HC Deb 08 June 1981 vol 6 cc13-4
13. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he now expects to respond to the report by the Select Committee on Energy on the United Kingdom's nuclear power programme.

Mr. David Howell

The Government's response to the Select Committee's report will be published before the Summer Recess.

Mr. Hannam

I am grateful for that reply. Is my right hon. Friend aware of recent reports that the cost of a PWR in this country could be 50 per cent. higher than an identical PWR nuclear power station in the United States? Does not this confirm the views of the Select Committee that an urgent reorganisation of the electricity supply industry is required?

Mr. Howell

Undoubtedly it confirms the basic point that I have always sought to make about the nuclear programme, which is that its success depends upon building nuclear power stations to cost and on time. If that can be done, the cheaper nuclear electricity which must be part of our future electricity generation pattern is within our grasp. But it is essential that the organisation of the industry and the relations between the supplier and the customer are so arranged that we get these stations built on time and are able to improve on the very unhappy track record of the past.

Mr. Hooley

Is the Secretary of State aware that I have read that report with some care and that it blows sky-high every assumption on which his 10-year nuclear power programme is based?

Mr. Howell

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's assessment. The Government will in due course be putting forward their views in response to that very thorough report, and no doubt it will be debated, although that is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.

Mr. Rost

Will the Government's response address itself to the main critism of the Select Committee, namely, why the British PWR should cost so much more than those being built abroad when it is a proven design of which 15 similar reactors are already operating elsewhere?

Mr. Howell

That aspect will form part of the Government's response and their consideration of the progress needed to be made in the nuclear construction industry.

Mr. Penhaligon

Will the Minister say when the House gave its approval to the expenditure of these massive sums of money on this aspect of the nuclear development programme?

Mr. Howell

If the hon. Gentleman is talking about the future building of nuclear power stations, I have to remind him that it has always been made clear that each project would be assessed case by case in the light of the performance of the industry and in the light of electricity demand. As each application arises for a nuclear power station, it will be assessed. I am sure that the House will continue, in questions and debates on this vitally important matter, to make known its views as the nuclear power programme unfolds.