The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have just released a document setting out the agreements reached between the two parties which form the basis for their coalition government.
In a section entitled 'Environment', it sets out the two parties' positions on the question of new nuclear power stations:
Liberal Democrats have long opposed any new nuclear construction. Conservatives, by contrast, are committed to allowing the replacement of existing nuclear power stations provided they are subject to the normal planning process for major projects (under a new national planning statement) and provided also that they receive no public subsidy.
We have agreed a process that will allow Liberal Democrats to maintain their opposition to nuclear power while permitting the government to bring forward the national planning statement for ratification by Parliament so that new nuclear construction becomes possible.
This process will involve:
- the government completing the drafting of a national planning statement and putting it before Parliament;
- specific agreement that a Liberal Democrat spokesman will speak against the planning statement, but that Liberal Democrat MPs will abstain; and
- clarity that this will not be regarded as an issue of confidence.
In essence this means that the although the Lib Dems will be allowed to continue to vocally oppose nuclear energy, they will abstain in votes on this matter in the House of Commons. Accordingly the Conservatives could feasibly be defeated if there was concerted opposition from the remaining parties - however, in practice I would imagine that there are a reasonably large number of Labour MPs who would vote with the Conservatives on this issue. Even if the Conservatives were defeated and a confidence vote forced, it is clear from this document that the Lib Dems would then vote with the Government to defeat such a motion.
Conclusions: quite a fudge, but cautiously good news for Wylfa B. It remains to be seen who will be Chris Huhne's Conservative 'shadow' at the Ministry for Environment and Climate Change, who presumably, will be tasked with pushing through this 'National Planning Statement'.
You can read the whole Lib/Con agreement document below. The section on the Environment is section 11 towards the end.