Labour urges end to nuclear sell-off

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Indy Politics

Industrial Correspondent

The Labour Party urged a halt to nuclear privatisation, saying it will cost the Exchequer pounds 1bn in lost revenues in the three years to 1998-99. It coincides with warnings by Gordon McKerron, an adviser to the House of Commons Trade and Industry Committee, that the planned sale of the most modern reactors may raise less than a third of the hoped for pounds 2.6bn.

Margaret Beckett, Labour's trade and industry spokesperson, said the Treasury's Red Book shows the industry would have become a revenue source in 1996-97 and thereafter but will now be a big revenue drain. She blamed the decision to sell the profitable more modern reactors while leaving old Magnox stations, with their billions of pounds of liabilities, in the public sector.

"This shows a wanton disregard for the proper husbandry of the public finances. It is time to call a halt to the sale." She added that Dr McKerron's work underlined the need to stall privatisation at least until the Trade and Industry Select Committee investigating the sale issues its report.

In another blow to privatisation plans, John Renolds, of the financiers James Capel, told the Select Committee yesterday that the issue of waste disposal and the related financial risk could cause significant concern for potential investors in British Energy, the company set up to run the most modern reactors.