§ 21. Mr. Millan
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland why the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board's Laidon scheme in Perthshire has been included in the public inquiry into the Fada-Fionn scheme in Wester Ross, since there are no objections to the Laidon scheme and there is no connection between the two schemes; what matters concerning Laidon have been or will be considered by the inquiry; and on how many occasions in the past there has been an inquiry into a scheme to which there have been no objections.
§ Mr. Noble
The Fada-Fionn inquiry was extended to cover the Laidon scheme because the problems that arise in assessing comparative costs of alternative methods of providing the power appeared to be similar in both schemes. I trust however that the inquiry will deal with all considerations relevant to either scheme. There has been no previous inquiry into an unopposed scheme.
§ Mr. Millan
Is it not really extraordinary that we should have an inquiry into the Laidon scheme when there are no objections to the scheme, and when this is a scheme which the Mackenzie Committee specifically said met the economic tests laid down by that Committee and which the Government are now proposing to follow? Does not the introduction of evidence about the economics of different kinds of hydro-electricity schemes at a public inquiry tend to make the inquiry confused and, indeed, chaotic—as happened last week at this particular inquiry? Why does not the right hon. Gentleman take the 203 decision about economics, since this is something which ultimately has to be decided by him in any event? Why shuffle this off on to a public inquiry?
§ Mr. Noble
I do not think it is extraordinary. Under the Act I can authorise schemes only if I think they are in the public interest; and quite clearly, the economics of a scheme are just as important in the Highlands as they are in the South. This inquiry is being carried out by a distinguished lawyer and a distinguished professor of economics, and it will be of advantage to me and to Scotland to have their assessment of the position.
§ Sir John MacLeod
But is the Secretary of State satisfied that this inquiry honours the 1943 Act? Surely he could have had experts to inquire into the economics of this, without a prolonged public inquiry? How long is this inquiry going to take? It is very unsatisfactory that there should be delay and that people should not realise what the outcome is to be for, perhaps, some very long time.
§ Mr. Noble
I do not think I can answer my hon. Friend by saying exactly how long it will take, but the procedures of the inquiry into the Fada-Fionn scheme are in accordance with the Act passed by this House, and the extra inquiry into the Laidon scheme will not, I think, add to any great extent to the length of time of the complete inquiry.
§ Mr. Ross
Yes, but surely, is notthe position not only unsatisfactory but also really incredible, bearing in mind that this was one of the subjects which was supposed to be dealt with by the Mackenzie Committee, and secondly, that it was a subject which was supposed to be dealt with in discussions between the two boards in order to guide the Secretary of State? Now, for the first time, we have this unprecedented position of a scheme to which there is no objection being subjected to a public inquiry. Why does the right hon. Gentleman not take the decision himself? Has he received any representations from the local Member of Parliament about this, or has he discussed it with him?
§ Mr. Noble
The answer to the last part of the hon. Member's supple- 204 mentary question is "No, Sir." On the first part, the Mackenzie Committee considered the economics in only one sphere and specifically excluded from its consideration the question of capital costs which, with hydro-electric schemes costing approximately three times the amount of equivalent generation by other methods, is clearly an important consideration.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a suspicion in Scotland that somebody is raising every kind of obstacle to the development of hydro-electricity? There is evidentlya complete misapprehension among some of the people who advise him about the purpose of hydro-electricity. It is not competing in any way with steam. It is complementary and supplementary to steam and is generally used for supply at peak load when electricity cannot be supplied economically by steam stations.
§ Mr. Millan
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.