All 1 Lord Oxburgh contributions to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017

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Wed 1st Mar 2017
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill Debate

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Department: Department for Exiting the European Union

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

Lord Oxburgh Excerpts
Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 1st March 2017

(7 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 103-II Second marshalled list for Committee - (27 Feb 2017)
Lord Bradshaw Portrait Lord Bradshaw (LD)
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My Lords, I live in the shadow of Culham. Like the noble Lord, Lord Hayward, I am well aware of the problems that this debate is already causing. I met a number of people from Culham last Thursday. A number are already discussing the opportunities that exist outside this country to move away, because they are uncertain. Many are married to EU nationals who do not know what their position is.

Also, from my association with Oxford University, I can assure noble Lords that not only are we in danger of losing some of the best scientists in medical science, energy and technology, but applications for post-doctoral fellowships for PhDs are declining because people are afraid of what is going to happen. Reference was made to our shortage of nuclear technologists: if those who are there at present were to go away, we would be even shorter—almost bereft—of them.

Lord Oxburgh Portrait Lord Oxburgh (CB)
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My Lords, by now the Minister will probably have got the message that this House thinks Euratom is pretty important for the reasons given. I shall not repeat them, but they are very sound. Indeed, sitting yesterday as a member of the Science and Technology Committee, under the chairmanship of the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, we received evidence on nuclear matters. We raised Euratom. There certainly was dismay among our witnesses at the prospect of the UK leaving it.

Nuclear energy will play an important part in the energy plans of the present Government and, I suspect, any Government we are likely to have in the near future. That said, as my noble friend Lord Krebs pointed out, our expenditure on nuclear R&D is simply derisory by international standards. For that reason, we get enormous benefit from our membership of Euratom—proportionately more than almost any other member.

Probably the most important point to recognise is that Euratom governs not just non-proliferation, but the movement of nuclear materials and, above all, nuclear IP. If Brexit goes ahead on the timetable we have at the moment and nothing is put in place effectively to give us continuing membership of Euratom by some means or other, that occurrence would come right in the middle of the build at Hinkley. It is not impossible that Hinkley would come to a serious and grinding halt unless the Government somehow manage a better arrangement for the future.

Lord Stern of Brentford Portrait Lord Stern of Brentford (CB)
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My Lords, we have heard very clear and convincing arguments about the future of Euratom. They are clear and strong. But it is more than that. Science depends on collaboration, mechanisms of collaboration, funding and movement of people. Many of us would see the attitude to Euratom as symbolic of this bigger issue. The noble Lord, Lord Winston, made the point that our academics worry about the mechanisms of collaboration, the funding and the movement of people.

I am a fellow of the Royal Society but I am an economist, so I will give an example from my department. We could replicate them in physics departments and all the others. Half of our professors at the LSE, which has one of the best economics departments in the world and is where I am a professor, are EU non-UK. They come to us because we are outstanding and we are outstanding because they come to us. This could be said about every physics department of the highest quality in this country. Scientists—and I, as president of the British Academy for the humanities and social sciences—will be looking at this kind of example to see whether our collaborations, our funding and the movement of people are secure—or at least as secure as they could possibly be. Through the response on Euratom and more broadly, we would welcome clear statements about the priority of collaboration, the mechanisms of collaboration and the funding.

In putting the question in this way, I salute the Government for the support they have given to research. We are on the way up in terms of funding for research. We have a long way to go, but still, the first derivative is positive. May it keep moving in that direction. But it is not just the funding but the people, the collaborations and the mechanisms. This is why, as well as the arguments in their own right, which are very powerful as we have heard, Euratom is so important.

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Lord Oxburgh Portrait Lord Oxburgh
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Twice in his speech, the Minister has commented that the UK was an international leader or a world leader in nuclear energy—I am not quite sure of the words he used—but it would be very unfortunate if our Ministers or officials entered any negotiations in this general area with that belief. There are certain areas in which UK achievements are considerable, but to describe it as such or imply it across the board would, sadly, be misleading.

Lord Keen of Elie Portrait Lord Keen of Elie
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I am most obliged to the noble Lord, because it gives me the opportunity to refine the statement that I made. Essentially, we are world leaders in the area of nuclear fusion.