POLITICAL FIGHT HEATS UP OVER MOX
Thursday, July 05, 2001
Copeland's MP Jack Cunningham has been accused by local Tories of trying to make them scapegoats if the Government gives the thumbs down to Sellafield's Mox plant which holds the key to thousands of local jobs.
Tory councillors are incensed by a "venomous" claim by Dr Cunningham that Copeland Conservatives had shunned the recent public consultations over whether or not Sellafield's £460 million Mox production plant should get the go ahead after a four-year wait.
The MP alleged: "A list of respondents to the fourth round of public consultations has revealed that Copeland's Conservative representatives failed to express their support for BNFL in its efforts to get the go ahead for the plant from government - they are sending out extremely worrying signals regarding BNFL, Sellafield and the nuclear industry."
He also claimed that "no Copeland Conservatives wrote in support of the Mox plant" during the crucial consultations.
One of Copeland's leading Tories, David Moore, dismissed the claims as untrue.
"We have always supported Mox. It could be that Jack is looking for scapegoats, people to blame if things go pear shaped.
"All his own efforts appear to have been fruitless so far."
Mike Graham, Copeland's Tory candidate in the last General Election, said Dr Cunningham had made a dreadful mistake.
"We were part of Copeland Council's formal response to the latest consultations and separately wrote in support of Mox to Claire Herdman, the government official dealing with the representations. She confirms that our letter was received.
"This is the latest in a series of venomous press releases from Dr Cunningham.
"He is putting up verbal smokescreens and shouldn't be playing politics with people's jobs. I have no idea why.
"I do know that our community has great expectations of Mox but some people are worried over whether or not the plant will actually get licensed.
David Moore, chairman of the Sellafield Local Liaison Committee, said: "We have always supported Mox because we know how absolutely vital it is. I have also made representations, both as a parish and district councillor. At Copeland Council's meeting last week I succeeded in getting the council to agree to send a letter expressing our concerns about the latest delay."
Coun Moore revealed that BNFL was in "a very precarious position" with customers over two of the Mox contracts.
"The longer this thing drifts away the more likely it is that BNFL will lose out to its main competitor, the French.
He warned: "There is a real danger if the plant is not licensed very soon that orders will start to disappear and blow a hole in the financial case.
"This plant is not just vital to BNFL but to the whole of the area because we are talking about thousands of jobs at stake."
nJack Cunningham said he was hoping to get new energy minister Brian Wilson to have an inspection of the Mox plant shortly. "I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure it is given the green light."