Nuclear Safeguards Bill DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Mims DaviesMain Page: Mims Davies (Conservative) - Mid Sussex)
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(2 years, 11 months ago)Commons Chamber
I entirely agree. It is vital for us to be able to safeguard our national interests and the skills that we have in great numbers, so that we can support the industry and continue to go from strength to strength in the UK, regardless of what the Germans tell us we should be doing.
The Joint European Torus programme in Oxfordshire is a key example of the positive support that we have received. The Government have pledged to underwrite the UK’s share of the cost of the project until 2020 to meet our international obligations and ensure the success of the project. The same applies to Horizon 2020. That willingness to participate in such projects is a clear indication that the UK will not turn its back on commitments with the EU at the expense of scientific progress. The desire to support the sciences domestically will also filter down into immigration policy. The Government have already made it clear that they are keen for the brightest and best people from the world of science to continue to come and work in the UK, and that is not going to change.
The simple fact is that the UK is leaving the EU and, necessarily, Euratom. The European Commission has made that pretty clear. There can be no watered-down half-membership, as Euratom comes with commitments to the European courts and free movement that my constituents would never go for. While the Bill does raise questions about the future of the nuclear industry—all things are uncertain when it comes to a huge negotiation on the scale of Brexit—it is clear that its intention is to promote continuity and ensure that Britain’s high standards of nuclear safeguarding are maintained after we leave. It is a vital contingency plan to ensure that if we do end up with no deal—which no one wants, blah blah blah—[Laughter]—we are ready for that eventuality. That was not meant as a “filler”, but there is no point in going over the same old argument again.
As many of my colleagues have said over many months, we are leaving the EU. That is right and necessary, and it has to be a clean break, but we are not leaving Europe, and we want to continue to co-operate on many aspects that are beneficial to the UK.
It appears that the Opposition are not even going to vote against the Bill. They are playing a dangerous political game with an important decision—talking about the nuclear Armageddon that will inevitably come from the passing of the Bill yet not bothering to vote against it. I am not quite sure where they are coming from. It seemed clear even from the opening statement from the shadow Front Bench that this is not about the content of the Bill; it is an attempt to refight the referendum over and over again, and to talk about how they did not want to leave the EU at all.
The scaremongering about how this might affect medical isotopes or safety and numerous other aspects during the lengthy discussion of this Bill bears no resemblance to what is down on paper. The Bill is about delivering continuity for the industry in the UK and giving us the opportunity to forge ahead in this field in the future.
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is highly appropriate that this should be the first piece of oven-ready Brexit legislation, as that shows the importance of this industry and of safeguards in it?
It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mims Davies). The Hansard editors will now have to work out how to spell “blah blah blah” as well as “blah-di-blah”.
I am a natural optimist, but if the House will allow me I want to strike a slightly cautionary note at the beginning of my speech. Leaving the European Union was always going to be difficult. We have been members of the EU, and of Euratom, for 44 years and these are some of the complexities that we will have to deal with over the coming years if we are to make a success of leaving the European Union. Additionally, the European Union was always going to be difficult about this because it does not want us to leave. The negotiations will be difficult. It is also quite clear from their recent remarks that most Opposition Members—not many of whom are present at this time of the evening—are going to be difficult and try to frustrate the process.
However, difficult and impossible are two different things. I believe that the Prime Minister is taking the right approach in her negotiations with the European Union. On the one hand, she made a conciliatory and generous speech in Florence in setting out the terms that we were prepared to work on; on the other hand, she has stated clearly and quite rightly that we will prepare for no deal. The Bill is about preparing for no deal on Euratom, although Members across the House clearly want us to strike such a deal. It is no wonder that the Opposition do not think that this is necessary. We know from the shadow Chancellor’s comments yesterday on “The Andrew Marr Show” that Labour would not accept no deal in any circumstances. That means that they would accept the worst possible deal if that was the only deal on the table. It was also made clear in Labour’s manifesto that it would accept the worst possible deal rather than walk away with no deal. That is the most naive negotiating stance I have ever heard of. The shadow Business Secretary must agree that that is not the right approach to take in any negotiations.
It is absolutely right that we should make provision in the Bill for the nuclear industry, which is very important for the UK’s economy and for our energy needs. Nuclear already supplies around 21% of our electricity, and that will grow to around 42% by 2050. As some Members will know, I have shale gas in my constituency and I am often lobbied by shale gas protesters who say that we do not have an appropriate policy on energy and renewables. I want to pay tribute to the strategic approach that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is taking to meeting the energy needs of this country. We absolutely have a future in renewables, and nuclear will play a key part in that.