HC Deb 03 April 1957 vol 568 cc432-56

In exercising his powers under section seven of this Act the Minister shall pay regard to developing the electricity supply industry in relation to a national policy for the efficient utilisation of all primary and secondary forms of energy. —[Mr. Palmer.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Palmer

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

This new Clause, which deals with the development of electricity supply and the efficient utilisation of all forms of energy, is related to Clause 7. If Clause 7 is studied, it will be noted that it allows the Minister to direct the boards in the national interest. It is our contention that a balanced fuel and power policy, or as I prefer to describe it, a balanced energy policy, is very much in the national interest.

Our argument is that these new developments in electricity, for which we are now legislating in this Bill, should move ahead with that kind of consideration in mind, and should be part of the general national policy for balance in the proper utilisation of the country's fuel and power resources.

I think that we would freely confess—and I hope that here I carry my right hon. and hon. Friends with me—that, looking back to the years between 1945 and 1950, when we brought into public ownership some of our basic fuel industries, we did not always organise properly their balance in relation one to another—

Mr. Nabarro

Hear, hear.

Mr. Palmer

I am glad that I carry the hon. Member with me, at least on that point.

This Bill quite properly proposes a decentralisation of the industry in the light of our experience over the last ten years. Although we have disagreed and argued about details we have not, on this side of the House, quarrelled with the Government over the broad intention of the Bill to bring about a greater measure of decentralisation in the electricity supply industry. There is, however, the danger that, with decentralisation, and greater independence for the separate parts of the industry, the tendency for each of its parts to go its way without proper regard to the general national interest might get rather worse than better. Hence the argument which I am attempting to put forward in support of this new Clause.

The Clause does not go into details. We think that that would not be possible. We do not intend to attempt to define in a Clause of a Bill what really should be a national fuel and power policy. That is a matter for discussion and consideration from time to time by those who are responsible, and it would not be appropriate to consolidate such details in a Statute. We are prepared to leave the details to the Authority and to the good sense of Ministers; but if I might use, even in the presence of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) what is really a nautical analogy, I would say that if the Bill gives greater authority and discretion to the individual ships of the electricity supply fleet, we are very anxious that the whole fleet should continue to sail in the right direction.

I appreciate, of course, that a Clause like this does allow of very wide debate on many aspects of fuel and power policy —for instance, on the nuclear energy programme. There was quite a far-reaching debate yesterday in another place on that programme. It was short but, perhaps, fairly good. It would not be proper for me to go further than to say that some of the speeches there related the nuclear energy programme to the fuel and power policy generally.

We have been promised, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, a White Paper on the nuclear energy programme and we are looking forward to getting it soon. I must say that our deliberations in Committee would have been tremendously assisted had that White Paper been available to us, but it is something we are to have, and no doubt when it comes along opportunity will be provided for a debate on it. Assuming that there may be a larger and more general debate on this issue in the future I do not want to go out of my way, in discussing one new Clause to the Bill, to anticipate that wider debate too much. Nevertheless, it is not possible to advance the arguments in favour of the Clause without raising one or two of the issues that would obviously seem to be connected with a proper fuel and power policy.

The Clause speaks of …the efficient utilisation of all primary and secondary forms of energy. I would define "efficient utilisation" in these terms. Efficient utilisation, meaning, of course, a national fuel and power policy, should contain at least these three essentials. In the first place, it should secure sufficient energy from all sources to bring supply and demand into balance within the shortest possible time. Secondly, it should provide the energy from the most economical and suitable sources according to an overall plan for capital expenditure. Thirdly, it should make avoidable fuel waste either very expensive, or even, in some circumstances, illegal.

Mr. Nabarro

Thermal insulation.

Mr. Palmer

Yes. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) refers to thermal insulation. He knows that I have had the pleasure to attach my name to the Bill which he is promoting towards that end.

It is easy enough to state general principles in a matter of this kind, but the issue is how to attain them within the flux of ever-changing practical circumstances. I hope, quite shortly, to discuss these three principles in turn, and in that way, perhaps, to put before the House the considerations which we have in mind.

I have said that in that policy we should make provision, from all sources, for sufficient energy for the needs of the country. Since the end of the war, of course, full employment has created difficulties in relation not only to coal supplies but to electricity supplies, resulting, in the latter case, in load shedding and electricity voltage reduction. Load shedding—and, to a great extent, absolute shortage of coal—has apparently been cured for the moment, thanks to the energy and the hard work of the Central Electricity Authority in installing vast quantities of new generating plant, mains, transmission lines and the other services that go with them.

5.0 p.m.

It seems to me that all this is at any time at the mercy of two climates. It is at the mercy of our own natural climate in these islands. If we get a difficult or bad winter, we might once again have a fuel crisis. This matter of our energy supplies is also at the mercy of the climate of international politics, as we have seen in recent times in the matter of oil supplies.

