HC Deb 14 January 1991 vol 183 cc667-90

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Promoters of the Killingholme Generating Stations (Ancillary Powers) Bill [Lords] may, notwithstanding anything in the Standing Orders or practice of this House, proceed with the Bill in the present Session; and the Petition for the Bill shall be deemed to have been deposited and all Standing Orders applicable thereto shall be deemed to have been complied with; That if the Bill is brought from the Lords in the present Session, the Agents for the Bill shall deposit in the Private Bill Office a declaration signed by them stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill which was brought from the Lords in the last Session; That as soon as a certificate by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office, that such a declaration has been so deposited, has been laid upon the Table of the House, the Bill shall be deemed to have been read the first time and shall be ordered to be read a second time; That, since no Petitions remain against the Bill, no Petitioners shall be heard before any committee on the Bill save those who complain of any amendment as proposed in the filled up Bill or of any matter which arises during the progress of the Bill before the committee; That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the last Session.—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

7 pm

Mr. Roger Knapman (Stroud)

The Bill has been drafted to give the two generating companies the power to do nothing more than lay cooling water works in the river Humber. Those works will serve generating stations being built under powers already granted by the Secretary of State for Energy. Therefore, we are not discussing—at least, I hope that we are not discussing—the principle of building a power station on that site. In addition, we should not be discussing the virtues of one form of generation against any other. Those issues have been discussed elsewhere over many years.

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry gave consent as long ago as June 1972 to the suitability of the Killingholme site for power generation. The House endorsed that decision in July 1972 by approving the Killingholme Generating Station (Ancillary Powers) Act 1972. The Secretary of State for Energy gave further consent in 1990 for PowerGen and National Power each to build a combined cycle gas turbine development with a capacity of up to 1,000 MW. At that time no organisations with legitimate interests in the river objected to the proposals. It was made clear that cooling water supplies would need to be taken from, and returned to, the river Humber. That applied whatever type of fuel was used.

By virtue of the Killingholme Generating Station (Ancillary Powers) Act and the 1990 planning consent, both the House and the Secretary of State for Energy have already endorsed the decision to build generating stations on a site at Killingholme. In essence, the new Killingholme Generating Stations (Ancillary Powers) Bill merely seeks the permission of the House to build shorter cooling water intake and outfall works than would have been built under the 1972 Act. Therefore, all that is now required is statutory approval for the laying of pipes related to that development. The generating stations are already under construction by virtue of the planning consent that has already been obtained. Therefore, it is absolutely essential for the House to agree to revive the Bill today and allow it to pass through its various stages so that the ancillary works required for the generating stations can be started.

Objectors to the Bill at this late stage have already cost a great deal of time and money and it is difficult to see why.

Mr. Michael Welsh (Doncaster, North)

The hon. Gentleman says that the objectors have cost a lot of money because time has been taken, but it is important to explain that until last November it was illegal to pass the Bill. In 1975 the Council of Ministers decided that gas could not be used to make electricity. Therefore, nobody had held up the Bill except the EC because permission was only given last November.

Mr. Knapman

I was merely referring to the fact that the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) and, later, the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) saw fit to object to the Bill. Those objections have delayed the Bill, which seems perfectly straightforward and I cannot see why that should have been done.

National Power and PowerGen are required to promote the private Bill. The Bill is required to overcome the prohibitions of the Humber Conservancy Act 1905 that prevents the laying of pipes on or in the foreshore and bed of the Humber between the river line and the high water mark without parliamentary approval, which is why we are here today. Therefore, by promoting the Bill, National Power and PowerGen are complying with the parliamentary requirements of the 1905 Act; they are not in any way attempting to circumvent normal planning procedures—far from it. The relevant local authorities have been consulted and have given consent to the proposed plans for the power stations. They have stated that they will not object to the cooling water works proposals outlined in the 1989 Bill.

As evidence of local authority approval, I have a letter from Glanford borough council dated 11 December 1989 stating that the borough council's planning committee has no objections to the Bill's proposals. The letter was from the senior solicitor of Glanford borough council, writing to the planning and development services officer of the Central Electricity Generating Board. It stated: Dear Sirs, Re: Proposed Killingholme Generating Stations (Ancillary Powers) Bill. Further to my letter dated 16 November 1989 I am now able to inform you that on 7 December the Borough Council's Planning Committee resolved that Glanford wishes to raise no objections to the proposals contained in the Bill.

Mr. Malcolm Moss (Cambridgeshire, North-East)

It was interesting to hear the letter sent from Glanford borough council planning committee, but is it not also true that Humberside county council, which is Labour controlled, did not object to the proposal?

Mr. Knapman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding me of that. It is my understanding that no objections from any of the local interested parties have been received. I intended to read out a list of the various organisations which have not objected.

The local authorities have taken the same stance in respect of the power stations proposed by the CEGB in 1972 and again in 1989, after the CEGB, National Power and PowerGen had revised plans for the site and decided to build smaller capacity combined cycle gas turbine stations. Furthermore—this is what Opposition Members are putting at risk—the plants will provide immediate short-term employment for construction workers, and local employment once the plant is in operation. Up to 550 workers will be employed by PowerGen during the construction phase and National Power will need about 350 workers.

Consultations have taken place not only with local authorities, but with the National Rivers Authority, which will need to approve the proposals before a licence can be granted to permit the two generators to extract water from and discharge water into the Humber. Other consultations have been undertaken during the drafting and preview stages of the Bill. Where necessary, the proposals in the Bill have been amended to provide appropriate safeguards as requested by interested parties, or appropriate undertakings have been given.

The following organisations have already been consulted as a result, and there has been no further correspondence from British Telecom since December 1989. The Yorkshire electricity board has said that none of its apparatus will be affected and British Gas has said that no gas apparatus will be affected. The British Coal Corporation confirmed on 23 January 1990 that it was content. As for Anglian Water plc, an undertaking to Anglian Water Services Limited has been agreed a nd an executed document is awaited. The Nature Conservancy Council, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Associated British Ports, Humber Oil Terminals Trustees Limited, Associated Petroleum Terminals (Immingham), and the National Rivers Authority have all been consulted. None have any objections.

