HC Deb 20 November 1968 vol 773 cc1466-85

Motion made, and Question proposed. That the Aluminium Industry (Anglesey Project) Scheme 1968, a draft of which was laid before this House on 6th November, be approved.—[Mr. Dell.]

Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

On a point of order. I wonder whether I could question your timing, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My estimate is that we have at least another two minutes to go before the hour and a half—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)

Order. I am satisfied that the requisite time has been given to the Scheme.

11.44 p.m.

Mr. David Gibson-Watt (Hereford)

I am sure that the whole House regrets that my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) was unable to complete his excellent speech. If I may take the time of the House upon the smelter Scheme which refers to Anglesey, in the Principality of Wales, I am sure that many hon. Members will be interested.

I shall not argue tonight whether the smelter should or should not be built in the United Kingdom. That matter has been adequately debated in the first Scheme. It has also been argued in the newspapers, in other places, and with our E.F.T.A. partners.

I refer straight away to the question of electricity price which forms such a part in the final cost of producing primary aluminium. I will only repeat what was said in the final paragraph of The Times leader on 25th July: If too many existing users are allowed to opt out in this way the electric supply industry's revenue will suffer. And that will bring it straight back to the question of raising domestic tariffs—or of running at a deficit. My hon. Friends the Members for Honiton (Mr. Emery) and Cirencester and Tewkesbury referred to this very question of price in the earlier debate, and in reply the Minister said that this must remain confidential. I think it is fair to ask how long it will remain confidential, and how long it will be before other industries find out exactly what this price is, and inquire how they will be placed. I cannot accept the argument, which no doubt the Minister will put up, that electricity consumers in the Principality, be they domestic or industrial consumers, will not be involved in any sacrifice.

We cannot overlook the domestic consumer, but tonight, from the point of view of Wales, and from the point of view of the problems of the development area in Wales, I shall frame my questions under four headings—employment, road communications, fall out, and amenity.

Anglesey has had a persistent unemployment problem, and the figure has been consistently above the Welsh average of late.

Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)

Does my hon. Friend know the exact figure for Anglesey? It is about 1,000 or 1,100, and the figure for Holyhead is 300 to 400, men, women, and children.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me those figures. I intended to give my figures in percentages. I think my hon. Friend will agree that that is the best way to do it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)

Order. The hon. Member must address the Chair.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I shall be happy to do so, because I wish to say to the House and to the Chair that, on the October figures, unemployment in Anglesey is running at 6.1 per cent., whereas the average in Wales is just under 4 per cent. I do not throw this challenge only at this Government. This has been a problem for all Governments, and anybody who tackles the problem of unemployment in Anglesey must have regard to it.

The danger of reading and assessing the needs of different parts of the Welsh development area is that in building these huge projects such as the Wylfa power station and the R.T.Z. smelter there comes a time when the construction labour force finds that these large schemes come to an end, and many of the men who are doing this construction are not local people. I think it is expected that the total number of permanent jobs which will result from this smelter is about 700. This is what we were told today. I hope that that will prove to be the case.

I should like to sound a note of warning, as well as one of hope. The warning is that there is a limit to the number of mammoth enterprises which can come to any one part of a development area. The hope is that we may have an increasing variety of jobs in smaller firms, which will give Anglesey a more broadly based economy.

I come, next, to the question of road communications. There has been precious little talk about this tonight from the Minister. The Government intend to build a huge smelter in Anglesey producing 100,000 tons of primary aluminium per year, yet we have heard nothing so far—though I hope we will—about communications, which are not of the best in this part of Wales. The sole road bridge across the Menai Strait was built by Telford in the early 1800s. Have the plans which the Anglesey County Council has put forward been considered, in view of the Government's plan for the smelter? Unless they have, we shall be in even more trouble with road congestion in North Wales. I am glad to see the Secretary of State for Wales in his place, since he has responsibility for road and bridge communications in the Principality. If he would sit a little closer to his hon. Friend, he might tell him what plans he has for communications in North Wales.

On my third point, fall-out, we should like a complete answer from the Government to the anxieties and fears of many parts of the community, including the National Farmers' Union and individuals. We should like to be certain that there is no danger to crops or life.

