HC Deb 24 February 1975 vol 887 cc5-6
3. Mr. Tom King

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if the integration of the nuclear design and construction industries into the National Nuclear Corporation has now been completed.

Mr. Varley

Not yet, but I expect this to be accomplished in the very near future.

Mr. King

It is a matter of great concern, when fuel costs are rising so sharply, that the nuclear programme is being delayed in this way. Is it not a matter of great urgency that the matter should be resolved at the earliest possible moment?

Mr. Varley

Yes, it is most important that the matter be resolved as quickly as possible. I know the hon. Gentleman will accept that the decision about the choice of reactor was put off for three and a half years. That decision was taken by this Government within five months. Steps have been taken to get the programme under way.

Dr. John A. Cunningham

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the Opposition cannot afford to be critical about his reactor policy or about decisions generally in that area, as they did absolutely nothing during the whole of their period of office? Further, does he recognise that a decision on the National Nuclear Corporation is crucial to the future of our nuclear energy programme?

Mr. Varley

Yes, it is crucial. I hope to make a statement shortly about the NNC and the Nuclear Power Company.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Does the Secretary of State accept that, contrary to the purport of the past two questions, there is now considerable anxiety about the policy of nuclear energy? Is he aware that people are becoming disturbed about the problems which we might be laying up for the next and future generations? Before the policy is expanded, will the right hon. Gentleman consider having a thorough investigation of where we are going on nuclear policy?

Mr. Varley

I recognise the anxiety that exists in all parts of the United Kingdom about the build up of nuclear power. I think that the hon. Gentleman will be reassured when I tell him that the independent Nuclear Inspectorate is careful about issuing site licences for nuclear stations.

Mr. Palmer

Is my right hon. Friend's statement likely to include a reference to an increase in the extent of the State shareholding, as recommended by the all-party Select Committee on Science and Technology?

Mr. Varley

I would rather ask my hon. Friend to await the statement that I hope to make shortly. I think that it is likely that an increased Government stake will be acceptable.

Mr. Skeet

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the co-operation arrangement with the State authority in Canada over CANDU cannot be implemented until the NNC is set up? Does he realise that he has wasted far too many months already, and that we cannot go ahead with the SGHWR system?

Mr. Varley

I do not accept that criticism. Already preparatory work and discussions have taken place with the Canadian authorities.