§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Mr. Speaker
It might be for the convenience of the House if I indicated the course I think might be found convenient on this Bill, because there is not only the Second Reading of the Bill to be discussed but also three instructions to the Committee which is to consider it. It might commend itself to the House if, on Second Reading, I were to allow a debate which included the points mentioned in the instructions and also any general points on the Bill, on the understanding that if speeches are made arguing for the instructions which are to follow later we shall then, at the end of the discussion, put the instructions separately without further debate.
If that course commends itself to the House, I shall be happy to do that, and it might then be found convenient—I have no power in the matter, it is entirely for the House—for the debate to end at 9.30 so as to allow the instructions to be put from the Chair.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
I rise to support what I hope will be the passage of this Bill through its Second Reading stage. It is a Private Bill promoted by the British Electricity Authority. On such an occasion one must declare one's interest. I have no interest in either the nationalised form of electricity or the supplying free enterprise industries connected therewith. I have only the interest of a native of the Principality and a natural desire, therefore, for the passage of all legislation which, on balance, I consider likely to be beneficial to North Wales in particular, to the Principality as a whole, and, indeed, to the whole of the British Isles.
This Measure may be described as a non-political, or perhaps more appropriately a non-party Measure. Though promoted by the British Electricity Authority it required the consent of the Minister of Fuel and Power under Section 10 of the 1947 Act. That consent was given by the Minister of Fuel and 1484 Power in the last Labour Government, and I am instructed that after very careful consideration that sanction was ratified by the present Minister of Fuel and Power.
The projects mentioned in this Bill were contemplated, before the industry was actually nationalised, by the North Wales Power Company, who might be described as the predecessors in title of the British Electricity Authority. The British Electricity Authority continued the investigations into the various schemes and the necessary surveys. Therefore, all those schemes are now included in the Bill.
As hon. Members are aware, the proposals are to extend the catchment areas of the existing stations at Dolgarrog and Maentwrog and to construct a new hydro-electric system near Ffestiniog and also three related generating stations, with full powers to erect and maintain all necessary aqueducts, reservoirs and similar works as described in Clause 4 of the draft Bill.
Five other schemes were originally contemplated, but those are not included in this Bill. It is true to say that some local authorities have pressed for the implementation of some of the other schemes, in particular the Rheidol scheme, and I shall say something later about the connection between those schemes and the schemes at present under consideration.
I am instructed that the present proposals involve approximately an average annual output of electricity of 84,500,000 units. I am advised that the new generating capacity is likely to be in the region of 45,500 kilowatts. The average cost per kilowatt installed is estimated as likely to be £94 5s., and I am further advised that the complete cost per unit sent out will be about 6d.
The, probable saving in coal is likely to be in the region of 55,000 tons per annum, and the amount of steel required has been estimated at about 2,500 tons. I should like to point out that that is less than the amount of steel which would be required for steam works of similar generating capacity. On the other hand, it is fair to say that a large amount of cement will be involved—in the neighbourhood of 37,700 tons, which would be considerably more than would 1485 be required for steam stations of similar generating capacity.
I should like to put forward for the consideration of the House certain other aspects which I see to be favourable to the Second Reading of this Bill. Once the original capital has been expended, there should be no subsequent requirement of heavy capital expenditure on raw materials connected with it. The operation of the schemes is likely to be extremely economical in manpower. I am advised that the capital required for all the schemes originally contemplated by the Power Company prior to nationalisation would be something in the neighbourhood of £30 million, but the schemes in the present draft Bill would cost approximately only £4½ million of the total of £30 million.
Though these costs may be comparatively high we must offset against them the fact that the operating costs would be considerably less than the operating costs of alternative schemes, and in particular of steam generation. Also the life of the plant to be erected must be longer than the life of any steam generation plants. I am advised that the probable life of this kind of hydroelectric project would be in the neighbourhood of 80 years or more whilst the usual amortisation period for steam generating plant is about 25 years. The amount of steel required is less than would be required for steam plant of similar generating capacity.
I should like hon. Members to reflect also that hydro-electric power may be described as flexible and has advantages when one is dealing with special requirements and heavy loads at peak periods. It may also appeal to many hon. Members that the North Wales area, like Scotland, is predominantly mountainous and has a heavy rainfall. Those areas are the parts of the British Isles most suitable for hydro-electric schemes. If we in these islands are to develop this kind of generating power at all we must obviously do it primarily in North Wales and Scotland. That may be a powerful argument in favour of the Second Reading of this Measure.
On the other hand, there are obviously certain objections some of which have been indicated on the Order Paper. There are fears that the schemes will interfere 1486 with the amenities and natural beauty of a very lovely part of the British Isles. We are told that there are real fears that the local and other water supplies may be similarly interfered with by the passing of this Bill. These are, indeed, reasonable objections. I should be the last to advocate passing a Measure which would be likely to ruin the beauty of the part of the Principality of which I myself am a native. I should be the last to advance it if I thought this Bill would have that effect.
But it may be of some comfort to hon. Members to know that discussions have taken place between the British Electricity Authority, who are the promoters of this Bill, the National Parks Commission and the Minister of Housing and Local Government whose Department is a most important department in connection with these objections. In the light of these consultations the promoters, realising fully the validity and reasonableness of these fears, will later be prepared to accept Amendments providing for proper control not only to protect the amenities and natural beauties to which I have referred, but they will go further than the matters normally covered by town and country planning. They will cover, for instance, the disposal of spoil, the appearance of the aqueducts and other works and also the restoration of land affected by this Measure.
There is another fear that the passing of this Measure may commit us, as it were by precedent, to the passing of other Measures relating to the original projects involving a larger proportion of the total estimated expenditure of £30 million. But surely that is not so. If it is desired to bring these other Measures before the House they will have to be considered on their merits, in the form of Bills, in the usual way, and I hope hon. Members on this occasion will discuss this Bill on its merits and will leave those other matters to be considered on their merits.
The third real fear—a fear which predominantly affects Members of constituencies in North Wales itself—is that the scheme might provide for the generation of power which will be used not for the benefit of North Wales itself but rather for areas in the adjoining parts of England. I am advised that while it is true that the schemes will supply power to the grid, and in that way there may 1487 be demands which will lead to an export of power generated under these schemes, most of the current generated will be used in North Wales itself. I am further advised that Wales at present imports fully three-quarters of its requirements of electricity, and that position is likely to continue despite the passing of this Bill.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
I am sorry to interrupt at this early stage, but the hon. Gentleman has said that Wales as a whole imports three-quarters of its electricity. Would he give the source of that information? I challenge it absolutely.
§ Mr. Gower
I have been told verbally that that is the case. I have no actual figures with me, but I understand that Wales as a whole does import approximately three-quarters of its electricity requirements. I cannot divide that between North and South Wales. It may be that a disproportionate amount is used in South Wales. I would not put my statement higher than that. Finally, it is extremely likely that the erection of these works will provide electricity for adjacent rural parts of Wales where at present the provision of electricity is extremely difficult, costly and inadequate.
That is a very brief and perhaps inadequate outline of the objects of this Bill. I should like to stress to hon. Members who have these very reasonable fears that the Authority are fully prepared to accept Amendments the nature of which I have tried to indicate; and while there may be opposition fundamentally to this Bill, I hope that my few remarks will have satisfied those hon. Members whose objections do not extend to complete opposition to this Measure but arises merely because of the fear that it may involve the destruction of amenities.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
I find myself almost completely in opposition to the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower). My opposition is not concerned only with scenic and amenity considerations, which I believe rightly to be the prerogative and responsibility of the Welsh Members. I am concerned with financial and economic considerations, for I believe that the measures that are proposed in this Bill are extravagant and 1488 do not use our financial and economic resources to the best advantage, particularly in terms of coal conservation.
There is a generally misunderstood misconception of how our fuel and power economy should be balanced, by those who say that because hydro-electricity is produced from water and does not use any coal in the process, it must therefore be good. Those people generally conveniently omit to consider the enormous capital costs involved in hydro-electricity installations.
Let me say, at the outset, that I do not agree with my hon. Friend that this Bill should be treated in isolation from ensuing Measures. It is the intention of the British Electricity Authority to create in North Wales no fewer than eight major hydro-electricity establishments. They are the extension to the Maentwrog scheme, the extension to the Dolgarrog scheme, a new scheme at Ffestiniog; then, if those three schemes are approved, the British Electricity Authority will proceed with a new major scheme at Rheidol, followed by new schemes at Mawddach and Conway, and, finally, the schemes on Snowdon itself and at Nant Ffrancon.
It will be observed that the British Electricity Authority are proceeding on the basis of introducing the least offensive schemes first. Lord Citrine is flying a gaily coloured kite. He hopes to seduce the House of Commons into believing that this Measure is innocuous and that, therefore, succeeding Measures will meet with less opposition. I believe that all eight schemes should be considered in unison and as part of the same general proposal. The cost of it, as my hon. Friend mentioned, is £30 million if the Nant Ffrancon and Snowdon schemes are excluded. If they are included, the cost will be £40 million. For that £40 million there will be 300,000 kilowatts of power available on installation, or 300 megawatts. Those are the basic desiderata of the scheme.
What is perhaps important at the outset is that I should make my position quite clear in regard to rural electricity in Wales. I do not wish to be attacked later by nationalistic Welsh newspapers accusing an English hon. Member of seeking to deny rural Wales its legitimate needs for electricity supply. On the contrary, rural Wales and the North Wales littoral has every bit as much right to 1489 electricity supplies for its farmsteads and small holdings as any other part of the rural areas of the United Kingdom.
What we should consider, surely, is how these rural electricity supplies may be provided most economically and most speedily. I believe that we cannot provide them economically in these hydro-electric Bills, and that, most certainly, we cannot provide them speedily, because the whole scheme of hydro-electric development in North Wales will be spread over 15 years, whereas, as I hope to show, the rural districts of the North Wales littoral can be provided with electricity within a period of two to three years from now, by using the existing installations and power stations augmented by current development and construction.
At present, there is building at Connah's Quay a very large and orthodox steam power station. To that power station is being connected a 132 KV. line along the North Wales littoral, and terminating, I believe, at its western end almost at Bangor. It is to go through the transformer station at Dolgarrog, where current will be transformed down from 132 KV. to 33 KV., and again transformed at sub-stations from 33 KV. down to 11 KV. lines for the more remote parts of the rural area. That line is capable of providing for all the rural needs of North Wales, especially if the Hawarden sub-station and the connections with the grid at Crewe and elsewhere are also employed.
