HC Deb 27 February 1989 vol 148 c9
9. Mr. Ward

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy how many jobs are supported directly or indirectly by the nuclear industry in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Parkinson

I understand that the total number of jobs directly dependent on the United Kingdom nuclear industry is estimated at about 120,000. The number of jobs indirectly dependent on the nuclear industry is estimated at around 60,000.

Mr. Ward

Does not my right hon. Friend's reply show what a significant contribution nuclear power makes to the United Kingdom economy? Does it not also show how important it is in providing jobs, particularly in the north-west?

Mr. Parkinson

Yes, my hon. Friend is right. The nuclear industry is a very important source of well-paid jobs. It also makes a substantial contribution to the improvement of the environment.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Why have the Government been so callous in their approach to the fast breeder reactor programme, which is supported by many of the Secretary of State's colleagues, if the nuclear industry is so important? Why have the French now decided to proceed with the full-scale development of such a programme? What do they see in the fast breeder reactor programme that the Secretary of State fails to see? Are they just brighter?

Mr. Parkinson

I explained to the House that, first of all, we have not been callous about the fast breeder reactor. We are giving Dounreay five years more for the operation of the reactor and approximately nine years more for the reprocessing plant. Dounreay will continue to be a very substantial contributor to the Caithness and Sutherland economy for years to come.

There is a very simple reason why the fast reactor programme has been brought to an end. No one wants to build one. There is no customer in the United Kingdom, nor is there likely to be for the next 30 or 40 years. That is why we have taken a realistic view about the prospects for that technology.

Sir Trevor Skeet

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that not only jobs are at stake, but technology? The United Kingdom's pressurised water reactor programme is far too small, and the amount of nuclear-generated electricity is small by comparison with France, Sweden and a number of other major states.

Mr. Parkinson

That is true, but we believe that we have at present just about the right level of electricity coming from nuclear power. We have a diversity of supply—with coal, oil, gas and nuclear power—that gives us the security that is a vital part of the industry.