Among the maiden speeches delivered by new Conservative MPs last Thursday were several which included particularly impassioned defences of nuclear power.
Damian Collins, who is filling the boots of Michael Howard as MP for Folkestone and Hythe, explained his particular constituency interest in nuclear energy, given that it contains the Dungeness power station:
"My constituents heard a very evident mixed message from the last Government: Dungeness was originally included on the Government’s list of possible sites for new build nuclear power stations and was then removed last autumn, and there has followed a consultation process in which my constituents have taken an active and lively interest.
"There is a great deal of support for nuclear power in my constituency. I am sure that hon. Members who have nuclear sites in their constituencies know that there is a good deal of support for them, because they generate a huge number of jobs and important support for the local economy. In my constituency, the area of Dungeness and the Romney marshes remains a relatively deprived part not only of my constituency, but of Kent and the south-east of England. Nuclear power could play an important part in my community.
"It appears from the consultation process launched by the last Government that one of the main reasons why Dungeness was taken off the Government’s list of potential sites was the objections of Natural England. It is one of the Government’s statutory consultees, and in some ways it is only doing its job, but its assessment, based on the habitats regulations, was that the loss of the vegetated shingle in the area around Dungeness power station could not be mitigated, as the landscape was unique. All of us in my constituency would agree that it is a unique landscape, but we are also mindful that the potential development land for the new power station is only 1 per cent. of the entire protected site of special scientific interest around Dungeness, Rye and Romney Marsh; we are talking about a relatively small area of development.
"When, in 1959, the Minister of Power gave consent for the first power station to be built, he reached the conclusion that the mitigation necessary, and the damage to the area, was so small that it could not be said that the building of a power station compromised the integrity of the whole site. I know that my constituents will hope that the new Government can look again at the case for nuclear power in Dungeness and will draw a similar conclusion—that it may be possible to work to mitigate the impact of the building of a new power station without compromising the integrity of the entire site, which is greatly valued not only by my constituents but by people across the country. We see the great value that nuclear power has for our community, and we would like to encourage and support it."
Meanwhile, Stephen Mosley, who gained City of Chester from Labour at the election, also added his pro-nuclear power voice to the debate, highlighting that Urenco’s uranium enrichment plant is based at Capenhurst in his constituency:
"Nuclear power is clean. It is a low-carbon source of electricity generation. We have secure long-term supplies of fuel. Modern reactors are incredibly safe, and it is a future technology in which Britain can still lead the world. Operators and owners of nuclear power stations have been jumping at the opportunities offered by the previous Government’s draft nuclear policy statement, and there are now 10 sites judged as potentially suitable on, or near to, existing stations. Those sites obviously have to be subject to the normal planning process for major projects, but the Government need to bring forward a national planning statement for ratification by Parliament as soon as possible."
"My diverse constituency also contains our beloved nuclear power station at Sizewell. I hope that we shall have many more reactors there — certainly at least two — before the end of the decade. Several offshore wind farms are also being constructed, with more planned. Suffolk Coastal is ready to take the lead in the low-carbon economy, and I hope that our coast will be able to take on the new alias of the “Green Coast”. So I welcome measures in the Gracious Speech on the low-carbon economy and the green investment bank."
However, while she paid a generous tribute to her predecessor, she opined that she would "not be John Gummer mark 2", saying that she was "very different from John".
She also had cause ot thank another John, the incumbent in the Speaker's Chair, beginning her Commons debut thus:
"Thank you for allowing me to make my maiden speech in this debate on the Gracious Speech, Mr Speaker. It is a particular pleasure to see you in your place, as I recall receiving public speaking training from you 20 years ago, so I hope that this speech shows that I have absorbed some of the wisdom that you imparted."