HC Deb 20 March 1978 vol 946 cc947-9
3. Mr. Palmer

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on the proposed change in the shareholding and the management of the National Nuclear Corporation.

The Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn)

Following my statement on thermal nuclear policy on 25th January, I shall want to be sure that the nuclear industry has the organisation and management which it needs to implement the Government's decisions. I have no proposals to announce yet.

Mr. Palmer

Is my right hon. Friend aware that between 1972 and 1973 the Select Committee on Science and Technology was very critical of the arrangement under which the General Electric Company was given an artificially dominant position in the National Nuclear Corporation? Is he further aware that the Select Committee also predicted the difficulties that would arise if the General Electric Company decided to withdraw? Has that situation not arrived? In view of the considerable amount of public capital involved, should not a statement be made fairly soon?

Mr. Benn

I appreciate the points that my hon. Friend makes. Following the announcement of policy that I made in January, certain industrial and management implications will follow. The GEC has indicated to me that it wishes to withdraw from the supervisory management position.

Mr. Hannam

Can the Secretary of State say whether legislation will be required to change the balance of holdings in the Corporation? If so, will he start negotiations with the absent Liberal Party Members to make sure that that legislation will be acceptable to the House?

Mr. Benn

I did not make any reference to the shareholdings; I referred to the supervisory contract. Therefore, perhaps the other question does not arise.

Mr. Tom King

Does the Secretary of State agree that, as it seems clear now that the policy has been announced and there are to be changes in the structure, it is a matter of some urgency that the new structure should be arrived at as soon as possible so that the policy can be implemented without delay? Will he contribute to that effort?

Mr. Benn

That is a most helpful supplementary question. The organisation must fit in with the decision made. Therefore, there is urgency in the matter. On the other hand, in these as in other matters. I am trying to proceed by consent.