The second point which I have put forward as being the basis of a fuel policy which we think should be in the mind of the Minister when directing this industry in the national interest, is that we should use the most economical and suitable sources. It will be noticed that our Clause speaks of primary forms of energy. There is no doubt what are the primary sources and forms of energy in this country.

In the first place, we must put coal, which is for the moment and will be in the measurable future our mainstay. In the second place, we put oil, and thirdly, nuclear energy. There are, of course, other sources which can be utilised in some cases for the provision of electricity. There are water power, tidal power, and electrical inter-connection with Europe. But all these, we must confess, are in themselves extremely marginal, apart from the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board's tremendous efforts, but even these taken together are marginal sources of energy and do not make any great contribution to our total needs.

It is possible to work out the calculations showing how the energy needs of the country are being met at the moment and how the gap is being filled largely with energy derived from oil, and there are figures—

Mr. Nabarro

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. May we have your guidance? Surely, this new Clause cannot be debated against the background of a national fuel and power policy involving all forms of fuel, power and energy, for that would not be within the terms of the Bill, which deals only with electrical energy. Therefore, in order to save the time of the House, should not this debate be restricted to the narrow point of developing the electricity supply industry and not be allowed to wander over the whole of the fuel and power economics, technology and policy?

Mr. Palmer

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I think you would perhaps agree, as I am sure you have listened to what I have said, that all my arguments have been related to the electricity side of the industry.

Mr. C. R. Hobson

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. This new Clause in its wording specifically relates to Clause 7 of the Bill which is very germane to this matter, as it gives the Minister power to effect certain directions.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

I was, of course, listening to the hon. Member and I thought he was in order. Of course, hon. Members may not develop arguments about forms of energy apart from electricity, but I think they may compare them.

Mr. Palmer

I am much obliged to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I do not see why the hon. Member for Kidderminster, who is very interested in this subject, should feel so strongly about discussing this matter this afternoon. I am very surprised at him. I gave him credit for being a rather better Parliamentarian. Surely, if the Clause has been called, subject to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, we are entitled to discuss it, and to put our own interpretation upon the wording in it. The Clause refers to the efficient utilisation of all primary and secondary forms of energy. I have already said that I do not wish to go wider than is necessary. I appreciate there may later be another debate in the House on this matter. I am talking of electricity supply, and I propose to continue in that way.

I was dealing with the sources of energy available to us, and I was about to work out certain calculations, although I shall spare the House from going into too much detail, showing the gap between our energy needs and our supplies of coal which arc available for the manufacture of electricity. We are largely dependent on oil, but in the future we propose to make a far greater use of nuclear energy.

Some figures have been given in the Economic Survey showing the anticipated situation in 1965. All those figures are given in terms of coal equivalent in million tons. It is generally reckoned that the national energy needs in 1965 will be approximately 300 million tons of coal or of coal equivalent, and it is hoped that at that time the coal mines will supply 240 million tons, that the oil industry in terms of coal equivalent will supply 51 million tons, water sources, including hydro-electric power, 2 million tons, and nuclear energy 18 million tons.

It should be noted, however, that these figures, which are in the Economic Survey and were quoted in another place yesterday, even with the expanded nuclear programme and on the assumption that coal production will in time greatly increase, anticipate that oil imports will have advanced by some 13 million tons. This leads me to the first question that I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think this country can hope at any time to get away from dependence on oil—

Mr. Maudling

I am in a little difficulty here. I thought that the point that we were arguing was whether, in considering a capital programme in the electricity industry, the Minister should have regard to the general fuel and power picture. The hon. Member seems to be going beyond that and showing what the picture should be. I should have thought that would have been out of order. In my submission, to deal with the contents of that picture is going a little further than should go in discussing this new Clause.

Mr. Nabarro

On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I am sorry that the wording of my earlier point of order was not as clear as it might have been. My right hon. Friend has now put it into the most lucid terms. I wonder whether you could regard my right hon. Friend's cogent intervention as a proper corroboration of what I put to you earlier on a point of order, and whether you would agree that this debate should be restricted to the narrower point of the electricity supply industry instead of dealing with the whole of the fuel and power policy?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I gave my Ruling before and I am not going to change it on any account. This new Clause deals with all the primary and secondary forms of energy.

Mr. Hobson

Could the Minister say, in view of the nature of his intervention, which was interesting, whether it means that he is accepting this new Clause?

Mr. Palmer

In a moment I shall be putting that point myself to the right hon. Gentleman. My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. C. R. Hobson) has simply anticipated me. I am going to urge upon the right hon. Gentleman that he should accept this new Clause.

This point has a bearing upon the policies of the electricity supply industry in the future. We cannot as a nation get away from our dependence on oil for industry, agriculture, transport, and for use in the home. We should try to restrict our dependence upon oil but we cannot escape from it. The ideal in the future may be to turn over to nuclear energy for electrical power production, provided that we have the money, the materials and the manpower. But if we do that, I think it is likely that there will be a surplus of low-grade coal which is used at the moment largely in the electrical power stations of the country.

