6 May 2012

Was Governance Corrupt?

by Peter Lanyon

When the UK government in 2008 produced its white paper strategy that new nuclear power stations are needed tosupply our long term electricity needs, it stated we had to have new nuclearbecause there was no other way of keeping the lights on, and that it was perfectly safe, because of this and that.

Many readers will laugh bitterly, knowing that there is nojustification anyway for keeping so many lights on, and that Fukushima has shown once again that no nuclear plant is really safe. But one shouldn’t expecta growth-addicted government to be interested in such arguments. Better perhapsto get under government’s skin, and to raise its hackles, by showing that the previous government (whom it loves to blame) was intentionally falsely informed when it made its decisions about new build. The new nuclear programme is in such disarray that maybe, if we show them how they have been led astray by their Labour predecessors, they will dump the shambles and belatedly embark on something more sensible.

In January this year at a meeting at the House of Commons, attended by a number of MPs, Unlock Democracy and the Associationfor the Conservation of Energy presented a paper “A Corruption of Governance?” (CoG). This asked twelve questions, each of which challenged the integrity of the government’s information on the need for new nuclear build. The CoG paper had to go back to the previousgovernment’s decisions, because that was where the wrong information did itsdamage, but it invited the present government to look carefully at all the twelve questions raised, since the answers could utterly wreck the present energy policies.

This must have bothered the government a lot, because recently the Secretary and Under-secretary of Statefor Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey and Lord Marland, wrote long letters back to a correspondent in Suffolk who had asked them to look into the questions. The letters were identical, so they had clearly been written for the Ministers by an official in their Department (DECC). The letter attempted to refute the questions, in order to restore the integrity of the energy policies,yet it contained four untrue statements

I won’t describe all four ways the writer strained validity in order to try to deflect the questions. One of them pretended CoG had mistakenly concentrated on targets for 2025 and not for 2050, whereas CoG analysed in detail the 2050 situation and spent 5 pages on the current government’s 2050 electricity needs and CO2 targets, to demonstrate that the government’s own evidence shows that we do not need new nuclear to keep the lights on. Later in thesame paragraph the official mendaciously typed for the Ministers’ signatures:“Theunderlying evidence shows that nuclear will be needed to achieve theselegally binding targets …”, whereas CoG in the 5 pages mentioned above showedexactly the opposite.

What had the wretched official been ordered to do? The letter began with “the government firmly rejects[CoG’s] assertions and conclusions”, so she or he must have fully read CoG and known what was in it. One can only suppose that the order was to try to disappear data for the government policies that are becoming embarrassing.Ministers rely upon officials to get things right; they can’t check every level of detail in the letters they sign, but this has now gone out as their word on the matter.

That’s just the start of it. InDECC Review 4, published last month, their Director of Strategy, Raji Gurumurthy, makes four statements that contradict or alter the information on which the need for new nuclear was based, and on which MPs voted in 2008.

Since the original white paper there have been many authoritative statements from government backing its arguments that demand for electricity would double by 2050, and that new nuclear would likely be the least expensive form of low carbon electricity generation. CoG challenged both these statements. DECC Review 4, which came outin April, now blurs them, with “all of our main scenarios” suggesting increases in demand of “between a third and two thirds”. This inserts the notion that the increase may only be by a third, but does it slyly, and indeed CoG sees signs that the department’s own figures may be heading towards even less than that. The Review then states about expense: “noone can yet say for sure what the relative costs will be decades hence” – a flat denial of what has gone before.

In DECC Review 4, Mr Gurumurthy quotes the Markal Analysis, that “only” 107 GW of electricity will be needed by 2050. Yet the original figure put out by government, on which MPs voted, was a need for 113 GW by 2025, let alone by 2050! CoG questioned that figure, because the bulk of the electrification thegovernment planned would be after 2025.What is the Director of Strategy doing, shiftily lowering the target, without admitting it was wrong?

Corruption of Governance? asks was intentional false information in 2008 behind the decisions in theHouse of Commons on new nuclear - that is, was democracy deceived? What the latest stuff emanating from DECC seems to confirm is that they are still trying to cover this up.

Threats like this to democracyneed exposing. Please contact:
  • Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Joan WalleyMP (House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA or walleyj@parliament.uk)) asking her to gather Committee to investigate
  • Your own MP asking him/her to raise this inParliament
  • Energy Minister Greg Barker, asking him to look into this matter
Link to Corruption of Governance? here

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