Fourth is the question of amenity. Those of us who visit Anglesey from other parts of the country remember that it was once the granary of Wales and the first target for any English king who wanted to subdue the Principality, and that it is one of the most beautiful counties in Wales. We should like an assurance that the whole question of architectural design is considered in relation to a project which will involve 400 acres. Only last week I attended a meeting of the Welsh Civic Trust at Llandrindod Wells, and know that these matters rank high in the thinking of Welsh people.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us about employment, communication, fall-out and, last but not least, about amenity.

11.53 p.m.

Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)

This contract is the strangest contract I have ever seen. The things which matter are completely missing, and this is of the greatest importance to Anglesey. I have a limited interest, since I have a house there, but my points are not personal ones. They should be carefully considered, but they do not appear—this is what I cannot understand—in these agreements. What is expected to be the total cost of the Anglesey smelter? The figure of £33 million has been mentioned as the Government's contribution, but we do not know the total cost.

I interrupted the Minister to ask him about infrastructure. Anglesey is a small but well-built-up town, and it is obvious that there should be something in these agreements to show the responsibility of the company for making proper provision for those who are coming into work on the island. It has been suggested that 700 people will be required, but my information is that more than double that number will be needed. Again, there is nothing in the contract to indicate the number.

It should be remembered that the Holyhead unemployment figures are high—about 300 people are out of work, which is a high percentage for an area of this size—and that about 1,100 people are unemployed in Anglesey as a whole. The agreement does not explain anything about the people to be employed or what accommodation will be provided for people coming from other parts of North Wales.

The road problem, particularly at the bridge, is a serious one. A long jetty is to be pushed out into the bay some miles along the coast so that burnt carbon may be disposed of without harming the lovely countryside and beaches of Anglesey. What, if any, agreement has been reached on these matters? There does not appear to be even a formal agreement to show how the money in question will be spent and what the company will do to add to the amenities of the area once the smelter starts operating.

11.58 p.m.

Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

I was concerned a short time ago to delay the House for two minutes because I have only one point to make, and I could have made it then in two minutes, so that by now I could have been home and in bed.

The Minister of State, who is within earshot of those who advise him, should take careful note of the constituency matter I wish to raise, since it will be made to him time and again from the point of view of Peterborough. The Scheme is …made under the Industrial Expansion Act 1968 and authorises the Board of Trade to provide financial support by way of loans up to an aggregate of… many millions of £s. Under this Instrument we will be spending about £33 million and under the Scheme for Invergordon we will spend more than £30 million. My constituency question is whether any thought will ever be given—or can be given under this Instrument—to doing something of the sort for Peterborough.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am sorry to prolong beyond two minutes the time that the hon. Member intended to delay the House, but I fear that he cannot raise that matter on this Instrument.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

I wish to say on this Scheme that perhaps the Government are spending this money in the wrong place. It should be in their minds that there are other places in the United Kingdom and that Peterborough is an ancient city which they are turning upside down so that it can take London's overspill. That may be for good, but if it is not properly done it will be for ill. To make a success of the Scheme the Board of Trade could see that under this Instrument there is industrial development in Peterborough to take the overspill there. I have put this question to the hon. Gentleman before. I have asked why because of its special circumstances Peterborough cannot be treated as a development area, and I have been told that Peterborough will be given the next priority.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I think the hon. Member has made his point, and he ought to cease now or I shall have to rule him out of order.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

I merely wanted to tidy up the package and to say that if under these two Schemes £60 million can be loaned and used in this way, the Government should give some thought—I hope they will—to Peterborough, which is acceding to the Government's request to be a good neighbour to London.

12.2 a.m.

Mr. David Lane (Cambridge)

I am not asking the Government for an aluminium smelter in Cambridge. I declare a personal interest in that for several years I have spent my summer holidays near the Anglesey coast, and I wish Anglesey and its people well.