I mentioned the Connah's Quay power station in course of construction, and it is interesting to note—and I say this principally for the record—that the Connah's Quay power station is to have a capacity of 180,000 KW. The interesting thing is that that power station is only to be worked on a load factor of 41 per cent. which is generally about one-half of the maximum capacity of a modern steam power station. The hydro-electric schemes which provide a total of 300,000 KW. work to a load factor of less than 20 per cent.
My case with regard to rural electricity supply is simply this. If the Connah's Quay power station at present under construction were to work on a proper load factor of 80 per cent., the additional 40 per cent. over the present 40 per cent. would yield sufficient electricity for the 1490 whole of North Wales without any difficulty at all. In that regard, I would say that this is not only an individualistic view of mine, but that I am reinforced by possibly the highest planning authority in this country—Professor Sir Patrick Abercrombie—who, in his report on these hydro schemes to the County Council of the administrative County of Caernarvon wrote this:The simplest would appear to be to raise the load factor of the new station at Connah's Quay (installed capacity 180,000 KW.). This has been placed abnormally low at 41 per cent., doubtless to work in with the Authority's policy of using certain stations as base load and others as semi-base.If Connah's Quay could be run at 80 per cent. load factor (a high but not impossible load) by arrangement of the Merseyside Power producting units, it would produce 1,260 million KWH. in place of 650 million KWH. or thereabouts; and would thus provide more than the 500 million KWH. dropped from not using the new installations of North Wales hydroelectric power.Professor Abercrombie is undoubtedly absolutely right, for this one power station, perhaps aided by smaller stations, is the answer to rural electrification in North Wales.
I now want to say something about comparative costs. This is highly technical, but I will try to reduce it to everyday terms, although there are few electrical engineers in this country who would ever agree on the merits or demerits of hydro-electric schemes. For years we have been arguing about these North Wales proposals, but I will try to put the matter in as simple language as I can. A hydro-electric scheme has a very high capital cost, but a low cost of operation. A steam power station has a relatively low capital cost, but a high cost of operation, for it has to be fuelled with coal.
There are hazards connected with both types of generation. The hazard with the steam station is the availability of coal at a time when our coal budget is in a state of grave unbalance. The hazard in connection with a hydro-electric scheme is principally, of course, the fact that the water supply is not by any means certain, and that the abstraction of large quantities of water from these catchment areas might seriously affect agricultural development, river flow and various other technical points of that kind.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I do not want to give way, because my time is limited.
Most people seem to imagine that hydro-electric schemes last for ever, but that is not so. Perhaps they will last for 75 years.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Nobody knows, but I am prepared to be advised by a countryman of the hon. Gentleman who interrupted and who is a high authority on this subject, and who draws our attention to the dangers of siltation in these schemes. For instance, Mr. R. M. Prothero, a geographer, until recently at Edinburgh University, wrote in "Nature" on 7th July, 1951:Precise information is practically nonexistent. In the United States, by 1934, already 13 major dams had silted up completely during an average life of 29 years, but although such spectacular examples are lacking here, silt may accumulate in a short time and seriously reduce the capacity of reservoirs. A case is quoted of one of the Lancaster Corporation reservoirs which has lost nearly half its capacity in 78 years, but as regards the Scottish hydro-electric reservoirs, silting does not appear to have been allowed for in the calculated capacities, and unless we are informed to the contrary no doubt the same applies to those proposed in North Wales.This is a very real hazard, but let me pass on to an approximate estimate of the capital costs.
In the case of a hydro-electric scheme, the capital cost per kilowatt installed is not the £94, as referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Barry. I denounce that statement emphatically. Lord Citrine wrote to me on 7th February, 1952, and said that the average capital cost per kilowatt installed was £122 for hydro schemes in North Wales. Why should it be £122 for North Wales and £200 per kilowatt installed for a hydro-electric scheme in Scotland? The answer is that the North Wales scheme will cost £200 per kilowatt installed by the time it is completed, whereas steam station costs today average £60 per kilowatt installed. Therefore, although the length of the life of a hydro-electric scheme is three times longer than that of a steam station, the capital cost of a hydro-electric scheme is three times as great as that of a steam station and in 1492 terms of amortisation per annum the one cancels the other out.
§ Mr. Watkinson
May I ask what evidence my hon. Friend could adduce to prove that the capital cost per kilowatt produced is anything like £200?
§ Mr. Nabarro
My hon. Friend is very poorly informed on the matter. If he refers to the Scottish debates, not long ago on the Scottish hydro-electric schemes—
§ Mr. Nabarro
My hon. Friend says he sat through them. If he will come to me after the debate I will give him the memorandum issued by Mr. Banks, the chief information officer of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, in which he quotes the figures of £200 per kilowatt. There is no reason why that should not apply to North Wales as conditions are very similar.
§ The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)
Is my hon. Friend saying that that is the cost?
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am saying that Lord Citrine said that it is £122 per kilowatt installed and I am saying that when the hydro-stations are installed it will probably be £200, which is the present Scottish cost.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
As the hon. Member is referring to the Scottish scheme, perhaps he will tell us where he gets the kilowatt figure. Until electricity is produced, the capital cost produces nothing. Where does the hon. Member get the kilowatts; how does he arrive at a cost of £200? Is it in the first year, or over 30 years?
§ Mr. Nabarro
That question is quite irrelevant because, in calculating the capital cost of electricity schemes it is normally based on cost per kilowatt installed and the right hon. Gentleman the former Minister of Fuel and Power will readily agree that that is the case.
I pass to a further point in connection with the installation, the load factor of the schemes in North Wales. The load factor is less than 20 per cent. In the case of Dolgarrog it is 15.4 per cent., at Maentwrog 14.7 per cent. and at Ffestiniog 15.75 per cent. A load factor 1493 of less than 20 per cent. means that the capital vested in the scheme is less than one-fifth employed whereas in a steam station the load factor is as high as 80 per cent. but at an average of 60 per cent. Therefore, not only is the installation cost three times as high in a hydroelectric scheme as in a steam station, but the use of the power once the installation is completed is only one-third in a hydro scheme as compared with a steam scheme. That weights the capital cost case against hydro schemes by something like ten to one.
Great play is made, and my hon. Friend referred to it, about coal conservation. I have rarely read such a Dutch auction as the figures put out on these North Wales hydro schemes in the last few years. The House will be interested in these figures, all of which can be checked. The divisional controller of the British Electricity Authority, in the "Manchester Guardian" on 22nd December, 1948, said that the eight hydro schemes in North Wales would save 500,000 tons. In the "Electrical Review," page 143, on 27th January, 1950, the same gentleman said that the eight schemes would save 400,000 tons—he pulled it down by 100,000 tons.
The predecessor of the present Minister, on 25th July, 1949, when replying to a Parliamentary Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Sir E. Keeling) said that the coal saving in the eight schemes would be 374,000 tons. Lord Citrine wrote me on 7th February, 1952, and said that the saving on six schemes only would be 252,000 tons—still going down—but even allowing for the exclusion of the two schemes at Snowdon and Nant Ffrancon it is still a reduction. When a calculation is made, based on the thermal efficiency of a new power station today, at 28 per cent., the coal saving on the six schemes to which I have referred—that is, excluding Nant Ffrancon and Snowdon—is only 182,000 tons.
Here is the crux of the case. To save 182,000 tons of coal per annum the British Electricity Authority want to invest £30 million. That is sheer nonsense. If hon. Members will read the debate on fuel efficiency on 7th March, 1952, and take the trouble to refer to a case I quoted from a Kidderminster carpet factory, relating to the installation of back pressure generation for the sum 1494 of £100,000 they will see that 6,000 tons of coal a year were saved. Hon. Members should compare that with the saving of coal in the North Wales Hydro schemes and they will arrive at the conclusion that it is ten times as great, relatively, as the saving in those hydro schemes. In other words, the most extravagant way of trying to save coal is to invest in water power.
The right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker), will recall that on 9th October last, at the Dorchester Hotel, he absolutely confirmed my view when a member of the audience asked why the Severn Barrage scheme did not go ahead. His reply was that the Severn Barrage scheme would cost £100 million sterling in order to save one million tons of coal a year and that by capital investment used in other directions we could get a much greater saving of coal. That is the view of the right hon. Member and on record in black and white, and it is my view today about the North Wales schemes.
The coal economy of these hydro schemes in North Wales is negligible compared with the capital investment cost. The capital investment cost is, in my view, extravagant and the yield is problematical. The load factor is so low as to make them most uneconomical. The cost to the consumer of a unit of electricity is the same if it is generated by hydro as if it is generated by a steam power station. Much quicker electrification in North Wales could be obtained by using the Connah's Quay steam power station augmented by the high tension line along the North Wales Littoral.
Over the whole picture must be considered the danger of spoliation of one of the finest areas of mountain scenery in the United Kingdom. I do not believe that any planning authority control over these proposed schemes will safeguard all the amenities. Thus, on financial grounds, on economic grounds, on agricultural grounds, on scenic grounds, and on piscatorial grounds I believe that these schemes stand condemned. I refuse to contribute tonight to any scheme of electricity development in North Wales which will lead to the spoliation of the mountain grandeur of that country, and I shall vote against the Bill.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
I will not attempt to follow the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) into the maze of financial, technical and piscatorial excursions to which he treated us, but I wish to join with him at the outset in reminding the House that this Bill should not be dealt with in isolation. I do hope the House will bear in mind that the Bill is the first of a series of measures by which the British Electricity Authority hope to implement a vast and complex scheme to harness the entire watershed of Snowdonia for hydro-electrical purposes.
It is true, as the hon. Member said, that the Bill embodies the least controversial of the proposals of the Authority but, nevertheless, it is of the utmost importance that this House should closely scrutinise its provisions for it does give very clear indications of what the Authority have in mind in regard to the five other much larger and more complex schemes it is proposing. What the B.E.A. are trying to do under this Bill will be the very minimum which they will try to do and seek to do in the rest of Snowdonia.
