MP backs plans to set up legal framework for nuclear safeguarding post-Brexit

James Cleverly speaking in the House of Commons, 16 October 2017James Cleverly backs the Nuclear Safeguards Bill which will ensure that the UK honours its commitment to the International Atomic Energy Agency to set up a domestic nuclear safeguarding regime when we leave the EU and by extension, Euratom.

James Cleverly (Braintree) (Con)

I rise to support the Bill, unsurprisingly, because as colleagues well know, the decision to leave the European Union also meant, by extension, a decision to leave Euratom. This issue has been debated on the Floor of the House, but that is the position of both the UK Government and the EU27. The Government have therefore made it clear that they intend to honour their commitment to the International Atomic Energy Agency by setting up a domestic safeguarding regime. The regime will ensure that there is no interruption to the British civil nuclear industry and, indeed, that the production of nuclear energy and the various other workings enabled by Euratom will continue without pause.

It would be unacceptable for the UK not to have a safeguarding regime in place on its exit from the European Union. Although it is absolutely appropriate for colleagues and Opposition Members to scrutinise and perhaps amend the Bill during its passage, it would be foolhardy in the extreme—in fact, deeply inappropriate—to try in any way to prevent it from ultimately making its way through the House. That is why I am very pleased that the Labour party made it clear, after what I must say ​was an elegant period of anticipation-building delay by the hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Rebecca Long Bailey)—she teased us about the position of Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition until the ultimate line of her speech—will let the Bill progress, so that any such concerns are alleviated.

I have listened with interest to a number of speeches—no, to them all—and I was particularly exercised by some of the points made in interventions by SNP Members. As I said in an intervention and will now repeat—this has been highlighted by the Nuclear Industry Association, on its Twitter feed during the debate—there is not just a semantic difference but a fundamental difference between nuclear safeguarding and nuclear safety. I will give SNP Members the benefit of the doubt and say that the subtlety of that difference was perhaps lost on them, because the alternative assumption I would have to make is that they intentionally blurred the distinction between the two to scare the British people on what this is about, and I am certain that they would not do so intentionally.

SNP Members also placed great store on the supposed risks to medical radioisotopes. Again, I took the time, while keeping one ear on the speeches, to look at the briefing paper from the Nuclear Industry Association that they mentioned. It makes reference to concerns about radioisotopes, but when I followed the links I found a circuit of links using basically the same phrase on the concern about five radioisotopes. I finally got to what I think was the end of the chain, and I discovered that, in response to the squeezing of the supply of medical radioisotopes, Euratom and other agencies had set up the European Observatory on the Supply of Medical Radioisotopes. That body has worked in the intervening years to ensure that there is a timely supply of medical radioisotopes. That goes to the heart of showing that the concerns raised—again, inadvertently, I suspect—by SNP Members and others about the diagnostic ability of the NHS somehow being compromised by a lack of radioisotopes is in fact a fallacy.

Drew Hendry

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

James Cleverly

No, I will not give way, because a number of Members still wish to speak. I apologise; I would normally give way, but I am about to conclude because I know we are short of time.

The Bill will give the Office for Nuclear Regulation additional powers. It will give the Government the opportunity to use limited powers to amend the Nuclear Safeguards and Electricity (Finance) Act 1978, the Nuclear Safeguards Act 2000 and the Nuclear Safeguards (Notification) Regulations 2004, so that references in legislation to existing international agreements can be updated. I appreciate that Opposition Front Benchers have concerns about that, but it strikes me as a remarkably pragmatic attempt to get important business through the House in a timely manner, so that our important nuclear industries are not compromised. I commend the measure to the House.

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