Mr. Martin Redmond (Don Valley)

Private Bills go through a certain procedure; there are advertisements in the newspapers that the Bill is proceeding through the House and the public are advised of how they can gain access to its proceedings, but I know from my experience of local government that the vast majority of the public in the affected area may be unaware that the Bill is going through the House, and even if they are aware of it they are at a loss to understand how to go about voicing their concerns about it. I accept the hon. Gentleman's statement that the national interested parties have been made aware of the Bill, but perhaps the general public are unaware of its implications. I know of at least one previous Bill whose effects were unknown to the public.

Mr. Knapman

I am surprised to hear that, because among the bodies that I have stated have no objection are Glanford borough council and the Labour-controlled county council. I should have thought that they would not have reached their decision before ascertaining local opinion. If the hon. Gentleman is telling me that those councils, most of whose members belong to his party, have not taken the opportunity to find out what public opinion is, something is wrong. I do not believe that he thinks, on further reflection, that that is so.

Dr. Michael Clark (Rochford)

Does my hon. Friend agree that, far from trying to circumvent normal planning procedures, were it not for the Humber Conservancy Act 1905, if the promoters of the Bill had applied for planning consent in the usual way it would have been granted to them? It is only because of the 1905 Act that my hon. Friend has had to bring the matter to the House today.

Mr. Knapman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The 1905 Act was passed to extend and amend Acts of 1852 and of 1899 which conferred further powers on the commissioners. The original Acts were passed to draw a uniform development line in the river beyond which tidal works could not extend. The purpose of the 1905 Act was to protect the river regime and navigation on the river. It conferred powers on the commissioners to dredge the river and to carry out other works to assist and improve navigation. So the commissioners can exercise certain powers but not others. The 1905 Act mentions private Acts of Parliament being required, which is why we are here tonight—so my hon. Friend was absolutely correct.

The Humber Conservancy Acts were enacted to confer powers on the commissioners for the protection of the river regime and of navigable waters. Subject to the provisions of the 1905 Act, no person may make or form any recess, dock bed for boat or barges, basin, pier or jetty, landing place, quay or embankement wall or other works on the foreshore or bed of the Humber between the river lines and high water mark. The only way in which the prohibitions in the 1905 Act can be overcome is by the promotion of a further Act of Parliament—hence the need for this Bill and this revival motion.

The House has already given approval to the laying of pipes in the Humber—when it approved the July 1972 Act. Unfortunately, that Act gave approval for pipes which are longer than necessary for the current power station developments. So the design of the 1972 cooling waterworks cannot be optimised. Further, Associated British Ports would require the 1972 works to be lowered should it be required at some future date to dredge the river as part of its statutory duties. Indeed, the 1972 Act was designed to give the then CEGB powers to lay pipes in the Humber for a much larger 4,000 MW power station and it laid down in some detail the length of the cooling water works permitted. The Act allowed for two works extending from the shore into the river in a north-easterly direction for a distance of new fewer than 530 yds or 486 m and terminating in an intake of 780 yds or 715 m, terminating in an outfall.

The Act allowed these intake and outfall works to be moved vertically and laterally within the limits of deviation but regrettably it prohibited any substantial alteration, including any substantial reduction in the lengths of the pipes. By comparison, under the 1989 Bill the longest specified intake would be only 390 m and the longest specified outfall only 290. As a result, the obligations of the 1972 Act would require the companies to build pipes that would extend and intrude further into the river Humber than is required, and longer pipes would involve the companies in much greater construction costs. In addition, section 35 of the 1972 Act gave consent, under the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, for the works if they were commenced within five years of the passing of the Act. Those powers have now expired.

National Power and PowerGen intend to build combined cycle gas turbine stations which, like any other power stations, need cooling water works. National Power is building a station of 650 MW and PowerGen two stations of 450 MW each. These stations will use indirect cooling works and will need much less water than if they used direct cooling methods such as those proposed under the works in the 1972 Act. The system of indirect cooling ensures that there is less environmental impact on the river Humber than would result from direct cooling works.

The indirect cooling system will involve water being passed through the condensers and cooled by air using cooling towers with the same water, which is then recirculated. Only the water evaporated in the cooling towers and a small quantity of purge water is required to be replaced, therefore. So the combination of indirect cooling and combined cycle gas turbine technology means that requirements for cooling water are significantly reduced. The Killingholme development will require only about 5 per cent. of the water used for direct cooling at existing power stations.

Mr. Redmond

I hesitate to interrupt the hon. Gentleman's flow, but I cannot understand why he is promoting this Bill. I could find no reason why he should in the Register of Members' Interests. How did he come to draw the short straw and end up promoting this Bill?

Mr. Knapman

The answer is that I am a man of many parts and many talents.

Dr. Michael Clark

It is important that we fully understand what my hon. Friend is proposing. Will he confirm that the 1972 Act contained proposals for various works which were considerably longer and deeper than the works proposed in this Bill, and that due to the wording of the 1972 Act those works cannot be contracted, shortened or made smaller in any way? This Bill will enable the works to be diminished as compared with those proposed in 1972.

Mr. Knapman

I can confirm all that my hon. Friend says. The outfalls anticipated in the 1972 Act are approximately double the length of those that are now proposed. That is good environmentally and commercially and in every other sense. It is therefore difficult to see why there are objections to the Bill.

Mr. Alexander Eadie (Midlothian)

I am becoming confused about the hon. Gentleman's proposals. Perhaps he could assist. I understand that the hon. Gentleman is presenting a revival motion to the House.

Mr. Moss

That is correct.

Mr. Eadie

If the Bill is approved, it will require a Second Reading. Is that correct?

Mr. Moss

That is correct.

Mr. Eadie

That assists the House to some extent. I do not quarrel with the way in which the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Knapman) presents his case, but he gives the House the impression that the revival motion is it, so to speak.

Mr. Knapman

I understand that the Chairman of Ways and Means is presenting the motion, and I am trying to show hon. Members who object to the Bill the folly of their ways. The Bill has absolutely nothing to do with coal or with the choice of fuel. I fear that it is a mundane Bill dealing with certain types of inlets to and outlets from the Humber to the power stations which are already being constructed. I should love to talk about coal and about the paper produced by the Labour party which says that we should rely almost entirely on coal, but if I did so I should immediately be ruled out of order.

