Douglas Carswell

29 JUL 2016

Hinkley Point is what's wrong with Government procurement

So let's get this straight: Hinkley Point won't come online until at least 2025. The price we'll pay for the electricity it generates is double the market rate. The contractor, EDF, has a track record of failure. How is this a good plan?

The fact that two EDF directors have now resigned over Hinkley Point should set alarm bells ringing in Whitehall. Its Flamanville plant is years late and three-times over budget – but at least it's been built. But, according to EDF's finance director who quit a few months ago, Hinkley Point could actually bankrupt the company. If that happens, what then?

Making a deal with the French and Chinese governments to foot the infrastructure bill for Hinkley Point must have seemed tremendously clever to George Osborne. But it comes with serious risks. For one thing, they could pull the plug. For another, is it strategically sensible to put nuclear assets in the UK under the control of foreign governments?

Banking on this plant to deliver 7% of our total energy is a huge gamble by the Government – especially when Britain is already facing a capacity crisis.

It's not as if they're aren't alternatives. Gas power is cheaper to produce, and the power stations are cheaper, quicker, and simpler to build. Plus, leaving the EU will give us much more flexibility over energy policy on fossil fuels. In the short-term, at least, gas looks a much safer bet.

Hinkley Point is an example of what often goes wrong in public procurement. Rather than simple solutions that are proven to work, the Government tends to favour complicated programmes that are too big to succeed. See NHS Connecting for Health. Or the Joint Strike Fighter. Or the Millennium Dome.

Isn't it time to learn from past mistakes?

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