DAILY MAIL COMMENT: Power failure leaves us at mercy of China

By DAILY MAIL COMMENT

PUBLISHED: 18:03 EST, 17 October 2013 | UPDATED: 18:03 EST, 17 October 2013

George Osborne yesterday announced that, for the first time, the UK will allow Chinese companies to take a stake in British nuclear power plantsGeorge Osborne yesterday announced that, for the first time, the UK will allow Chinese companies to take a stake in British nuclear power plants

Yesterday, an alarming report prepared for the Prime Minister warned of the grave danger of the ‘lights going out’ in Britain as early as next year.

The Royal Academy of Engineering said the closure of older power plants, and the pathetically slow progress in building replacements, was likely to stretch the system ‘close to its limits’ in 2014-15.

To add further insult, the study was released as British Gas hiked prices for its nine million domestic customers by 9.2 per cent.

Families are now paying an average £1,444-a-year for gas and electricity yet, incredibly, they cannot even be given a basic guarantee that their future energy needs will be met.

Just how desperate the situation has become was demonstrated by George Osborne yesterday announcing that, for the first time, the UK will allow Chinese companies to take a stake in British nuclear power plants.

Indeed, to secure the investment of this Communist dictatorship, the Chancellor said Chinese firms might eventually be allowed to take majority stakes.

Mr Osborne will need no reminding of the dangers of handing control of critical national infrastructure to a foreign power – let alone a country with an appalling record for human rights and corruption that regularly launches cyber-attacks against the UK.

 

But, with France – which was sold the rump of Britain’s nuclear industry by Labour in 2009 – unwilling to make significant investment in new power stations, the Chancellor (who has no money of his own) would doubtless argue he had nowhere else to turn.

The real scandal, of course, is the woeful inability of all parties over the decades to produce a credible, coherent energy policy – a failure that is an appalling indictment of our entire political class.

In the 1980s, the Tories opened the way for our power firms and nuclear industry to be sold off to foreign companies with no interest in Britain’s strategic needs.

Of the ‘big six’ energy firms – who seem to cynically hike their prices in tandem at the start of every winter – four are no longer under British control.

New Labour – the first Government obsessed with being ‘green’ – was worse.

The party knew Britain’s nuclear power stations were fast approaching the end of their working lives, and that EU  anti-pollution edicts would mean large coal and oil-fired plants having to close.

Yet, unforgivably, they failed to commission the reactors that were needed to replace them.

In an act of stupendous vandalism, Labour also flogged off the British company Westinghouse, the world-leading nuclear reactor engineer, to  the Japanese for £3.4billion in 2006 – depriving this country of expertise built up over generations.

Thus, Britain – the nation where Ernest Rutherford first split the atom in 1917 – now finds itself reliant on engineers from overseas to design and build the power stations we so desperately need.

Yet, while the situation inherited by the Coalition was undoubtedly dire, the current crop of ministers have succeeded in making things worse.

In 2010, pandering to the whim of Lib Dem activists, ministers said there would be absolutely no subsidies for opening nuclear plants – wasting three precious years, before making a frantic U-turn.

Meanwhile, instead of creating new storage facilities for gas, the Tories and Lib Dems fixated over the building of countryside-scarring windmills that don’t work if there’s too much wind.

If – when – the lights do go out, the British people should remember the 30 years of incompetence by a political class that has now left Britain at the mercy of a totalitarian power for heat and light.

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