Hinkley: a case of when a subsidy is not a subsidy
The last two weeks have been dominated by the news that the EU is set to approve billions of pounds of public funding for the Hinkley C nuclear power plant. Joaquín Almunia, the outgoing European Commissioner in charge of competition policy, was reported to be ready to sanction the deal which would offer EDF Energy a strike price for electricity of £92.50 per MWh – roughly twice the current wholesale price of power – and a state credit guarantee of £10bn.
“EU rules on fair competition are perfectly clear and by agreeing such a huge implicit subsidy for Hinkley it will be impossible for those who generate electricity in a clean and sustainable way to compete. It will also destroy thousands of potential jobs that could be created in the South West in the renewables sector.”
Molly confronted Mr Almunia on the issue, handing him a letter in which she demanded a full justification for the decision to approve the deal and to make public the full evidence on which the judgment was based. The deal still requires approval from the outgoing EU commissioners, amongst whom there are several nuclear sceptics. Greens together with a cross-party group of MEPs are campaigning hard for the EU to observe its own rules on state aid and there is also the threat of legal action against the decision by the Austrian government. So we might yet Stop Hinkley!
We achieved good regional press coverage about Mr Almunia’s approval of this dodgy deal including in the Western Daily Press. Molly’s visit to Somerset, both to a Hinkley demonstration and a Renewables Energy Fair during the weekend following the Almunia news, was also well covered, headlining as: Molly Scott Cato on tour in Somerset to promote ‘renewables not nuclear’
Support for a nuclear-weapon-free world
Molly has signed a Joint Statement by Members of the European Parliament welcoming the decision of the United Nations to establish September 26 as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. The statement calls on governments around the world to join with civil society to act for the achievement of a nuclear-weapon-free world.
Quizzing Lord Hill
As a member of the Economics and Monetary Affairs Committee in the European Parliament, Molly has had the opportunity to question Junker’s choice as commissioner for Finance, Eurosceptic Tory Lord Jonathan Hill. Molly challenged Lord Hill over potential conflict of interests. She says:
“I used the opportunity I had to question Lord Hill to draw attention to the obvious conflict of interest he will face in his new role. The government he represents has consistently challenged EU regulation on a range of financial issues. I wanted to know what Hill’s strategy would be when dealing with potential conflicts between UK and EU objectives.”
Although Lord Hill responded that if the UK tried to negotiate ways around EU regulation, he would assume his role as Commissioner, Molly and other Greens remain deeply unconvinced about Hill’s ability to act independently and his competence for the job of finance commissioner. He faces an unprecedented second hearing next week.
Molly says: “My question and those from other MEPs has thrown into serious doubt his ability to do the job.”
Two weeks ago we reported on how we had managed to achieve front page news on TTIP in the Western Morning News. The past two weeks has seen initial optimism over the prospect of the contentious Investor State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) being removed from TTIP being dampened as the new Trade Commissioner-designate Cecilia Malmström got herself into a tangle by unwisely saying what she really thought. Greens oppose the whole TTIP deal but are particularly concerned over ISDS which could give multinational corporations the right to sue governments over laws and regulations that affect their profits.
Beavers in the Otter…
Molly has received a lot of correspondence on the issue of beavers. She has submitted a question to the European Commission in which she asks when beavers will receive the full protection they deserve under the Habitats Directive. Molly points out that according to reliable sources European beavers have been living wild in the UK for over 15 years in UK rivers and probably exist in at least 8 separate locations in the UK, including in the River Otter in Devon
There has also been a lot of concern from constituents on the issue of food supplements. Molly has written to the Commission requesting an update on the setting of limits for vitamins and minerals in food and asking about the option of abandoning the proposal to set maximum limits.
In the media
Molly has appeared on several radio shows in the last two weeks. On the eve of the Scottish Referendum she took part in a panel debate on Radio 5 Live, presenting the Green Yes perspective. At the end of the show she was asked, along with other panelist from Labour, Conservative and SNP, to present a one minute manifesto, which not only made the case for Scottish independence but also for devolution in the regions of England. Following the ‘No’ vote Molly was asked to appear on BBC Radio Dorset for her response, which again provided an opportunity to talk about how the referendum highlighted the importance of radical reforms to redistribute power away from a Westminster elite. Molly was also interviewed by BBC Radio Devon and Radio Somerset about the legitimacy of air strikes in Iraq and by BBC Points West while at a protest outside Hinkley.