HC Deb 27 February 1961 vol 635 cc1182-3
31. Mr. Harold Davies

asked the Minister of Power if he is aware that electricity boards are refusing to supply electricity to potential consumers in certain areas comprised in the National Trust or National Parks where the appropriate planning authority will not allow pole electricity supply; if he is further aware that this procedure prevents many cottages, farmers and other potential consumers getting a service in these National Trust or National Park areas; and if he will consult with the appropriate Electricity Boards with a view to issuing a general direction to the hoards under section eight of the Electricity Act, 1957, to take steps to supply electricity by appropriate means to all farms and villages in National Parks and in National Trust land.

Mr. Wood

It would be impossible to frame a general direction which would take account of the differing circumstances of each case. It is for the boards to arrange their programmes in consultation with the various interests concerned, and I am not aware of any general difficulties of the kind to which the hon. Member refers.

Mr. Davies

Whilst thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask whether he is not aware that hon. Members on both sides of the House have met difficulties on this subject in areas where there are National Parks or National Trust properties? Would he therefore take the initiative in forming some plan whereby a little harmonious co-operation and mutual assistance can he obtained between the two authorities, which would enable the electricity boards to meet their obligations under the Act to supply electricity? If there must be underground cables, could not a grant towards the cost be provided so that small farmers and cottagers in places like Merebrook, Eaton and the Roaches may have a supply? Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that these people will have to exist without electricity for generations if the Government do not act?

Mr. Wood

This is the first time that the particular difficulties in the hon. Member's constituency have been brought to my notice. In general, the boards have two main duties which must be reconciled. One is to produce an economical supply of electricity, and the other is to safeguard amenities while carrying out the first duty. Their job is to try to preserve a reasonable balance between the two. I have consulted the Electricity Council and I am satisfied that the boards try to preserve that reasonable balance.

Sir G. Nicholson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that my quarrel with him is on quite different ground, to the effect that his Ministry is inclined to ignore amenities? Is he aware that there is strong feeling in Haslemere on the part of my constituents at the failure to use underground cables? Will my right hon. Friend pay careful attention to the need to preserve trees and features of natural beauty which if destroyed will take many generations to replace

Mr. Wood

My hon. Friend's question shows the difficulty of keeping this balance.

Mr. Peart

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in Borrowdale an inquiry has been going on which deals with this very problem? Will he look at this matter again and will he expedite a decision on the inquiry?

Mr. Wood

The inquiry has been concluded. I hope that a report will be presented to me before long, when I shall be able to take a decision.