HC Deb 25 February 1991 vol 186 cc632-3
6. Mr. Butler

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what proportion of the production of electricity in the United Kingdom is currently supplied by nuclear power.

Mr. Wakeham

In 1990 about 20 per cent. of electricity available in the United Kingdom came from United Kingdom nuclear sources.

Mr. Butler

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that for the foreseeable future nuclear power has an assured role in generating safe, clean and reliable energy?

Mr. Wakeham

Yes, I can confirm that. Nuclear generation is vital to ensure security and diversity of supply and brings with it excellent environmental benefits in that it produces no carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide or nitrogen doxide.

Dr. Reid

Will the Minister confirm that the largest single industrial user of electricity provided by any source in Scotland is the Ravescraig steel plant? Is he aware of the announcement of a further 1,500 redundancies there? Can he give an assurance that, under a privatised electricity set-up, the costs of the decline of Ravescraig and the demise of the steel industry will not be passed on to the individual electricity consumer in Scotland or in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Wakeham

Questions to do with the steel industry or the Scottish industry are clearly not for me, but under the system that we have introduced industrial consumers generally pay lower prices as a result of the competitive nature of the electricity industry.

Sir Trevor Skeet

Will the Secretary of State bear it in mind that unless more nuclear power stations are built and the review is accelerated, there will be very few new nuclear power stations by the turn of the century? Will not that lead to the disintegration of an industry which it is most important to preserve?

Mr. Wakeham

I know that my hon. Friend knows a great deal about the nuclear industry. As he is aware, a full-scale review of the prospects for nuclear power in the future will be undertaken in 1994, when the Sizewell B project will be nearing completion. That review will have to take all the relevant factors into account.

Mr. Morgan

Will the Secretary of State confirm that—given the progessive unravelling of the beautiful Heath Robinson structure erected by his predecessor, the right hon Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Parkinson), the withdrawal from privatisation of the nuclear industry and the fact that 40 per cent. of generators are now not being sold on the market—by the time of the next election less than 50 per cent. of the electricity-generating industry in England and Wales will be in private hands? If that is what the right hon. Gentleman and his honourable lemmings on the Back Benches think that they voted for in 1988, and if that is what they call a success, we should welcome many more such successes.

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman's facts are wrong. Very shortly, the generating industry—National Power and PowerGen, that is—will be in the private sector; indeed, they are at this moment. Nuclear Electric will remain in the public sector for the foreseeable future. I think that the hon. Gentleman is confusing the facts with some view of creative accountancy. The 40 per cent. stake that the Government retain in the privatised companies will be retained for another two years; I have explained what will happen after that.