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Nuclear Safeguards Bill: Briefing for Lords Stages

Published Thursday, February 1, 2018

This House of Lords Library Briefing has been prepared in advance of the second reading in the House of Lords of the Nuclear Safeguards Bill on 7 February 2018.

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The Nuclear Safeguards Bill is a government bill introduced in the House of Commons on 11 October 2017. The Bill passed its House of Commons stages without being amended. It received first reading in the House of Lords on 24 January 2018.

The Bill is one of a number of the so-called ‘Brexit bills’ in the 2017 Queen’s Speech. In 2017, the Government confirmed that the UK would be leaving Euratom as a result of its departure from the EU. The purpose of the Bill is to enable the Secretary of State to establish a new domestic safeguarding regime for the UK’s civil nuclear industry following the UK’s departure from Euratom. For this purpose, the Bill provides for the expansion of the remit of the UK regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), and would enable the UK to enter new bilateral international treaties on nuclear safeguarding outside Euratom.

The UK, as a signatory to the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, has responsibility to safeguard against civilian nuclear material being diverted into military or weapons programmes. Since it entered Euratom in 1973, the UK has relied upon Euratom to help maintain safeguarding standards. The Government has stated its wish to retain a close relationship with Euratom once it ceases to be a member in March 2019. However, the Government has argued that the establishment of the UK’s own independent safeguarding regime was an important contingency measure in case such an arrangement with Euratom could not be agreed.

The Opposition has stated its support for the principle aim of the Bill. However, a number of concerns were raised in the Commons, including regarding the capacity of the ONR to take on new safeguarding responsibilities under the Bill. The Opposition also criticised the Henry VIII powers that would be granted to the Secretary of State.

This Briefing provides a summary of scrutiny of the Bill in the House of Commons, including at report stage and third reading. It should be read in conjunction with the Explanatory Notes to the Bill, produced by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Lords Library notes LLN-2018-0017

Author: Edward Scott

Topics: Energy, International organisations, Nuclear power

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