Let me say at the outset that I do not object in principle to an appropriate scheme for the utilisation of the water surplus of North Wales for hydroelectricity. The position about the sources of fuel and power is such that we are bound to use, within reason and with proper safeguards, the surplus water that we have in this country, as well as coal and oil, when we can get it. In my constituency the British Electricity Authority, if I may pay them this compliment on this occasion, are setting up a kind of windmill which will capture the four winds in order to generate electricity.
We must look forward to the utilisation of water power, within reason and with proper safeguards, side by side with the use of coal and oil, but this Bill does not set out to utilise the water surplus in Snowdonia in that careful and proper fashion. The Bill with all its implications, is, I submit, unacceptable, and if it is given a Second Reading I hope it will be sent upstairs together with a set of instructions on the lines of those set out on the Order Paper, which will convert the Bill into something like that which is 1496 proper in the circumstances both of North Wales and of this country. I believe it must be drastically modified in many of its provisions and I hope that will be done.
In the Bill, the B.E.A. are asking for everything and conceding nothing. They are literally asking for the earth, and, indeed, as one reads the terms of the Bill, it seems at times that the Authority are begging for opposition. This is all the more surprising in view of the intense public interest and concern over the B.E.A.'s proposals since they were first announced some years ago.
One would have thought that, fully apprised as they must have been of the grave reservations which local authorities, agricultural interests and amenities societies felt over the Authority's proposals, the Authority would have promoted a conciliatory Bill, a Measure genuinely providing the safeguards which are reasonably sought.
But the Bill does nothing of the sort. It brushes aside, with an air of technocratic arrogance, all the reasonable pleas made to the Authority over and over again during the past three years. At times I have felt that the Authority in their dealing with genuine objections to its proposal have shown an impatience with anybody who in any way suggested that their schemes for the use of water power in Snowdonia should not have absolute priority.
What are the objections? The objections up to now have not been properly considered or requested, not even in the speech of the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower). The first is the obvious one that the Bill in its present form will do irreparable damage to the natural beauty of one of the loveliest parts of Wales—and that means of the whole world. There are to be miles of tunnelling, wide and deep, pipes, dams, dynamos, aqueducts and all the attendant disfigurements of the landscape and the piling-up of rubble and mess, as well as the drying up of the sources of streams and rivers and lakes which form an integral part not only of the beauty of this part of Wales but indeed of the livelihood of the people who live there.
In the terms of the Bill, all this is done without providing in any serious way safeguards against the worst excesses of 1497 this type of utilitarian vandalism. My complaint against the British Electricity Authority is this: that, having decided that they ought to have a scheme utilising water power in North Wales, they did not produce a Bill in which there were genuine provisions to meet the kind of objections which we are putting in the House tonight.
North-West Wales, of which the area mentioned in the Bill is part, is one of the few remaining corners of this country where the crowded populations of our industrial towns may hope to repair for a proper open air holiday amid scenes of natural unspoiled beauty, and it is, in fact, part of the new Snowdonia National Park. There are not many areas of this type left in Britain. Ribbon development and industrial expansion have all taken toll of the green and pleasant land with a result that we are hard put to it for a stretch of natural country to which ordinary folk may go for a change from the grim and crowded conditions of work and life to which they are ordinarily subjected.
Naturally, in this area a large and efficient tourist industry has arisen. The scenery is a capital asset, yet we hear that the Bill as it stands will not only impair the livelihood of a large proportion of the local inhabitants who gain their living from tourism, but it will also deprive some millions of industrial workers of the North and centre of England of one of their favourite and, I think, most beneficial holiday retreats.
There is no attempt in the Bill to meet these points. Quite the contrary. In the Bill the B.E.A. seek to take over the planning powers of the local authorities for the areas with which they are dealing. Perhaps I may mention one or two Clauses. Some of the Clauses in the Bill are incredibly drastic in the way in which they arrogate to the British Electricity Authority the full planning power in that part of the world. Clause 6, for instance, empowers the B.E.A. "notwithstanding any other enactment" to build, free of all planning control, about three dozen constructions and apparatus from dams and dynamos to ancillary and satellite conveniences.
Clause 8 says that the Authority may dredge and blast the beds of lakes and rivers and deposit the mud "as they think fit." Clause 23 empowers the 1498 B.E.A. to build generating stations and enables them to produce and manufactureany product or thing arising or used in such generation.By the terms of Clause 12 they can take their time over all these things. They can spread them over ten years. They can gouge and tear and mangle the landscape, leaving masses of rubble about the place for ten years. In fact, before the streams are to be dried up, they are to be polluted.
§ Colonel L. E. Crosthwaite-Eyre (New Forest)
The hon. Gentleman has told a most gloomy story about this, but has a single local authority complained? Is be aware that the Authority concerned have had a special planning officer with them during the whole period, that he has met all the local authorities and that there has been no objection from either side to the plans proposed in the Bill?
§ Mr. Roberts
In that case I should very much like to know why the two county councils concerned—Caernarvon and Merioneth—have gone to the expense and trouble of employing major experts on the technical and scenic beauty aspects and also counsel and Parliamentary agents, and have lodged Petitions of which, presumably, the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) has received a copy. If there is no objection from the local planning officers and from the local county officers, why have they taken these steps to petition against this Bill?
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre
I think this point ought to be cleared up. There is no objection to this Bill. There may have been an objection to the total scheme but as far as I know there is no objection by any authority to the measures contained in this Bill.
§ Mr. Roberts
I am afraid the hon. and gallant Gentleman is quite wrong. The petitions of the county councils of Caernarvon and Merioneth, and also of the North-West Wales River Board, are directed specifically against this particular Bill, and they are directed in the terms in which I have been trying to speak in the last few minutes. Quite simply, as far as this area is concerned, the Clauses in this Bill mean the setting aside of the provisions of the National Parks Act and the River Boards Act in 1499 favour of the British Electricity Authority.
I suggest that that is quite intolerable. Many other hon. Members wish to speak in this truncated debate and I have no time to follow up this amenity point, but I suggest that if this Bill is given a Second Reading, the Committee upstairs should insist that whatever works are set up under this Bill must be subject to local planning authority consent and, in turn, there must be consultation with the Royal Fine Arts Commission or, alternatively, the National Parks Commission on the question of landscape.
The second great objection is on the question of water supply, and this is, perhaps, a little more technical. The proposals of the British Electricity Authority assume that there is in North Wales a large supply of water at high levels which is not now and never will be required for domestic and industrial consumption. That assumption is questioned by the local authorities, by the National Farmers' Union in that part of the country and by a large range of technical experts, among whom is Mr. Frank Chapman.
As has already been mentioned, the rainfall there is high, reaching as much as 180 inches a year. I come from that part of the world and I can testify to the very heavy rainfall which occurs there. But the point is that it is not susceptible to easy catchment because of the rock formation, which breaks up the pools. That is proved by the fact that the British Electricity Authority will have to do so much tunnelling to scoop together the water which is in theory available but in practice is very difficult to gather in reservoirs.
Consequently, although prima facie there is a good deal of water there, in practice very little of it is available for domestic, agricultural and other use. Indeed, we have come to this, that in 1945 the Caernarvon County Council asked Messrs. Howard Humphreys, the consulting engineers, of Westminster, to report on the availability of water for municipal purposes in their area, and the engineers felt bound to report that the county of Caernarvon was inadequately supplied. Part of the reason given was 1500 this extraordinary difficulty of collecting together what water did fall upon the topmost peaks.
It follows that if the availability of water in this part of the country is already inadequate, a large scale abstraction on the lines described in this Bill is going to set up very serious difficulties. Not the least concerned in this respect are those who earn their livings from the pastureland of the hills—the hill farmers—who rear thousands of sheep every year, producing wool and meat, and who are going to find their pastures subject to gradual drying up and also to impediment by the innumerable constructions for which the Bill provides.
Secondly, the farmers on the lower reaches of these mountains who, up to now, have had to depend upon sources of water such as stream and lakes, will find that the scooping up of the rainfall at a high level will tend to dry up or reduce the water in the streams and lakes, with results detrimental not only to the pastoral industry they follow but to health.
This is not imagination; it is what has happened whenever these not too plentiful sources of water have for some reason or another been interfered with.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
In mid-Wales we have had two experiences of this sort and nothing of the kind imagined by the hon. Member has ever happened. We have the supply to Liverpool at Lake Vyrnwy, and there is the one at Rhaidr which supplies Birmingham. The suggestion of the hon. Member is pure imagination. If he goes to mid-Wales, he will find that every statement he has made is falsified.
§ Mr. Roberts
I submit that one cannot falsify statements in regard to the position in North-West Wales by reference to the position in Central Wales. We are dealing with the position in Snowdonia, as attested by men of eminent calibre who have gone into this matter at least as carefully, as far as Snowdonia is concerned, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has gone into the matter as far as Montgomery is concerned. I say no more except that that is the consensus of opinion of those who have studied the question of water supply in Snowdonia.
1501 That is the view of the county council and it is my view, as one of the members for that county. I believe my colleague on the other side of the House, who represents the other part of the county, the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas), will go a very long way with me in agreeing that there is real danger to the livelihood and the work of the farmers and hill farmers in that part of the country from the magnitude of the proposals which the British Electricity Authority are putting forward. Time does not permit me to deal as fully as I should like with the water position.
There is just one more point—the feeling among the local inhabitants. I believe that this was mentioned by an hon. Member. If this Bill goes through, the local inhabitants feel that there should be some provision to ensure that they will benefit by the works put in progress. In Wales we are fully accustomed to having our national wealth impounded, carried past our very doorsteps and exported. Today, in every county, in North-West Wales, not excepting the county of Montgomery, there are farmers who can see from their kitchen windows pylons or pipes carrying power or water to the large conurbations of the Midlands and who have had no hope themselves of enjoying the same benefits.
We say that this pillage of the Principality must stop; and if there is an appropriate Bill as amended by the Committee, empowering the British Electricity Authority to engage in reasonable works of development, with safeguards from the point of view of scenic amenity and water users, additionally to that, as the two Petitions say, arrangements should be made so that the people who live among this natural wealth will not be subjected, as their fellows in other parts of Wales have been, to the multiplication of frustration and the feeling that this wealth is being taken away past their doors without them being able to participate in it.
