The 2010 Coalition Agreement promised the replacement of existing nuclear power stations provided they received no public subsidy

MP urges no subsidy for nuclear power

The government should stick to its promise that new nuclear power should receive no public subsidy, a Lib Dem MP has said.

Martin Horwood warned MPs that he did now know of a single nuclear power station anywhere in the world which had been completed on time and on budget without public subsidy.

The MP for Cheltenham raised concerns over the transparency of negotiations currently ongoing between DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) and new nuclear suppliers to fix the strike price in advance of legislation on energy market reform.

He urged the government to "pause" the process so that the Public Accounts Committee could examine whether the contract for difference being offered for new nuclear power generation offered genuine value for money.

While the use of subsidies, he argued, was "justified" for renewables, the Coalition Agreement in May 2010 promised the replacement of existing nuclear power stations provided that they received no public subsidy.

Speaking during a Commons debate on the issue, he said: "But wouldn't it be extraordinary if into this exciting young, diverse and competitive energy market we found that a 56-year-old freeloader, a tailgater left over from another era was trying to slip in unnoticed and pick up all the same kind of advantages and support?

"Wouldn't it be even more extraordinary if that old free loader was not even represented by a diversity of competitive companies but just one or two?

"And even more extraordinary still, if the most significant of those turned out to be the state nationalised energy supplier of another country already subsidised by their own taxpayers, but that is precisely what is happening with the nuclear industry.

"And what is more the level of support, the precise contract for difference and the strike price for specific energy sources are being negotiated behind closed doors as we speak before the relevant legislation has even passed through this House."

Horwood warned consumers would be hit by any such public subsidy.

He said: "The request in the motion is modest, it is not for the instant abandonment of nuclear power, it's not for the overturning of government energy policy, far from it, it is just for a pause, for the referral of the strike price negotiation to the Public Accounts Committee, other select committees or to an independent panel of experts would be equally acceptable as I said they can sit in private if there are issues of commercial sensitivity.

"On the face of it Electricite de France are trying to pull a fast one on British energy bill payers, taking a subsidy designed for clean, green, new, emerging competitive technologies with falling prices and claiming it for a 56-year-old industry with precious little competition and a continuing history of spectacular cost over-runs for which we stand to pick up the bill."

Horwood also offered some supportive words to former Lib Dem energy secretary Chris Huhne, he said: "It may be a bit optimistic now, but I think and I hope that Chris Huhne's time in this House will be remembered for the great work he did in shaping a greener future for the UK."

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) said he was opposed to nuclear power.

He said that had a comprehensive renewable energy programme been introduced across Europe, the government would not need to look at introducing nuclear power now.

He said: "All the time that I have been in the House, consistently, both the Liberal Party originally and then the Liberal Democrats, looked at the policy options for our energy supply and every time we have reviewed this we have concluded that there were very strong reasons for not going down the nuclear road - not for a theological reason, but for rational reasons which remain in my view as strong as ever.

"I am very clear that we have been enthusiastic supporters of wind power, both on-shore and off-shore and we have been enthusiastic of tidal power and we have been enthusiastic supporters of solar power."

Hughes added: "The arguments for not going down the nuclear road are firstly it is hugely expensive and whatever the future might hold, the past shows that nuclear programmes have not been delivered on time or on budget around the world.

"Secondly, it has never been proved that we can deal with the waste in a secure and safe way indefinitely.

There may be adequately safe ways of holding the waste for a short (period of time) but there is no scientific evidence that shows that there is a permanent way of making sure that the waste can be both held and then disposed of."

Labour MP Paul Flynn (Newport West) said MPs had been "seduced" by the view that nuclear power was inevitable.

He said one of the best ways of getting energy was through tidal power which was "entirely predictable" unlike windfarms.

Flynn said there was now a "stampede" of foreign companies looking to take advantage of providing nuclear energy.

They would make enormous profits while the cost of providing the power stations would be down to taxpayers, he claimed.

But Tory MP David Mowat (Warrington South) said nuclear technology was now much safer and more advanced than it was when it was first being developed.

He said subsidies for nuclear power were needed because otherwise the energy market would focus on coal and gas.

Mowat said: "I personally believe that we do have to address the decarbonisation issue and I personally believe that nuclear power is part of that solution, as is wind.

"Nuclear is changing and evolving. There are different types of nuclear power... just as wind has developed.

"It is a very difficult argument to maintain. We have to talk about whether we are serious about decarbonisation and if we are it is very difficult to see that nuclear is not part of the solution."

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