HC Deb 05 July 1971 vol 820 cc923-4
44. Mr. Palmer

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if, in view of the continued failure of the British nuclear industry to export reactors and the inability of the generating authorities to provide enough work for two nuclear manufacturing groupings, he will take steps to revise the recommendations of the former Industrial Reorganisation Corporation and apply the recommendation of the Select Committee on Science and Technology in the last Parliament for the creation of one British nuclear design and construction grouping.

Mr. Corfield

This question is primarily one for the industrial interests involved. In any case it would be appropriate for my right hon. Friend to take account of the results of the current review of reactor programmes before forming a view on the hon. Member's suggestion.

Mr. Palmer

Does not the right hon. Member agree that the position of the nuclear reactor industry at the moment is very serious, and that, in retrospect, the Select Committee has been shown to have had considerable insight into the future? Secondly, can the Minister tell us what the Vinter Committee is, and when is proposes to report?

Mr. Corfield

I agree that the situation in this industry is very difficult at the moment, but I am sure that the hon. Member will agree that whatever foresight the Select Committee showed, it ultimately agreed that it was sensible to go for two companies instead of one. The Vinter Committee is carrying out a purely Departmental study of reactor problems, together with the C.E.G.B. We hope that it will report in about October.

Mr. Eadie

Does not the Minister agree that the implication of this Question is that Government representatives should apologise at the Dispatch Box for making miners unemployed and for closing pits, on the false premise that nuclear power would be cheaper than coal? Will not he reconsider this question, with a view to trying to institute a real nuclear power programme, rather than continuing to fuss about as he is at present?

Mr. Corfield

It is precisely because there was so much fussing about in the past that we are having a jolly good review of the situation.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I do not underestimate the difficulties of coming to a decision in this matter, but will my right hon. Friend give careful consideration to the recommendation of the Select Committee on the export aspects of this problem, in respect of which it had some constructive suggestions to make?

Mr. Corfield

I accept that, but it is right to point out that in the light of the situation then ruling the Select Committee agreed with the proposals of the previous Government that two companies were most suitable in those circumstances. I agree that the matter now needs reviewing, and that is what I am doing.