I hope that the House will decide to give a Second Reading to this Bill, and decide also that there shall be full instructions to the Committee to safeguard the various interests which I have tried to describe.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Raikes (Liverpool, Garston)
In intervening in this debate as a Member for an English constituency, I can at any rate claim to be a resident in North Wales, and on that claim I am prepared to make some observations in support of the Second Reading of this Bill.
First of all, I should like to say that I disagree with practically every word spoken by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), and I wish to deal—because, after all, this is a debate—with one or two points he made. Both he and the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) fastened on the point that it was not what was in this Bill that mattered so much; but it was a precedent for what might be brought in later.
I propose to try to devote my remarks to what is in the Bill. I have always thought that the argument which says, "Because eight drinks taken at some time next year may be bad for me, to have one drink this evening must be bad for me" is rather a poor form of argument. After all, every measure brought forward by the B.E.A. will have to be debated on its merits in this House from time to time, and I submit that our task today is to decide the position of this Bill.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster talked a good deal about Connah's Quay. Now I do not set up as an expert, although I sometimes consult experts, which is perhaps better. I am assured on expert advice that Connah's Quay, even if it operated at 80 per cent., cannot meet the North Wales peak load.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I quoted Sir Patrick Abercrombie. I presume, therefore, that my hon. Friend is denying the truth of Sir Patrick Abercrombie's statement.
§ Mr. Raikes
I am not dominated even by the magic words "Sir Patrick Abercrombie," any more than I am dominated by the fact that my hon. Friend says in such vigorous tones, as he always does, "This is right." I am sure he thinks it is, but I have an equal right to suggest that he is not infallible.
So I come to the next question, of siltation. I rather waited, when my hon. Friend raised the dangers of siltation, knowing how accurate and careful he always is, to hear an example given of how siltation had shown its ugly head 1503 in a hydro-electric scheme which had been running in Wales for 50 years. In fact, there has never been, on the eviddence up to date, any sign of siltation whatever, and I see no reason, with the alarming picture drawn by my hon. Friend, why siltation should suddenly appear in North Wales.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is aware that there are very strong grounds for believing that the discharge of silt from the reservoirs already existing at Ffestiniog have resulted in the somewhat disgraceful state of the River Deudraeth, near its mouth.
§ Mr. Raikes
I also know that in a scheme which has been running for 50 years there has been no siltation. It is perhaps right to say that obviously B.E.A. should occasionally, in the spring, check the aqueducts to make quite sure that they are maintained clear. The dangers do not appear to have been very great, but it is a matter which the Authority must and should watch.
My hon. Friend then made great play about what he described as the wrong figures put forward for the cost per kilowatt for a hydro-electric scheme, and he said he had a letter from Lord Citrine to show that the cost would not be £94.5 per kilowatt but £120 or £130. He did not, however, make it plain that Lord Citrine's letter was not referring to this scheme. He was referring to the possible cost over the general scheme if the whole thing came into operation. On this scheme the figure of £94.5 per kilowatt is correct, and I challenge my hon. Friend to deny it.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I have here the schedule which Lord Citrine sent. In the case of the Dolgarrog extension, which cannot for normal purposes be regarded as a capital scheme on its own, the cost is £50 per kilowatt; in Ffestiniog the cost is £93 per kilowatt; in the case of Maentwrog, Lord Citrine could not give me a figure at all. The average overall cost is £122 according to Lord Citrine—
§ Mr. Raikes
Well, I challenged my hon. Friend and I am delighted that he should reply to my challenge. His reply does not alter by one iota what I have said, which is merely that on the scheme we are considering this evening the average as calculated by B.E.A. is £94.5, and not £120 to £130.
I will add only one further observation. It is all very well for my hon. Friend to talk about the cost of £60 per kilowatt for power stations as compared to the higher cost of a hydro-electric scheme. To get the figure right, like must be compared with like, and one must calculate and appreciate the difference in amortisation between a hydro-electric station of 85 years and 25 years for a power station, together with the cost of maintenance, and so on, to get a fair comparison. I merely comment that it is my view—I admit I may be wrong—that if like were taken with like the power station scheme would be a good deal nearer £130 than £60, taking everything into consideration.
Having crossed swords with my hon. Friend—and, after all, if this House is not the place to cross swords, what is it?—I should like to refer to the points made by the hon. Member for Caernarvon about the amenity situation. As one who lives in Wales, I appreciate, as I think all sides of the House do, the importance of preserving the beauties of Wales. I might even go so far as saying that, whatever may be the economic advantages of this scheme—and in my view they are considerable—if they were to mean that the beauties of Snowdonia are to be desecrated and destroyed, we might well say that it is not worth while. The hon. Member was honestly expressing very great anxieties. I am told that the British Electricity Authority is prepared to meet in a reasonable way in the Committee stage the sort of objections that have been put forward.
My objection to an instruction to the Committee is that if we laid something down it would tie the Committee's hands. If this Bill is given a Second Reading, it is for the Committee to go into the whole question of safeguards, and it also provides another opportunity for the British Electricity Authority and the local authorities to negotiate further on the subject and bring evidence before the Committee itself.
1505 May I, for a few moments take one or two of the points which have caused alarm. I am assured that there is no question of having open pipes and as far as transmission lines are concerned, where there are proper grounds for preserving the scenery they will be brought underground rather than have pylons erected, which are, of course, destructive of scenery. I am assured that the general desire is to meet those sort of points, which to my mind are really important Committee points and, which if we are not unreasonable, can be successfully dealt with.
There is the flow of water. The question arises of what is an adequate flow, and that again must, I think, be considered in Committee, when evidence can be taken. There is no question of principle involved here; it is simply a question of trying to balance things in such a way that there is the proper flow, and, at the same time, there is the advantage which many of us hoped for under this scheme.
Other points raised would be most valuable for consideration in the Committee stage, but I submit that, looking at the whole picture and at the possibility of considerably reducing the dependence of Wales upon outside electricity, this scheme has much to commend it. It has been suggested to me that we might avoid controversy on this matter and that we may also consider the fact that when we compare figure with figure hydro-electric schemes compare very favourably with the other kind of electrical production. We must also bear in mind that hydroelectric schemes are about 50 per cent. less when it comes to the cost of construction.
I say that this Bill should receive a Second Reading and should go upstairs to the Committee with the knowledge that in the Committee stage the amenity question must be properly dealt with in the interests of the Principality of Wales. I am convinced that it is only on those lines that we should permit the Bill to go forward.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
Some two years ago Lord Citrine and his officials on the Electricity Authority met the Welsh Members of all parties in this House for a preliminary discussion on this scheme. At that conference a number of 1506 us put to Lord Citrine very strongly the point that the Authority should do what they have done in this Bill, and submit to the House the least controversial part of the scheme. Many of us felt that if they went straight to the heart of the matter, which, in fact, is the heart of Snowdonia, they would have no chance whatever of giving to the people of Wales an opportunity of judging precisely what this scheme involves, not, I would submit, in comparison either with central Wales or with the North of Scotland, but in the limited context of Snowdonia and its neighbourhood.
The difficulty which we face is precisely that the area of Snowdonia is small and the margin of error very small indeed. If one makes a series of irreparable mistakes then one is damaging something for which all of us are trustees, and which we cannot lightly regard. Therefore, we advised Lord Citrine—and it was no sleight of hand on his part, as has been suggested by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro)—that he should do what he has done, which is to present to the House the less controversial scheme.
We said that we would have it most definitely understood that whatever decision might be reached on the scheme it should not be taken in any way as a precedent for the other schemes. I think that must be emphatically said by everyone, for these schemes must be treated on their merits. If, having seen the results of the schemes, whether the physical or the psychological results, we then feel perhaps more amicably disposed to one or other of the schemes—some will never get through—then they can be discussed later.
§ Mr. Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)
Do I understand from the hon. Lady's argument that the British Electricity Authority are willing to give time for this scheme to be seen and decided by public opinion, and are prepared to hold up the other ones for 10, 15 or 18 years if necessary?
§ Mrs. White
That is a matter for the British Electricity Authority, but they would be extremely ill-advised to bring in any other scheme until the scheme which we are discussing tonight has been completed. What the actual intention of the B.E.A. may be I cannot say, but I admit 1507 to the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Summers) that one cannot help, when discussing the scheme before us, thinking of the other ones as well, just as recently we were discussing Bechuanaland with South Africa at the back of our minds.
We should give this Bill a Second Reading. I have listened to the various arguments that have been put forward. The hon. Member for Kidderminster, for example, made great play with the power station in Connah's Quay, which is in my own constituency, and which as he said is now in the course of construction. It will be some time before it is in production.
As it is in my own constituency, I naturally took the opportunity when meeting officials of the B.E.A. to put to them the point mentioned by the hon. Member as to why they could not use Connah's Quay power station to supply the needs of North Wales rather than embark upon this hydro-electric scheme. I am not myself a technician and I cannot judge of the technical aspect. The reply I was given, it is only right to inform the House, was this—the Connah's Quay power station would be of some use in supplying the coast towns of North Wales but there would not be a great deal of output for use in other directions. There is a large atomic energy station not very far away, for which much of the power will be needed.
One of the major problems of the Connah's Quay power station, and the reason why it was suggested that it would not be working to the capacity mentioned by the hon. Member for Kidderminster, is that the coal used has to be hauled a very long way, a point to which the hon. Member for Kidderminster paid no attention whatever. The high costs of a steam power station are inevitable when coal has to be brought from a very long distance.
I was assured that the necessary coal of the right type would not be available from Wales or the Lancashire coalfields but would have to be brought from the Midlands. Although we may have further information tonight from the Minister, in the view of the Electricity Authority, Connah's Quay was not in itself the full answer to the needs of North Wales.
1508 I would like to emphasise that all of us in North Wales are very much concerned that we should be fully assured that North Wales will have a full share of the electricity generated. After all the Scottish hydro-electric scheme attained its popularity, I understand, because the people of the Highlands were assured that whilst there would be some export they would have the benefit. We have not had from any quarter the fullest assurances, not only that North Wales will have a reasonable share of the current but that the price will be equitable as well, and that there will be satisfactory distribution arrangements.
What has held up rural electrification is not just generation of the power but the whole apparatus of distributing that power in rather difficult rural areas. Are we to be assured that the B.E.A., if they receive permission to go on with the scheme, will indicate that they will do something perhaps a little extra for North Wales in the matter of rural electrification, because that would sugar the pill quite considerably?
