Last week the consortium holding a £22bn contract to clean up the Sellafield nuclear site was sacked, writes David Lowry. But this is just the end of a long and scandalous tale of corporate profit at taxpayers’ expense, and the active collusion of ministers and senior officials in fighting off Parliamentary scrutiny. I have worked on this issue with Labour MP Paul Flynn for seven years, and his attempts to make transparent the deal done to give NMP the contract have been met with obstruction – by Government and the nuclear industry at every turn. In July 2008, Flynn got a sniff that some dodgy dealing was under way by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), then responsible for nuclear energy policy, to award a management contract for Sellafield to a new consortium. At its crux was the stipulation that all the potentially vast liabilities would be covered by the taxpayer, while all the profits went to the consortium. Perhaps ministers believed there were no subsidy concerns, but there were a raft of other very worrying, unresolved concerns. To air these, Flynn secured an unusual Parliamentary debate, held in Westminster Hall on 19 November 2008, under the headline: ‘Nuclear Industry Finance’ (Hansard, 19 Nov 2008: Column 119WH) Mr Flynn was dismissed by Mike O’Brien as a conspiracy theorist asserting that “his concoction of conspiracy theory, innuendo and hyperbole has reached new heights in the House”, further telling MPs that Flynn had “exaggerated, went way over the top in his condemnations.” The Ecologist’s readers may judge for themselves, now that the current energy secretary has sacked NMP from their £22 billion contract, who was exaggerating – and whether or not Mr Flynn’s criticisms were coherent.
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