The question that I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman is whether the Government have any proposals for using, as we think it should be used—and this is one suggestion which could be made in relation to the new Clause—the low-grade fuel no longer required in the generating stations because nuclear energy will be taking its place. Are there any proposals for turning that coal into oil through the scientific and technical processes that are now available? We think a Clause of this kind would permit the Minister to direct a policy of that nature, and that is one of the practical arguments for having such a Clause.

I would also suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that in putting so much emphasis, as we have done, on the nuclear energy programme, and we do not quarrel with that emphasis, provided that it does not stretch the capital resources of the country too far, an argument which should be considered, and for studying which we think that this Clause provides an opportunity, is this. Would not a comparable return have been achieved if we had devoted larger sums to fuel conservation? That is a point on which we should like the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman.

Finally, and again in justification of the Clause, it is well known that the nuclear power stations which we are now proposing to build are basically constant load stations, and we feel that, in developing the electricity supply industry in the future as it must be developed, with nuclear power being the source of much of the electricity, far more attention will have to be given—and the Minister will need to have some kind of responsibility for this—to improving the load factor of the electricity supply industry. Again, we think that that is a justification for having a Clause of this kind.

It may be said that that is not a thing that can be done by the electricity supply industry alone. We quite appreciate that, but nevertheless the Minister of Power has overall responsibilities and we want those responsibilities to be strengthened in support of a national fuel policy. If ever the opportunity came along for revising legislation, let us say, so far as the gas industry is concerned, it might be useful to have a Clause to this effect in such a Bill, which I know I must not anticipate at this stage.

In spite of the objections by the hon. Member for Kidderminster, who seems to think that no one must have an idea unless he puts it forward first, I feel that there is very much justification for a Clause of this kind in the new circumstances into which the industry is now moving with the nuclear energy programme. That is why we very seriously urge the right hon. Gentleman to accept the new Clause because of its general good sense.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Warbey

I beg to second the Motion.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer) has demonstrated the need for the Minister to take into account a full consideration of the total energy problem of the country when giving any approvals or directions which he is required to give under the Bill. I hope that when the Minister replies he will not feel that he can reply in any narrower sense than has been indicated already by the Chair as being within the scope of the debate. If the Minister were to do that, I must say that it would only further add to the impression which we have already on this side of the House that the Government are dragging their feet in the matter of this problem of the proper development of a national energy policy.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)


Mr. Warbey

We have had some changes in the title of the Minister. We have had a Minister of Fuel and Power, and now we have a Minister of Power. What we have not had under this Conservative Government is a Minister of energy. The Government have shown remarkably little energy about this question throughout the whole of their term of office. More than a year ago, the need for an expansion of the nuclear energy programme was apparent to everyone, and we were promised a statement last autumn, but did not get it until a month ago. When we did get it, it was in very inadequate form and only in bare outline, without giving even the indication that there would be a White Paper as fully detailed as the one that we had in February, 1955.

Mr. Fort

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the reason why it was impossible to produce the White Paper much earlier than it did appear was that there was no experience of Calder Hall?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

We are allowed a wide debate, but I think that we are getting a little too wide now.

Mr. Warbey

With very great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I suggest that so far I have made one or two remarks of a general character, which I thought were normally allowed in a debate of this kind, and which have been simply related to the point that we have not had from the Government all the information that we are entitled to have and at the right time. I submit with very great respect that it is not improper to advance a point of that kind in a debate of this character, because it is quite clear—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That was the point which I thought was going wide of this Clause.

Mr. Warbey

With very great respect, I suggest that it is in accordance with precedent in this House to seek to extract information from the Government on matters relevant to those under discussion. We have not had it, and we shall not get it—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Gentleman cannot get it under this new Clause. That is my point.

Mr. Warbey

What we do get under this new Clause, or what I hope we shall get, is an indication from the Government that they do intend, in giving any directions or making any approvals under this Bill when it becomes an Act, to ensure that the electricity supply industry shall be developed in such a way as to take into proper account the various sources of energy which are available, and to ensure that they are utilised in consideration of a proper total national policy of energy utilisation and capital investment. That is what we are seeking an assurance about, and I hone that we shall have it.

I hope that we shall have from the Minister an indication, not of every detail in the picture, but of all the elements of the picture, and the elements which should he taken into account, I suggest, are those such as the following. We must have some indication in any such total picture of what is the programme of nuclear power development under this Bill for the next ten years. We should have some indication on how the utilisation of nuclear energy for the production of electricity is to be related to the utilisation of other forms of fuel for electricty production, of the part that coal and oil are to play in relation to nuclear energy—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I hope that the Minister will not reply to all that, because he will be out of order, too, if he does.

Mr. Warbey

I was not asking him to give us every detail of every figure. I am asking him to say that these things will be taken into account—that, I suggest, is what our Clause is about—and indicate that the Government are prepared, and will be prepared, when the Minister considers this matter, to take into account all that should be taken into account in giving directions to the industry.