I do not wish to take too much time, because other hon. Members wish to make their contributions on the Bill, but I would like to say to the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) that if the British Electricity Authority are prepared to be so amenable and so complaisant in all these matters, why did they not have the Bill so drafted that we did not have to bring up all these complaints?
After all, this matter has not only been discussed for many years in the Principality, but in this House almost two years ago we discussed these very points with Lord Citrine and the highest officials of the authority. Surely, if they were in earnest in this matter of consulting the feelings of the people of North Wales, they would have given instructions to their draftsman to draw up a Bill which would meet us in advance. Had they done that it would not be necessary to put to the Committee the instructions upon the Order Paper.
How can one really take seriously the idea that the Authority are in earnest about their concern for planning when, as my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) pointed out, they have produced the Bill with a Clause in it like Clause 6? I will not 1509 weary the House with reading out the various types of installation, buildings, etc., which may be erected by the Authority under the Bill as it now stands without reference to anybody whatsoever. The Authority are complete judges in their own cause, as again in Clause 23, in the matter of building generating stations.
That kind of thing makes it difficult for those of us, of whom I am one, who, in general terms, would not be opposed to the Bill, when we face those outside who do oppose the Bill. We are confronted with the argument, "Yes, but if they really mean what they say surely they would have seen that the Bill, produced after all these months of discussion, was more in keeping with the protestations that they made, of care for public opinion."
I would end on that note. It is partly a matter of public opinion. On some of the technical aspects and the physical aspects, such as the conservation of water and so on, we are uncertain, but there is no doubt that if the scheme is to be a success and is not to be obstructed at various points the feelings of the people of North Wales should be more closely consulted.
One should not be left with the feeling that this is an extraneous body trying to carry out a scheme of its own, a scheme which is not really part of the development of the Wales for which we care so much. I hope that after the debate we shall pass the Bill, but that the Committee will see that the suggestions made are followed up. Otherwise, there is no doubt that we shall be obliged to reject the Bill on Third Reading.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Watkinson (Woking)
I support the Second Reading of the Bill. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) is not in his place. I warned him that I was going to deal with his speech, so that I do not feel any compunction in doing so.
I congratulate the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) on the presentation of the Connah's Quay point, which is one of the most important in estimating the relevant merits of thermal stations and hydro stations. So many of these thermal stations are inaccessible, so far as coal is concerned, and that makes 1510 nonsense of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster on the question of relative costs. It is not a bit of use having a thermal station if it costs a fantastic sum to get coal to it.
I would come to another point which I think is of interest, and perhaps is the major point in discussing the Second Reading of the Bill. Although I cannot claim to be an inhabitant of that delightful corner of North Wales, I have, with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, scrambled up most of its crags and gullies, and I would say that anybody who has tried to get up Great Gully, on Craig-y-Ysfa, on a wet day will not disagree when I say that whatever else that district has or has not, it has a plentiful supply of water. Are we to allow that natural resource to go to waste or are we to use it in the national interest and in the interest of the people of that part of Wales?
I would now refer to a point which largely destroys the case put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster. He very carefully did not say that at the recent World Power Conference it was stated on the best information available, that the total coal resources of this country were estimated to last only 200 years, at the present rate of extraction. We all know that if we are to meet the constantly rising curve of electricity and power consumption that the rate of extraction has to increase very materially, but even at the present rate we have only 200 years of life for our coal industry. Surely on those grounds we must give the most careful consideration to any possible means of supplementing our power resources. I believe that here, in North Wales, we have a possible and practicable way of doing that very thing.
§ Mr. Joseph T. Price (Westhoughton)
I invite the hon. Gentleman to give the House his views on the possible development of atomic energy in the next 200 years, which may see the expiring of our coal resources. It is very germane to the argument.
§ Mr. Watkinson
Yes, I thank the hon. Member; I was just coming to that very point. Whatever the prospects are for an atom scheme or schemes, although I know there is a pilot scheme operating at Harwell which will raise steam, one 1511 has yet to be built with a normal operating basis, and we have yet to find out what the cost of it would be and even whether it would be a feasible proposition to replace the present thermal coal power station by an atomic power station. In the meantime, we should be foolish if we neglected to develop any other source of power.
I listened to the hon. Member for Kidderminster in the Scottish debate when he admitted that the cost of thermal or hydro-generation is about the same. Apparently his only objection is that he claims that it is, in effect, a wasteful use of our resources to spend £30 million or £40 million, which ever way one looks at the scheme, on developing it. Let us examine that for a moment, with the background that coal is a wasting asset while water, particularly in North Wales, is an asset in perpetuity—
§ Sir Geoffrey Hutchinson (Ilford, North)
One of the things that this Bill proposes to do is to divert the surplus water supplies into Cardigan Bay, where they will be of no value to anybody.
§ Mr. Watkinson
If I may quarrel with my hon. and learned Friend, that was not my reading of the Bill because, by the time the water are diverted into Cardigan Bay, they will have fulfilled both their functions, namely, the generation of power and, what is more important, the maintenance of flow in the present rivers and streams. After all, it is an obligation on the Authority that they shall preserve the measure of flow laid down in the Bill. Also, I think it follows from my reading of the Bill that they would have an obligation to keep that flow going in dry months—
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood
I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that there is no obligation on the Authority to maintain any flow at all in the rivers and streams which are not mentioned in Clause 15 while, in the case of the rivers mentioned therein, the flow in some cases will be reduced to 6 per cent. or 7 per cent. of the normal flow.
§ Mr. Watkinson
The hon. Gentleman has made the point very nicely, that the right thing to do is to give this Bill a Second Reading and to send it upstairs where these points can be thrashed out in Committee.
1512 I made that reference to the streams in answer to the interjection of my hon. and learned Friend, but the point I am dealing with is that in the national interest, and in the interest of the people of North Wales, we must not throw this scheme on one side. That is what we shall do if we reject the Second Reading of this Bill without the most careful consideration. In giving a Second Reading to this Bill I am only prepared to accept the principle that this is a national asset of which we must make use, but we must surround it with appropriate safeguards.
In answer to the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts), he, like myself perhaps, has sometimes enjoyed visits to Switzerland, which lives not only on its tourist trade but also on the generation of power from hydro-electric schemes. They have there a very fine synthesis of a good hydro-electric industry without in any way interfering with the amenities of the countryside from the tourist or any other point of view. I believe that could be done in North Wales with proper safeguards inserted during the Committee stage of the Bill.
§ Mr. Watkinson
In reply, I would ask my hon. Friend on how many mountains in Switzerland can one find a hydroelectric scheme at 15,000 feet? Now may I deal briefly with one or two other technical points, after which I will sit down to make way for other hon. Members who wish to speak.
There are one or two other important points which should be dealt with to support what I believe is the necessity for a hydro-electric scheme, unless it is claimed that it will ruin the district as a whole, which no other hon. Member has yet endeavoured to contend. It is absolute nonsense to suggest that the life of a hydro-electric scheme can be in any way compared with the life of thermal station. A thermal station starts with 1513 an efficiency of about 30 per cent. By the time it is about 10 years old it is completely outdated, and by that time, if other schemes have been developed properly, efficiency is of the nature of only about 20 per cent. of that of a new scheme. A hydro scheme, however, is rather different. I know of one in Sweden that was built in 1910 and is still giving absolute satisfaction. What is more, it has had no major replacement plant.
Compare that with the difficulties of a thermal station, which needs heavy and constant maintenance. Compare the number of skilled maintenance men employed in a thermal station with those engaged in a hydro-electric scheme. The difference is very significant to a country which is short of skilled manpower. Compare, for example, the wear on the turbine runner, the main moving part of a hydro-electric scheme. After many years' service, there is only a very slight cavitation, which can be cured by lifting out the runner, doing a little welding and re-grinding it, and when it is put back the runner is good for probably another 20 to 30 years. That is a very great difference from the problem presented by the turbo-alternator in a thermal power station.
We are desperately short of many things in this country and are short, too, of many of the things which go into thermal power stations. We are short of valves, boiler plant and equipment, and a great many other things which must be provided for a thermal station but which are not needed in a hydro-electric scheme. In a hydro-electric scheme, there is a need for plenty of concrete—cement is not in too short supply—but only a very limited quantity of steel. Building is done with natural materials, which, in many cases, can be provided locally. From what I have seen in Scotland, Switzerland and in other countries, I maintain that if a hydroelectric scheme is built well, there is no interference in any way with amenities; in fact, in some cases they can be improved.
§ Mr. Watkinson
Perhaps, in the Summer Recess, if we have one, my hon. Friend would like to come to Switzerland with me, where I will prove my case and he can pay for it.
1514 I hope I have shown that the case made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster, on the narrow technical aspect, is not quite as persuasive as it appeared when he made it in his own inimitable fashion. I think he was doing what in the language of the Navy would be termed "blinding the House with a little not very accurate science." I hope, therefore, that in considering the Second Reading of the Bill, the House will not take too much account of the very powerful tones in which my hon. Friend asked for the rejection of the Bill on purely technical grounds. They simply do not exist. I am sorry that he is not present to hear me say so, although I gave warning that I proposed to say this. If we are to consider the thing in terms of capital assets, I put my money into the hydro scheme every time.
I hope that with that in view, the House will give what might be called a conditional Second Reading to the Bill and will be determined to secure the wellbeing of that most beautiful part of the country. Nobody wants to do that more than I.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
I support the Second Reading of the Bill Like the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Watkinson), I completely reject the argument of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). If it were valid, it would have been decisive against the hydro-electric schemes in Northern Scotland, which have, in fact, proved to be a magnificent investment for the nation. Capital cost, even at £200 per kilowatt, makes it a very good investment on present prices, and, as has been said, much of the capital resources and most of the labour required for hydro-electric schemes could not be used for making coal-using power stations.
I had to deal with this matter when I had the honour of holding the office of Minister of Fuel and Power. I regard it as a very important question, to which the House is right to devote the most careful attention. I tried to treat it as very important. I had many consultations with the National Trust, the National Parks Commission and others. I paid two visits to North Wales to look at the thing myself. I went once with the engineers of the B.E.A., who showed me the 1515 existing hydro-electric schemes—the stations and their work—the extensions of those schemes which are now proposed, and the plans for new projects. Then, I went by myself, with no companion but the large-scale maps on which the existing works and those projected were shown.