Mr. Eadie

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is the hon. Gentleman entitled to say how the debate should be conducted and to lay down strictures? He is certainly entitled to articulate his opinion and his interpretation of the motion that he presents, but it is for the Chair to determine the conduct of the debate. I seek guidance on the matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

The Bill has not yet been debated in the House. As the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) says, we are debating a revival motion and comments must be related to that. As the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Knapman) is introducing the motion, and as the Bill has not yet been debated in the House, I thought it right to give him reasonable latitude to explain the background to the motion. That is why I am giving him more than the customary flexibility.

Mr. Knapman

I am grateful to you for your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield)

It is not often that I smell a rat in this place, but I smell one now.

Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)

The hon. Gentleman used that line during the debate on the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill.

Mr. Haynes

Yes, because I smelt a rat then too. The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) is also involved in this. There are a number of faces in the House which are familiar to such debates. The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Knapman) mentioned PowerGen. Is he aware that, in its magazine, PowerGen said that it would get this approved by August last year? What have these familiar faces been up to? My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond) was right when he said that the hon. Member for Stroud had drawn the short straw. He is pouring out a load of rubbish and we have to put up with it.

Mr. Knapman

The hon. Gentleman is right in only one respect—that he has to put up with it.

The Bill is in five parts, but I shall not take the House through all of them in any detail. Hon. Members may be grateful for that, but of course on Second Reading I may be forced to speak at some length. Part I deals with the preliminaries and gives details of the phrases used in the Bill. Part II details the works involved. [Interruption.] If Opposition Members had spent 10 minutes reading part II of the Bill, they would not be so excited.

Schedule 4 details all the works that National Power would be given power to construct and provides for three intakes and three outfalls of modest length compared with the long ones proposed in the 1972 Bill. Schedule 5 details the rights given to PowerGen to construct works. It has similar rights for works Nos. 7 to 12.

Part III gives the power to acquire land. That is entirely normal and largely in accordance with the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965. Part IV is the crux of the matter. It contains the protective provisions for other bodies which are interested in the Bill and which have made no objection whatever. Under schedule 25 is the Humber Bridge board and under schedule 26 is Associated British Ports.

Mr. Redmond

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Knapman

The hon. Gentleman is likely to make his own speech, but I shall give way to him once again.

Mr. Redmond

The hon. Gentleman has said several times that the people who were consulted have no objections. When did the promoters of the Bill meet the various bodies to discuss amendments to take account of objections? Has PowerGen or National Power given any money to meet certain requirements of objectors?

Mr. Knapman

Not to my knowledge, for the simple reason that until the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) objected to the Bill no one else had objected to it. Of course it went through the other place and therefore the question of objection does not arise.

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

Will my hon. Friend confirm that no one objected because the battle about the type of power station to be built and whether it should be gas fired, oil fired or nuclear powered is over? A decision has been taken and those with coal mining interests who seek to delay proceedings on this revival motion only deprive the whole of the north-east, and Humberside in particular, of badly needed power. Power stations have to be justified, but that argument is over and it is pointless to talk about cooling water which all power stations have to use.

Mr. Knapman

My hon. Friend is right. Not only would other forms of power station require greater amounts of water to be abstracted from the Humber, but in 1972 there was something of a storm when an oil-fired station was proposed. Subsequent happenings led to proposals for a gas-fired station. In early 1991 people are still fighting the battles that were fought in 1972 and no doubt the Opposition are still fighting many of the battles of the 1930s.

As I have said, part IV of the Bill is the crux of the matter. It contains the protective provisions and touches on the intervention of the hon. Member for Don Valley. It mentions the Humber Bridge Board and Associated British Ports and more recently the British Coal Corporation. That is a summary of the Bill.

The progress of the Bill is as follows. It was promoted successfully through the other place, despite a challenge from the Coalfied Communities Campaign. It is important to note that it did not allege that the proposals in the Bill were in any way defective, but said that the generation of electricity from gas would have a consequential effect on its members' welfare. That objection was defeated in Committee in the other place on 10 May 1990. Therefore, the Bill was placed before an unopposed Lords Committee on 24 May and received its formal Third Reading on 18 June. The House of Commons received the Bill on the same day. It was formally tabled and blocked, as I have described.

I see no reason why the Bill should have been blocked, as my hon. Friends have said, and I hope that with the information that I have given the House will see its way clear to pass this revival motion.

7.30 pm
Mr. George J. Buckley (Hemsworth)

The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Knapman) said glibly that there was nothing dangerous or difficult in the Bill as it related to the generation of electricity. I beg to differ. We cannot ignore the fact that these power stations will be powered by gas. The suggestion that they might be powered by nuclear energy caused quite a stir. The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) made strong representations on that.

Mr. Moss

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the Secretary of State has given clearance, under the Electricity Act 1989, for two power stations burning gas to be on the Killingholme site, and that this motion has nothing whatever to do with nuclear power?

Mr. Buckley

As my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, North (Mr. Welsh) said, the Secretary of State was acting illegally because, under the European regulations, it was illegal for him to give permission for power stations to generate electricity by gas. I suspect that the Bill has been delayed to allow the Government the opportunity to persuade the EEC to withdraw its reservations about using gas to generate electricity.

The hon. Member for Stroud said that if we delayed the Bill or opposed it so strongly that we defeated it we would deprive the north-east of much-needed energy. However, my understanding is that the north-east is quite well endowed with electricity and that the shortage of power is in the south. The Government and other organisations have urged us to reduce our electricity demands, so it is more likely that we shall have over-capacity than shortage of capacity in electricity generation.

We had a long debate on another private Bill concerned with the use of the Humber to import large tonnages of coal. The Humber is becoming an increasingly important and busy estuary to the extent that there may be danger to shipping. I do not suggest that the power stations have anything to do with shipping, but they do have something to do with the use of the Humber estuary, which is important.

The situation is not as clear as the hon. Member for Stroud claimed. He spoke about depriving the Humber estuary area of much-needed employment. I could understand it if an hon. Member representing that area made that point, but I cannot understand why the hon. Member for Stroud made it. While it would not affect his constituency, the project would affect my constituency and those of other hon. Members, and, in particular, it would affect employment in the area.

Conservative Members may dismiss, off the cuff, our arguments in favour of the use of coal as a major generating source. However, although the project may result in a few jobs for the area, our constituents will lose jobs because of the change in the generation of electricity from solid fuel. Conservative Members should understand that we make our points on the basis of the interest of our constituents. There is no joy in our constituents losing thousands of jobs while the Killingholme project creates a few jobs, whether in short-term construction or long-term generation.