The matters to be taken into account include a good deal more than just decisions about the number of generating stations to be erected during the next ten years. Such matters include also decisions about what types of fuel are to be used, and a balancing of the considerations, given the factor, which we all accept, that we have to make the greatest possible use of coal and maximise coal production, as to whether, in the coming years, we shall still have to make a choice between the use of nuclear energy and the use of oil for generating electricity.

Further, in considering this matter, we shall have to look not seven or eight years ahead, but fifteen, twenty and thirty years ahead. I should like to know from the Government whether, in sketching out the picture, they are prepared to include a consideration of the energy requirements of the country not up to 1965, but up to 1975 and 1985.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I have been very patient. If the hon. Gentleman will not obey my Ruling, I must ask him to resume his seat.

Mr. Warbey

With very great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I am making every effort to obey your Ruling, and I though that I was doing so. All that I am saying is what is meant or implied by the Clause.It reads: In exercising his powers under section seven of this Act the Minister shall pay regard to developing the electricity supply industry in relation to a national policy for the efficient utilisation of all primary and secondary forms of energy. All primary and secondary forms of energy include nuclear energy, oil, coal, hydro-electricity and other marginal forms of energy.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

My point was that I do not think that the Minister should be expected to formulate a national policy under this new Clause.

Mr. Warbey

The Clause requires the Minister to formulate a policy for the electricity supply industry in relation to a national policy for the utilisation of all forms of energy. In other words, it requires that he shall take into account this wider picture. I must say, with all respect, that I cannot see how we can argue the case for taking into account this wider picture until we are allowed to say what elements should be in that wider picture. That is all I am endeavouring to do.

I am trying to show that the elements in that wider picture are to be found in a consideration of what balance one is to strike between the utilisation of these different forms of energy and what resources one is to put at the disposal of the various industries concerned for expansion and development. Is the Minister prepared to include in his picture, for example, a consideration of what allocation of manpower and materials is to be made not merely in 1965, but also in 1975, between the nuclear energy industry and the coal and oil industries? [Interruption.] May we have some respect for the Chair from hon. Members opposite?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will obey that himself.

Mr. Warbey

I am endeavouring to do so, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I am certainly doing my best to discuss the new Clause within the terms of your Ruling. I must say that I cannot conceive of any narrower terms for discussing it than those in which I am discussing it, unless I cease discussing it altogether.

Since the Clause has been accepted as being in order, by being called, presumably we are to be allowed to discuss it. I propose to go on discussing the new Clause in the terms as set down on the Notice Paper.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not trying to defy me.

Mr. Warbey

That would be the last thing which would be in my mind, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. All I was suggesting was that I should be permitted, and that other hon. Members should be permitted, to discuss the Clause in the terms in which it appears on the Notice Paper, which, through its being called, have been accepted by the Chair.

I was going on to say, before some hon. Members opposite became disorderly, that the Minister must be prepared to take into account, in drawing his picture within which he envisages his electricity policy, what resources in terms of manpower and materials, including, for example, such scarce materials as steel, are to be allocated directly to the electricity supply industry in terms of generating plant, and so on, to the nuclear power industry in terms of steel plate, and so on, for the erection of reactors, to the coal industry in terms of equipment for the expansion of coal production—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. I must ask the hon. Gentleman to resume his seat.

Mr. Maudling

This new Clause lays it down that the Minister, in exercising his power under Clause 7, shall pay regard to developing the electricity supply industry in relation to a national policy for the efficient utilisation of all primary and secondary forms of energy. I take it that what we are discussing is whether, in settling particularly the capital programmes, which are the important things under Clause 7, the Minister should or should not have regard to a national policy for fuel and power as a whole. What we are not entitled to discuss, as I understand it, is what the contents of such a general picture should be. We are discussing whether he should make his decisions about electricity in the general fuel and power context. I understand that to be the point made by hon. Gentlemen opposite.

My answer to that would be to say, in the first place, that that is in fact what happens, and, in the second place, to say that this new Clause is not necessary for legal purposes to ensure that it does happen. I will explain very briefly what I have in mind, while endeavouring not to transgress the rules of order, though I am very tempted to enter upon a discussion on energy balance, as it is called, which is a fascinating subject which one can go on discussing for a very long time.

I shall not be out of order if I say that there is ample evidence that, in practice, the electricity supply capital programme is set by the Government within a national policy of the kind envisaged in the new Clause. The evidence for that is the published documents which have already set out the future programmes for the coal industry, the electricity industry, the gas industry and, recently, for nuclear power development. Perhaps I could say, in parenthesis, that we are intending very shortly to publish the White Paper which was promised last year on the capital development programmes of the various fuel and power industries and that, appended to it, will be a special annex setting out in some detail what lies behind the nuclear power programme recently announced.

5.30 p.m.

