HC Deb 28 February 1972 vol 832 cc7-10
7. Mr. Rost

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what arrangements he is making to ensure that Central Electricity Generating Board power stations become adequately supplied with reserve stocks of all essential materials required to maintain full production for a long enough period to meet any future emergencies.

The Minister for Industry (Sir John Eden)

I am satisfied that the C.E.G.B. is making every endeavour to rebuild its stocks of all essential materials.

Mr. Rost

While welcoming that reply, may I ask whether my hon. Friend agrees that the recent illegal picketing of some of our power stations has revealed a weakness in our national security? Will the Government ensure that, in the national interest, all power stations are now adequately stocked with the necessary materials, including alternative sources of fuel, to insure against any prolonged disruption of supplies of materials to those power stations?

Sir J. Eden

Questions about the law on picketing are for my right hon. Friends more directly concerned with these matters. I am certain that in its contingency plans we can expect the C.E.G.B. to take account of its recent experiences.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Will the Minister arrange, within the next 12 hours, for an investigation into what is taking place at Agecroft power station, the second biggest in the North West, on the fringe of my constituency? Is he aware that I went there yesterday with two of my constituents who are employed there who showed me that, despite ample supplies of coal and fuel, that power station has not worked for two days, that these men allege that the C.E.G.B. is making more serious cuts than are necessary and that they think this is because it wishes to discredit the miners?

Sir J. Eden

I completely rebut the more general accusations which the hon. Gentleman has made. Coal stocks are extremely tight at present—

Mr. Allaun

Not there.

Sir J. Eden

—and fully justify a retention of the restrictive measures.

Mr. Allaun

I have seen them.

Sir J. Eden

The hon. Gentleman asked me about a particular power station. I will certainly look into the point that he raised. However, I assure him that every possible endeavour is being made by the electricity supply industry to ensure the speediest possible return to normality.

Sir G. Nabarro

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that hon. Members in all parts of the House are most anxious to penetrate the mind of my right hon. Friend with regard to future policy for fuel supplies at generating stations, the extent to which we are now embarked on dual firing, coal-oil or oil or coal or nuclear, and what is to be the balance between these fuels in future? Could we not have a White Paper setting out all these important details?

Sir J. Eden

My hon. Friend has a later Question about that matter on the Order Paper. Fuel policy implications from what we have just been through are under urgent consideration.

Mr. Harold Lever

Would not the Minister be wiser, when questioned about a specific case by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun), to assure the House that he will look into it before denying as confidently as he does that there is any cause for complaint? Secondly, will he seek to discourage the more belligerent of his hon. Friends—

Sir G. Nabarro

I am not belligerent.

Mr. Lever

I was not referring to the question by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro)—at a time when we should be trying to bind up the wounds caused by the strike and to restore good relations between management and men, from provocative and aggressive remarks of the kind which have been featured this afternoon?

Sir J. Eden

The hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) asked two questions. One was of a generalised nature making sweeping allegations which were wholly without foundation. The other related to a particular situation which I said I would look into.

25. Mr. Cronin

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the adequacy of coal stocks for power stations.

Mr. John Davies

Deliveries of coal to power stations are increasing daily and restrictions on consumption of electricity are being relaxed as quickly as the generating position permits. In this situation the stock position is subject to fluctuation but it should permit the fairly early resumption of normal supplies of electricity.

Mr. Cronin

In view of their inexcusable errors of judgment, both during and before the coal strike, which have caused total disruption of industry and prolonged public inconvenience, should not the right hon. Gentleman and, more particularly, his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment give serious consideration to resigning?

Mr. Davies

The hon. Gentleman's premise is incorrect and the conclusion entirely inconsequent.

Mr. William Clark

Would my right hon. Friend agree that it has always been the law that when goods are sold the purchaser should have the free use of and the right to use those goods? Would he further agree that the action in previous weeks of picketing goods which did not belong to the National Coal Board was a violation of the law?

Hon. Members


Mr. Davies

The whole matter of the laws affecting picketing, as my right hon. Friend has said, now needs to be seen in the light of the recent events. It is undesirable at this point for me to try to comment on the questions to which my hon. Friend has referred.

Mr. Palmer

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that as the flow of coal into power stations over the last three or four days has exceeded the consumption of coal, stocks are building up and, therefore, apart from peak load times, should there not be an early relaxation of the present hardship being suffered by the public?

Mr. Davies

No, the assumption made by the hon. Gentleman is incorrect, Stocks are still being marginally drawn down despite the deliveries of coal. But the C.E.G.B. has recently indicated that it hopes to be back to normal output within 10 to 14 days.

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