Mr. Knapman

I repeat that the Bill is not about which type of power is used to generate electricity. It is purely about pipes into and from the Humber. That is the point of the Bill. Therefore, employment in the hon. Gentleman's constituency is not affected by the Bill.

Mr. Buckley

It has a direct effect on the constituents whom I represent because the proposed power stations will be powered by gas rather than solid fuel.

In a debate on energy and generation, we should talk about the consequences of using gas as a major producer of electricity. It could have economic, employment and balance of payments consequences. The short-term thinking by the Government and the promoters of the Bill, on behalf of PowerGen and National Power, leads them to say that there are no significant consequences in converting to the production of electricity by gas.

Mr. Eadie

It is remarkable that attempts to circumscribe the debate have been made. My hon. Friend is showing the impact of the Bill. Does he agree that there has been a change since the Bill was first mooted and since the first attempts to push it through the House? I recall telling the House in a previous debate that , when I met the Norwegian commanders in NATO, I asked them what would happen if a conflict broke out in the North sea and what consequences it would have for the oil and gas installations. They told me that the installations could not be defended. As a strategic aspect is now involved, because we may soon be involved in a war in the Gulf, the situation has changed since the House last addressed the subject.

Mr. Buckley

I take my hon. Friend's point. The impact of the Bill will be more far-reaching than the hon. Member for Stroud has suggested. He is talking about inputs and outtakes of water from the Humber and short pipes and long pipes. My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond) spoke about drawing the short straw rather than the long pipe, and the hon. Gentleman is suffering from that. I do not want to lumber the hon. Member with this, but he is not wrestling with the short Pipe.

Mr. Dickens

PowerGen and National Power have given undertakings to honour their contracts as large buyers of British coal up until 1993. Subsequently, they expect to be major buyers of British coal as long as negotiations lead to a commercially sensible conclusion. I do not see why that should end. British Coal would still be the biggest supplier to those organisations.

Mr. Buckley

I take the hon. Gentleman's point, which is relevant to the argument that I am advancing on behalf of my constituents. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting, however, that the two power stations could be built within a three-year contract? That is the contract that British Coal has with National Power and PowerGen, and it is linked to a certain tonnage of coal. I accept that my constituents have an interest in investment in British Coal—

Mr. Alan Meale (Mansfield)

Perhaps my hon. Friend will remind the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) that evidence was given to the Select Committee on Energy by the Central Electricity Generating Board that it would like to import up to 10 million tonnes of foreign coal through the ports on the east coast.

Mr. Buckley

We are, of course, talking about gas. A Bill dealing with the importation of coal has passed through the House and the consequences for the coal industry of that measure will be considerable. We are talking about an alternative fuel—gas—that will offer security and continuity of supply. Perhaps gas will not provide the guarantees for which some Conservative Members hope.

Some of the gas supplied from the North sea is coming from the Norwegian sector. If power stations are turning towards gas, the increased demand will be met by the Norwegian sector, not the British sector. Conservative Members have tried to talk down the consequences of the Bill, but we must consider the long-term consequences if the Government decide that gas-fired power generation is something that should be expanded. What would be the consequences for gas supply if we started building gas-powered generating stations along estuaries? Given the Gulf crisis, much of our imported supply would come from politically vulnerable areas. In the long term, much of our gas supply might have to come from the Soviet Union, for example, which has had recent experience of—

Mr. Moss

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will explain how we are to be supplied with gas from the Soviet Union when there is no pipeline across the North sea.

Mr. Buckley

The hon. Gentleman's intervention illustrates the limited knowledge of Conservative Members. Europe is linked to the Soviet Union by a major gas supply pipe.

There is a shortfall in electricity supply in the south-east of the United Kingdom, not the north-east. A gas supply link between the United Kingdom and Europe would be a requirement if gas-fired power stations were situated in the south-east. It would be convenient to be linked to a major supply of gas from the Urals, for example.

Another major supply of gas would come from Algeria, which is another area of political difficulty, especially when we consider the long-term supply of gas, which will have a significant effect on future energy supplies generally to the United Kingdom.

Mr. Moss

I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman. He is saying that with the Gulf crisis, or a Gulf war, we shall not have enough gas in the short to medium term and that we shall have to import it from the Soviet Union through a non-existent pipeline or import from Algeria by sea, presumably in liquefied form. Is he not aware that it was said in evidence to the Select Committee on Energy that there is about 10 GW of capacity from the known reserves of British Gas and that that could be used to produce electricity over and above the current demand of the country as a whole through the civilian subscribers to British Gas?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are dealing with a revival motion, and hon. Members must address their remarks to that.

Mr. Buckley

I strayed from the motion, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I was concerned about the long-term consequences if two power stations are dependent on North sea gas for their power generation. That is relevant to the energy policy that is being outlined for the future. I see that the sponsor, the hon. Member for Stroud, is receiving another briefing from his adviser, the Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy, the hon. Member for Rochford (Dr. Clark). I understand that the hon. Member for Stroud was prompted earlier in the debate. It is good to receive expert advice from Conservative Members who are mindful of the problems that we face.

Mr. Moss

It is good advice.

Mr. Buckley

It may be good advice.

The Bill seeks to amend or change earlier proposals. It is—

Dr. Michael Clark

The 1972 legislation contained a proposal to build a 4,000 MW oil-fired power station. I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern about employment in his constituency. I understand also that the coal lobby wants to ensure that as much coal is burnt as possible. It is proposed now that there should be a maximum of 2,000 MW of gas-fired generation. That is only half of that which was proposed in 1972. I accept that the 1972 proposal was based on non-coal-fired generation, as is the current proposal. I repeat, however, that the current proposal is only half the non-coal proposal of 1972. It is possible that that is the reason for a Labour-controlled local authority in the area in question being in favour of the proposal. Less electricity will be produced than that which would have been generated if the 1972 proposal had been implemented, and there will be more scope for more coal to be burnt elsewhere.

Mr. Buckley

I am grateful to the Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy for the expert information that he has given to the House. The hon. Gentleman has given support to my argument. The need to increase generation in the north-east is not as valid as Conservative Members have claimed. I accept that the 1972 proposal of 4,000 MW has been reduced by 50 per cent. That means that an increase in energy supply is not justified in terms of the 1972 legislation.