Without entering in any way into the contents of these documents, my point is to show that their publication is evidence that the Government are setting out all the constituent factors of the national energy programme in the general picture of the total demand for energy and the total means of supply. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are right in saying that the picture must include both indigenous sources of fuel and imported sources, fuel saving as a whole, fuel getting, and the different economics of fuel extraction, both in terms of £ s. d. and foreign exchange commitments as against indigenous costs.

Mr. Palmer

We appreciate that there must be some kind of consultation, but I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman would agree to tell us just what is the machinery of consultation. One does not want him to give away Cabinet secrets—he would not do so in any case—but one would like to know what is the machinery of consultation as between all sections of the fuel and power industry.

Mr. Maudling

All the nationalised sections of the fuel and power industry have, by law, to submit their capital programmes, and, so far as the petroleum industry is concerned, we have a good deal of knowledge of what its future plans are likely to be.

The principal function of the Minister is to see that these various plans are co-ordinated, and in doing that he and his staff rely on the assessment of the total demands of the country for the future. Secondly, the Minister must have laid before him the various ways in which that demand can be met. That, I think, is what hon. Members opposite mean by the new Clause. That is what the Minister does. It is his primary responsibility to ensure that he has laid before him the estimates of total energy demands and the various ways in which it is proposed that these demands should be met. Then it is his function to see that the meeting of those demands for energy shall be in accord with the national policy and so ensure that we get our energy supply in the cheapest possible economical terms. That. I regard, as the primary duty of the Minister and that is the duty which the proposed new Clause seeks to lay upon him. I cannot accept the Clause for the reason that it is unnecessary.

If the hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer) would be good enough to look at Section I of the Ministry of Fuel and Power Act, 1945—I am afraid he will not have it with him—he will see that the Minister is charged with the general duty of securing the effective and co-ordinated development of coal, petroleum and other minerals and sources of fuel and power in Great Britain … and of promoting economy and efficiency in the supply, distribution. use and consumption of fuel and power, whether produced in Great Britain or not. Therefore, by the basic Act, which established the Ministry of Fuel and Power, now the Ministry of Power, the Minister has the duty of securing effective and coordinated development of all our fuel and power resources. That seems to me to be exactly what is included in the new Clause.

I think it would be wrong as a general principle of our Statute law to put in a particular Clause of a particular Bill that the Minister shall carry out in this respect a duty which he is already under obligation to carry out in every respect. Therefore, I think that we should be adding nothing to the Statute law by adding the Clause to the Bill. I accept that the hon. Gentleman is right when he says that setting the programme for the electricity supply industry must clearly be done in the context of a national policy for all forms of energy.

I hope that I may have persuaded the hon. Member for Cleveland that we accept what he says about the way in which the Minister should act which is, in fact, the way in which the Minister already acts. In fact, the Minister is already obliged by the Act to do what hon. Members opposite are seeking to make him do by the Clause.

Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)

One point struck me when I read the new Clause, a point which has not been mentioned so far in the debate. At the present moment, we are using nuclear energy solely for the purpose of generating electricity. It seems to me that, for the time being, the electricity industry will be the sole consumer of nuclear power. We are trying to convert nuclear energy to other mediums than electric power. For instance, we are thinking of using it for driving ships.

One can visualise a development in the next decade by which it would be quite possible for large consumers of power themselves to employ nuclear energy locally, either for generating steam or electricity. It was on that point that I thought the new Clause would be very useful. In the generation of electrical power through nuclear energy, we should watch very carefully developments of the conversion of nuclear energy into mechanical energy in smaller units for the local development of electricity. We may be able to develop the use of nuclear energy for replacing oil in a local capacity.

For instance, we can visualise the discovery of a machine that would drive a ship by converting nuclear energy into steam which. in turn, would drive the turbines. By so doing, we could conserve a great deal of oil. Obviously, by using such a method of energy in the merchant fleet, we could save tremendous amounts of oil.

When I read the Clause. I got the impression that what my right hon. and hon. Friends were thinking of was that the Minister and the Government—any Government—must watch the situation very carefully, because the most important fuel that we need to save is oil. I do not see how any great saving can be made in the consumption of oil when so much oil is being used either in oil-burning ships or in the heating of large buildings. It may well be that in the next decade we shall have nuclear energy supplied in some form in which it can be used for heating large buildings or for driving ships.

Mr. Nabarro

On a point of order. Have you perceived, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that there is nothing about oil or ships in the Bill?

Mr. Warbey

Further to that point of order—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Perhaps I might answer one point of order at a time. I quite understand that. I thought the argument was based on the fact that nuclear power was to be used for generating electricity.

Mr. Bence

I am not trying to be controversial, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I am just raising a point which, it struck me, was quite worth while the Paymaster-General and the Minister of Power considering, that in our economic situation the various Ministers should consider in what fields our atomic energy can best be used in order to conserve our sources of raw materials. I should imagine that one of the things we want to conserve, because of our balance of payments problem, is oil. Therefore, I think that the Paymaster-General should consider when he is giving directions to the electricity industry to what extent developments may enable us in local cases to conserve electrical generation by the use of nuclear energy converted into mechanical energy.

