HC Deb 22 December 1954 vol 535 cc2735-6
4. Sir D. Robertson

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is aware that farmers and landholders at Bower Smerral, Bower Whitegar and Mum, Castletown, all in Caithness, are unable to obtain supplies of electricity from the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, due to the high cost of undergrounding the cables to meet the requirements of the Admiralty; and if he will consider meeting the extra cost involved.

Mr. J. P. L. Thomas

The North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board applied to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power for his consent to the placing of electric cables above ground for supply of electricity to the areas in question. The Admiralty was obliged to object to this because of the interference to naval wireless installations in the neighbourhood. The question whether or not supply can be made without the use of overground cables is for the Hydro-Electric Board. In such a case as this, where the placing or use of over-ground cables would interfere with the operation of existing installations, there are no grounds for the owners of the existing installations making any contribution towards the additional cost of laying cable underground.

Sir D. Robertson

Is it not a fact that there are 48 farmers here who have been waiting for years for light and power, which this House has brought to them under the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Act? Is not the Board only too willing to give them electricity, but for this very essential defence cost of£10,000—which everyone in Caithness realises is right—in order that these cables should be placed underground? The Board cannot stand the cost, which would amount to a substantial sum per head. Is it not reasonable that the Admiralty should assume this defence cost?

Mr. Thomas

I am sorry that I am unable to help my hon. Friend in my answer today. The cost is very great indeed. This is not the only case. Although I am prepared to discuss the matter again with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power, I cannot hold out much hope that we can come to an agreement satisfactory to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it not generally agreed that the supply of electricity is most desirable in order to keep farmers on the land and to increase food production, for which there is a very great need? This is clearly a defence cost. Surely the Admiralty ought to meet it.

Mr. Thomas

I will discuss this question once more with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power, but this is only one example of what would lead to very great cost indeed on the Service Vote. It is a matter for the Hydro-Electric Board.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the supply would be welcomed by many farmers and that it would lead to a large increase in the production of food?

Mr. Bing

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that he is taxing people, chosen quite arbitrarily, to pay the costs of his Department, and should he not do something about this?