HC Deb 19 January 1965 vol 705 cc26-7
Q4. Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

asked the Prime Minister if he will introduce legislation to make the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Public Building and Works specifically responsible for the amenity considerations involved in the siting, routeing and nature of power transmission lines.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

In view of the very great public interest, not only in the areas concerned but in all areas to which people go to visit beauty spots, and as the Prime Minister himself has said that these matters should not be decided by the electricity boards but that there should be consideration by an independent body and that he would consider an amendment of the law, does he not think that it is now necessary to take some action?

The Prime Minister

I think that the whole House and the whole country share the hon. Baronet's concern in the matter of the spoiling of amenities in the countryside by any kind of construction of this kind, but the fact is that before anything of this kind can be done, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power has the right—indeed, the duty—to hold public inquiries at which amenity considerations can be fully dealt with; and, of course, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has to be consulted on all planning aspects of the routes, including amenity considerations.

Mr. Woodburn

Would my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister consider the importance of setting up some kind of watchdog organisation to see that very important amenities are not destroyed before the planning authorities are able properly to consider the matter? There is a great danger of beauty spots being permanently lost to the country unless it is the duty of such bodies as the Historic Buildings Councils or the National Trust to tell the Government when these beauty spots are in danger.

The Prime Minister

I may be wrong, but I think that in this matter the interest of the House stems particularly from the decision taken by the previous Government about the power transmission lines in Sussex, but I think that my Answer made it clear that the Ministers concerned have the fullest responsibility for dealing with amenity considerations. The main problem, and I think that it must be recognised, as the previous Government recognised it, is that there will be cases when, on sheer grounds of cost, it is not possible to do what we would all like to do, and estimates have been given suggesting that the cost of burying these lines underground might be as much as £1 million a mile.