After that I went to Scotland to see what has been done there. I wanted to study on the spot the social and economic results of hydro-electricity in Scotland. I wanted to examine how the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board had dealt with the amenity problem, the problem of preserving the beauty of the countryside, with which they had inevitably been confronted in their work.
I do not want to dwell on the economic and social results they have obtained. As everyone knows, they are remarkable. As my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn) said, not long ago, they have arrested the depopulation of the Highland Glens and are helping to repopulate some land which had been abandoned. Electricity is being increasingly used in agriculture. If it could be used for drying grass it might make a major contribution to the problem of meat production in this country.
I believe that it can be so used. Above all, electricity is transforming the lives of the people who live there. Think of what it means to a Scottish family when electricity comes into a crofter's or a shepherd's home.
§ Mr. H. Fraser
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us how much it would cost the shepherd or crofter for it to come into his home?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
The shepherds and crofters are extremely anxious to have it, as it would bring them light, hot water, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, wireless and television some day soon.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Television, some day. It transforms the life of the housewife and of the family.
1516 I believe that the North of Scotland Board is beginning to make a great contribution to our peak load problem, that is, to the general resources of the B.E.A. Their present installed capacity is 900 megowatts and it will soon be much more. It is sometimes said that it will help to establish industries in the Highlands. There, I confess, I have mental reservations. An extension of the holiday and tourist industry, yes, certainly electricity would greatly help, and I believe that to be immensely in the interests, not only of the Highlands, but of the country as a whole. About other industries I have grave doubts. But, in general, the social and economic side of the results in Scotland must be carefully studied in relation to the projects for North Wales.
So, also, must we study their work in preserving the beauty of the countryside. They have made great progress in that since they began their operations, and constantly they have had two objectives in view—so far as possible not to change the character of the country; and, second, where changes are inevitable, to do as little as possible to spoil existing beauty, and as much as possible to create new beauty. I think that in both those purposes they have been notably successful.
I will mention a few points on which criticism by those who care about the countryside has in the past been concentrated. It is said that the power stations and other buildings destroy the beauty of the country. The North of Scotland Board's power stations and workers' houses have been built in stone. Indeed, Mr. Tom Johnston and his colleagues have done magnificent work in opening quarries, getting new apprentices as stone masons and reviving in Scotland building in stone, which was dying out. They have done splendid work in siting and surrounding all their buildings, their power stations and their workers' houses, with trees and grass and so far as possible they have done everything that can be done to make the places as beautiful as they can be.
Some stations they have succeeded in putting underground, so that when people go along the valley they hardly know there is a station there at all. They have made dams, and some of them are noble structures. I defy anybody to 1517 go to Loch Sloy and not think that the dam there is a noble structure. Some of their artificial lakes, like the one which exists at Maentwrog, are things of beauty; and as for the piscatorial reasons advanced by the hon. Member for Kidderminster I am certain that the Scottish Board have produced more fishing than they have destroyed.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The right hon. Gentleman was kind enough to refer to my piscatorial interests. I have been a member of the River Dee Catchment Board which has one of the most famous salmon fisheries in the country, and the water abstracted for industrial manufacturing purposes is one of the principal reasons for the decline in the value of the salmon fisheries.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
That bears absolutely no relation to the creation of artificial lakes in Scotland, where the Scottish Board have provided a lot of new fishing which did not exist before.
Pipelines are an eyesore to those who love the country. I hate them and think that new pipelines are a grievous objection to any scheme. But in Scotland they have begun to make tunnels instead. They do not cost any more and are more advantageous in other ways. They are using mechanical stone cutters such as are used in Eastern Germany, and I believe now in Western Germany, for cutting roadways in coal mines.
There is, of course, the problem of the spoil from the tunnels, and some people have said, "How can you fail to destroy the beauty of a place if you have an enormous pile of rock?" What do they do in Scotland? They put it in a valley where it is only seen from a very few places, cover it with soil and seed it was grass. In a very short time it becomes a new natural feature and, unless one had known the country before, one would not know it was there.
The leats, or artificial water courses, are sometimes regarded as eyesores. In Scotland they have found it possible and even advantageous, to cover them, so that they are hardly seen at all. Small streams may be diverted, but, again, it is hardly possible to know it had been done. The objection to the leat is largely overcome. As for the diversion of rivers and streams, particularly from 1518 beauty spots, they have determined a minimum flow and, in some places, even when the flow was at its lowest I should not have known that water had been taken away unless I had been told.
Then there are the transmission lines, which I regard as by far the gravest threat to the amenities. In certain special beauty spots the Scottish Board have put transmission lines underground. But that is extremely costly, and there are places in Scotland where, as I think, the country is gravely spoilt by the lines of pylons which the Board have put up.
§ Mr. Watkinson
The right hon. Gentleman will agree that the problem of transmission lines remains whether electricity is generated thermally or whether it is generated hydro-electrically.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
It is the same. The problem is whether the electricity is to be generated in a given place or not. The type of transmission line depends on the quantities which are to be generated.
How does all this apply to North Wales? I submit that North Wales presents an entirely different problem from Scotland. The people in North Wales, of course, should get electricity for their farms and homes, and nobody wishes to deny it to them. But North Wales is not Scotland; there are not the same great open spaces of untouched country. It is a very small piece of lovely scenery, of matchless beauty, all of it visited by enormous numbers of walkers, mountaineers and tourists, including a greatly increasing number of dollar tourists.
I believe that from all the schemes put forward for North Wales the maximum installed capacity could not be above 350 megawatts. Last year, the British Electricity Authority installed 1,113 megawatts, so that this is a relatively very small contribution to the resources of the nation. I believe that it would be utterly grotesque to think of industrialising this area. It would be economic nonsense to do anything which would noticeably reduce its natural beauty; and, certainly, I think that we ought not to do it for the purpose of producing electricity for export to the rest of the nation.
Applying these principles when I held the office of Minister of Fuel and Power. I came to the conclusion that many of 1519 the schemes which had been put forward were open to decisive objection. I believe that a dam, or an artificial lake, near the Gladstone Stone in Snowdon would be a desecration. I believe that a diversion of water from the Fairy Glen and the Swallow Falls, near Bettws-y-Coed, would be utterly wrong. I see grave objection to the Mawddach scheme and to placing lines of pylons across a lovely mountainside. I think that, whatever scheme is adopted, whether it is the schemes in this Bill or others, the best Scottish practice about tunnels instead of pipelines, covered leats, and so on, should certainly be adopted, even if it does add something to the cost.
I believe that the three schemes proposed in this Bill, if carried out in the way I have suggested—the Dolgarrog extension, the Maentwrog extension and the Ffestiniog station—are not open to serious objection. The National Parks Commission advised me that they take that view, and I believe that many of my hon. Friends share it. I believe that these three schemes will provide the additional electricity required for this area, and I believe it can be distributed without putting up unsightly pylons.
For these reasons, I decided, shortly before the General Election, that I would agree to the introduction of Bill to promote these three schemes.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I never saw the Bill, because the General Election followed, but I have considered very carefully the instruction put down by my hon. Friends. As at present advised, I am strongly in favour of this instruction, and, on those terms, I favour the Second Reading of this Bill. But it is not, in my view, a precedent for any of the other schemes which have been proposed. When I agreed to these three projects, I warned everybody in the clearest terms that, if I continued to hold that office, I would probably not agree, either then or in the future, to any other scheme.
Throughout, I followed one guiding principle: that there is something here at stake which is far more important than the immediate economic saving we could make. This lovely mountain country is sacred to the people of Wales. It is a 1520 priceless possession for the people of Britain as a whole. Through the centuries, the natural beauty of our islands has been the inspiration of our national greatness. Let us do nothing now or later to imperil or destroy that heritage.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas (Conway)
I was very pleased to hear that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker), holds very much the same view as I do about this part of North Wales. I am also very happy to say that, in this debate, as indeed in many others on Welsh affairs, one is able to go over the points without party controversy and join forces occasionally with people with whom one does not normally agree. I find that, in fact, I am in complete accord with practically everything that has been said by the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) and the hon. Lady who represents Flint, East (Mrs. White), and I am happy to think that hon. Members of this House who represent constituencies in that area have attained a large measure of agreement in this matter.
We have heard hon. Members tonight express their interest in this debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), who opened it, stated that he was interested in this matter because he is a native of Wales. Other hon. Members have stated that they are interested in the matter because they have either been climbing on the mountains of Snowdonia or else have lived for a time in Wales.
I want to announce my interest in this matter. Indeed, I have two interests. The first is that I represent a constituency which contains one of these schemes, and the second is that I was born within a few miles of these three schemes and know them very well. I think that, possibly, the hon. Member for Caernarvon and I know that part of the world as well as anybody.
We have heard about Scotland. We have also been told about the proposed hydro-electric schemes for the whole of this area. I agree with the hon. Member for Caernarvon that we must not regard these three schemes in isolation, although for the purpose of this debate I shall confine myself to what is contained in this Bill. The right hon. Member for Derby, South, talked about the beauty 1521 of hydro-electric schemes in Scotland. It is very difficult to see the beauty in the hydro-electric works proposed in the three schemes contained in this Bill.
I would remind the House what the three schemes are. There will be an extension of an existing power station in Dolgarrog by a five-mile leat. This will cut across two rivers, the Afon Ro and the Afon Dulyn, two rivers well known to many around that area. They are indeed charming rivers and pass through extremely picturesque and beautiful surroundings. The other scheme is that of Maentwrog. That, again, is an extension of an existing hydro-electric work, and is just another five-mile leat. How those two schemes can be made beautiful, I cannot understand at all.
The third is the creation of a new hydro-electric scheme in Ffestiniog. Most of the work is to be around Blaenau Ffestiniog, which is not a particularly beautiful area. But there are to be one or two disturbing constructional works, such as the power station and subsidiary buildings in the valley of Ffestiniog, which is indeed a most beautiful part of Wales.
Very few people have paid much attention to the fact that two of these schemes are wholly and one partly in the newly designated National Park of North Wales. I want to stress that matter because it is a point of great importance in this debate. We have been told that this Bill is merely the forerunner of various other schemes which the British Electricity Authority propose, and, indeed, I believe that is so.