Mr. Redmond

The hon. Member for Rochford (Dr. Clark) lost me in his intervention. He suggested that a reduction from 4,000 to 2,000 MW would be beneficial because that would enable us to burn more coal elsewhere. I oppose the carry-over motion because of the impact that the Bill will have on the country generally. I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree with me that there is no national power policy or energy policy. We are living from hand to mouth, and that is why my hon. Friends and I are concerned about the future. Perhaps my hon. Friend will tell the House whether he agrees that there should be a national energy policy to replace the prevailing market forces.

Mr. Buckley

My hon. Friend emphasises the main point of my argument, which is that the Bill represents a slipshod approach to Britain's energy supply problem on which the Government have no short-term or long-term policy. We seem to be basing our requirements on imported energy. That is ludicrous when one considers the abundance of energy to which this country has had access over the past decade. We were in the forefront of developing nuclear energy, and we had the bonanza of North sea oil, together with an abundance of coal reserves and North sea gas as well.

As to North sea gas reserves, which are fairly extensive, if we substantially increase our consumption from that source, we shall increasingly come to depend in the near future on other sources of gas supply.

Although I acknowledge the points made by those who support the carry-over motion, the effects will be more far reaching than the length of a pipe into the estuary and the amount of water that will flow through it. The stations will have an impact on long-term thinking about this nation's energy's supplies.

Mr. Michael Brown


7.51 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory)

It may be helpful if I intervene briefly at this stage to give the Government's general view of the Bill and of the revival motion in particular. I promise my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) that I will not speak long enough to exclude him from contributing to the debate.

The works authorised by the Bill will form an integral part of two new gas-fired power stations that are to be constructed by National Power and PowerGen on Humberside. They are among the first of a new generation of gas-fired stations that offer certain efficiency and environmental advantages. Such stations are quicker and cheaper to construct, and the Government see no objection to them on environmental grounds. In fact, in terms of global warming, there may be advantages in generating electricity, at least in part, by burning more gas.

As the House may know, a gas-fired power station produces virtually no sulphur dioxide and only about one quarter of the nitrogen oxides and about one half of the carbon dioxide emissions for the same electrical output as an equivalent coal-fired power station. As we believe it probable that there will be an increase in global atmospheric temperatures due to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it is obviously important that we find ways in the years ahead of stabilising and perhaps reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Dr. Michael Clark

I appreciate that my hon. Friend the Minister must take a neutral stance in respect of the Bill, but is not he being slightly unfair when he says that the Government have no objections to the stations on environmental grounds? Would not it be fairer to say that, on environmental grounds, the Government welcome the burning of gas rather than coal?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

This is not my Bill, but I will indicate my position at the end of these remarks. As the environment has been mentioned several times, I thought it proper to give just an outline of the Government's attitude. I have already indicated that, in terms of protecting the global atmosphere, the burning of gas offers certain advantages over other fossil fuels.

Mr. Redmond

The technology is available to reduce toxic emissions from coal-fired stations, but a softly-softly approach is being adopted because of the cost of adopting it. Perhaps the Minister would care to comment on the part that gas could play in the Bill, in respect of long-term requirements and a national energy policy. I understand that the price of coal has been pegged in relative terms to inflation in order to maintain a market for coal within the generation game. However, the price of electricity to the consumer has shot up, and it now bears no relation to the generators' costs. What is being done with those profits? Why are they not being ploughed back into energy generation by coal and into developing methods for reducing toxic emissions? That would produce genuine good, and create real competition between the various forms of energy.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

Each form of energy generation offers its own balance of advantages and disadvantages. One advantage of gas over coal is that it produces less carbon dioxide for every unit of electricity. However, I agree with the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond) that it is important that British Coal finds ways of burning coal more cleanly—and we fully support any efforts made in that direction.

I may say in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford (Dr. Clark) that the global environment is not the only consideration, and that gas offers other advantages. It can be piped direct to the power station from the source, without the requirement for road or rail transport of fuel or of the resulting ash.

Mr. Eadie

The Minister is merely repeating the brief that we have all received from PowerGen about the advantages of the proposal. Given the question put to him by the hon. Member for Rocford (Dr. Clark), the Minister has a responsibility and a duty to be objective. The hon. Member for Rochford tried to compel the Minister to declare that the Government really prefer gas-generated energy. In the interests of objectivity, and in order that the House may be properly informed, the Minister will surely agree that if flue gas desulphurisation equipment were installed in coal-fired stations, that would make them environmentally friendly. Does the Minister agree that it is not for British Coal but for the power station operators to decide whether flue gas desulphurisation is to be installed?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

I trust that the hon. Gentleman is not accusing me of being hostile to coal in principle. I do not have an absolute preference for gas. Nor do I disapprove of coal, in principle. However, it is a fact of chemistry that burning a unit of coal produces more carbon dioxide than does an equivalent unit of gas. Nevertheless, the hon. Gentleman is correct in saying that there are technical and chemical ways of extracting sulphur dioxide from coal emissions, for example—and we are most anxious to promote that technology.

I am unwilling to go into too much detail about the substance of the Bill. If the revival motion is approved there may be an opportunity for us to debate the issue at greater length at another time. Also, the Government see no objection on efficiency grounds—indeed we envisage certain advantages—to building some additional gas-fired power stations, because combined cycle gas turbine generators will operate at about 50 per cent. efficiency, compared to 38 per cent. efficiency from the best coal-burning power stations available at present.

Mr. Michael Welsh

I thank the Minister for giving way. Is it efficient to have a gas power station, which may operate well, if a couple of pits have to be closed, leaving coal which can never be removed as the shafts are completely filled in? In the long term, is that efficiency, or is it bad planning?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

I am unwilling to get into a general debate about the coal industry—an industry which I am most anxious to see prosper—because we are debating a revival motion. However, I look forward to debating the future of the British coal industry with the hon. Gentleman at some future date.

I must return to the point. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy has already approved the application to build these two power stations on Humberside. Therefore, it is obvious that we should also approve the application to provide the ancillary works. In the light of that, the Government hope that the House will approve the revival motion to enable the Bill to proceed to a Second Reading at another time.

