THARG (visitor from Mars): Thank you Minister for granting me this interview. I am anxious to tell people on my home planet how you make energy policy here at the great palace of Westminster.

Your National Grid is warning that the margin of electricity supply over generating capacity is the lowest in a decade and that the lights could go out next winter. Your Excellency, what are you doing about it?

TORY JUNIOR ENERGY MINISTER: Welcome to Earth, Mr Tharg. You don’t address me as Excellency, by the way. That title is reserved for the old Etonians in the Cabinet.

The Conservative Government has a clear plan to meet UK energy needs. First, we are running a record current account deficit in trade. By importing everything, we will require less electricity. And if, God forbid, there is a surge in electricity demand during the Coronation Street advert break, we will cut power to manufacturing firms rather than households.

THARG: Surely you plan to build new UK power stations to create a bigger safety margin of supply over demand? I understand you have lots of coal in the UK. Are you going to burn that?

MINISTER: No, we have just announced that Britain will close its last 10 coal-fired electricity generating stations by 2025. They are mostly located in the north of England where we are promoting a “northern powerhouse”. Except they won’t actually have any “power” (laughs).

THARG: Surely that will make electricity supply situation worse? What are you replacing coal with?

MINISTER: We are building a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

It will be ready in 2025, just as coal-fired generation disappears. That’s an example of Conservative planning. Besides, we are getting the French to build the thing using their technology. So you see, we are sticking to our goal of undermining British industry.

THARG (waving his tentacles): How can you be sure that the new Hinkley Point reactor will be ready by 2025? The two other plants where this new, unproven EPR reactor is being installed are way behind schedule.

Construction of the EPR reactor project in Finland was started in 2005 and isn’t expected to be ready till 2018 at the earliest. The one in France started building in 2006 and won’t generate power till 2018, if then.

The Hinkley reactor has not even been given a start date yet. So the chances of it being ready by 2025 are as good as Labour winning the Holyrood elections.

MINISTER (flustered): You don’t understand, old chap. For starters, we have a fall-back position. Amber Rudd, our Secretary of State for Energy, stated clearly that the coal-fired stations can be kept in operation provided the CO2 emissions are captured and stored underground…

THARG (interrupting): Minister, didn’t Chancellor Osborne just cancel the funding for a carbon capture and storage project?

MINISTER: True, old boy. But we need to balance the books and pay our way, you know. Subsidy is a bad thing. Weakens the sinews.

THARG: But I thought you were planning to subsidise the new Hinkley Point reactor. Isn’t it going to cost at least £18 billion? That’s more that the Chinese spent on their Three Gorges dam project. It’s even more than the £11 billion you plan to shell out on the renovation of the Palace of Westminster.

No private electricity company can fund Hinkley Point without public subsidy. Which is why you have guaranteed to buy electricity from the completed plant at twice the current going rate. Then stick that inflated charge on to the consumer.

MINISTER (looking smug): Exactly, old fruit – it is the bally electricity consumer who will pay double. That’s not a subsidy, is it? Besides, doubling the electricity cost supports our long-term Tory plan of putting UK manufacturing out of business. And we have another wizard ploy. In return for China putting up a third of the £18 billion cost of building the Hinkley plant, Chinese firms will get to design and build nuclear reactors in the UK.

THARG: Let me recap to make sure I understand. You are commissioning a new atomic power station at Hinkley Point, to be built and run by the French EDF company. This will supply seven per cent of UK electrical power, without which the lights will go out. You are guaranteeing EDF double the current electricity price. Yet the board of EDF have still not agreed to begin construction at Hinkley. What is going wrong?

MINISTER (sweating): Let me assure all my Martian friends that nothing – absolutely nothing – is holding up the start of the Hinkley project. Great collaborative programmes take time. Especially when the other lot can’t speak the Queen’s English. Hinkley will be built. Remember the Dunkirk spirit!

THARG: Am I correct to point out that EDF’s original partner at Hinkley, Areva, pulled out on cost grounds? That a potentially catastrophic construction error was identified in the identical EPR plant in Normandy? This involved the pressure vessel enclosing the reactor, which appeared to have been made inaccurately.

Finally, am I correct that if EDF goes ahead with Hinkley, the enormous cost and potential for delays will destroy the company’s credit ratings? Which is why the EDF board is hesitating about committing to Hinkley. Perhaps it is time for a Dunkirk-style evacuation of this entire project?

MINISTER (desperately looking to his civil servants): Er… Here in Britain we stick to our nuclear guns. Besides, the Labour right wing also support nuclear power so this is a great way of splitting the Opposition. Scottish Labour are pro-nuke, with that Iain Gray chappie leading the way.

THARG: Actually, Minister, you might be wrong on a Labour split over nuclear energy. Last week the Shadow Labour energy spokesperson Lisa Nandy called for a Plan B if the Hinkley reactor is scrapped. But she wants cheaper and smaller nuclear power stations that could be built everywhere.

MINISTER (brightening): Yes, I’ve heard about these new Small Modular Reactors. You can build SMRs in factories and deliver them to local power stations as a kit. What a brilliant notion: the equivalent of an IKEA flat pack but with uranium. Every town and village could have its own nuclear power plant. And if the Scotch go independent, we can unplug their mini-nukes and bring them home, leaving the whingers in the dark.

THARG (alarmed): Of course, SMRs in every town and village might give you security problems, Minister. Think of the ease with which terrorists could acquire nuclear material.

MINISTER: Rubbish – G4S are ace at protecting things. Plus think of the thousands of jobs we would create in nuclear security. Does anyone actually manufacture these mini-reactors, Mr Tharg?

THARG: Not yet, minister. And you can be assured that they will be built in China, now you’ve downsized British manufacturing. One last question, if I may. What are the implications for the Hinkley Point project if the UK votes to leave the EU?

MINISTER: Brexit would be great for Hinkley. The Austrians are taking us to the European Court of Justice over our state aid for the project. Bloody Europeans! [Suddenly the lights in Whitehall go out]. Hello! Hello! Is anybody there?