§ 17. Mr. Nabarro
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what sum he has authorised to the Central Electricity Authority, including all area boards, for capital investment during 1956; and when giving such authorisation what regard he had to the effect on their estimate of the practice of level price tendering by the 13 authority's contractors offering supplies of plant and equipment, and soliciting building contracts.
§ Mr. Aubrey Jones
The investment programme of the Central Electricity Authority for the financial year 1956–57 was authorised at £195 million. It is the task of the Authority to ensure that the resources made available to it are used to the best possible advantage.
§ Mr. Nabarro
As it is the policy of the Government to curb monopoly, may I ask my right hon. Friend what steps he took, when authorising this huge figure of £195 million, to ascertain what part of it was subject to these level price tendering practices which most of my hon. Friends and I regard as so offensive?
§ Mr. Jones
I would refer my hon. Friend to a comparison of the Restrictive Trade Practices Bill and Lord Citrine's speech, and I will challenge him—
§ Mr. Jones
—to find any essential difference. For the rest, certainly I did not put this question to the Central Electricity Authority, and to put to it a detailed question of the kind asked by my hon. Friend would, it seems to me, be inconsistent with the broad supervision which a Minister ought to exercise and with the sense of responsibility which he ought to endeavour to inculcate in a nationalised board. Naturally, in making these capital allocations, I had a look at the trend of capital costs in the nationalised industries concerned. It is a fact that the trend of capital costs in the electricity supply industry is lower than the trend of costs in general and of capital costs in general.