8.1 pm

Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)

I do not wish to keep the House too long. We welcome the Minister's commitment, and the Government's full support, for British Coal becoming more environmentally conscious through clean coal burning, although I think that that is the first time that I have heard that said. Perhaps the new Minister could explain to British Coal why, for the past few years, it has received no more than 1.5 per cent. of the research and development budget of millions that the Government have put into nuclear and other energy industries. Perhaps he could also explain why last year, when the Grimethorpe project sought help from the public sector, as directed by the Government, and received about £5 million from a Scandinavian company which later pulled out, the project was on the brink of collapse. It was one of the most advanced projects for clean coal burning in the world. I hope that the Minister, in his new post, will consider these issues, because they have worried many hon. Members on both sides of the House.

I am also interested to hear that the Government see no objection to this development. I wish that we were discussing this matter after having had a debate on the Government's intentions for energy. Once again, we are debating a private Bill from a troubled area of Britain. We must have spent more time debating Killingholme than any other place in Britain. Tonight we are again discussing Killingholme and its effect on a national energy strategy, but we have been unable to discuss that strategy. I do not want to go into too much detail tonight because if the carry-over motion is approved we shall want to consider the absence of a national energy strategy and its effect on the present proposals. However, I must point out that I find it difficult to talk about a car exhaust without referring to the internal combustion engine, and I should have thought that most people would have the same problem.

The Killingholme Generating Station (Ancillary Powers) Act 1972, which referred to outlay pipes from a power station which was to be built on the site, stopped the development. Therefore, we must in some small degree discuss developments on the site.

I speak on behalf of the Labour party when I say that we are reluctant to give our approval to the Bill, as it will enable the construction of two gas turbine generating stations without the House having given due consideration to the implications of increasing gas generation of electricity.

World supplies of gas are plentiful at the moment—we all know that—but they are finite. More important, in the short term, Britain's supplies of gas are limited. At current levels of consumption, United Kingdom gas will last between 25 and 40 years. If we allow gas to become a major generator of electricity, adding another 30 or 40 per cent. to present United Kingdom gas demand, we shall soon find ourselves dependent on gas imports—whether from Norway or the Soviet Union, we shall have to wait and see. Norway has a wide choice of alternative purchasers for its gas. Germany has taken an option on the Troll field and it is likely that we shall be considering repairing the existing European pipeline and building another and importing our gas from Russia.

The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Moss) said in an intervention during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Buckley) that there was no gas pipeline from Russia or northern Europe into this country at present. A number of years ago the Energy Select Committee—the Chairman of the Committee is present—produced a gas depletion policy document, and it was, and still is, the only obvious choice to couple into northern Europe when Britain's gas runs out. It is very likely that, out of all the gas producers that we know of at present and can envisage in the future, Russia will be a major exporter of gas to this country. That has major implications for us all and anyone with any knowledge of energy worldwide will know that that will be the case in the not-too-distant future if we start to generate electricity from gas. That was prevented until late last year when the EC directive that covered this country was withdrawn without any debate in the House about the effect that its withdrawal would have on our energy policies.

It has been reported that National Power has secured a supply for Killingholme A station from the Caister field, off the Lincolnshire coast, in the southern North sea. It has further been reported that that field has gas to last for only seven or eight years. The Minister said that this development would have little effect on the country, that gas would be piped direct to the station and that the Government envisaged no problems. However, combined cycle gas turbines have a lifetime which is much longer than seven or eight years. Where will the gas come from when the Caister field runs out? What will be the cost of gas at that time?

Mr. Redmond

At the moment there is a big gas sale on, encouraging home owners to install gas. However, one needs to consider the long term, perhaps 30 years from now. Reference has been made to gas consumption. If gas begins to run out, the law of supply and demand will prevail, prices will escalate and, even though power-generated gas stations would cease production, house owners would be required to meet the escalating cost of gas.

Mr. Barron

My hon. Friend is right. I know that the current war situation is on all our minds at the moment, especially as the 15 January deadline is looming within the next 24 hours. What will happen to gas prices? They are tied to world oil prices. I hope that it does not happen, and I am sure that many hon. Members share that wish, but if war breaks out in the Gulf there could be a massive increase in gas prices within a few weeks. I hope that that is not the case, but we are vulnerable to that.

What will happen in seven or eight years' time when the gas in the Caister field has run out? Where will these two gas turbines be supplied from, and at what cost to the consumer?

Mr. Moss

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Caister field supplying National Power's plant at Killingholme. Is he not aware that the gas in that field is off-spec—that it has a very high nitrogen content and cannot be used in normal British Gas conditions for the purposes of the domestic consumer? The gas is not coming out of the reserve for domestic consumption; it is highly specialised and its use in a power station is probably the best possible.

Mr. Barron

I do not deny that, but, according to press reports, seven or eight years' gas supply is going into those generators. Let me repeat my question: what will happen when that is gone? The question will have to be answered at some stage, preferably by the Minister.

Mr. Eadie

The question of gas importation is important. We know that, when British Gas appeared before the energy studies group, it said that it planned to have 8 to 10 GW of power station generation, basing its projection on the expectation that much of the gas would come from the Soviet Union.

As my hon. Friend has suggested, since we last discussed the Bill the position has changed dramatically. If a Gulf war breaks out, the Soviet Union will be in a powerful position in energy terms: not only will it have all that gas, but it will be the largest oil producer in Europe. The House should give some consideration to our indigenous energy sources.

Mr. Barron

Given his years of service as both an energy Minister and an Opposition spokesman, my hon. Friend knows the position even better than I do. He served in the Government at the time of the oil price increases in the 1970s. We have not yet discussed all the outside influences on our national energy resources.

Other European utilities—although there is still talk of building combined-cycle gas power stations—will, they say, use gas only for peak-load operation; there is no plan for a major, irrreversible shift to gas burners. The number of permissions apparently granted by the Department of Energy leads us to believe that it will take such action. We have not been told, however, whether the two power stations will operate the base-load system, thus using much more gas than peak-load operation would require—meeting two or three hours' demand per day, sometimes only in the late winter.

The hon. Member for Rochford (Dr. Clark) mentioned the 1972 Act. That is indeed relevant, but I should point out that we are talking not about going from 4,000 to 2,000 MW, but about going from nought to 2,000. The people with whom I negotiated as a trade unionist before I entered the House would have loved that sort of logic: "You have won half of it anyway; you are giving away 2,000 MW." That is the way in which we should look at the position, although the other way may seem a nice mathematical method of arguing for gas generation.

