HC Deb 26 March 1990 vol 170 cc4-5
3. Mr. Eadie

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what is the current estimate, coal equivalent, of electricity that will be imported from France in 1990; and how much has been imported since the first months of 1990.

Mr. Baldry

Future imports and exports of electricity will largely depend on commercial decisions by Electricitéde France and on market conditions in England and Wales. I understand that there were virtually no imports in January and February.

Mr. Eadie

Further to the Minister's answer, does he agree that it is a foolish policy for the Government to depend on energy supplies for this country from a foreign source? If we are so full of the idea that we should have electricity by cable or wire, why do not the Government pursue a policy of using the existing connector between Scotland and England, which has a capacity equivalent to 1.5 million tonnes of coal and, if strengthened, would have a capacity of 3 million tonnes? Why does not the Minister pursue that, as a more sensible energy policy?

Mr. Baldry

Electricité de France will provide an important source of competition in the United Kingdom electricity market. However, so will Scotland. I understand that, just as there are discussions between the area boards and the French, so too are there discussions between the area boards and the Scottish boards for the import of electricity from Scotland into England and Wales.

Mr. Hannam

My hon. Friend has underlined the importance of our nuclear industry. What preparations are being made for the vesting of our nuclear stations in Nuclear Electric plc?

Mr. Baldry

I am glad to be able to tell the House that full drafts of Nuclear Electric's licences have been prepared, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will place copies of them in the Vote Office and in the Library this afternoon.

Mr. Molyneaux

Given the feasibility of the linkage with France, is there any real technical difficulty in providing a similar link between Scotland and Northern Ireland?

Mr. Baldry

I am happy to look at that matter and hear the right hon. Gentleman's views on it in greater detail.

Sir Trevor Skeet

Does the Minister agree that section 32 of the Electricity Act 1989 provides for electricity from France to be part of the non-fossil fuel quota? Does my hon. Friend agree also that, when electricity from France is available, it will be the cheapest in Europe? Does he agree further that, in future, it might be an excellent idea to build a second line across, carrying 2,000 MW?

Mr. Baldry

The arrangement for French electricity will be outside the non-fossil fuel obligation. However, sales of French imports will not have to pay the levy. Clearly, with electricity supplies to and from Scotland and to and from France, we are anxious to ensure the greatest possible competition for the electricity industry in this country, which must be of benefit to the consumer.