“Taxpayers still face a possible £2billion bill for building a nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point despite a minister’s claim they were ‘fully insulated’ from the cost.
The Government is underwriting loans to the builders of the plant, which is a joint project with France and China.
This is despite Business Secretary Greg Clark telling MPs in September that after Prime Minister Theresa May paused the project, taxpayers were now protected.
Despite the remarks, the £2billion guarantee – which would kick in if the companies involved in the project collapse – are still counted as a ‘contingent liability’ on the Government’s accounts.
Shadow minister Barry Gardiner told The Times he had been misled by Mr Clark’s response. …
… After work resumed, Mr Clark told MPs: ‘EDF has confirmed to me that it will not be taking up that £2 billion guarantee, so the taxpayer is fully insulated from the costs of construction.’
EDF confirmed by letter it did not ‘anticipate’ calling on the guarantee.
But in October, in a written statement to both MPs and peers, ministers said: ‘The government is confirming that it has approved the provision of a guarantee for up to £2billion to the project for the construction of its new EPR nuclear plant in Somerset, backed by commitments from the shareholders.’
They added: ‘The guarantee will be available from 2018 to 2020 if necessary conditions are met and is at government’s discretion.
‘Even if made available, and EDF have indicated to the secretary of state for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy that it is not their current intention to take up the guarantee, I judge the likelihood of any call under the guarantee to be very low.’
After the memo came to light yesterday, Mr Gardiner said: ‘The assurance that Greg Clark gave me was categoric: EDF were not taking up the guarantee.
‘Whilst I took him at his word, it appears that the Treasury were aware the secretary of state was suffering from baroque speech.
‘That is why the guarantee is still marked as a liability on their books.'”