HC Deb 14 December 1987 vol 124 cc756-7
3. Mr. David Evans

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what the budget for the Electricity Council has been in each of the last five years.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Michael Spicer)

The net operating costs of the Electricity Council borne by electricity boards in England and Wales from 1982–83 to 1986–87 were respectively £28.2 million, £30.8 million, £32.4 million, £35.3 million and £36.5 million.

Mr. Evans

Will the Minister confirm that the Electricity Council employs more people than the Department of Energy; and will he tell us what they all do?

Mr. Spicer

The answer to the first question is yes. The answer to the second is that those people are responsible for the policy formulation of the industry, including, for instance, industrial relations and financial planning.

Mr. Matthew Taylor

Will the Minister tell us what proportion of the budget in each of the years that he mentioned has been spent on research into the efficient use of electricity, renewable sources of electricity and its renewable sources abroad?

Mr. Spicer

I do not have the exact figures, but it is highly unlikely to be very much. All those matters are undertaken by the Central Electricity Generating Board, not the Electricity Council.

Mr. Hannam

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), when he was Minister for Energy back in the 1970s, did not carry out the recommendations of the Plowden committee for the reorganisation of the electricity industry, and that, as a result, not only has the Electricity Council's staff exceeded that of the Department of Energy, but its spending is far greater than that of the Department?

Mr. Spicer

The Electricity Council's budget is considerably larger than that of the Department of Energy, which this year is £22.9 million. As for the first part of the question, I am sure that, as my hon. Friend has asked it, it must be right.

Mr. Ronnie Campbell

Will the Minister tell us what subsidy is paid per tonne of South African, Polish and American coal coming into this country to be supplied to the CEGB?

Mr. Spicer

I think that that relates to the last question. However, I believe that the figure—which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has given me—is 2.;5 per cent.