HC Deb 12 December 1988 vol 143 cc634-5
8. Mr. Hannam

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy how many fatalities there have been among employees in the nuclear power generating industry in the United Kingdom over the last 10 years; and what are the figures for other forms of energy production.

Mr. Parkinson

I understand that in the 10 years to end March 1988 there were five fatalities among employees in the nuclear power generation industry. None involved radiation. There were 57 other fatalities in the rest of the electricity production and distribution industry, 79 on offshore oil and gas installations and 366 in the coal mining industry.

Mr. Hannam

I thank my right hon. Friend for that interesting reply. Does it not confirm that nuclear power is not only the safest in terms of environmental protection, but offers the greatest degree of safety for employees in the industry? Is it not advisable that all those who have reservations about nuclear power should study that reply carefully?

Mr. Parkinson

Yes, I think that the energy debate has been carried out on a simplistic basis before. If the true costs in terms of lives lost, danger, pollution and damage to the atmosphere are brought into account, the arguments start to be much closer and far less easy to decide about than the Opposition seem prepared to admit.

Ms. Short

I am sure that the Secretary of State does not wish to mislead anyone. A number of recent studies have shown serious estimates of fatalities among the population living near nuclear power stations. Will the Secretary of State give us those figures because they must also be taken into account in estimating the danger of the nuclear industry?

Mr. Parkinson

The hon. Lady is wrong. There is a phenomenon called the leukaemia cluster and there are leukaemia clusters near nuclear power stations. However, there are also leukaemia clusters in New Zealand, where there is no nuclear power of any kind. The phenomenon is not understood and we are investigating it carefully because we want to understand it. I hope that the hon. Lady will start to understand it before she begins to talk in future.

Mr. Stern

Does my right hon. Friend agree that for local authorities to divert funds is just as good a way of producing fatalities as any other, particularly when those funds are diverted from, for example, social services? Would my right hon. Friend care to estimate the cost in terms of human illness and loss of life of funds being diverted by west country local authorities such as Somerset to put up meaningless opposition to the proposed Hinkley B reactor?

Mr. Parkinson

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the way in which he worked that question into this one. There are better ways of using local authority funds than opposing Hinkley Point C but it is the purpose of local authorities to decide what is in the interests of their taxpayers, and they seem to agree with me.