I wish that I could give an entirely unqualified welcome to the Scheme before us, but I must express a number of reservations. It is extremely unsatisfactory that we are having to discuss all this business, with very many major matters of policy involved, around midnight. The issues raised by these two Instruments—and there may be others to come later on this subject—deserve a full day's debate. I am extremely sorry that the Government have not seen fit to provide it. This is an unsatisfacfactory chapter in a rather unsatisfactory story; ever since the rash statement of the Government in September, 1967, they have been trying to rescue a semblance of respectability for the scheme. They come before us now, not "trailing clouds of glory", but clouds of uncertainty, and I want to refer to some of those clouds.

The White Paper and the Schemes are based on the Industrial Expansion Act. Those who took part in the debates in Committee on the Bill remember the assurances which were then given by the Government, for which we pressed, that in any scheme of this kind the House would be given the fullest relevant information. We were told in particular of the advisory committee which was provided for under the Act and which, according to the plausible words of the Minister of Technology, would play a very vital part in appraising schemes of this kind.

What has happened to that advisory committee which was to be set up under Section 5 of the Act for the purpose of advising the Minister? Has it expressed any views upon these schemes? The White Paper says nothing at all about it. Admittedly, in his opening speech tonight the Minister of State said that the Government had had the benefit of advice from the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation. If whoever is to reply to this debate says that the advisory committee has not had time to express a view on these Schemes, can we be told that no such schemes will be brought before the House in future until the committee has looked at them and the House has been informed of its views on them?

My second question concerns the very scant information given in the whole of the White Paper and in what we have been told from the Government Front Bench about the commercial prospects of the schemes. My hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell) mentioned them at the beginning of the previous debate. They were also touched on by the hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Milne). As I read the arithmetic, the Government are now providing for Schemes which by the mid-1970s will add a total 360,000 tons a year to the aluminium capacity of the country, yet when the Government first spoke of these Schemes a little more than 12 months ago they expected that it would be 240,000 tons.

The Government have upped their bid by 50 per cent. in a matter of 12 months. This deserves more explanation than we have had so far tonight.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is going wide of the Scheme that we are discussing. He is bringing in other plants. We can discuss only the plant in the Scheme.

Mr. Lane

I will confine my point to the plant in the Scheme, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is another aspect of the commercial field in which the information before us is very inadequate—competitiveness.

The capacity of the Anglesey plant is 100,000 tons. The Minister admitted that it is 20,000 tons less than was originally envisaged. He said the difference in unit cost efficiency was very slight. I am not asking about pence per ton, but can whoever replies to the debate be a little more forthcoming about the apparent sacrifice in unit cost efficiency that we are accepting, presumably for the sake of getting Norwegian approval?

I turn to the implications for other sectors of the economy, particularly fuel policy.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot turn this into a wide general debate on fuel policy. He must confine himself to what is in the Scheme.

Mr. Lane

I will try to relate it more closely, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to what is said in the Scheme about power contracts. I regret that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power, who has been here sphinx-like in his usual way, has now left the Chamber. We have tried to get some information in the past but I must try again this evening. I press the Government to tell us a little more about this from the point of view of other users of electricity. The Government have virtually admitted that if we pass the Scheme we are providing a special deal for the aluminium industry. They have told us that they cannot state the cost. But can they tell us whether there is any profit element in the operating costs that the aluminium company has to pay for the generating plant? This is very relevant to the capital contribution it is being required to make. All we have to go on is rather vague phrases in the White Paper about selected cases and special electricity contracts. What views has the electricity industry as a whole put to the Government on this proposal? The House is entitled to know.

Other users of power have every right to ask why the aluminium producers should be put in this preferential position. If this kind of scheme is fair, as the Government have tried to justify it to us, for new industries being started from a green-field site, there may be justification for it in certain cases for existing industries.

Two have been mentioned already, and I had intended to mention them—the chemical industry and the steel industry. Both these well-established industries are heavily dependent, not perhaps quite to the extent that the aluminium industry is, on power; both are exporting industries, and both are import-saving industries. The Minister said earlier that there were no proposals from these others comparable to the proposals in the Scheme but that the Government were prepared to consider them.

