HC Deb 23 July 1987 vol 120 cc475-6
6. Mr. Michael Brown

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a further statement on his policy towards the future of electricity generation in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Viggers

We aim to reduce the Province's over-dependence on oil-fired generating capacity and to promote efficiency in electricity generation and supply. Northern Ireland will require new generating capacity in the mid-1990s and substantial progress has been made in a complex examination of options which, as my hon. Friend knows, include a proposal presented by the private sector as well as by Northern Ireland Electricity.

Mr. Brown

I am encouraged by that reply, but can my hon. Friend assure the House that the final phrase in his answer to my question shows that the Government are anxious to consider the benefits that will flow to the whole economy — not only the Northern Ireland economy but the British economy — from private generation of electricity in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Viggers

We recognise the benefit that could flow from a substantial investment of that sort in Northern Ireland, but the issues involved, particularly in the private sector option, are complex. We need to ensure that when the decision is made it will be to the long-term benefit of all consumers in Northern Ireland, both industrial and domestic.

Mr. Beggs

Does the Minister accept that completion of phase 2 at Kilroot power station is the most economic option presently available for future generation in Northern Ireland? Does he further accept that if the decision were taken to complete Kilroot phase 2 we would create additional jobs for miners on the mainland, reduce dependence on oil by Northern Ireland Electricity and afford time, which is very necessary, to ensure that the right decision is reached on the future siting of the lignite power station and privatisation?

Mr. Viggers

The hon. Gentleman puts the arguments well on one side. Kilroot 2 provides an attractive option, but we must consider the life of the prospective generating station over, say, 30 years, the price of coal and lignite during that period and the benefits that might flow from a substantial private sector investment in Northern Ireland. We are determined to consider all those factors carefully before reaching our decision.

Mr. James Marshall

Will the Minister give a categorical assurance that Northern Ireland will not be used as a dry test run for the privatisation of the electricity supply industry throughout Great Britain?

Mr. Viggers

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that that thinking does not permeate our minds at all. We are determined to do the best that we can for the consumers in Northern Ireland. There are no current plans to privatise Northern Ireland Electricity, although of course, we watch the progress of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy, who is responsihile for electricity generation in Great Britain, and we shall see whether there are lessons to be learnt for Northern Ireland.

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