The railways may, perhaps, be cited as an instance in the matter. It may well be that in a couple of decades the British railway system will be in a position, through inventions using nuclear energy, to have a lot of its power and energy produced from local nuclear energy in the form of some mechanical device. Only a few weeks ago, I saw an advertisement by the Atomic Energy Authority for mechanical engineers.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Gentleman must keep to the development of electricity supplies. I think that he is now leaving that out altogether, is he not?

Mr. Bence

I was trying, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to point out that the new Clause asks the Paymaster-General, in giving his directions to the electricity generation and supply side of the industry, to take into consideration developments which are taking place in all other fields of power development. It may well be that power development through nuclear energy will move ahead at such a pace that we may be using too much nuclear energy in the generation of elecrical power, because in that case one has to provide a constant load for it, with the effect that we might reach an unbalance. I may be making my point badly.

Mr. Nabarro

Hear, hear.

Mr. Bence

Unlike the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), I have no illusions. I am not sufficiently egocentric to think that around my mental capacity the whole universe of power revolves. As a mechanical engineer, I am trying to apply myself to the possibilities of converting nuclear energy into mechanical power through a medium other than electricity.

I had hoped that by means of the Clause—I had hoped the Minister might be able to accept it—the Minister would have co-ordinated the various power agencies to ensure that we had balanced progress and kept keen watch on the possibilities of the conversion of nuclear energy into mechanical energy other than through the medium of electricity.

Sir F. Soskice

We seek, by the proposed Clause, to present in a somewhat different and, we hope, appropriate form the criticism that we have generally as to the changes brought about by the Bill.

The anxiety of the Opposition in Committee was caused by the fact that we noted that the Bill dismantled the Central Electricity Authority and put in its place an Electricity Council, which, by common agreement, was intended by the Government simply to be a kind of advisory body with some added functions. The Central Electricity Authority was under the duty of maintaining the overall efficiency of the electricity industry. It was specifically invested with that duty by Section 1 of the 1947 Act. What was uppermost in our minds in the criticisms we advanced on Second Reading, and in Committee, was that the central pivot was being removed by the Bill and that this almost powerless body was being substituted.

One of our objectives in moving the Clause is that if the Central Electricity Authority is to go and thus leave a void behind it, we say that a way of filling that void is to make it obligatory upon the Minister to consider the national situation in the exercise of his powers. As my hon. Friends have pointed out, we relate the obligation that we put upon the Minister by the Clause specifically to the exercise of his powers under Clause 7.

The Minister replied to our arguments by saying that the new Clause is not necessary because already, under Section 1 (1) of the Ministry of Fuel and Power Act, 1945, there is in similar terms—I must point out that it is in somewhat vague and general terms—a duty already imposed upon the Minister analogous to that which we propose. The Minister's answer was really twofold. He said that the Government were conscious of what we seek to emphasise by the Clause, and he also said that the Government were already conscious that under existing legislation that duty was imposed on the Minister.

5.45 p.m.

While my hon. Friends and I appreciate the force of what the Minister says, we feel that our point is not adequately met. We are alarmed and anxious about the void. We feel that unless it is centrally co-ordinated by a body which stands in an analagous position in relation to its powers as the Central Electricity Authority, the industry may disintegrate or move in a rudderless fashion. We think that it should be more centrally controlled and guided. We agree that there is a point in favour of a certain amount of decentralisation—our vote on Second Reading indicated that—but we think that the Government have gone too far in that direction. We seek, by the Clause, to remedy the position which the Government have brought about, and remedy it in a new form.

Therefore, we seek, by means of the Clause, to say that when the Minister exercises his power under Clause 7 he must discharge the function which was originally vested in the Central Electricity Authority. We say that it is his specific responsibility to have in mind that the industry must not be allowed to move rudderless. In the national interest, it must be controlled.

We seek also to say that in exercising that control over the industry the Minister should have regard not merely to the electricity industry as such, isolated from all contact with other sources of power, but, in particular, to what in a sense is a comparatively new situation, the fact that there has now arrived on the scene this new, important source of power, nuclear energy. We say that he should not only have regard to the national position, but should bring into account new sources of nuclear power and have regard to their relationship with existing sources of power. I hope, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that I am not going outside the limits of your Ruling. I will try to keep well within the centre area. I do not think that I need do more than refer to what my hon. Friends have said.

Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)

If the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) were the Minister exercising his powers under Clause 7, would he not do automatically what is demanded in the proposed Clause. whether it were in the Bill or not?

