HC Deb 02 May 1968 vol 763 cc1283-5
Q1. Mr. Wyatt

asked the Prime Minister whether he will co-ordinate the activities of the Minister of Technology and the Minister of Power, with a view to their producing a comparative study of the respective costs of providing power by means of coal, natural gas and nuclear energy.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

My right hon. Friends already work closely together on all matters of common concern, but if my hon. Friend wants information about matters falling within their responsibilities, perhaps he would address Questions to them.

Mr. Wyatt

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that many hundreds of millions of pounds have already been wasted in building nuclear power stations which cannot produce electricity as cheaply as the cheapest coal-fired station? Is he aware that the new coal-fired station at Ratcliffe, near Nottingham will shortly be producing electricity at .54d. per unit as against the honed for .56d. per unit at the new nuclear power station at Dungeness B, which will not be operating until 1971? What is the point of having a Select Committee—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Questions must be reasonably brief.

Mr. Wyatt

What is the point of having a Select Committee recommending an independent full inquiry into costs and the Government doing nothing about it?

The Prime Minister

There are many views about the proper accountancy and the proper figures to be used for evaluating different methods of producing power. All these were gone into very fully before we produced our White Paper on fuel policy. My hon. Friend referred to the Report of the Select Committee, which went into these matters in very great detail and had available to it all the information the Departments could give it. He will be glad to know that it is hoped that in the very near future the House as a whole will be able to debate this very important Report.

Mr. Lubbock

Will the Prime Minister draw to his hon. Friend's attention the appendices in the Select Committee's Report containing a very full account of the Minister of Power's special committee set up to evaluate the costs of producing electricity from different sources? Does the Prime Minister agree that the Central Electricity Generating Board is most unlikely to choose as the source of fuel one which is more expensive than the minimum? That is why it is expanding the nuclear energy programme.

The Prime Minister

I agree with the hon. Gentleman's views, but no doubt my hon. Friend has already fully studied appendices 43 and 44 to the Select Committee's Report which contained all the technical information available, but I think that perhaps he had rather made up his mind on the subject before he read them.

Dr. Ernest A. Davies

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the real problem here is to have an agreed basis between the various conflicting parties on which to erect a calculation of these costs, and that until this is done there is no point in providing further figures for various lobbyists to quote back and forth to one another?

The Prime Minister

I was very much concerned with trying to evaluate the statistical quotations of lobbyists on similar matters even before nuclear power was used. At the end of the war the gas and electricity lobbyists could always produce figures to prove their own point. The most authoritative and independent work done in this field was that presented to the Select Committee.