§ 10. Sir David Robertson
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland why the project of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board for the generation of electricity from peat continues to be delayed.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
There has been no undue delay. As my hon. Friend is aware, successful experiments have been carried out in the burning of peat in gas turbines. Sir Edward Appleton's Committee have now recommended that the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board should receive financial assistance through the Development Fund to establish an experimental peat-burning station in Caithness. This proposal is being carefully considered, and I hope that an early decision may be reached.
§ Sir D. Robertson
Is it not a fact that all these decisions by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, by Mr. Tom Johnston, the enthusiastic Chairman, by Sir Edward Appleton's Committee and by John Brown and Company were made a long time ago—some years ago—and that there has been a very serious delay? Will my hon. Friend do something to bring it to an end, because we urgently want the work and wages in Caithness?
§ Mr. Stewart
First of all, the capital cost of this project is a very large sum and could not be approved without very careful consideration. All that is being done now, and I assure my hon. Friend that we at the Scottish Office are most anxious to get a decision.
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that the scientists and administrators concerned having approved the project nothing can stop the Gov- 1656 ernment finding the funds for a pilot plant to be set up on the site and for further investigation directed to the huge by-products in the form of the agricultural growth that we may expect from the development of such a plant?
§ Mr. Stewart
We are fully aware of the potentialities, but the capital cost is a very considerable sum, and it has, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, to be worked out what proportion should be for this and that, and so on. I assure the House that we are doing our best to get a decision.
Would the hon. Gentleman tell us what kind of capital sum he thinks is involved in a project for a pilot plant for Caithness?
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that since relief has been given to the extent of £45 million or £50 million in taxation in the present Budget it is utterly disgraceful that this project should be hung up for the approval of £500,000?
§ Mr. Stewart
The right hon. Gentleman is not in a position to call this project disgraceful. It is not a new one. It is an old project. We have the duty of bringing it to fruition, and I am saying that we are doing our best to do that.