RIP-OFF of the CENTURY
13th July 2017
When can the House express its disdain and contempt for the rip-off decision made by a gullible Government in agreeing to buy the dearest electricity in the world from a French company and guaranteeing that price for 35 years? Only months after starting out, the project is £1.5 billion over budget and a year behind schedule. Like all other European pressurised reactors—EPRs—this one will involve vast cost overruns and long delays, and none of them has ever produced enough electricity to light a bicycle lamp. May we debate this, to address the continuing rip-off of the taxpayer for the next 50 years?
I have the greatest respect for the hon. Gentleman, who has been an anti-nuclear campaigner for a long time. I respectfully say, as an ex-Energy Minister, that I just disagree with him. On average, nuclear energy provides around 20% of our electricity needs at all times, and our ageing fleet of nuclear power stations must be replaced. If we want to continue to keep the lights on, we have to take steps. This particular project protects taxpayers from the costs of budget overruns.
Was it a ‘Wonderful battle?’
I think my hon. Friend knows what I am about to say, but does he recall that, through him and the Wiltshire Regiment, I presented the city of Salisbury with a bugle that was used by the 1st Wiltshire Regiment? I understand that it is now in the museum as a recognition and a memory of the brave people who fought in that wonderful battle.
I rise because of the description of Passchendaele as a “wonderful battle.” For many who were there, including my father, it was a terrible tragedy that resulted from the misjudgment of generals and others. We cannot look at it without remembering that many of those who lost their lives—they did not give their lives—were told that if they went there, they would stop the “Huns” bayoneting Belgian babies. They went there as a result of persuasion and propaganda, and we must remember that if we are going to learn the proper lessons of war and the immense and wasteful loss of human life.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his contribution. Every Member will have a different emphasis and interpretation of events, and I hope that the debate will give everyone an opportunity to reflect in our own way on the events of 100 years ago.
I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) on securing this debate and on the clarity and comprehensiveness of his speech. He covered the ground in commendable fashion and hit the significant factors involved.
The hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) rehashed the debate in Wales. She mainly addressed opinions and fears that were expressed before the change was made in Wales. I am sure that those fears were sincere, but they have not been realised in the way that she suggests. It is not important that the Welsh Government might not have had entirely accurate evidence; evidence rarely is entirely reliable, and there may have been misunderstandings. However, the impressive outcome of the change is absolutely crucial. At least 40 lives were saved—at least 40 people are alive today who would not have been had the presumed consent Bill not passed. As my hon. Friend said, the figure for lives lost in England is 457. That is an extraordinary number of people. If there were an accident today in which that number of lives was lost, that would be our main concern.
My interest in this issue began in 2012, when my 22-year-old constituent Matthew Lammas came here to lobby me and my hon. Friend the Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden). Matthew was in need of a heart transplant. He had a heartbreaking story of so many false alarms. He would get a call at perhaps 2 o’clock in the morning and drive up to Middlesbrough or Birmingham, but halfway up he would get another call to say, “Sorry; somebody else got the heart—someone got here before you.” Six months after he visited me here, I attended his funeral. A 22-year-old man’s life was lost. I am absolutely convinced that, had we taken the bold decision to introduce presumed consent in Wales six years ago, we would be in a far better position and Matthew Lammas’s life would not have been lost in that way. Those are the simple facts.
There have been extraordinary changes in Wales since the passage of the presumed consent Bill. No one in Wales has died for lack of an organ since that system came into effect. In 2015-16, 214 organ transplants were carried out and 192 patients were on the organ donation waiting list. There was a great deal of concern in Wales, and we all understand that; we all know the feeling of wanting to treat the bodies of our loved ones with reverence and care. There is something that upsets us profoundly about the idea of organ transplantation. There are also genuine religious objections, which were played out again and again in Wales. But I come back to my point: look at the outcome.
There has also been a huge change in public opinion in Wales. In 2014-15, 48.5% of the people of Wales had consented to donating their organs. The figure leapt to 64% in two years. Public opinion has come around to this. We must congratulate the Daily Mirror, which demonstrated tabloid journalism at its very best. I am not sure that it sells many papers, but it has, for all the best reasons, boldly sought to ensure that this life-saving measure is introduced. We can now have great optimism, because my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry North West (Mr Robinson), who came sixth in the private Member’s Bill ballot, announced that he will take this issue up, and there is every chance that the spirit of this Parliament will take it forward.
We rejoiced this week when a decision was taken about the long-standing injustice of contaminated blood. We have come to a consensus about that, and the Government have shown themselves willing to move forward and introduce valuable reform. When I introduced my Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill in the last Parliament, my contact with the Government was entirely friendly. They were reasonable; they were cautious in reaching conclusions but made it clear that the door was open for reform soon. We can change that figure of 457 avoidable deaths. We must move rapidly and find consensus among all parties to take the clear and unambiguous lesson from Wales that presumed organ donation consent saves lives.