HC Deb 28 February 1967 vol 742 cc237-8
4. Mr. Hastings

asked the Minister of Technology what plans he has for changing the relationship between the Atomic Energy Authority and the three contracting Consortia.

11. Mr. J. H. Osborn

asked the Minister of Technology if he will now make a statement about his plans for the unification of the design effort for atomic power stations.

The Minister of Technology (Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn)

Following the meeting between my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power and myself with the Consortia, talks are continuing, but I am not yet in a position to make a statement.

Mr. Hastings

Did the Minister see the article on this subject in the Sunday Telegraph of 5th February, entitled "Wedgwood Benn's bombshell"? Has he any intention of giving the Atomic Energy Authority power to withhold the fruits of their research from the Consortia? If so, what is the purpose of this move?

Mr. Benn

When I met the Consortia to discuss the problem with them, they particularly asked me not to make a statement until our discussions had gone further and, in deference to their suggestion, I decided not to make a statement. I must ask the hon. Member to await the conclusion of the talks.

Mr. Osborn

Will the Minister preserve the element of competition in design, because it is competition which brought the break-through of the A.G.R. at Dungeness B, and not amalgamate it into one organisation?

Mr. Benn

I will certainly bear in mind the point which the hon. Gentleman made.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Does the Minister not agree that if there is to be a satisfactory arrangement between the A.E.A., on the one hand, and the Consortia, on the other hand, with the C.E.G.B., it is essential that we should have a strong replication policy? Will he seriously consider this point before reaching a final conclusion?

Mr. Benn

May I congratulate the hon. and gallant Member on his appearance on the Front Bench for the Opposition on this subject? This consideration is very much in our minds. This is an issue in which the problems are a little clearer than the solution, and this inclines me not to speak about it until we have decided what to do.