised this afternoon can be addressed nowhere in the Bill, but we should be addressing them.
Later onI suspect by then many noble Lords will no longer be in the ChamberI will again attempt to get something to cover the issue of protecting the environment, while allowing development to take place on wind farms. Again, I shall be told that it is not relevant, and it is not appropriate. But this Bill is a wasted opportunity. This Government have wasted it. No wonder my noble friend is valiantly trying to raise an issue that is of great concern to all Members.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the noble Baroness did catch me before I sat down, so I will respond. I regret that she thinks that my remarks were ill-judged to the occasion. I merely emphasised the obvious fact that we have been through all these issues. We have had debates at Second Reading, and we had endless debates in Committee. I just indicated one brief illustration of how lengthy our debates were in Committee. Noble Lords will recall that we had 13 days in Committee. We have had days on Report, and the issues have been articulated and aired there.
There has not been a point that has been made todaythough they have all been made effectively and ably by noble Lordsthat has not been articulated in the context of the Bill prior to today. It is not my role at this point to respond to a general debate. This is not Second Reading; this is an amendment to a Bill asking the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to be responsible, as I see it, for commissioning nuclear buildthe exact opposite to the whole proposition of what the Bill stands for. It is on that basis that I hope that the noble Lord will recognise that he has had a fair run. Perhaps he will recognise that he could at this stage usefully withdraw his amendment.
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, if the noble Lord had taken that sort of note earlier on, he might well have persuaded me. I am afraid that he has not. I am very grateful to everyone, to all noble Lords except one, for taking part in this debate. My noble friends on this side of the House will, I am sure, forgive me, if I say that I am particularly grateful to the three noble Lords who took part from the other side of the House.
I have always thought that it is particularly important in your Lordships' House that there should be some echo and some common ground between the parties. I am grateful to the three noble Lords who supported what I said, even though they do not accept my view that protests are usually louder if they are also expressed in the Lobbies. I am sure that our difference in that matter will not affect our relationship.
I am conscious that since my noble friend on the Front Bench has been unhappily silent, it occurs to me that there might be a possibility of her being under some constraints that do not affect me at all. I will not specify them, but only the direction is sufficient for me.
I should like to finish by saying that what the noble Lords, Lord Christopher, Lord Lea and Lord Tomlinson, said to me was an effective plea, which I hope they will believe really did shift me. On the other hand, the speech of their noble friend the Minister, which was really more of a lecture and a homily, telling me rather sharply that I had made a bad mistake in intruding on the niceties of his Bill, put me back sharply to where I was before. To say no more, I should like to take the opinion of the House.