I was very interested to hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Garston (Mr. Raikes) that the British Electricity Authority are now prepared to do all they can to meet our objections, that they will go before the Select Committee and that they will give way on many points. For that reason alone it appears to me that this debate has been worth while.
I and hon. Members opposite have been interested in this matter for some time, and we have certainly had no assurance until today. That being so, I should be very happy to see this Bill go before the Select Committee. Nevertheless, I should be happier still if I thought we also had an instruction from this House to assist the Select Committee to act in 1522 happy accord with the B.E.A., who no doubt will do all they can to further our wishes in this matter.
We have heard about the value and the disadvantage of hydro-electric power. Both have been put very simply and exactly by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). I should like to speak about the effect of these three schemes on the community as a whole. First, I think we are entitled to have regard to the effect of these schemes on Britain; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South, said their effect on Britain would be negligible.
Second, what is to be their effect on North Wales? We hope that at full capacity they will assist the industrial parts of North Wales, round Wrexham and the industrial border; but the effect will be practically unfelt, because all these schemes are small and cannot produce sufficient electricity to make any appreciable difference to that area.
Third, what will be the effect on Caernarvonshire and Merioneth? These schemes will all be within those two counties, and I ask the House to consider exactly what it will mean to have a tremendous undertaking like this in what is in fact a rural area.
The objections to this Bill are well known to the House. I ask the House what benefit Caernarvonshire and Merioneth and their immediate areas will receive from the Bill, and what will be the disadvantages. We have heard about the supply of electricity to the rural areas of North Wales. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South, mentioned that point, and said that in Scotland people are now happily provided with plenty of electricity and are looking forward to having television shows.
It is well-known that we need electricity in the rural areas of North Wales, especially in Caernarvonshire and Merioneth. If I thought that this Bill would bring electricity to those rural areas, I should give it my very hearty support; but the problem in North Wales is not one of generating electricity. There are not many people in the rural areas of Wales, and the problem is, and has been for some time, one of distribution. It seems to me that the supply of electricity in the rural areas of North Wales will be 1523 set back further if this Bill goes forward, because if we embark on expensive schemes like this we shall defer distribution from our existing supply stations.
It is obvious that what is intended to be done at Maentwrog and Dolgarrog is to supply the grid for the benefit of the industrial areas, either in North Wales or over the border, during peak periods. We must disabuse our minds of any idea that the people in the rural areas of North Wales will derive any benefit from that.
It is very important that we should have ample electricity in Ffestiniog, and indeed there is a great demand for it there. I hope that this Bill will mean that there will be more electricity available for that area. If it does, I shall welcome that part of the Bill, because, as a result of the Bill, new works will be provided and a new station will be built. I hope that the Authority will have regard to the priority of the local people, and I hope that they will help to build up industry around Ffestiniog. Apart from this, on the whole we can expect little in Caernarvonshire and Merioneth from this enterprise, because most of the benefit will go away from us to the industrial belt.
As to the water supply, my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Watkinson) mentioned that the British Electricity Authority are very happy to allow adequate compensation water and a minimum flow in the rivers, but if the Bill is studied one finds the following figures. In 11½ square miles of land to be intercepted by the River Eden in the Maentwrog scheme only 6 per cent. of the average daily flow will be left. In 5¾ square miles of land to be intercepted by the leat in the Dolgarrog scheme the amount of water in named streams—the unnamed will be completely dry—is to be 6 per cent. In the whole of the Ffestiniog area the water left in the streams is to be 7 per cent.
It is obvious that this is totally inadequate. One must have regard to the requirements of the riparian owners—the farmers—of that area. There is also another most important point. It is not just a question of people coming from England to view the beautiful scenery in North Wales; it is an industry. We must have regard to the tourist industry, and 1524 it is essential that we should have at least one-third of the average daily flow left in the streams.
I consider this a very important matter. I agree that the Select Committee must—it is bound to by Standing Order No. 160—go into these matters and must report back to the House about the water question. Nevertheless it is right that the House should ventilate its opinions about the matter so that the Select Committee will know that the amount of water envisaged at the moment is regarded as derisory.
The hon. Member for Caernarvon mentioned a grave objection to the Bill. It is an objection which I feel deeply. It is the planning and amenities objection. It is astounding that a statutory authority like the British Electricity Authority can bring forward a Bill which attempts to strip all the planning powers from local authorities.
The hon. Member referred to Clauses 6 (a and b), 8 (1 and 2) and 23 (2), which completely brush aside the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, the National Parks (Access to Mountains) Act and the River Boards Act. It is essential that something should be done about those Clauses on the Committee stage.
I should like to go even further than that. The permitted development which is allowed to these statutory authorities under the General Development Order, 1950, should be withdrawn by the Select Committee, because it is too dangerous as the Bill is at present drawn. No permitted development should be allowed to the B.E.A. in this case. Instead, it should be entirely in the hands of the local planning authority—the local county councils—or a joint board, or a joint advisory committee, we hope, for the Snowdonia National Park.
I am sorry I have delayed the House for so long, and I should like to end by saying that I feel it would be in the interests of those planning authorities if they were assisted in this matter, because there is something new within the planning district now. They could be assisted by an amenities committee, set up by the Minister and composed of people who know the requirements of, and the objections to, hydro-electric works. It could advise the Minister and advise the planning authorities and the B.E.A.
1525 In conclusion, I would say that the Bill as it stands is open to serious objections. It has been a severe threat to the Snowdonia National Park and to some of the main principles of the National Park system, and I think it establishes damaging precedents for the future. I do not wish to object to a Second Reading, but I hope that the voice of the House will carry to the Select Committee so that the necessary Amendments can be made.
§ 9.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Mongomery)
I intervene for only a few moments. It is a pleasure to follow a fellow Welshman. We are a very tolerant and very good-natured people in Wales and it seems to me that our good nature has been rather heavily trespassed upon tonight, for there have been eight speeches, of which four have been made by Members who, if they go to Wales at all, go during July and August and then think they are really acquainted with our country.
This is a Bill which primarily and mainly concerns Wales, and North Wales in particular, and the supply of electricity to North Wales and to rural Wales, for which so many of us have been asking and about which we have been agitating for so many years.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood
Could the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell the House which of the Clauses provides for the supply of electricity to rural Wales?
§ Mr. Davies
It provides for the production of electricity in Wales, which I hope will be used for Wales. Too often we have been supplying electricity, water and coal across the border, and we should also consider our own supply. We have been very anxious about this matter for a very long time, and especially about supplies of electricity to our villages, to our cottages and to our farms.
As I have only a few moments, may I at once deal with some of the objections? I was surprised at the objections made by the two hon. Members representing the County of Caernarvon and I interrupted to suggest that they were drawing upon their imaginations. If they had been to see what has been done in 1526 other places, I do not think they would have said what they did say. I gave instances of what had happened in mid-Wales, in an area within their reach. I agree that what has been done there is not to supply water to Wales. We are supplying Liverpool and Birmingham with water, but here I suggest that we ought to supply electricity for ourselves, as well.
When one goes to see these places, they are real beauty spots. My own county is a very beautiful county, but if an hon. Member comes to stay with me, as some right hon. and hon. Members have done, and I want to take them on a special visit where they can see beautiful sights, I usually take them to Lake Vyrnwy, in the Llanwyddyn Valley. The same thing applies to the southern part of the county, in the Rhaiadr Valley. They are both beautiful.
Then there is the suggestion that water is being drained away. Well, we have at Lake Vyrnwy drained water from an adjoining valley by tunnelling underneath, and there is no eyesore whatsoever, nor is there a noticeable deprivation of water for our use. In fact, we still suffer from too much water, especially in the lower valleys.
§ Mr. Davies
In the wrong places. We have had deputations to see Ministers on the question whether more of these head waters could not be blocked and so help to lessen the amount of flooding from which we still suffer.
Both the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) and the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) referred to the anxiety of the local authorities about planning. I am delighted to hear it. The local authorities must have changed a very great deal in these last few years, because the amount of planning that has been done by local authorities, or their concern about amenities or anything else, was non-existent in 1937 when I went through Caernarvon. Anything which shows an improvement in that way is certainly to be encouraged and admired.
The answer to the intervention of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) was supplied by another hon. Member above the Gangway; but the hon. Member for 1527 Kidderminster was not here to hear his own figures being demolished, so I will not go into that. What is more, the hon. Member was given notice that his figures would be demolished—
§ Mr. Nabarro
To be quite truthful, I went upstairs to the HANSARD office to check my speech before it went to print. Not a single figure of mine has yet been demolished.
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. Member was not here to know what was done. He absented himself. At present we are short of coal and anything which can bring heat, light and power without the necessity of getting coal should have the support of us all, and those people who are still against the use of water power should volunteer to go down and get more coal themselves. Anything which will relieve the miner from having to go down into the bowels of the earth should have the full support of everybody in the House. Whatever Amendments may have to be made to this Bill in Committee, on the general principle it should receive the unanimous assent of this House.
§ 9.19 p.m.
§ The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)
The House usually likes to hear a few words from a Government spokesman on a Private Bill and I think there are one or two reasons why this is particularly the case in the present Bill. First of all, under the Electricity Act, the British Electricity Authority have to get the permission of the Minister of Fuel and Power before they can promote any Private Bill and, as we have heard tonight, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) gave his consent and I confirmed it. That is a reason why I think the Government should make a statement to the House.
Secondly, the British Electricity Authority, as a nationalised industry, have not felt themselves able to do all the things which the normal promoter of a Private Bill would do when it is coming before the House for Second Reading. I think that that is one of the reasons why we have had a certain amount not only of misunderstanding but of talking at cross-purposes, in our discussion tonight. I think that is particularly so with regard 1528 to what I consider to be the most important subjects we have discussed—with all due deference to the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro)—the questions of amenity and water.
Normally, as we all know, the promoter of a Private Bill arranges through his Parliamentary agents for certain Members to take up the case, and actually enters into negotiations with the Members who have objections. A certain process of negotiations takes place, even before the Second Reading is reached. In this case, all that process of, so to speak, promotion and negotiation has not taken place. I think the House will probably agree that that is right, because there is a certain objection in principle, I believe, to a nationalised industry getting into the position where it is promoting even a Private Bill with the dangers of having so to speak, a Parliamentary connection. Therefore, one has a certain sympathy with them, and the Government ought to come in a little to explain the consultations that have taken place, which normally would have been known to the House already.
