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Lord Whitty: My Lords, the Leader of the House of Commons has made his position clear, but we are talking about threats and violence. We are not talking about demonstrations, but about direct violence and damage caused by citizens who happen to support a particular view in the hunting debate. That is what I deplore.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, to discuss opposing points of view is like discussing chickens and eggs. However, it is a fact that for a very long time, and certainly for all my lifetime, politicians and governments have sought to diminish the issue of class warfare. Does the Minister agree that, as published, the remarks made by his honourable friend in the other place, however much they might represent only an undercurrent in the thinking of many Members of that House, are inappropriate in the first half of the 21st century, although they might have been appropriate during the first half of the 20th century?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I have made it absolutely clear that I do not accept that description of the article. I have also made it clear that some, both in this House and elsewhere, worry about the class war only when they think they are losing it. However, hunting has
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never been about class war. It has been about crueltyand that was the decision taken by the House of Commons.
Baroness Mallalieu: My Lords, does my noble friend accept that the classes of people who are most likely to be hit first and hardest by this legislation are individuals and small businesses in areas that are already deprived, such as Exmoor? What do the Government propose to do to help local authorities in those areas who, even now, are setting up disaster funds to help mitigate the effects of what, on Defra's own figures, will be annually for Exmoor a £9.5 million deficiency in the economy?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I accept that some peoplerelatively fewin some parts of the country will be adversely affected by the ban. But I am astonished by my noble friend and other colleagues who support her. The Government came to this House and asked for a delay which would have mitigated some of these effects. Instead, despite my clear advice that this would be the only issue decided by its vote, this House decided to adopt what I would call a kamikaze tacticalthough perhaps that is unfair because the Japanese never aimed at their own side.
Lord Snape: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that Mr Peter Bradley, the politician famously responsible for the quotation in the Sunday Telegraph, is described in the Times Guide to the House of Commons as the chairman or director of a Westminster-based public relations company? Would it reassure noble Lords opposite if I tell my noble friend that, in my experience, such people are rarely to be found at the forefront of the barricades at the time of the revolution?
Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, would the noble Lord care to reflect on his statement that the Hunting Act was about cruelty? All the evidence suggests that it is crueller to shoot foxes than it is to kill them with hounds.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, that was a matter of considerable debate during the passage of the Bill. It was not the view taken by the majority in the House of Commons and it is not the view I take. I think that there are serious issues of cruelty relating to hunting with hounds. That is the view of the majority of the elected House and is actually the view of the majority in the country.
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My Lords, the UK Government notified the European Commission last December of their detailed plans for taking forward nuclear clean-up. This will eventually involve putting new state resources into discharging nuclear liabilities incurred as a result of BNFL's commercial activities. We accept that this comes within the areas covered by EU state aid rules but we consider that it is compatible with EU rules under Article 87.3(c) of the EC Treaty.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Does he accept that there are questions to be asked when the private sector can run an industry, walk away from the dirty legacy that it leaves, and yet still claim that it is an economic source of generation without having solved any of the waste issues? Will that not lead to confusion in the minds of taxpayers as to what are and are not economic sources of generation? Finally, as regards the Euratom loans which are to be given to allow new nuclear power station construction, it is proposed to raise the ceiling of such loans by £2 million. Is the Minister certain that this time a decommissioning and clean-up programme will be attached to them?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, these are past liabilities and the NDA is the proper mechanism for dealing with them. As regards future nuclear power stations, we must consider future liabilities and ensure that these are taken account of in any calculations of economic viability.
Lord Sheldon: My Lords, as the nuclear liability is estimated at £48 billiona major public expenditurewhat action does the Minister propose to take to ensure that the cost of the dismantling is taken fully into account at the time these plants are erected? What action does he suggest that we take for the immediate dismantling costs to be taken into account at the time of the erection of these plants?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, in this particular case the nuclear liabilities are covered by the nuclear liabilities investment portfolio, which I agree is an understatement. But it is about £3.5 billion and there will be something on top of that. As I said, this seems to be the appropriate way to deal with the par situation. As to other nuclear liabilities in other areas, it is extremely important that we have the best possible
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procedures for clean-up and make the most speed that we can in doing that. As to the future, we must ensure that these calculations are made properly from the start and provided for in the finances of the businesses.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, can the Minister remind both the noble Lord, Lord Sheldon, and the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, whether the power stations which gave rise to the nuclear waste and these problems were built by the public or the private sector?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, these are, of course, the commercial activities of BNFL. So, as I understand it, these would have been all built and incurred as the private sector. That is why the situation arises with the EU under state aid. If I am wrong about where they were incurred, I shall write to the noble Lord and place a copy of the letter in the Library.
Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, does the Minister recall that not too long ago the Royal Academy of Engineering issued a document or a statement about the relative costs of different kinds of fuel. It said that nuclear was one of the cheapest, even taking into account all the costs that had been incurred before? Under those circumstances, are a couple of the questions that have been raised not really very relevant?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, as I indicated at the time, there are some considerable disagreements about liabilities and costs. It seems sensible that when we come to make those decisions we do have a good understanding of what the future liabilities will be.
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