HC Deb 19 December 1967 vol 756 cc1063-4
6. Mr. Willey

asked the Minister of Technology whether he will set up a departmental committee to examine the possibilities of nuclear marine propulsion in the light of the experimental work being carried out in other industrial countries, details of which are in his possession.

Mr. Benn

I have nothing to add to the statement I made in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) on 5th December, in which I made it clear that the issue is being re-examined.—[Vol. 755, c. 259.]

Mr. Willey

That was a helpful reply, but in view of the Select Committee's recommendations and of the danger that we may lose ground to our competitors in shipbuilding, will my right hon. Friend look at this matter again urgently?

Mr. Benn

I am looking at it again urgently. That was what my right hon. Friend complimented me on doing. The problem is not whether we can have a reactor in a ship, but whether it will be economic. That has always been the argument. We now bring together under the Ministry of Technology the Atomic Energy Authority, the shipbuilding industry, the nuclear industry, the marine engine industry and the British Shipbuilding Research Association. Therefore, it falls for me to examine it.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Would not the Minister agree that a committee similar to the old Padmore Committee might well be the best method of accelerating a decision in this matter? We have waited a long time for the decision. Although Lord Penney's voice is always well listened to, surely there are other considerations which demand other action.

Mr. Benn

Nobody has waited for a decision. There has been a decision that we will go ahead with this project when it shows promise of being economic. That is the criterion by which we have to judge all our investments. Nobody doubts that it can be done technically. I do not think that a committee is necessary when all the responsibilities in this matter have been, for this purpose among others, brought within my Department.