MPs’ concerns mount over deals with China to run British nuclear power stations

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The Government has been accused in Parliament of “accepting money tainted with blood”, after agreeing a deal that will allow Chinese firms to design, own and run British nuclear power stations.

The Chinese premier Li Keqiang struck the bargain as part of a three-day trade visit to the UK last week, which also included an £11.8bn contract for BP to supply gas to China National Offshore Corporation over 20 years. The state-owned China Development Bank wants to fund new nuclear plants directly, as well as the no-less-controversial £42.7bn London-to-the North High Speed Two rail link.

But campaigners are furious the Government has been wooing China without demanding improvements to the country’s notoriously poor human rights record. Mr Li’s Government was accused of placing “arbitrary curbs on expression, association, assembly, and religion” by Human Rights Watch in a recent report.

Paul Flynn, the anti-nuclear power Labour MP for Newport West, motioned in the House of Commons last week for the Coalition to cancel any proposed nuclear agreements with China. “This House… believes, in light of appalling human rights violations, that accepting money from the Chinese State Investment Bank to invest in UK new nuclear is accepting money tainted with blood,” said the motion.

This echoes concerns of union leaders, who said last year that giving the Chinese access to UK power plants meant they had the power to “turn the lights on and off” and so put national security at risk. 

Mr Flynn told The Independent that he will look to force a Commons’ debate on China’s interest in Britain’s new generation of nuclear power stations, which will start with the £16bn Hinkley Point C on the Somerset coast. This will be owned and run EDF, but the French energy giant has already agreed to sell a large minority stake to two Chinese groups, China General Nuclear Corporation and China National Nuclear Corporation.

“It’s incredible to me that the Government has done this deal [to work with China on nuclear],” Mr Flynn said. “We seem not to have woken up to this colonialisation by capital.”

Mr Flynn issued a second motion at the end of last week attacking the Liberal Democrat energy secretary Ed Davey, who has been widely tipped as a possible successor to party leader Nick Clegg. The long-serving Labour backbencher accused Mr Davey of changing his opinion on nuclear power, having claimed a new wave of reactors “will cost taxpayers and consumers tens of billions of pounds” eight years ago.

The EDM states: “This House notes… the change in opinion of the hon. Member following his elevation to ministerial office; is shocked by the financially ruinous commitment he has made to buy electricity from a French nationalised company at twice the current business rate at a guaranteed price for 35 years; and believes taxpayers and consumers will be cheated on the lines that he prophesied.” Mr Davey declined to comment.