MPs to hold emergency debate on Euratom

Backbench MPs move as prime minster faces a rebellion on energy

Critics of the government’s moves to quit Euratom have organised an emergency debate on the issue in the House of Commons as Theresa May faces a dual backbench rebellion on energy issues.

Backbench MP Albert Owen, who was a member of the BEIS (business, energy and industrial strategy) select committee during the last Parliament, has secured a debate in Parliament’s Westminster Hall on negotiations on the UK’s future Euratom membership.

Owen, who represents the Ynys Mon constituency in north Wales that is also the location of the planned Wylfa B nuclear plant, is one of four Labour backbenchers who are vying to take the chairmanship of the BEIS committee.

His rival for the chairmanship, Rachel Reeves wrote a joint column with Tory former culture minister Ed Vaizey in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph urging a rethink of the Euratom exit.

The Evening Standard newspaper has reported that nine Conservative backbench MPs have signalled opposition to withdrawing Euratom, which would be enough votes to potentially scupper the move in Parliament even if the government maintains the support of its allies in the Democratic Unionist Party.

Former Conservative former minister Nicholas Boles confirmed to Utility Week that he opposed the move.

He said he regarded the issue as a “litmus test” as to whether Mrs May was willing to go for a “sensible Brexit” or an ideologically driven hard Brexit.

“If we cannot get this right, which seems so obvious, then it will raise questions about whether the Government has been pragmatic enough in other areas,” he said.

Dr Nicola Strickland, president of The Royal College of Radiologists, added her voice to those expressing concerns about quitting Euratom today.

She said: “We need assurances the radiation safety laws and regulations around movement of radioactive materials enshrined in Euratom will continue in the form of mirrored legislation post-Brexit.

“Another concern is whether we could see increased radioisotope pricing as a result of leaving Euratom. Any future restricted access has the potential to delay diagnosing and treating cancer in thousands of UK patients and to add more costs to an already cash-strapped NHS.”

The threat of a potential rebellion on Euratom withdrawal comes as the government is also coming under pressure from backbench Tories to implement its manifesto promise to cap energy bills for all customers on standard variable tariffs.

John Penrose, the west country MP who organised a Parliamentary debate on energy bills earlier this year, is collecting signatories for a letter urging May to implement the Conservative party manifesto promise to curb electricity and gas bills.

Ofgem last week announced moves to introduce a more targeted cap, which would protect vulnerable customers only.

Former minister Robert Halfon, health select committee chair Sarah Wollaston and ex-Labour shadow energy secretary of state Caroline Flint have all signed up to the letter, according to reports.