HC Deb 20 February 1984 vol 54 cc552-4
10. Mr. Bermingham

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will indicate the percentage of generated electricity produced by nuclear power in 1981, 1982 and 1983, respectively.

Mr. Giles Shaw

In England and Wales, nuclear power supplied 11 per cent. of total electricity generated in 1981–82 and 14 per cent. in 1982–83. The latest estimate for 1983–84 is 14 to 15 per cent. Matters concerning electricity generation in Scotland are the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Bermingham

In view of the excess that already exists in generating capacity in Britain—the percentage of excess depending, of course, on how one calculates it —does the Minister agree that any further investment in PWR-type reactors would be a waste of money, because we have more than enough capacity, in any event, without increasing investment in that area?

Mr. Shaw

The hon. Gentleman's reference to the Sizewell B inquiry must remain sub judice for the time being. On his general point, he must agree that the importance of diversity in fuel policy lends great weight to the sensible development of alternative technologies, of which nuclear technology is one, and that is a central part of the Government's policy.

Mr. Crouch

Does my hon. Friend think that the figures that he has given for generated electricity from nuclear power will be sufficient in future? Does he agree that by the end of the century we shall need at least 20 per cent. of electricity to be generated by nuclear power?

Mr. Shaw

My hon. Friend is right. One of the obvious facts of comparison between generation costs in this and other European countries is that there are significantly greater percentages in European generation, and that of itself has given rise to complaint that our electricity prices are not quite so low.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

If the Minister wishes to retain an efficient nuclear power industry in Britain, would it not be better to retain it within the public sector? May we have an absolute assurance that BNFL will not be privatised during the lifetime of this Government?

Mr. Shaw

The hon. Gentleman knows that the future of BNFL is a matter which at present is naturally causing the greatest possible examination. He will agree that the operations of this industry must be of the highest possible standard of safety. That question will, therefore, continue to concern the Government, and we have committed full resources to achieve that.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle

Is not the price of electricity in France much cheaper than it is here because so large a proportion is generated by nuclear power?

Mr. Shaw

My hon. Friend is right. The average price in France is significantly less for industrial users because of the high proportion of nuclear generation.

Mr. Chapman

In answer to an earlier supplementary, question my hon. Friend referred to Sizewell B. Has he been given any information about when the inquiry will conclude and when the report of the inspector will be presented to his right hon. Friend?

Mr. Shaw

The timing of the inquiry and all matters relating to it are in the extremely capable hands of Sir Frank Layfield, and he will come to his own conclusions.