Have the Government had any representations from the chemical industry—the House is entitled to know—about power supply under these Schemes? Also, would the Government favourably consider a scheme from the British Steel Corporation for an electric-based cold melting plant on the Thames Estuary—it has often been talked about—which would take large-scale electricity in the same way as the aluminium smelter to which this Scheme relates?

Finally, there is another uncertainty that we ought to have cleared up before we pass the Scheme. It is about the whole attitude of the Government to the private generation of electricity by users for their own use.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. That is out of order.

Mr. Lane

I shall pursue that no further, Mr. Deputy Speaker, except to say that if the Government are to get these Schemes tonight they have a plain and urgent obligation to the House and industry generally to clear up as soon as possible some of the uncertainties that my hon. Friends and I have mentioned.

12.10 a.m.

Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)

I am glad to have the opportunity to intervene because otherwise, no back-bench Member from Wales will speak, and I welcome the Scheme. The points made by the hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) were pertinent. I join with him on his amenity point, because Anglesey is a picturesque and beautiful island. These days, engineers will watch that aspect, but it would be as well for the Minister to say something about it.

I welcome the project. I am a frequent visitor to Anglesey and I know the conditions of unemployment which have existed there for many years. Anything that will alleviate unemployment, even if they come from other countries to build it, is welcome. I hope that the people required to man this great development in future will be local people, but if there are better people than the Welsh to man it, I have no objection.

Is the Minister satisfied that all objections have been met? I gather that there are no objections now from Anglesey County Council, from Holyhead Urban Council or the neighbouring district councils, and none from the National Farmers' Union, but there may be a little objection from the Farmers' Union of Wales.

Sir E. Errington

There are certain considerations that have to be fulfilled before objections are withdrawn on certain matters. One I mentioned was the disposal of carbon at sea, requiring it to be placed in such a way that it is not on the sea shelf and would spoil the beaches. They have to be carried out and approved, so it is not quite correct to say that there is no objection. There is a conditional objection.

Mr. Watkins

I appreciate the hon. Member's intervention. I understand that there were objections at the beginning. If there still are, I am sure that the Minister will see to them. My information is that the overwhelming number of these who had objections have changed their minds and I hope that the project will be accepted.

12.13 a.m.

Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)

I will not inflict on the House the first part of the speech I intended to make, because I have already done that on the Scottish Scheme and I will terminate briefly on Wales, because this is the one opportunity left to me within the rules of order.

I was rather frightened to hear some of the things said by my hon. Friends. I said that I was not sure we were getting value for money in the matter of jobs in unemployment districts and I was a little frightened to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell) talk about "operation counter-drift".

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I think that the hon. Member is wide of the Scheme we are discussing.

Mr. Ridley

I am coming directly to the Scheme.

I wanted to refer to a comment which you did not challenge, Mr. Deputy Speaker, when it was made from this side, that there was a shortage of skilled labour in Invergordon and that he hoped that the project would bring back skilled labour from other parts. Now I hear that foreign labour will have to be imported to build the smelter in Anglesey. The talk has been of building smelters in these districts to create jobs for the unemployed and now we are told that it is not jobs they want to import, but people.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

My hon. Friend has misheard me. I referred to permanent jobs after the smelter had been finished and the imported people had gone away. I gave a figure of 700. I may be right or wrong.

Mr. Ridley

I am relieved to hear that my hon. Friend was referring to construction jobs, but in the Scottish case there is no doubt that my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn was advocating the return of Highlanders to the Highlands to fill the job we are at such pains to create.

This proposal is standing economics on its head. For a Government who believe in planning seriously to advocate vast expenditure of public money, breaking our international agreements and giving a heavy subsidy element so as to create jobs for people who do not need them, is carrying planning a bit far even for a Labour Government. I hope that we shall have a great deal more information before these projects go ahead. We want to know what jobs there will be, what the cost will be, what the uneconomic part of the running costs will be, and so forth.

I spared the House earlier any mention of the subsidised rate of interest of 7 per cent. and the details of roads, ports, harbours, bridges and other ancillary investment which will be needed in attendance with the smelters. I was able to make the subsidy £110 million without doing that. This Scheme is against the spirit of free trade. Whether it is against the law of E.F.T.A. is not so important, but the subsidy of £110 million plus a running subsidy is bound to frustrate the easy and uninterrupted flow of trade between E.F.T.A. countries.