Sir F. Soskice

I profoundly hope so. but I want to make sure by means of the Clause that the Minister will do it. He certainly ought to do so, and a prudent and efficient Minister undoubtedly would have national considerations in his mind. However, inasmuch as we do not live in an anarchistic society, and inasmuch as we seek to define and impose duties by the specific terms of the statutes that we put on the Statute Book, we think it not unreasonable to include in his duties that duty which I confess we would hope and anticipate that a prudent and efficient Minister would in any event discharge.

Mr. Peyton

Could any Minister exercising his powers under Clause 7 possibly avoid doing what is contained in the proposed Clause?

Sir F. Soskice

I regard the intervention of the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) as an additional argument in favour of the proposed Clause. He says that if the Minister looked at the Bill he would probably say to himself, "In exercising my powers under the subsection, I ought to have regard to the duty set out in the proposed Clause." However, the right hon. Gentleman might look at the Bill and find that the duty was not obligatory upon him. We think that an additional argument, looking at it from the point of view of the public interest, for ensuring that he is positively bound by the words of the Statute. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman accepts that, because he points to Section 1 (1) of the 1945 Act, and he has himself furnished the answer to the hon. Member for Yeovil. The Legislature tells Ministers what they must do—

Mr. Maudling

In those circumstances, I wonder if the right hon. and learned Gentleman could explain how it would be possible for the Minister to ignore these considerations of national policy for which he is arguing without, at the same time, infringing his duty under the Statute of 1945?

Sir F. Soskice

I was coming to that.

As I say, the Government and Opposition, on this new Clause, are nearly together. The Paymaster-General has, indeed, accepted that there must be some obligation upon the Minister to observe the duty which we seek to impose upon him. The only question between the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friends on this side of the House is this: does the existing legislation in sufficiently specific terms enjoin upon the Minister the duty of so observing it? My right hon. and hon. Friends feel that Section 1 (I) of the Act of 1945 is too general in its terms to give us the assurance which we seek to derive from adding our new Clause to the Bill.

It is really a question of language. We think that the existing obligation upon the Minister is not sufficiently specific, and we seek, by our Clause, to define it by appending it to Clause 7 of the Bill, The Paymaster-General, by pointing to the 1945 provisions. accepts in principle—so I, at any rate, would read his mind—what we seek to achieve. In those circumstances, I should have thought, if he realises that in principle it is right, he ought to have accepted what we propose to the House, namely, that in terms it ought to be specified as necessary.

I feel that the Paymaster-General, while accepting in principle what we propose, stops short by not accepting the letter of what we suggest. It seems to me that that is hardly a logical attitude, and I would ask him to think again about it. If he feels unable to go with us this short extra distance I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will express their view about the Clause by taking it to a Division.

Mr. C. R. Hobson

I intervened during the Paymaster-General's earlier remarks to ask him whether he would accept the new Clause. I did so because I had in mind the very full statement which was made in another place yesterday by the Minister of Power, who there stated, very categorically, the whole programme for nuclear energy. He referred, and in great detail, too, to the 19 proposed nuclear power stations to be erected. He also went into details of the cost of the uranium fuel.

In view of that, it seems to me that the Government arc thinking along the lines of this new Clause. If that is so, and as there is really not much difference between the two sides of the House about this issue, surely the Paymaster-General could accept, if not the words, the substance, of this new Clause, and could give an undertaking to have such a new Clause submitted when the Bill goes to another

place. I appeal to the. right hon. Gentleman to do so.

There has already been stated categorically a programme for the interlinking of the sources of power, so the right hon. Gentleman could go the whole way with us and write into the Bill a provision to ensure this relationship.

Question put, That the Clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided:Ayes 188, Noes 229.

