HC Deb 31 January 1977 vol 925 cc20-2
15. Mr. Whitehead

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he expects to conclude the consultations arising from the CPRS Report into the power generating industry.

26. Mr. Forman

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement on the reorganisation of the power plant manufacturing industry.

Mr. Varley

The consultations arising from the CPRS Report are being conducted with all possible speed.

Mr. Whitehead

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is the essence of this problem that a steady forward ordering policy from the CEGB should be announced as soon as possible for the future if the whole industry is to survive? Will he also bear in mind particularly the question of some of the firms in the industry, such as Clark Chapman in my constituency, which have interests not only within but also outside the boiler-making industry? If my right hon. Friend is looking at further proposals by the CPRS, will he bear in mind firms such as that, because it is their buoyancy both inside and outside the industry that must be taken into account?

Mr. Varley

The consultations are going ahead as quickly as possible, as I have already indicated, and the point that my hon. Friend has raised will certainly be taken into consideration. I can confirm that one of the factors being taken into consideration is the possibility of a firm ordering programme.

Mr. Forman

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, while the House must sympathise with the problems of the power plant manufacturing industry, it is none the less not the answer to oblige the CEGB to indulge in a firm forward ordering programme for which there is no prospect of real demand for perhaps a decade? Does he not accept that a much better way would be to try to do more to promote the export prospects of the industry to ensure that it has a real chance in catching some overseas markets?

Mr. Varley

I think that it is within the interests of the CEGB and the two Scottish boards to have a power plant manufacturing industry in this country. There is no doubt that if the Government were not to take action at all the industry would go down; it would be knocked into the ground. It employs about 34,000 people directly. Therefore, one element is a firm ordering programme as far as the CEGB is concerned. However, I do not dissent from what the hon. Gentleman says about the possibility of winning export orders, and that will be considered also.

Mr. Albert Roberts

Will my right hon. Friend have consultations with the Secretary of State for Energy in view of the need for Drax B? As we shall need extra power in the 1980s, will he bear in mind that it will take at least eight years to construct?

Mr. Varley

I confirm that consultations are taking place, and discussions are taking place between my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and the CEGB about Drax B.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

Will the right hon. Gentleman spell out to his hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. Roberts) the cost in terms of increased prices to consumers of electricity if the CEGB is obliged to order coal-fired power stations in advance of any need when we already have a considerable excess of generating capacity in this country?

Mr. Varley

I cannot point that out to my hon. Friend because we do not know the full details and the full implications. Certainly the cost and the prices will have to be considered, but it is too early to go into them at this stage.