Today in Parliament.
Nuclear Power Stations
What recent assessment he has made of the potential construction of new nuclear power stations.
The Government are firmly committed to ensure the conditions are right for investment in new nuclear power, and welcome plans for around 16 GW of new nuclear power in the UK. It is up to energy companies to construct, operate and decommission nuclear power stations. It will be for Government and the independent regulators to ensure safety and security and to maximise the benefit. The future is bright and safe: the future is nuclear.
Professor Tom Burke, a former Government adviser, said on Tuesday that the Government are planning in secret to spend up to £30 billion in subsidy to new nuclear. New nuclear is in trouble in Finland and in France—years late and billions over budget. Are the Government going to break their promise to have no nuclear subsidies, and if they are going to break that promise, can the Minister guarantee that there will be full transparency and opportunities for Parliament to discuss, debate and vote against it?
I have no secrets from this House. Of course the Government are going to be transparent about the process. Of course the Government are going to ensure taxpayer value for money. The hon. Gentleman has a history of being against Trident, which is about our future. He has a history of being against the monarchy, which is also about our future. We knew that he wanted to ban the bomb and ban the monarchy; we now know that he wants to ban the future.
In 1976, the Flowers commission said that it would be irresponsible to proceed with generating electricity from nuclear power without a policy on the disposal of waste. The policy then was to dig a hole and bury the waste in it. The policy now is to do the same thing, but we no longer have a hole since Cumbria county council turned down the planning permission yesterday. Will this preposterous buffoon of a Minister of State try to answer one question and say whether it is still irresponsible to proceed without a solution to deal with the waste?
Order. I think the hon. Gentleman should withdraw the expression “preposterous buffoon”—[Interruption.] Order. The hon. Gentleman has a very wide vocabulary and should use an alternative expression.
I will pull those words and refer instead to this Minister 'who has failed to answer any question today and has demonstrated his incompetence'.
On 10 January, the Foreign Secretary gave me what he described as a “broad assurance” that there would be a vote in the House on the deployment of soldiers abroad, following the precedent of 2003. The Leader of the House rested his refusal to allow that on the narrow point that we are not in conflict in Mali. We have up to 400 troops there; many of them are armed, and if they are attacked, they will use those arms. That sounds very much like conflict to me.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Jim Murphy that the country is now weary and wary of avoidable wars, is it not important for us to debate the issue, so that the House can establish what precisely is the terrorist threat to Britain from Tuareg nationalists?
I am sure that the House would not wish to repeat what I said earlier—which I think was perfectly understandable in the circumstances—but I might add that our actions have been in response to what were, in effect, urgent and emergency requests from, in the first instance, the French authorities, with the support of the Malian authorities. That engages, to an extent, the question of this being an emergency. However, we will constantly keep in mind the question of whether it is appropriate, under the convention, which we respect and to which we will adhere, to present the issue to the House for debate.
S4C has played a very major part in enabling me to learn to speak Welsh. When I was elected to the National Assembly in 1999, I was not able to speak Welsh at all. I would not have been able to appear on “Dau o’r Bae” tomorrow or “Pawb a’i Farn” next week.
What a loss to the nation!Glyn Davies:
It would have been, indeed. Nor would I have been able to do a half-hour programme tomorrow with Dewi Llwyd, “Rhaglen Dewi Llwyd”, based really on my birthday. That is coinciding with the debate about the birthday of S4C.Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab):
In 1973, the concept of a fourth channel seemed an impossible, impractical dream. That year’s report, “Television in Wales”, which became Labour party policy in Wales at the 1974 election, called for such a fourth channel. The writing of that report was fascinating, because it went into areas that were unknown—certainly, to me—at the time, including that so much was going on in minority languages throughout the world. As my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd South (Susan Elan Jones) has said, there was an inability to understand how it could be made to work.
One thing that I discovered in compiling the report was that the Inuit word for television is “the shaking tent”. Before Eskimos saw television for the first time, they had an ancient practice of going into a tent and starting an oil lamp burning so that, when the tent was shaken outside, they could interpret the shadows on the screen. Given the quality of television at the time—fog with knobs on—they thought it was another version of the shaking tent. It also came out that, for example in Canada, Ottawa had a station broadcasting in 30 languages, none of which were Canadian or Eskimo ones.
The point I want to make—we have to nail down the history that we can remember—is that, although Willie Whitelaw has been praised, he was not one of the heroes of the process. He was the one who turned the channel idea down. I had a minute, protozoan moment in that history, in that I was the acting chairman of the Broadcasting Council for Wales at that time. I served in that post for a record time that I am certain will never be equalled—15 minutes. I went into the first meeting and resigned after the minutes had been read, as a protest against the cancellation of a fourth channel, although that did not have a great effect on the history of the matter.
What did have an effect, and it was an almighty one, was, as we have heard, Dafydd Iwan and the young people who sacrificed so much and went to jail. I can remember a young man on “Disc a Dawn” called Huw Jones—I cannot think what has happened to him—but many people worked to build up the feeling that there was a great injustice.
The event that changed the situation, after the idea had been emphatically rejected by the Conservative party, was the lucky one that Margaret Thatcher had been reading about Irish history—she was deeply ignorant of it at the time—and was struck to find out that, following the Easter riots and the shooting of Irish nationalists, the interest in Irish nationalism had multiplied enormously. When Ireland had its martyrs, what was a tiny fringe group suddenly became the majority of the nation. She saw a film on television of Gwynfor Evans in the Sophia gardens in Cardiff with a crowd chanting, “Gwynfor, Gwynfor.” She calculated that if he carried out his fast and died, Wales would have a martyr around which a movement would develop. She rightly saw that that would happen—I am certain he was a man who would have stuck to his fast, if the channel had not arrived—but the Government had to find a pretext, because they could not possibly give into pressure or blackmail. There was therefore this little pantomime in which three of the great and the good in Wales visited Mrs Thatcher to persuade her that it was a good idea and that she was wrong to reject it. That was the naissance of the fourth channel, S4C.
That is a matter for great celebration. Looking back on those 40 years, we remember that on the Labour party’s approach—there were many others—there was unanimity in Wales. It meant a great deal to non-Welsh speakers, too, although for other reasons, to get a fourth channel. Great meetings were held, including one in the city hall in Cardiff, at which everyone agreed that the channel would be a great thing.
At the time, we did not envisage that it would be possible for the channel to create many of its own programmes. It was thought that, to fit with the amount of money that was likely to be available, the only way would be to dub or subtitle programmes and so on. With all the pessimism about people watching subtitled programmes, it is interesting to see the current fascination with “Borgen”. Subtitles do not matter. An audience can be got for a programme if the quality is there.
This is a moment of great celebration. The work of S4C was beyond anyone’s expectation then, and from decade to decade its glorious success has continued. If the Catholic Church saved the Breton language and the chapel saved the Welsh language in the past, it is S4C that has maintained and enriched the life of the Welsh-language world. Congratulations to all concerned. I think that the parties in this House will be united in ensuring that these 30 years will be followed by a glittering future for yr hen iaith.