HC Deb 21 February 1967 vol 741 cc1401-2
1. Mr. Palmer

asked the Minister of Power when the revised White Paper on Fuel and Power Policy will be made available to Parliament.

14. Mr. Varley

asked the Minister of Power if he will now publish a White Paper setting out the studies he has made and conclusions reached to form the basis of a new fuel policy.

The Minister of Power (Mr. Richard Marsh)

I have nothing to add to the reply I gave to my hon. Friends the Members for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley) and Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) on 24th January.—[Vol. 739, c. 233.]

Mr. Palmer

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that it is without precedent for information of this importance to be withheld from the House of Commons? Could not he say, therefore, when the White Paper setting out his future fuel policy will be available to the House?

Mr. Marsh

No, Sir. In fact, the calculations have not been made, and therefore the policy has not been determined. I think that it would be a great pity and a mistake on an issue as big as this to try to rush it. We are carrying out a very comprehensive fuel policy review, and as soon as I have some policy decisions I shall announce them to the House.

Mr. Varley

Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to state categorically that in his study to produce a fuel and energy policy he will not be stampeded by any short-term considera- tions, or any short-term market attractions, and will he take steps to protect the national investment in coal and electricity from nuclear energy and that sort of thing? Will he give this top priority?

Mr. Marsh

These are the sort of considerations to be taken into account. It is precisely because I do not want to be stampeded by short-term considerations that I wish if possible to develop a comprehensive fuel policy review.

Mr. Barber

While not wishing to stampede the right hon. Gentleman, may I ask whether he cannot at least give us some idea, even in the most generalised form, about when he will have a policy to present to the House?

Mr. Marsh

I think that this is a continuing exercise. In the first instance, one hopes to start having something to say around about Easter, but from then on it is a question of how much further we go in producing a really sophisticated model. This is an elaborate exercise, and it is worth doing because the amount of investment in this industry is very high indeed.

2. Mr. Palmer

asked the Minister of Power if his estimates and proposals for reappraisal of the contributions of coal, nuclear energy, oil and natural gas to the economy of the country have been before his Energy Advisory Council; and what advice he has received.

Mr. Marsh

I have discussed with the Energy Advisory Council a number of questions related to the fuel policy review, and shall be consulting them again as the review proceeds. Discussions in the Council are, of course, confidential.

Mr. Palmer

Will my right hon. Friend say something about the widespread feeling that many people are being kept in the dark about the fuel and power policy, particularly the coal and electricity industries?

Mr. Marsh

May I make the position quite clear? There is not a fuel policy as yet completed in this exercise. It is in the process of being completed. On the second point, the fuel industries are not kept in the dark in this. They are parties to the exercise, and are providing the information.