HC Deb 26 July 1982 vol 28 cc728-9
2. Mr. Hooley

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is the current annual rate of public expenditure in alternative, non-nuclear, energy sources in each of the EEC countries, converted as near as possible to £ sterling at the present rate of exchange.

The Under-Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. David Mellor)

The latest available figures are those collected by the International Energy Agency. They cover eight of the 10 Community countries—excluding France and Luxembourg—and show that in 1981 the United Kingdom spent £15.1 million and was in second place. I have arranged for the figures to be extracted and published in the Official Report.

Mr. Hooley

Is not the disparity between public expenditure on infinitely renewable energy resources and the expenditure on nuclear power utterly grotesque? Is the Minister aware that after 18 years of the advanced gas-cooled reactor programme and the expenditure of billions of pounds of public money, it still satisfies only 1 per cent. of our energy needs? Given a modest improvement in financing, renewable resources could do far better than that.

Mr. Mellor

The hon. Gentleman and I seem to have this dialogue every time there are energy questions. My answer must remain the same as it was the last time. We have a "renewables" programme which establishes the potential of having renewable energy when we need it. Equally, we believe that nuclear power is a proven technology. The AGR on stream at Hinkley Point is one of the best power stations on the grid. Three other AGRs are expected to come on stream within the next 12 months. There are two new generation AGRs which are progressing according to plan.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. The questions and answers are too long.

Mr. Chapman

Will my hon. Friend confirm that we are spending more on research into alternative forms, of energy? That money could be more effectively used if there were no duplication of research with our EEC partners.

Mr. Mellor

I should not have made the point, but my hon. Friend persuades me to say that in 1976–77, when the Labour Government were in power, about £274,000 was spent on renewable energy. The present figure is £15.1 million.

Mr. Eadie

Instead of giving us yah-boo answers, does the Minister agree that it would be a disgrace if we were not spending more on alternative sources of energy following the oil crisis of 1973–74? Is he aware that there is great disquiet about the Government's cuts in resources for alternative sources of energy? Can he justify that action when the Middle East is in a state of crisis?

Mr. Mellor

When we were about six or seven years into the renewable programme it was essential to establish priorities. It is always easy to duck these choices—we have admirable precedents from Labour Members—when decisions have to be made. However, we felt that the time had come when we should pick some winners, and that is what we tried to do.