HC Deb 03 May 1972 vol 836 cc360-2
2. Mr. Robert Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board on its plans for future generation of electricity.

The Under-Secretary of State for Development (Scottish Office) (Mr. George Younger)

My right hon. Friend's Department and the Scottish electricity boards have been in constant touch with each other for some time on this matter.

Mr. Hughes

Does the Under-Secretary of State recollect that in correspondence he has been given me similiar replies to that for over a year? Is he not aware of the disquiet in the whole of North-East Scotland at the delay in the generating programme, which was due to start this year, by going out to tender for new generation capacity? When will a decision be made?

Mr. Younger

What we know is that the boards have stated that they require a new station to be commissioned by 1978 in order to meet demand. What is at issue is the precise type of station which will be best. This is an extremely technical matter, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will recognise readily from his own knowledge, and it is not a decision that we can rush quickly through on the spur of the moment. It has to be very carefully considered. This we are doing, and we shall announce the decision as soon as we can.

Mr. Grimond

Does the Minister think it likely that the generation of power in the North of Scotland will be cheaper because of the discovery of oil? In considering schemes for reviving the Scottish economy and reducing unemployment have the Government considered giving additional grants for the supply and distribution of electricity to the areas in the islands which are without it?

Mr. Younger

No, Sir, we have not discussed these matters. The first part of the supplementary question is another matter, but I shall be glad to answer the question if the right hon. Gentleman will put it down.

Sir J. Gilmour

In view of the discovery of North Sea oil, does my hon. Friend agree that both electricity generating boards should together approach the oil companies for the bulk purchase of oil at the cheapest price for the generation of electricity?

Mr. Younger

The electricity boards are well aware of the point my hon. Friend has made. As he will know, they have a joint generating board between the two so that they can take such decisions.

Mr. Ross

Surely the Under-Secretary of State appreciates that consideration is now being given to a nuclear power station at Stake Ness as against other types of power station. It may well be said that a power station will have to be commissioned by 1978, but unless a decision is soon taken certain possibilities will be ruled out.

Mr. Younger

We are well aware that a station has to be commissioned by 1978. As the right hon. Gentleman will know better than most people, when the original announcement was made no decision had been taken on what type of power station would be built. That is still being assessed and we will push forward with it as fast as we can.