Hinkley Point consultants cost government over £20m

Hinkley Point in Somerset Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The final decision to approve the new nuclear plant in Somerset was made by Theresa May in September

The UK government spent about £20m on consultants to help negotiate aspects of the deal to build Hinkley C nuclear power station, the BBC has learnt.

The £18bn plant, being built by French energy company EDF in Somerset, will meet 7% of Britain's electricity needs

The consultant spend, which includes more than £12m on law firm Slaughter and May, was revealed in a BBC Freedom of Information (FoI) request.

The Stop Hinkley campaign group said it was "shocking, but not surprising".

Figures released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy show that four firms paid to advise the government between 2011 and 2016 were:

  • KPMG (accountancy) - £4,363,767
  • Slaughter and May (legal) - £12,038,989
  • Lazards (finance advice and asset management) - £2,583,131
  • Leigh Fisher (planning and technical advice) - £1,247,630

Stop Hinkley spokesman Roy Pumfrey said: "I knew years ago we were racking up bills for lawyers for Hinkley C.

"It seems to me absolutely outrageous that this bill has mushroomed, that we have got to more than £20m of public money spent on this."

In a statement, the department said the consultants had provided "legal, technical, financial skills and knowledge that were vital to support the department in its negotiations with EDF".

What is Hinkley Point and why is it important?

Theresa May delayed a final government decision on the project when she became prime minister, before it was finally approved in September.

It took years for EDF and the government to negotiate a guaranteed fixed price for electricity from Hinkley Point C of £92.50 per megawatt hours for the next 35 years.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The new plant is planned to be built next to two existing facilities

Conservative MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, Ian Liddell-Grainger, defended the cost of the consultants.

Mr Liddell-Grainger, who sat on the Public Administration Select Committee for 10 years, said that in the context of an £18bn investment for Britain and the complications of the Hinkley deal, it represented good value for money.

"We looked at this a few times and the cost to the government of taking these people [consultants] on full time to do specialist things like Hinkley... is just not going to be cost- effective," he said.

"So this is the only way round it."

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