Perhaps I ought to say one word on the general question of economic policy raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster. He always makes such stimulating contributions to our debates on fuel efficiency—so much so that, considering how interested the Department is in fuel efficiency, I at one time came to regard him as the Ministry's secret weapon because of the advance publicity which he gave to the ideas upon which we were so keen. In this case, his technical enthusiasm has been answered by a number of my hon. Friends. Naturally, the hon. Gentleman would not feel that he has been answered sufficiently—
§ Mr. Lloyd
My hon. Friend says they are not qualified to answer, but, after all, in this House we are not engineers or technicians. We normally proceed, as I think we must, on the basis of taking the expert advice we receive from the duly authorised technicians whom we are able to consult. It might interest the House if I said a few words on that aspect. I take the case of Ffestiniog because I think it is a good typical example which brings out the issues rather well. The capital cost of the Ffestiniog scheme is 1529 £3,325,000. For an equivalent steam installation, the capital cost would be £2,358,000. Therefore, the hydro-electric scheme costs about £1 million more. The running cost of the hydro-electric scheme is £21,000 a year. The running cost of the steam system, because of the cost of fuel, would be £265,000 a year.
In the case of Connah's Quay, if my hon. Friend were right the fuel would probably have to come from the Midlands and there would be the rather costly and difficult question of transportation, and I do not think we could get the problem solved with quite the case which he suggested. I appeal rather to his technical conscience. Does he really feel it could be solved by increasing the load factor of the Connah's Quay station? After all, what is increasing the load factor? It is not increasing the size of the station: it is only running the station for a larger proportion of the year—which, incidentally, means running it for a larger proportion of the day and night.
In effect, his solution, carried to its logical extreme, would be to provide extra electric power in North Wales, but to provide it in the middle of the night at a time when nobody wanted it at all. That would be the effect, carried to its logical conclusion, of merely raising the load factor. My hon. Friend would have to double the size of the station, which I am advised is not possible in the site involved, and would cost about £11 million.
§ Mr. Lloyd
If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I really must pass on.
I think we must accept the view of the technicians who, at any rate, advise me that there is a perfectly good business proposition involved in these schemes, as was, indeed, the view not only of the British Electricity Authority but of the North Wales Power Company before, so that we have here an extraordinary measure of agreement between private enterprise, a nationalised industry, and a famous firm of engineering consultants who have made electric power stations and hydro-electric schemes in other parts of the world, and also, incidentally, erected the Sydney Bridge.
This House has a reasonable technical basis to go on, and we ought to regard this as a reasonably business-like scheme, 1530 but it is the amenity questions which are the important and practical ones. Here I should like to say at once that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has been in touch with the British Electricity Authority and with my Department, and the result is that the Authority wish to put back—there is no question of them being forced—into the Bill the ordinary planning Clause, which is the standard form for planning in Private Bills. I believe that the House would find that that would be a more convenient and workable system than a special instruction of an amenity committee, because it brings every building or work authorised by the Bill within the category of developments, which are specially treated under a general development order based on the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act.
The order, in terms, permits all forms of development authorised by a private Act and specified both as to their nature and the land on which they are to take place in the Act. But it restores control, which operates in respect of the erection, construction, alteration or extension of any building, including any bridge, aqueduct, pier, or dam, or the formation, laying out or alteration of a means of access to any road used by traffic, and so on. The local planning authority would thus come back into the picture.
We think that some further safeguards are necessary beyond what would be specified in some of the instructions and beyond what would follow naturally from the reinsertion in the Bill of this standard planning Clause. We think it should be obligatory on the British Electricity Authority to consult the Royal Fine Art Commission and the National Parks Commission about building and other works, and they ought to employ a landscape consultant, whose advice ought to be available not only to the British Electricity Authority but also to the National Parks Commission.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
This is very important so far as our attitude and interest in amenity is concerned, but does it mean that there should be the approval as well as the advice of the Royal Fine Art Commission, and, secondly, would the National Parks Commission be referred to in the matter of the whole question of landscape alteration or treatment?
§ Mr. Lloyd
It is consultation, and I do not think we were actually considering going so far as to make it mandatory. I think that would be going a little further than is really required.
Another matter which we consider to be of considerable importance is the treatment of spoil arising from the excavations and the treatment of the banks of leats, fences, walls, and so on. Then, in the last resort, if there was a dispute between the British Electricity Authority and the local planning authority we think that proper provision should be made for reference of the whole dispute to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government and myself for final decision, which would give to this House a status in connection with the matter.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I am sure we have all listened with great interest to what the right hon. Gentleman has said and we are deeply grateful to him. In the course of his statements he has referred to the British Electricity Authority and then to "we." He said that the British Electricity Authority agree and then, "we" should do this and do that. Are we to take it from what he is saying now that the British Electricity Authority as well as the Ministry will be in favour of putting this into the Bill at a later stage?
§ Mr. Lloyd
Yes, Sir, certainly. Perhaps I may finish by referring to the question of water. It really is not necessary, as I am advised, to have a special instruction in regard to water, because this House has had to deal with this water problem many times before on other occasions. There is a Standing Order, No. 160, which I will not quote because I do not think the House would
§ want me to go into that degree of detail, which gives very special powers and instructions to the Committee to deal with the question of water and to see that the matter is properly dealt with in the Committee.
§ There, also, we thought—when I say "we" I mean that the British Electricity Authority have agreed partly as a result of representations which we thought fit to make—that in the last resort in some of these cases there should again be references in regard to any dispute to the Ministers whom I have previously mentioned.
§ In those circumstances I feel, although this is not a Government Bill, that I may say that the British Electricity Authority have been carrying out their duties in regard to the economical provision of electricity by bringing forward the Bill. It is the duty of the Government, in view of the responsibility upon the Minister of Fuel and Power, under the Fuel and Power Act, to give their permission for the Bill to come before the House. In all the circumstances, having regard to the fact that the Bill is really what we all want to see, if the amenity objections are fully met in Committee—because this is one of the great national shrines of Wales and indeed of all our islands—I advise the House to agree to the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Question put accordingly, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 200; Noes, 40.1533
|Division No. 58.]||AYES||[9.33 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Brooman-White, R. C.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Crouch, R. F.|
|Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell)||Browne, Jack (Govan)||Cullen, Mrs. A.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Bullard, D. G.||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Burden, F. F. A.||Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)|
|Banks, Col. C.||Burke, W. A.||Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)|
|Bence, C. R.||Champion, A. J.||Deer, G.|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Chetwynd, G. R.||Delargy, H. J.|
|Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston)||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Donaldson, Comdr. C. E. McA.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Donnelly, D. L.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Cocks, F. S.||Donner, P. W.|
|Blackburn, F.||Colegate, W. A.||Drewe, C.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Collick, P. H.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Duthie, W. S.|
|Boardman, H.||Cook, T. F.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Bowden, H. W.||Cove, W. G.||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Fernyhough, E.|
|Field, W. J.||Kinley, J.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)|
|Fienburgh, W.||Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Finch, H. J.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Fisher, Nigel||Lewis, Arthur||Ross, William|
|Forman, J. C.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Royle, C.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Llewellyn, D. T.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. G. (King's Norton)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Gooch, E. G.||McGovern, J.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Gough, C. F. H.||McInes, J.||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Steele, T.|
|Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||McKibbin, A. J.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.)||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Gridley, Sir Arnold||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Studholme, H. G.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||MacMillan M. K. (Western Isles)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Grimond, J.||Macpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Manuel, A. C.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Marples, A. E.||Thomas, David (Aberdare)|
|Hannan, W.||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Hargreaves, A.||Mellish, R. J.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Harrison, J. (Notingham, E.)||Mitchison, G. R.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Hayman, F. H.||Moody, A. S.||Tilney, John|
|Heath, Edward||Morley, R.||Timmons, J.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Turton, R. H.|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Mort, D. L.||Viant, S. P.|
|Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)||Moyle, A.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Holt, A. F.||Murray, J. D.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Nally, W.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Houghton, Douglas||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Hoy, J. H.||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Weitzman, D.|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Oswald, T.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Padley, W. E.||White, Baker (Canterbury)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Parker, J.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Pearson, A.||Wigg, G. E. C.|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Pitman, I. J.||Willey, Frederick (Sunderland, N.)|
|Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Popplewell, E.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Porter, G.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Wills, G.|
|Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyten)|
|Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Proctor, W. T.||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Pryde, D. J.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Raikes, H. V.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Keenan, W.||Rankin, John||Mr. Gower and Mr. Watkinson.|
|King, Dr. H. M.||Redmayne, M.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Jennings, R.||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Barlow, Sir John||Logan, D. G.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Channon, H.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (Marylebone)|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Godber, J. B.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Wellwood, W.|
|Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Oakshott, H. D.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Partridge, E.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Horobin, I. M.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Hudson, W. F. A. (Hull, N.)||Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Jenkins, R. C. D. (Dulwich)||Richards, R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Summers and Mr. Nabarro.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed.
§ Mr. Speaker
Does the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) desire to move the Motion standing in his name?
§ Mr. P. Thomas
I beg to move,That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill to provide for the protection of the natural beauty of the Snowdonia National Park and of access thereto by restoring to the local planning authorities the planning 1534 powers which the Bill takes from them and by requiring the Minister of Housing and Local Government to appoint an amenity committee to advise and assist the Minister, the local planning authorities and the electricity authority.
§ Dr. Stross
Those of us who have our names down to a similar but a little more comprehensive Motion to give instructions, 1535 tions, are prepared, in view of what the Minister has told us and in view of the reassurance that he has given—and given not only sincerely, but in a most frank and forthcoming fashion—to withdraw our instruction, on one condition: that hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), who support the Motion which has been moved, withdraw theirs. Otherwise, we shall vote against their instruction.
§ Mr. Speaker
In view of what has been said, does the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. P. Thomas) desire to withdraw his Motion?
§ Mr. Thomas
In view of the assurances that have been given by the Minister in this matter, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Speaker
Do I understand that the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) does not desire to move his Motion?
§ Mr. G. Roberts
In view of what the Minister had to say, I do not wish to move the Motion standing in my name.
§ Sir G. Hutchinson
In view of the fact that it has not been possible to debate the Motion, and I am precluded from doing so, I do not desire to move it, Sir.