§ 3. Sir C. Osborne
asked the Minister of Power why nuclear power stations have been built at a cost of £500 million more than comparable coal-fired power stations would have cost; and what reply he has sent to the representations made 821 to him by the Chairman of the National Coal Board on this matter.
§ Mr. Marsh
I am aware that the Chairman of the National Coal Board has quoted a figure of £500 million as the extra cost of the first nuclear power programme compared with a similar capacity of conventional stations, but this figure does not take into account the considerable savings in running costs once the stations have been built.
§ Sir C. Osborne
But is not the Minister aware that miners throughout the country feel that they are having a raw deal and have legitimate complaints on this issue? What is the right hon. Gentleman doing to meet the legitimate fears of these men?
§ Mr. Shinwell
Does my right hon. Friend realise that this constant dispute between himself on behalf of the Ministry over which he presides and the Chairman of the National Coal Board is causing a lot of confusion, particularly in mining circles? How is it possible to resolve the dispute? He retains the Chairman of the Coal Board in his position and yet, at the same time, he never seems to agree with him.
§ Mr. Marsh
There are two separate issues. The hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) raised the question of the first nuclear power programme, which I personally think was too big, but none the less it is there. There is room for legitimate debate about the nuclear costs of the stations which are to follow. There is no reason why the Chairman of the Coal Board should not express views which he holds very strongly.
§ Mrs. Thatcher
Would not the Minister agree that had it not been for the first nuclear power programme we should not be in a position in which we could get nuclear power as cheaply, if not more cheaply, than coal power?
§ Mr. Edwin Wainwright
In so far as the first phasing of nuclear power proved very expensive, and since building five nuclear power stations of the a.g.r. type might be expensive, has my right hon. Friend considered building three instead of five stations so that we can obtain sufficient knowhow on nuclear power?
§ Mr. Marsh
There is a great deal of discussion going on into the question of the load forecast in order to work out exactly how many stations we should build and when. But I do not think that there can be any argument that, with the future nuclear power stations, the costs of generation will be low compared with other fuels.