I thank the Minister for advance sight of his statement.
The energy bills crisis of the past two years has exposed the deep vulnerabilities in Britain’s energy system and the urgent need to build more home-grown power in this country so that we can cut energy bills and have real energy independence from dictators such as Putin. In that context, we support the Government’s commitment to new nuclear power. Labour supports new nuclear, which must form a critical part of our future energy mix. Nuclear power is a long-term project for any country, and I want to give the industry and nuclear workers clear assurances that there is a cross-party consensus for nuclear power in this country.
It was the last Labour Government who identified 10 sites for new nuclear in 2009, and in the time since this Government’s record has been one of continual delay and false dawns. Yesterday, I met people from west Cumbria who have been waiting six years for a decision on nuclear since the last plan collapsed on this Government’s watch. The road map published today is two years later than they promised, and it still leaves a number of unanswered questions about how the Government intend to turn warm words into practical action, so I shall ask the Minister a number of questions.
First, I am glad that the Minister has woken up to the urgent fact that we need to generate more cheap, clean electricity in this country. In which year will any of the policies announced today actually cut bills for people? Secondly, it is all well and good talking about commitments to new stations in the next Parliament, but what is the timetable for the final investment decision for Sizewell C? The Government promised to have a final investment decision by the end of this Parliament, so will the Minister give a categorical promise today that that will be done? Time is running out. Thirdly, will he update us on the timetable for Hinkley Point C, originally promised to be delivered by 2017, and when will it start supplying power to households?
Fourthly, on SMRs, what is the timetable for concluding the competition? Just yesterday I met representatives trying to site SMRs who were complaining of long delays from Government and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in getting the project moving. How will the Minister unblock that and wider SMR development? Fifthly, what steps are being taken to ensure that the UK retains critical skills in our nuclear sector? Nuclear jobs are high-skilled, well-paid and unionised jobs, and Labour supports the workers and unions in the nuclear industry in calling on the Government to ensure that investment in the industry supports good jobs and apprenticeships right through the supply chain. Finally, will the Minister address the ongoing concerns about the safety and security of our nuclear decommissioning process, given the disturbing revelations about Sellafield? What steps are being taken to ensure that every nuclear site is secure?
Labour supports new nuclear for Britain after 14 years of inaction under the Conservatives. The wider lesson is that this country needs a Government going full pelt for clean power. We should be investing as a country in nuclear, offshore wind, onshore wind, solar, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and all forms of clean power that can help to cut bills and make our country energy independent. That is what we need, and that is what a Labour Government will do.