Friday 25th September: This week the Chancellor, George Osborne, announced a guarantee of £2bn to back Chinese investment in the new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point C, to be built by the French.
Britain needs to keep the lights on, and this week’s announcement of a £2bn guarantee for Hinkley Point nuclear project, aims to help make that happen. The proposed construction of Hinkley Point C – a £16 billion project - will also secure thousands of jobs across the country, provide 7 per cent of the UK’s electricity; and it will also get the ball rolling on a whole new generation of civil nuclear energy infrastructure in the UK, says David Mowat MP, who co chairs the All Party Group on Nuclear energy. The announcement makes clear that Britain is moving to re-start its civil nuclear industry. Here, the drivers behind that decision will be explained.
New nuclear energy– why we need it In 2014 around 65 per cent of UK electricity was produced by fossil fuels (increasingly these are now being imported, with gas coming from Qatar, Norway and Russia). A further 20 per cent is produced from nuclear. The remainder comes from renewables, in particular biomass.
However, already 20 per cent of the UK’s electricity capacity has closed in the last ten years. Between now and the end of 2030, a further 35 per cent of our electricity generation will be lost, partly the result of ageing and partly the result of commitments on emissions to which we have tied ourselves. Hard choices must now be made if the infrastructure is to be ready when needed to fill the gap. Furthermore, it is estimated that electricity generation will have to be doubled over the next 30 years if transport is to be de-carbonised (which the 2008 Climate Change Act obliges).
Without a significant proportion of new nuclear energy, there would be no possibility of meeting our emissions targets or developing an acceptable degree of energy security. Hinkley Point alone will produce roughly 7 per cent of Britain’s electricity but it is only a start.
Overseas expertise, overseas funds: why are they needed for Hinkley Point C?Today, Britain is confronting the consequences of failed policy since the 1980s. Key parts of the nuclear industry were mothballed as successive governments made significant errors of policy. The viable parts were sold off and Britain’s leadership ceded to others – particularly France. Right now, France has much cheaper electricity than the UK andfar lower emissions per capita.
Friday 18th September: Jeremy Corbyn's election as Labour Party leader should be seen at Westminster as a wake up call. Politicians should ponder the anti-politics victory with humility, says Lord McFall, former Labour minister and Chairman of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee.
‘I voted for Jeremy Corbyn because the system is rotten and needs shaking up’. So said a multi-millionaire Labour Party city acquaintance to me. And so came further proof of the bewildering range and diversity of people putting their cross for the political outsider. Given the stunning victory of Jeremy Corbyn we need to recognise that he is on to something.
It is part of a pattern of the anti-politics trend which we are seeing globally where the spoils go to those who convey a simple message. In Corbyn’s case the message was anti-austerity.
Friday 11th September: This week the BBC urged that every household pay a levy towards funding it as it joined the national debate about the Corporation’s future and its funding. The BBC Charter and License Fee arrangements expire in 2016-17. But the question surely is not how the BBC should be publicly funded, but whether it should be. In today’s digital world there seems to be little reason to single the organisation out for support over other broadcasters, some subscription funded, others funded by advertising.
When the BBC began life in the 1920s, it was commercially funded: the British Broadcasting Company Ltd, formed by British and American companies. They wanted to give their radio buying customers something to listen to and so increase sales. Instead of selling airtime the company carried sponsored programmes paid for by British newspapers. It was licensed by the General Post Office in 1923 and its early years repertoire was enviable: highlights included the Marriage of Figarobroadcast from Covent Garden in 1922, the report of the 1923 Derby by Edgar Wallace, the King’s Broadcast (George Vth) to open the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley and News broadcasts filling the slot of the papers which had shut down during the General Strike of 1926. That year its status changed. The company was dissolved and its assets were transferred to the non-commercial and Crown Chartered British Broadcasting Corporation. And so the BBC began life under a charter, paid for by licence fees in 1927. Britain had caught the bug. By 1932 half of all households held radio licenses and within a decade the first television broadcasts were being relayed.
Friday 4th September: The pressure to open Britain’s borders has become almost irresistible for the prime minister. The numbers of migrants from Africa and Syria reaching the shores of Italy and Greece grew by many thousands over the summer, with more, and still more, people fleeing their countries for a better life. For some, the flight was from war and the terrors posed to life and homeland. For others the impetus is economic. Few people in Britain could be unmoved by the sad, often desperate tales of those who crossed the seas, of the risks taken or the costs paid - including life itself. It came as no surprise that Mr Cameron, like many people in this country, was moved by the photograph of a child drowned at sea – to the extent that he changed his tone and announced that Britain would fulfil its ‘moral obligation’ to the refugees.
Monday 3rd August: This week the business of governing Britain winds down for the August break. MPs have left Westminster and many ministers are taking leave of Whitehall. However for most people the bread and butter of life must be paid for. What matters are the economic prospects they and the country face. Should we be hopeful about the future? In Politeia’s summer debate, two economists consider the outlook from two different perspectives.
Dr Ruth Lea CBE, Economic Adviser, Arbuthnot Banking Group considers the outlook, sees room for improvements especially in productivity, while noting signs for optimism at home and in the Eurozone. John Mills, chairman of JML, and former Labour councillor for Camden, suggests that austerity has few answers for the question faced by Britain’s economy.
John Mills writes... The support for Jeremy Corbyn in the current Labour leadership election is yet another manifestation among many others in Europe of the resentment generated by austerity economic policies which are widely perceived to be both damaging and ineffective. Who can deny that they impoverish the public sector; that they heap hardship on those least able to bear it; that they stunt growth in living standards while failing to produce a sound foundation for future economic growth; and that they tend to favour the rich – and especially lenders rather than borrowers – at the expense of everyone else?