Mr. Moss

As has been said many times, the hon. Gentleman is understood to support a national energy policy, controlled and planned from the centre. Has it not occurred to him that in 1972, when the application for the 4,000 MW oil-fired station was first put in, the planning had been carried out with the CEGB—perhaps by a Labour Government in 1970 or before—but the power station was never built? Why should a wonderful national energy policy plan a 4,000 MW station that is never built? So much for a national energy policy in the Labour party.

Mr. Barron

If we are to answer such questions, we should perhaps consider what happened in the middle east in 1973. We have still not learnt the lessons.

Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)

The planning for the 1972 project took into consideration the then state of manufacturing industry and the accompanying need for energy resources. With the collapse of manufacturing industry since 1979, the position is different.

Mr. Barron

My hon. Friend is entirely right.

It can be argued that a form of national power and electricity generation has operated, on and off, for a number of years. It can also be argued that most Governments, whatever their political colour, have tended to get it wrong, which is why it has been in a mess for more than 20 years. That does not mean, however, that we should not think things out before producing spatchcock measures to build generation plants. We should stop making the mistakes that we have made in the past; we should take a more national and strategic approach.

The country already faces a deficit in the energy balance of payments. In the first 10 months of 1990, Britain had a fuel trade deficit amounting to the equivalent of the cost of 2.2 million tonnes of coal. We live in an energy-rich country. How much larger can we afford to allow that deficit to become—not just in the short term, but permanently? We should not consider the cost of building the generators in relation to seven or eight years' supply from a particular field in the southern North sea; we should bear it in mind that in 10 years' time, when we still want to use the generators, we may be having to import our supply. That, in the end, is the real cost, not to the company but to the nation.

The increased use of gas for electricity generation will also have an impact on its price. At present, gas prices are relatively low. All the indications are that, if gas is diverted to electricity generation, the price will rise dramatically, and that will have an impact on both domestic gas and domestic electricity users, as well as on the generators themselves.

Gas is still a premium fuel and to burn it to produce electricity is a wasteful use of such a resource. Before enabling the two major generating companies to build gas turbine generators, the House should consider these important questions. Once again, a private Bill is being used to determine major strategic energy decisions which should be made by the Department of Energy and by the Ministers involved, regardless of their political colour. We have said all along, and will continue to say, that we want the matter to be debated in a proper fashion. We hope that, at some stage, the Government will find the time and the courage to do that, rather than adopting the spatchcock option of private Bills.

8.18 pm
Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)

First, I take up the final point made by the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron). We must get this right: the Bill is before the House only because last year the Government gave their approval first to PowerGen and then to National Power for the power stations to be built. Opposition Members should recognise that the power stations are being built at this very minute, and that one will be completed within months, if not weeks.

Mr. Knapman

Let us suppose, briefly, that every word uttered by the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) was correct. Would not the result of the Opposition's proposals be the denial to most power stations of the intake and outlet pipes that they obviously need?

Mr. Brown

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his clarification of very difficult technical details when he opened the debate. I believe that it is wrong for the motives of any hon. Member to be questioned when we are considering a private Bill. Every hon. Member present in the Chamber has a constituency reason for wanting to discuss the revival motion. Furthermore, all my hon. Friends have an interest in energy, which goes back to their membership of the Select Committee on Energy. My hon. Friends should be commended by my constituents for taking such an interest in our national energy industry. They should not be criticised and carped at by Opposition Members.

On 26 February 1986, nearly five years ago, I said to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because you were in the Chair at the time, that the CEGB planned, through its local agency Nirex, to dump nuclear waste in my constituency. I said to you that so long as I was Member of Parliament for Brigg and Cleethorpes that would not happen, and it did not happen. Only because that battle was won is my constituency in the fortunate position of having not a nuclear waste dump but two power stations, one being built by National Power and the other by PowerGen. In 1987 my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) had the good sense to abandon the ridiculous proposal to dump nuclear waste in my constituency. Having won that battle, we now have two private enterprise power stations being built, one of which is nearly completed.

To return to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud in his intervention, what would be the effect if Opposition Members were successful in their opposition to the revival motion or if they successfully opposed the Bill on Second or Third Reading? The effect would be that the Labour party would say to the public, "Two power stations in Michael Brown's parliamentary constituency of Brigg and Cleethorpes will be completed by the time of the next general election, and we are proud to tell the people of the United Kingdom that we shall play our part in preventing those power stations from coming into operation." I shall remind the parliamentary Labour candidate in my constituency, Ian Cawsey, who will have to live with the remarks made by the hon. Member for Rother Valley, that he has had yet another millstone strung around his neck. It was bad enough when the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) said that if the Labour party won the next election it would abandon the Immingham docks project. Now it wants to kill the jobs at Killingholme after the power stations have been built.

Mr. Barron

The hon. Gentleman said that last year planning permission for the two power stations was granted by the Department of Energy without debate. I believe that that was wrong. Would the hon. Gentleman set about building a four-bedroomed detached house without planning permission?

Mr. Brown

The hon. Gentleman has not done his homework. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy gave National Power and PowerGen permission to build the power stations, subject to their obtaining planning permission. National Power and PowerGen went to Glanford borough council and Humberside county council and said, "The Secretary of State for Energy has allowed us to bring this project to you. Will you give us planning permission?" As it is a very go-ahead planning authority, Glanford borough council gave planning permission. There was no objection. I do not think that even a whisper against planning permission being granted came from the two Labour councillors out of a total of 42 councillors. I believe that they voted for the project. The Labour-controlled Humberside county council—I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) is present as his brother is the leader of the Conservative group on that council—also gave planning permission for the stations. The hon. Member for Rother Valley says that no planning permission was given. Both Glanford borough council and Humberside county council could have told the Secretary of State for Energy where to go after giving approval for the two power stations by denying planning permission, after which there would have had to be an appeal. However, they gave planning permission.

Mr. Barron

Is not planning permission being sought by means of the Bill?

Mr. Brown

Planning permission for the power stations is not the subject of the Bill. The power stations are being built after planning permission was granted by Glanford borough council. One of the power stations will be completed later this year. Planning permission was given for it. The Bill merely enables the power stations to take water out of the river Humber for cooling purposes.

