HC Deb 15 May 1968 vol 764 cc1224-5

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

58. Mr. RANKIN

To ask the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the fact that the decision on the award of the contract for Finland's first nuclear power station is imminent, and that the Finnish Government will be governed by technical and commercial considerations as well as by the broad issues of economic policy, he will give an assurance that Her Majesty's Government will do everything in their power to support the technically and commercially competitive offer made by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. Edmund Dell)

With permission, I would now like to answer Question No. 58.

Yes, Sir. Her Majesty's Government are doing everything in their power to support the tender made by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority. Every suitable opportunity has been taken to make the Finnish authorities aware of the importance we attach to this contract, of the pre-eminent position of the United Kingdom in the field of nuclear energy, and of our expectation that the award of the con tract will be decided on commercial grounds as required by the E.F.T.A. Convention.

Mr. Rankin

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply and for his intervention. Is he aware that it will bring very great encouragement to the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority in its attempt to win this important contract, particularly Ls two very powerful European competitors are already in the field for this order?

Mr. Dell

I thank my hon. Friend for those remarks. Only last week, during the E.F.T.A. Council meeting, we took a further opportunity of expressing to representatives of the Finnish Government our interest in this contract.

Mr. David Price

Will the Minister impress upon the Finnish authorities that to choose, for instance, a Russian reactor in preference to a British nuclear reactor on grounds other than technical or economic would represent a big setback to Anglo-Finnish relations and would be outside the spirit of the E.F.T.A. Agreement?

Mr. Dell

We have emphasised to the Finnish authorities our expectation that this will be decided on commercial and technical merit. Before the tender was made by the Atomic Energy Authority, it sought assurances from the Finnish Government that the only criteria would be commercial and technical merit. These assurances were given and have, indeed, recently been confirmed.