Division No. 95.] AYES [5.54 p.m.
Ainsley, J. W Hewitson, Capt. M. Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Albu, A. H. Hobson, C. R. (Keighley) Proctor, W. T.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Holman, P. Pryde, D. J.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Holmes, Horace Randall, H. E.
Awbery, S. S. Houghton, Douglas Rankin, John
Balfour, A. Hoy, J. H. Redhead, E. C.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Hubbard, T. F. Reeves, J.
Bence, C R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Reid, William
Benson, G. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Rhodes, H.
Beswick, Frank Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Blackburn, F. Hunter, A. E. Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Blyton, W. R. Hynd, H. (Accrington) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.) Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Ross, William
Bowles, F. G. Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Royle, C.
Boyd, T. C. Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Shurmer, P. L. E.
Brockway, A. F. Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech(Wakefield) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Brown, Thomas (lnce) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Skeffington, A. M.
Burton, Miss F. E. Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Slater, J. (Sedgefield)
Callaghan, L. J. King, Dr. H. M. Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Lawson, G. M. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Chapman, W. D. Lee, Frederick (Newton) Sparks, J. A.
Chetwynd, G. R. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Steele, T.
Clunie, J. Lewis, Arthur Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Coldrick, W. Lindgren, G. S. Stones, W. (Consett)
CollicK, P. H. (Birkenhead) Lipton, Marcus Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
Cronin, J. D. McGhee, H. G. Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Crossman, R. H. S. Mclnnes, J. Sylvester, G. O.
Cullen, Mrs. A. McKay, John (Wallsend) Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Mahon, Simon Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Timmons, J.
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Mann, Mrs. Jean Tomney, F.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Mason, Roy Usborne, H. C.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse) Mellish, R. J. Viant, S. P.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Mitchison, G. R. Warbey, W. N.
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Monslow, W. Watkins, T. E.
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Moody, A. S. Weitzman, D.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert(Lewisham,S.) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Fienburgh, W. Mort, D. L. Wheeldon, W. E.
Finch, H. J. Moss, R. Wigg, George
Forman, J. C. Moyle, A. Wilkins, W. A.
Gaitskell Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Mulley, F. W. Willey, Frederick
George, Lady Megan Lloyd Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Williams, David (Neath)
Gibson, C. W. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.) Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Gooch, E. G. Oliver, G. H. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Oram, A. E. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Greenwood, Anthony Owen, W. J. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Padley, W. E. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Grey, C. F. Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Palmer, A. M. F. Winterbottom, Richard
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.) Woof, R. E.
Griffiths, William (Exchange) Parker, J. Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Paton, John Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Hamilton, W. W. Pearson, A. Zilliacus, K.
Hannan, W. Pentland, N.
Hastings, S. Plummer, Sir Leslie TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hayman, F. H. Popplewell, E. Mr. Short and Mr. Rogers.
Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Agnew, Sir Peter Graham, Sir Fergus Mawby, R. L.
Aitken, W. T. Grant, W. (Woodside) Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.
Alport, C. J. M. Green, A. Morrison, John (Salisbury)
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Gresham Cooke, R. Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Grimond, J. Nabarro, G. D. N.
Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Nairn, D. L. S.
Arbuthnot, John Harris, Reader (Heston) Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)
Armstrong, C. W. Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon) Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Nugent, G. R. H.
Baldwin, A. E. Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd) Oakshott, H. D.
Barter, John Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim. N.)
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Henderson-Stewart, Sir James Osborne, C.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Page, R. G.
Bidgood, J. C. Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Hill, John (S. Norfolk) Partridge, E.
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Peyton, J. W. W.
Bishop, F. P. Hirst, Geoffrey Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Black, C. W. Hobson, J. G. S.(War'ok & Leam'gtn) Pitman, I. J.
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Holland-Martin, C. J. Pitt, Miss E. M.
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Holt, A. F. Pott, H. P.
Boyle, Sir Edward Hope, Lord John Powell, J. Enoch
Braine, B. R. Hornby, R. P. Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Horobin, Sir Ian Profumo, J. D.
Brooman-White, R. C. Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence Raikes, Sir Victor
Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Rawlinson, Peter
Bryan, P. Howard, John (Test) Redmayne, M.
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Rees-Davies, W. R.
Burden, F. F. A. Hurd, A. R. Remnant, Hon. P.
Butcher, Sir Herbert Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.) Renton, D. L. M.
Butler,Rt.Hn.R.A.(Saffron Walden) Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun) Ridsdale, J. E.
Campbell, Sir David Iremonger, T. L. Rippon, A. G. F.
Carr, Robert Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Robertson, Sir David
Cary, Sir Robert Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Channon, Sir Henry Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Russell, R. S.
Chichester-Clark, R. Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Joseph, Sir Keith Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Cooke, Robert Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot Sharples, R. C.
Cooper, A. E. Keegan, D. Shepherd, William
Cooper-Key, E. M. Kerby, Capt, H. B. Spearman, Sir Alexander
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Kerr, H. W. Speir, R. M.
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Kirk, P. M. Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)
Crouch, R. F. Lagden, G. W. Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Lambert, Hon. G. Stevens, Geoffrey
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Lambton, Viscount Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Cunningham, Knox Langford-Holt, J. A. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Currie, G. B. H. Leavey, J. A. Storey, S.
Dance, J. C. G. Leburn, W. G. Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Studholme, Sir Henry
Deedes, W. F. Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Summers, Sir Spencer
Digby, Simon Wingfield Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Lindsay, Martin (Solihull) Teeling, W.
Doughty, G. J. A. Linstead, Sir H. N. Temple, John M.
du Cann, E. D. L. Llewellyn, D. T. Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Longden, Gilbert Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W. Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Elliott, R. W. Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick) Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vane, W. M. F.
Erroll, F. J. McAdden, S. J. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Farey-Jones, F. W. Macdonald, Sir Peter Wade, D. W.
Finlay, Graeme Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Fisher, Nigel McKibbin, A. J. Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Fletcher-Cooke, G. Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Fort, R. Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster) Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Whitelaw, W.S.I. (Penrith & Border)
Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale) Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Maddan, Martin Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Garner-Evans, E. H. Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle) Woollam, John Victor
Gibson-Watt, D. Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)
Godber, J. B. Marlowe, A. A. H. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Goodhart, P. C. Marshall, Douglas Mr. Richard Thompson and
Gough, C. F. H. Maude, Angus Mr. Barber
Gower, H. R. Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.