The near-omnipresent ‘Magic Money Tree’ used by Theresa May’s Conservative Party has appeared, again. And this time, it’s managed to find another £1.5bn out of thin air; in the same way it produced that amount to fund the Tories’ confidence and supply deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
We gotta install nuclear reactors
On 15 September 2016, May officially gave the go-ahead for the controversial Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. The new plant in Somerset was initially billed at £18bn. It is being built by French energy company EDF, and financed by EDF with the help of the Chinese government. The latter agreed to this in return for the approval of a Chinese-led and designed project at Bradwell in Essex.
But now, EDF has said that the cost of Hinkley looks set to rise by around £1.5bn. It says this is due to having to change the plans to meet “the requirements of the British regulators” and that the overall price tag will now be around £19.6bn. But if the project takes any longer than planned, the additional cost could actually be £2.2bn; pushing the total costs for Hinkley to £20.3bn.
Those running the project look set to pay the extra cost for now, but this will eventually be passed onto taxpaying consumers.
That ain’t working
Anti-nuclear campaigners have hit back at the news. Greenpeace UK’s John Sauven said:
Hinkley is already over time and over budget after just a few months of building work. Today’s news is yet another damning indictment of the government’s agreement to go ahead with this project.
But it would seem that May’s magic money tree is always available when her friends are involved.
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That’s the way you do it
As The Canary previously reported, numerous Conservative Party members and politicians financially benefit from Hinkley. For example, Tory peer Lord Patten of Barnes, the former governor of Hong Kong and former Conservative Party Chairman, sits on EDF Energy’s Stakeholder Advisory Panel. On 9 September, Patten co-authored an open letter [paywall] to The Financial Times (FT), calling on May to “press ahead with Hinkley Point”.
Also on the EDF panel is Sir Simon Robertson. He’s another Tory peer, and a party donor to the tune of £765,000. He was knighted in 2010, just after the Tories came to office. Robertson was also Deputy Chairman of HSBC until April 2016. In 2014, HSBC arranged the financial backing for EDF to carry out the project at Hinkley. Robertson also signed the letter in the FT. He is a long-standing member of the Tory ‘Leader’s Group‘. To be a member of this club costs £50,000 a year, providing access to the likes of May and “other senior figures” at exclusive private dinners.
Money for nothing
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, meanwhile, has called Hinkley “the biggest white elephant in British history”. She said it was absurd and disappointing that the deal would proceed just when the government is reducing support for cheaper, safer and more reliable renewable alternatives:
Instead of investing in this eye-wateringly expensive white elephant, the government should be doing all it can to support offshore wind, energy efficiency and innovative new technologies, such as energy storage.
A government spokeswoman said:
The cost of construction, including any overruns, sits with the contractor. Consumers won’t pay a penny until Hinkley is built; it will provide clean, reliable electricity powering six million homes…
And chicks for free?
The spiralling cost of Hinkley is just another example of the Conservative government shunning the idea of cost-cutting austerity when it suits it. While the rest of us have to ‘live within our means’, cash can always be found for keeping the Tories in power, pleasing French energy companies, and fracking, to name but a few. But there’s a common theme with the money the Tories keep finding down the back of the governmental sofa. And it’s that, when it directly benefits them, a Conservative politician can always find the cash somewhere. In this case, it’ll be taxpaying consumers who are forced to foot the bill.
– Sign the petition against Hinkley Point C.
– Write to your MP to oppose the development.
– Find out when a protest is taking place.
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