Huge nuclear subsidy shows Tory inconsistency on markets

After denouncing Labour's proposed two-year price freeze as "socialism", the government has just guaranteed EDF and Chinese state investors prices for 35 years.

One of the conditions of a new generation of nuclear power stations in Britain has long been that they receive no taxpayer subsidy. The Coalition Agreement stated:

Liberal Democrats have long opposed any new nuclear construction. Conservatives, by contrast, are committed to allowing the replacement of existing nuclear power stations provided that they are subject to the normal planning process for major projects (under a new National Planning Statement), and also provided that they receive no public subsidy.
But look at the terms of the deal on a new nuclear power station at Hinkley and it become clear that, by any reasonable measure, this commitment has been broken. The agreement guarantees the French-owned EDF and Chinese state investors a strike price of £92.50 per MegaWatt Hour (or £89.50 if a second plant is built), nearly twice the current market rate for wholesale energy. The price will rise in line with inflation and is guaranteed for 35 years. Should wholesale prices fall or rise at a slower rate than expected, it is the public who will pick up the tab in the form of higher taxes or higher bills. The Energy Institute at University College London estimates that the annual public subsidy will be £800m-£1bn.  
 
Coalition ministers are likely to respond by pointing out that the subsidy (although they dare not use that word) is lower than that for renewable energy, which is guaranteed a strike price of £135 per MwH (although for just 15 years), but a subsidy it remains. It prompts the question of why, if the deal is likely to prove profitable for foreign investors, the government isn't investing itself. Energy Secretary Ed Davey was unable to provide an answer on the Today programme this morning but he did pledge that "the majority of the 5,600 workers employed at Hinkley will be British", a commitment potentially at odds with EU law. 
 
And after the irony of red-baiting Conservatives welcoming investment from the communist Chinese, consider that observed by Labour this morning. The government that denounces Ed Miliband's proposed two-year energy price freeze as "socialism" has just guaranteed prices for 35 years. All markets are free, but some are more free than others. 
David Cameron with Energy Secretary Ed Davey. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Our union backed Brexit, but that doesn't mean scrapping freedom of movement

We can only improve the lives of our members, like those planning stike action at McDonalds, through solidarity.

The campaign to defend and extend free movement – highlighted by the launch of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement this month – is being seen in some circles as a back door strategy to re-run the EU referendum. If that was truly the case, then I don't think Unions like mine (the BFAWU) would be involved, especially as we campaigned to leave the EU ourselves.

In stark contrast to the rhetoric used by many sections of the Leave campaign, our argument wasn’t driven by fear and paranoia about migrant workers. A good number of the BFAWU’s membership is made up of workers not just from the EU, but from all corners of the world. They make a positive contribution to the industry that we represent. These people make a far larger and important contribution to our society and our communities than the wealthy Brexiteers, who sought to do nothing other than de-humanise them, cheered along by a rabid, right-wing press. 

Those who are calling for end to freedom of movement fail to realise that it’s people, rather than land and borders that makes the world we live in. Division works only in the interest of those that want to hold power, control, influence and wealth. Unfortunately, despite a rich history in terms of where division leads us, a good chunk of the UK population still falls for it. We believe that those who live and work here or in other countries should have their skills recognised and enjoy the same rights as those born in that country, including the democratic right to vote. 

Workers born outside of the UK contribute more than £328 million to the UK economy every day. Our NHS depends on their labour in order to keep it running; the leisure and hospitality industries depend on them in order to function; the food industry (including farming to a degree) is often propped up by their work.

The real architects of our misery and hardship reside in Westminster. It is they who introduced legislation designed to allow bosses to act with impunity and pay poverty wages. The only way we can really improve our lives is not as some would have you believe, by blaming other poor workers from other countries, it is through standing together in solidarity. By organising and combining that we become stronger as our fabulous members are showing through their decision to ballot for strike action in McDonalds.

Our members in McDonalds are both born in the UK and outside the UK, and where the bosses have separated groups of workers by pitting certain nationalities against each other, the workers organised have stood together and fought to win change for all, even organising themed social events to welcome each other in the face of the bosses ‘attempts to create divisions in the workplace.

Our union has held the long term view that we should have a planned economy with an ability to own and control the means of production. Our members saw the EU as a gravy train, working in the interests of wealthy elites and industrial scale tax avoidance. They felt that leaving the EU would give the UK the best opportunity to renationalise our key industries and begin a programme of manufacturing on a scale that would allow us to be self-sufficient and independent while enjoying solid trading relationships with other countries. Obviously, a key component in terms of facilitating this is continued freedom of movement.

Many of our members come from communities that voted to leave the EU. They are a reflection of real life that the movers and shakers in both the Leave and Remain campaigns took for granted. We weren’t surprised by the outcome of the EU referendum; after decades of politicians heaping blame on the EU for everything from the shape of fruit to personal hardship, what else could we possibly expect? However, we cannot allow migrant labour to remain as a political football to give succour to the prejudices of the uninformed. Given the same rights and freedoms as UK citizens, foreign workers have the ability to ensure that the UK actually makes a success of Brexit, one that benefits the many, rather than the few.

Ian Hodon is President of the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union and founding signatory of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.