It is no good the Government pretending that they can bludgeon the Norwegians out of this. Whether or not they win the argument, this Scheme is definitely in breach of the spirit of free trade. It is in the interests of this country to have free trade. We are in E.F.T.A. We want to join the Common Market and other trading organisations. It is not in our long-term interests for us to do things which cause those with whom we trade to suspect our good motives and to cease to trust us. The Government must be more candid. They must admit that this is in breach of the E.F.T.A. Agreement and a protectionist measure and that the subsidy element makes economic nonsense. They must give a better justification for the Scheme than the Minister has so far given.

12.17 a.m.

Mr. Derek Page (King's Lynn)

The question of the future use of our power resources is involved with the Scheme. Reference has been made to the subsidisation of the Anglesey project. The North Sea gas now coming into production will, within a few years, be available in a quantity far more than adequate for domestic supplies and will then be looking for industrial outlets.

The biggest aluminium plant in the world, on the seaboard of Texas, works on natural gas at a price equivalent to about 2d. a therm, which is not much below the price at which gas is being landed here. Bearing in mind the very large quantities of gas in bulk for a bulk industry, such pricing becomes feasible for us. While I do not begrudge this new project to Anglesey, and recognise its necessity there, I hope that the right of the East Coast—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot raise that matter on this Scheme.

Mr. Page

If my hon. Friend the Minister hopes to see hon. Members, particularly East Anglian Members, in favour of this Scheme, I trust that we shall have assurances that our hopes for North Sea gas will not be frustrated.

12.19 a.m.

Mr. Peter Emery (Honiton)

I did not rise before, because I felt it only right to allow my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) to finish the speech he got only half way through when he was forced to stop because of the time factor on the Invergordon Scheme. I would say to the hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Derek Page)—and here I declare an interest—that he has an interesting point on the question of a potentially much larger power factor. That is not relevant at present.

I am concerned at the fact that the Government have seen fit, having made a general speech on the previous Scheme, to move this one formally. I do not give the Scheme an unqualified welcome. It is disturbing that once again no real facts or figures have been given in support of the Scheme. It is not right that the Scheme should go forward without the Government understanding that they are asking too much of the House if they do not produce facts and figures in support of the Scheme.

What are the unit costs of electricity for this contract? I do not believe that I shall get an answer to this question. I did not get an answer on the previous Scheme, not for the reasons the Minister gave. I believe the reason was that the Government do not know. They cannot nail their colours to the mast and give a definite answer, because the capital investment for this plant is likely greatly to increase in the period ahead. [Interruption.] It may be a yawning matter for the Minister's Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar), but it is not a yawning matter for the taxpayer who has to provide the money.

The Government cannot give us the facts because the budget cannot be specifically qualified at this moment. Any unit cost factor they now announce is likely to be disproved in a number of years. I repeat my accusation that they cannot give us the facts because they do not know.

I make one other accusation. I believe that it will prove that the fuel and power produced for this project, as for the previous one, will be at a subsidised cost. This is a prediction, but it is important to our E.F.T.A. partners and to our friends in Norway that someone has had the guts to say that we believe that this Scheme is going forward at a cost for fuel which must on any ordinary consideration be a subsidised one.

What will be the interest rate on the main sum? Clause 10 of the Agreement provides that the interest rate on overdue payments will be 5 per cent. or 1 per cent. above Bank Rate. Normally there is a penalty for overdue payments, in that the rate on them is greater than the ordinary rate. Any reasonable man would conclude that the rate of interest for payments made on time will be well below the rate of interest on overdue payments. If it is, we come back to the subsidisation factor on the interest rate. Can we be told this? Is this a commercial secret? Surely not. Other industries have the right to know at what rate this loan is being made.

