§ 11.5 a.m.
§ Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
On 16th July I raised at Question Time the problem of underground supplies of electricity in National Parks and asked the Minister of Powerwhether he is aware that the several area electricity boards are adopting different policies towards meeting the cost …".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th July, 1964; Vol. 698, c. 1396.]I asked him to issue general directions to the boards to avoid these differing practices. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, in what I would regard as a commendably abbreviated Answer, said "Yes" to the first part of the Question and "No" to the second.
I have no quarrel with my hon. Friend. He is merely carrying out the policy, usually a wise policy, of not interfering in the working of the nationalised industries, but I want the House to look at some of the wider ramifications of this policy because it is causing great injustice in some areas where those who live in National Parks are either being denied electricity or are having to pay for it at a high cost compared with others not for their own delight but for the delight of those who come to areas of national beauty.
The difference of policy is even greater than mere difference between areas, because if it is a question of a line put up by the Central Electricity Generating Board, usually carried on pylons, being placed underground for the sake of natural beauty, the whole nation has to share the cost, but if the area electricity 1948 boards are responsible for the line they all have different practices. The North-East Area board, which looks after the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, invariably makes the consumer pay the whole cost of putting the supply lines underground, yet just over the Pennines in the Lake District National Park the area board shouldering the cost spreads it round the consumers throughout the area. The Midlands area board adopts a still different practice. It says that it considers each case on its merits. Whatever the purpose of this policy, it means in the Midlands that there is a long delay before any decision is reached and during that time consumers in that National Park are denied electricity.
To show how this policy operates, I should like to refer to one specific case. In my constituency there is a hamlet called East Moors near the beautiful old town of Helmsley. There are 12 inhabitants in the hamlet who have been asking for electricity for a considerable time. They have been told that it is the wish of the National Parks Commission that the lines to these consumers should be underground and they have therefore been told that they cannot have electricity unless a sum of £3,000 is paid, which means £250 for each consumer. They cannot afford that extra charge. This has gone on for a very long time, with no electricity for them and no alteration of policy by the Board or the Minister.