HC Deb 28 March 1963 vol 674 cc1514-6
24. Mr. T. Fraser

asked the Minister of Power what steps he is taking to ensure that the capacity of the electricity supply industry is extended to meet the extra demands of a 4 per cent. growth in the economy.

27. Mr. Millan

asked the Minister of Power what increase in the capacity of the electricity industry will be required by 1966 to meet the demands of the target set by the National Economic Development Council of an annual growth of 4 per cent. in the economy.

Mr. Wood

An increase of about 2,500 mW above present plans would be needed by 1966, with associated increases in transmission and distribution capacity. As the Report of the National Economic Development Council recognised, a significantly greater increase could not now be achieved by 1966. I said in answer to Questions on 31st January that this will be one of the subjects I shall discuss with the Electricity Council and boards in the course of this year's review of their capital development programmes.

Mr. Fraser

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, looking at the increased demand for electricity generally, there seems to be a disproportionate increase between the domestic consumer and industry? I think that the domestic consumer is increasing his intake by 13 per cent. per year and industry by about 4 per cent. Does he not think it very likely, indeed almost certain, that if we are to get a 4 per cent. increase in the economy there will have to be a very steep increase in the use of electricity by industry, and if that is to take place the existing plant will not meet this growing demand? Will he give serious consideration to this and see whether we can in fact maintain this 4 per cent. increase in the economy?

Mr. Wood

I am giving serious consideration to this matter. I told the hon. Gentleman in my Answer what the extent of the gap was. Clearly the extent to which this gap seriously prevents British industry from achieving 4 per cent. growth depends on various factors, such as where the development will take place and whether it is to be achieved by working more shifts or by building additional capacity. It also depends on competition from other fuels. It is difficult to know where the actual gap would be. It is certainly true that on present figures there would be a gap, and this is a matter which will be considered very carefully indeed.

Mr. Millan

Is not it the fact that one of our troubles over the past winter was that, in the past, forecasts of electricity demands have been lower than the actual demands? Is the Minister taking every step to ensure that this under-estimating is not carried forward into the next four or five years?

Mr. Wood

I said in answer to the hon. Gentleman's Question that the gap would continue to exist on the basis of the present plans. It obviously takes time to build power stations. But it is planned to reduce the gap as quickly as possible for exactly the reasons the hon. Gentleman has mentioned—that estimates have been too low in the past and are now being increased.