Surely the country has the right to know what the Government consider to be the total? I do not mean just the £33 million in this Scheme, but the total projected cost for the whole of the Scheme. Surely there are some figures? I do not mind if they give us just an estimate. The House has the right to know what they consider this estimate to be. I do not get any pleasure in speaking—[HON. MEMBERS: "Humbug."] Hon. Gentlemen opposite may shout "humbug", but I do this only because it is essential that someone does so. I believe that most sincerely. If hon. Gentlemen are sincere in their speeches, they should give credit to other hon. Members, from whatever part of the House, for being as honest in their approach. I do not enjoy saying this, because I do not like having to say to a foreigner, "I do not like the approach my Government are making, but they are making this approach". Someone has to speak up clearly, and it is for that reason that I have done so.

12.27 a.m.

Sir Keith Joseph (Leeds, North-East)

Before the Minister seeks to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would like to sum up one or two points and put some questions. As the House will realise from the well-informed speeches made by my hon. Friends, there is a very nice balance of argument here. We all understand the exciting prospects opened up by a home-based aluminium industry. We welcome the permanent jobs that are to be created, and we hope, the jobs that are to follow in Invergordon and Anglesey.

No one can tell whether the resources poured out by the taxpayer are better used in this way in the national interest than if they were used in some different way. There is nothing wrong in expressing some doubt, as some of my hon. Friends have done, while welcoming the benefits. Private enterprise suggested these investment schemes, based on the investment grants made available through Government policy in the development areas. I must ask the Minister whether he is aware that the Opposition have already suggested that there are better ways of serving the development areas, on the one hand, the grey areas, on the other, and the national interest as a whole, than the present highly distorted and very expensive use of taxpayers money by way of the present pattern of investment grants.

That is not for this debate—[Laughter.] The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar) has been laughing continuously throughout the debate. I do not think that it is the job of a Parliamentary Private Secretary to a Minister, who is treating the House with great courtesy, to provide a constant commentary of giggles. I am sorry to have to hit the hon. Member in this way from the Box, but it has gone on continuously for the last two hours.

The pattern of encouragement for the development and grey areas is not for this debate, but will perhaps be before the House when the Hunt Committee has reported.

I want to develop the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) about private generation. At the heart of this Scheme is the power contract. It is common knowledge that the original proposal for the Anglesey smelter was based, as regards power, on a shared use of what was then proposed to be an expanding power supply for Government facility. That proposed expansion of a power supply for a Government facility has, I believe, been dropped, and the promoters of the Anglesey smelter were forced to seek the power which they required in another way.

The question which my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge probably wanted to put to the Government, and which I will put, is whether the known distaste of the Central Electricity Generating Board for private generation led the Government to refuse an investment grant for private power generation if the promoters of the Anglesey smelter ever requested such a facility from the Government. We do not know whether the promoters requested the right to have an investment grant for a private power supply, but if they requested such a facility, did the Government or did they not refuse an investment grant?

My second question is, again, about the borrowing requirements. The Minister told us—I presume that it is true of Anglesey as it was of Invergordon—that there will be no extra borrowing on account of the loans to be provided to the two companies because, he said, those loan projects will exactly offset lower expenditure by the C.E.G.B. or the Hydro-Electric Board in Scotland. Will he tell us whether what is happening is that the spare margin of capacity in the grid supply is therefore being reduced? We see from page 4 of the 1967–68 Report of the C.E.G.B. that slower growth of electricity demand, mainly the result of the general economic slowdown, has led to load forecasts for the early 1970's being reduced.

What is happening—I ask the Minister for confirmation—is that, the sale of power having fallen because of the slowdown in industrial activity, the Anglesey power will come out of the existing grid supplies, thus reducing the spare margin of capacity, and will not involve any special additional building. Is that the explanation for the offset from C.E.G.B. expenditure of the loan being provided to the Anglesey promoters? If so, it explains why the borrowing requirement is not being increased.

I repeat that we wholeheartedly welcome the increase number of jobs which will be brought to Anglesey. That does not prevent us from putting the questions which my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) put from the Box about such consequential issues as transport, communications, fall-out and design or the questions which my hon. Friends put about the dilemma between free trade, on the one hand, and development area policy and import substitution, on the other, with which this Scheme faces the Government and the House.

