HC Deb 04 February 1974 vol 868 cc866-8
14. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Minister for Energy if he will make a statement on his latest discussions with the Canadian Atomic Energy Authorities and Mr. Lorne Gray of Atomic Energy Canada on the possibility of British-Canadian joint co-operation in the development of CANDU type reactors and British steam generating heavy water reactors, in view of the import content of light-water reactors, involving the purchase of pressure vessels, steam generators and control rod drives from the United States of America.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

A number of discussions have already been held about CANDU, and more are due to take place this week.

Mr. Dalyell

In the absence of a chief scientist's organisation, which astonishes my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson), who is a former Minister, would it be unfair to ask whether the Government dispute Mr. Lorne Gray's assertion that if we took CANDU we could have a reliable electricity supply from it within six years?

Mr. Jenkin

Those are matters that will be explored when we meet Dr. Gray and the Canadian Minister for Energy, Minerals and Resources and the Ontario Minister for Energy, I hope later this week. There are obviously extremely important issues to be discussed and I do not wish to comment further at this stage.

Mr. David Price

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the merits of SGHW have been consistently advocated by hon. Members on both sides of the House for a number of years and that, equally consistently, the Government of the day have underestimated those merits? As the SGHW is technically close to CANDU in concept, is it not a reasonable compromise between indigenous technology and imported technology to get together on what are two similar reactor systems?

Mr. Jenkin

These are immensely difficult questions that we have under study with the help of the Nuclear Power Advisory Board, and we shall certainly take note of the Select Committee's report, which was published this morning. Beyond that I should not wish to go at this stage.

Mr. Freeson

Does the Minister accept that many of us are astonished and seriously disturbed at the abolition of the chief scientist's division of his Department, which it inherited from the old Ministry of Power? Is he aware that this division, limited as it was in size, was eminently suitable for technical and economic evaluation of the subject referred to in my hon. Friend's Question and such matters as barrage schemes which have been raised at other times? Will the right hon. Gentleman seriously consider taking action to re-establish the chief scientist's division without delay?

Mr. Jenkin

I have already indicated that the organisation and staffing of my Department was one of the matters to which we turned our attention as soon as the Department was set up. Clearly, the question of scientific advice, as well as economic advice, and so on, is of the greatest importance. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the matter is daily engaging the attention of Ministers.

Sir John Hall

In view of the need to take an early decision in the matter, will my right hon. Friend say when the House is likely to debate the subject?

Mr. Jenkin

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, but it is fair to say that he has already indicated that after the publication of the report—and it has been issued today—a debate would be appropriate before the Government reached or announced a decision.

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