HC Deb 19 November 1973 vol 864 cc943-4
22. Mr. Palmer

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recommendations have been made by the Nuclear Power Advisory Board on the choice of reactors for the next stage of the nuclear power programme.

Mr. Peter Walker

The Nuclear Power Advisory Board has not yet made any recommendation on this subject.

Mr. Palmer

In view of the possibility that American light water reactors may be recommended, will the right hon. Gentleman say when the board will be meeting? In view of the vast public investment in this business, will the reports of the board be made available to the House of Commons?

Mr. Walker

The Nuclear Power Advisory Board is a body which gives advice to me, and its advice is given in confidence. I shall be the Minister responsible for the decision. The board is having regular meetings at the moment—there is to be a further meeting this week, and there will be other meetings between now and the end of the year—and I hope to come to my conclusions on this topic probably somewhere about the end of January or the beginning of February.

Mr. Benn

As a decision to buy American reactors would be taken by the whole community as a major political act which would require the fullest possible discussion in the House before a final conclusion was reached, not only because of the effect on British industry but because of the safety factors involved, may we have an assurance that the Minister will put the facts upon which he would be reaching a decision before the House for debate before he himself reaches the final political decision?

Mr. Walker

There are plenty of opportunities for the House to debate this matter. The choice of reactor is a highly technical subject, and, of course, a major decision is involved for British industry. I assure the House that, before I come to a decision, I shall give the House a detailed explanation of it. At the end of the day, a decision in this sphere must be a Government decision. Whether the House will wish to reject that decision is a matter for the House, but I give an assurance that I shall make available to the House the detailed basis upon which I come to my decision.