12.33 a.m.

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

I will deal with the questions as rapidly as I can, first, those put by the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph). He asked whether any objection by the Central Electricity Generating Board led to the Government refusing investment grants in respect of earlier schemes put forward for the smelting of aluminium in this country. We have always made it clear that in giving investment grants to generating stations we should take account of the position of the public supply system. There has never been any question about that. But in the case to which he refers the decisive consideration involved was that what would have been required was a very large private power station, and there was no way of disposing of the surplus capacity which that large private power station would have available to it.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about borrowing requirements. As he said, the effect would be to reduce the spare margin of capacity in the C.E.G.B. system. This, of course, means that in the current year there is no additional borrowing requirement, but, of course, equally, as demand builds up, as that capacity has to be replaced, because it has been allocated to this particular project, there will be additional demands on the Central Electricity Generating Board.

Mr. Emery

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, and I thank him for giving way, but I find myself in a dilemma. He says that spare capacity to provide generating plant could not be used. The fact is that spare capacity normally goes into the grid, and we take on the grid at times even electricity from Paris. Why would it not have been possible for this capacity to have gone into the grid in the normal way and to have gone anywhere throughout the country?

Mr. Dell

I think that it is a rather different proposition, if it is being suggested that an enormous power station, far larger than that required for the aluminium smelter itself, should be built to supply the grid, and to supply the grid with a very much wider margin.

Sir K. Joseph

The Minister, for once, is not being coherent. Why should the promoters of the Anglesey smelter have wanted a power plant so much bigger than would be justified for their own use?

Mr. Dell

This, surely, is the whole essence of the problem. What we are dealing with here is nuclear generation; we are dealing specifically with an advanced gas cooled reactor, and, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, they become most economic in very large sizes. I think that that is the answer to the point he is now making.

I was asked about the employment which would result from the smelter at Anglesey. The answer is that 2,000 jobs will be provided during construction and 700 permanent jobs thereafter.

Regarding road communications, there is, of course, a road diversion on the A5 currently going on, being paid for by the company. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, on 15th October, 1968, referred to his road proposals for North Wales and they are relevant in this respect.

I was asked about fall-out. Assurances have been given regarding the treatment of industrial gases from the reduction plant at Anglesey in accordance with the advice of the Alkali Inspectorate.

I was asked about amenity. May I express my own very considerable personal interest in the preservation of amenity in the case of both projects. Indeed, I have personally pressed this point very much on the companies, and I know that my right hon. Friend has this matter very much in mind himself. Assurances have been given in this respect, too, and I would certainly think that they should be adhered to, and by any pressure necessary to ensure that they are.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

Would the hon. Gentleman say something about the bridge? It is not the only question, but it was not made clear in the Secretary of State's statement.

Mr. Dell

I cannot say anything about the bridge, but I will ask my hon. Friends at the Welsh Office to deal with it in correspondence with the hon. Gentleman.

I was asked about costs. The capital costs of the smelter have been announced at £45 million. The loan we are dealing with is £33 million.

The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) asked what had happened to the Advisory Committee under the Industrial Expansions Act. As he knows, it has been appointed. It did not consider this particular project. This project predated it. All the assurances, given during the passage of the Bill, in respect of the Advisory Committee will, of course, be fulfilled.

I was again pressed about the position of other industries. I really think that I have dealt with that point exhaustively, and that if hon. Members who are interested will look at what I have said they will find that I have dealt with the questions they raised.

I do not object to the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) or the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) putting questions about this project. They are fully entitled to do so; indeed, they would be failing in their duty if they felt that they must put these points and did not do so. However, I think that they are wrong in their judgment. This project will be of very great benefit to this country. It is not subsidised. It is not in breach of international agreement, and it has not been held to be so.

I hope that, with these answers, the House will be prepared to accept the Scheme.

Mr. Derek Page

On the point I raised with the Minister—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I have already ruled the hon. Member out of order and, therefore, I cannot allow the Minister to reply.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Aluminium Industry (Anglesey Project) Scheme 1968, a draft of which was laid before this House on 6th November, be approved.