HC Deb 20 February 1956 vol 549 cc16-7
24. Mr. Vane

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what effect the reductions he is making in the capital expenditure of the Central Electricity Authority in the year 1956–57 will have on the industry's rural electrification programme; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Aubrey Jones

The number of farm connections in England and Wales in 1956–57 should not be far short of 12,000. This is the annual average required for the completion of the present five-year programme and compares with 12,500 in the original plan for 1956–57.

Mr. Vane

Will my right hon. Friend give the widest publicity to this very satisfactory reply? Is he aware that the people who live in the country and are waiting for electricity will be extremely pleased to hear it, particularly in view of many of the suggestions put about, somewhat irresponsibly, by area boards, and particularly the North-Western Electricity Board, that their plans for the extension of their mains in rural areas are likely to be severely cut back as a result of Government action? The suggestions are now shown to be completely false.

Mr. Jones

There has been great misapprehension on this matter, although it is not for me to say how this misapprehension has arisen.

Mr. Palmer

Remembering that the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor told this House that the Government were making special provision for rural electrification, are we to understand that they now stand by this undertaking?

Mr. Jones

The hon. Gentleman is merely continuing the misapprehension if he suggests that there is in any way a retreat. My predecessor elaborated a five-year programme, according to which 60,000 farms would be connected by 1958. That programme still stands, and there is no reason why it should be in any way affected by the cuts now made in the programme for 1956–57.

Mr. Callaghan

Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that this misapprehension will continue to exist until we get a detailed statement from the Government about what cuts are being made and in what connection? Is he aware that more than £20 million is being cut from the nationalised industries, exclusive of transport and fuel and power? Does he realise that we cannot wail until next week? Will he give us a verbal statement this week, saying where the cut affects us?

Mr. Jones

I should have been delighted to give the right hon. Gentleman the fullest and most detailed answer had an appropriate Question appeared on the Order Paper. In the absence of any such Question, I have said that the cut in electricity is of £19 million evenly shared between generation and distribution.

Commander Maitland

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the very considerable damage done by recent blizzards in the rural districts of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire? Can he give an undertaking that the amount of capital available for the extension will not be reduced by the enormous amount of maintenance or replacement work which has to be done?

Mr. Jones

I have already indicated that I cannot reply for individual areas. The distribution of the cut between areas is a commercial matter for the boards themselves.

Mr. Callaghan

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that we did not know until last Friday, when it was too late to put down a Question for today, the damage that was going to be done to the nationalised industries? Will he seek permission from the Leader of the House or from Mr. Speaker to give us a full statement this week of the serious nature of these cuts in the nationalised industries?

Mr. Jones

If the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question for a week today, I will endeavour to give him the fullest possible answer.