HC Deb 05 February 1979 vol 962 cc3-4
2. Mr. Ronald Atkins

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what plans are currently under review for capital expenditure on new electricity generating plant; and how much is to be spent on nuclear power, coal-fired stations, oil-fired stations, and energy from renewable resources, respectively.

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

Current plans, together with power stations already under construction, estimate some £2,100 million would be spent by the Central Electricity Generating Board on generation over the next five years: 53.5 per cent. for nuclear plant; 28 per cent. for coal-fired plant; 12 per cent. for oil-fired plant and 6.5 per cent. for pumped storage. The Government have allocated £16 million to research and development on renewable energy sources.

Mr. Atkins

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is need for an integrated policy which takes into account possible conservation measures and which steers away from the use of oil at power stations, bearing in mind that the use of oil increased last year compared to other sources of energy?

Mr. Benn

A programme costing £320 million for conservation was announced by myself some months ago. I have made it clear that I am not prepared to authorise any more oil-fired stations, though some ordered in the late 1960s are still coming on stream.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind, in both his current and future plans, that because of the enormous danger of over-capacity in the heavy electrical machine manufacturing industry top priority must be given to orders with export potential? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that unless that is done we shall see the destruction of that industry in this country? Will he give an assurance that on current orders and future plans the main objective will be to get overseas orders?

Mr. Benn

Yes, Sir. Export orders are very important, and, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Chinese have expressed some interest in ordering. We have a need for such orders very much in mind.

Mr. Palmer

Does my right hon. Friend agree that both the investment and pricing policy of the electricity supply industry are being steadily undermined by the undisciplined import of natural gas into our fuel economy, with serious consequences for both the electricity supply and coal industries?

Mr. Benn

I do not know whether gas from the North Sea is an import in that sense. It is an indigenous resource, and the problems of integrating the various fuels, one with another, is at the base of our national fuel policy.

Mr. Macfarlane

Is the Secretary of State aware that the expenditure which he has just announced on the future of the nuclear industry is likely to be hampered because so far he has been reluctant to announce future plans for the restructuring of the British nuclear industry?

Mr. Benn

I should like to make progress with that, but it does require the consent of the parties concerned.