HC Deb 14 November 1977 vol 939 cc8-10
6. Mr. Mike Thomas

asked the Secretary of State for Eneregy what discussions he has had with the Chairmen of the Electricity Council and the CEGB about future power station construction.

26. Mr. Jim Marshall

asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he expects to be in a position to make a statement over the future ordering programme for nuclear power stations.

Mr. Benn

I have had many meetings with the chairmen on power station ordering and other matters in recent months. The placing of orders is for the Board.

Mr. Thomas

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the continuing importance of a steady ordering programme for the turbo-generator and boiler-making industries? Is it not remarkable that whereas we are constantly told by the CEGB that the Drax power station has been brought forward, is not necessary and is not justified by demand, it nevertheless seems anxious to get on and order AGRs?

Mr. Benn

I appreciate the point that my hon. Friend has made. With regard to Drax, the Government statement having been made, I put the matter to the Board and I saw the Chairman on a number of occasions. It is recognised throughout the industry that the Drax B station will not of itself solve the problem. That is why the thermal reactor choice, which I discussed last week with the Board and with all those concerned, is so important. I hope to make a statement on that matter shortly.

Mr. Patrick McNair-Wilson

Can the Secretary of State yet tell us when he intends to make an announcement about the reactor choice for the next generation of nuclear stations?

Mr. Benn

I have just answered that question. I had my final round of consultations last week with all those concerned, and I shall make a statement as soon as I can. But I want to endorse something which I think the whole House wants, namely, that we should get on with the thermal station. We have been held back by the delay, not of the Government's making but in the customer making its recommendation.

Mr. Palmer

Can my right hon. Friend say that when he refers to the next stage of the nuclear reactor programme he means the planned station at Sizewell in Suffolk and the station at Torness in Scotland which is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Scotland?

Mr. Benn

As my hon. Friend knows better than most, the question of ordering is for the Board. The responsibility that falls upon me, in the light of the advice given me by the Board, is to announce the Government's decision on the thermal reactor choice. I hope very much that I can proceed with that as quickly as possible.

Mr. Gray

With regard to the Drax order, will the Secretary of State say whether it is a matter merely of a dialogue between the CEGB and the Gov- ernment or whether Parliament will be asked, by means of a Bill, to approve any compensation that may have to be paid to the CEGB? If it is the latter, when does the right hon. Gentleman intend to introduce such a Bill?

Mr. Benn

It certainly is not a closed dialogue. Of all the things that one might have said about the Drax B discussion. no one could argue that it has been conducted behind closed doors. It has been the most open discussion that there has been for many years on the matter of energy policy and industrial ordering. But legislation will be required, and in that context, as in every other, Members of Parliament will have a full part to play.

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