I cannot believe what I am hearing from the Opposition —though perhaps I should, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Labour party believes only in coal, regardless of its price and of how expensive it is for the consumer. The Labour party believes that when the housewife switches on the electric light she ought to pay the price of electricity generated by coal, however high that price may be. That is what the debate is about. The hon. Member for Rother Valley let the cat out of the bag when he said, in effect, "I don't care whether you build nuclear, oil-fired or gas-fired power stations—all I want is for the consumer in this country to be forced to buy electricity at whatever price the coal miner and the coal industry choose to foist upon him."

Mr. Buckley

The hon. Gentleman misleads the House by suggesting that the Labour party wants electricity to be generated by coal, regardless of other means of electricity generation, but alternative means of electricity generation would deprive my constituents of employment.

Mr. Brown

When it comes to any other product, where constituency interests are not involved, competition and price are the determining factors. If the hon. Gentleman had the misfortune, in his case—though the good fortune in my case—to represent a constituency in which the largest single industry was privately run and where there was competition, he would find that Scunthorpe's steel industry had to face both international and domestic competition and therefore had to become efficient. At the moment the hon. Gentleman has the good fortune to represent a constituency where the largest industry has a monopoly. He wants that monopoly to be maintained, but by defending and upholding that monopoly he does his constituents a disservice in the long run. If there is a mix of energy generation, with one fossil fuel having to compete with another, the coal industry will be able to defend itself far more effectively in the long run, and it will be much more commercially competitive.

Combined cycle gas turbine stations are cheaper and quicker to build than conventional coal-fired stations and are substantially more efficient. Gas is available at an economically competitive price, and as these companies must now answer to a board of directors and to shareholders they would not be building these power stations if they were going to be inefficient or, ultimately, if there was not an opportunity to sell electricity at a cheaper rate.

Gas is in plentiful supply and, as my hon. Friend the Minister said, has considerable environmental advantages over coal. When gas is burned in a combined cycle gas turbine station, about half the carbon dioxide, virtually no sulphur dioxide and a quarter of the nitrogen oxide emissions of a coal-fired station are produced. Therefore, on environmental grounds, my constituency will be at the forefront of producing cheap energy, with an environmental benefit to boot.

Mr. Buckley

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the reduced environmental impact of gas-fired power stations. If that is correct, why did he oppose nuclear power, which has no environmental impact whatever?

Mr. Brown

In 1945, a couple of miles up the road from where I have lived for the past 12 years, 700 acres of land were purchased by the CEGB. The intention was always to use that land for a power station. In 1972, the House went so far as to pass a private Bill giving the CEGB permission to build a power station there. In the 1980s, I said to my constituents, "I oppose this area of land, on which a power station was to be built, being used as a nuclear dump." I also said that if we prevented it being used as a nuclear dump we would have to acknowledge that a power station was to be built on the site. On that basis, I give my full and total support to the Bill. The project will bring jobs to my constituency.

For some reason, the Labour party has got it in for my constituency. It does not like my constituents to have jobs or for them to benefit from reductions in unemployment. Whether it is power plants, port development or whatever, the Labour party does not like any development in my constituency. At the next election, the poor prospective Labour candidate will have a hard time trying to convince my voters that they should vote for him. They certainly will not do so because it would result in my constituency going back to the 17th century. I support the motion and compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud on the way in which he introduced it.

8.32 pm
Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

I am a north-west Member of Parliament, but I am here to support the north-east.

I am pro-nuclear and declare an interest in that respect. I am not crying because the next power station will be driven by a gas turbine, and I am not unfair enough to say that these power stations should not have their cooling water. I wish to say something to the coal-mining interests in the House, because that is what many of the earlier speeches were about. As part of the commitment to British Coal, National Power is retrofitting flue gas desulphurisation plant at Drax power station in Yorkshire. Similarly, PowerGen has submitted consent applications for retrofitting at Ratcliffe on Soar in Nottingham and Ferrybridge C power station in Yorkshire. The availability of FGD plant at some of our coal-fired power stations will reduce the disadvantage of the relatively high sulphur content of British coal.

It appears that those two companies are committed to the coal industry, but technology has not been developed sufficiently for orders to be placed immediately for coal-fired power stations. We must get that technology right and therefore—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. I do not see that this has anything to do with the motion.

Mr. Dickens

If you had been in the Chamber earlier, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you would have heard speech after speech on the coal industry and the effect that the motion will have on it. Following your direction, I shall leave that point.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Knapman) moved the motion well on behalf of National Power and PowerGen. The successor companies to the CEGB have almost completed the two power stations, but a water supply is required to cool them.

In the combined cycle gas turbine, gas is burned in gas turbines and the exhaust heat is used to heat steam to drive a steam turbine. The gas turbines and the steam turbine drive electrical generators. Steam from the turbine gives up its heat energy in the turbine as it expands and its temperature and pressure fall. When as much energy as practicable has been extracted from the steam, it is exhausted at low temperature and the pressure goes directly to a condenser. Cold water, in this case from the river Humber, is passed through the condenser and is used to condense the steam. The water produced is recirculated to the steam boiler and at all times is kept separate from the river water.

Whatever the form of power, whether it was coal fired, oil fired, gas fired or nuclear, it would still have to have cooling facilities. The short pipes into the river Humber would still be necessary. There will be no pollution. It is interesting to note that gas is cleaner than coal. The burning of gas produces no sulphur dioxide, which is a big advantage. A gas-fired power station emits a quarter of the nitrogen oxide and half the carbon dioxide of a coal-fired station. That is the advantage of the two power stations that are nearly completed.

It is important to recall that British Coal stands to gain long contracts from both those power giants. They are committed to the existing contracts until March 1993, and they will negotiate other contracts after March 1993 as long as British Coal produces coal at competitive rates. The way that British Coal is going at the moment, it has every chance of securing those contracts. Its performance is outstanding and I think that it is even surprising itself. [Interruption.] I have been passed a note telling me to speak for two hours. It does not really say that.

Mr. Buckley

Is the hon. Gentleman generating gas? This is known as the biggest gas house in the United Kingdom. By speaking for two hours, the hon. Gentleman would contribute to the supply.

Mr. Dickens

I may be speaking hot air, but these two power stations are very important to the people of the north-east, and especially Humberside.

We must remember that a power station must be justified. PowerGen and National Power, the successor companies to the CEGB, would not have forged ahead if the power stations had not been justified. It is a new world now. The power stations must be competitive and the type of generation of power used must be justified. It will not matter if the power stations overproduce because the electricity companies have a statutory obligation to provide power on demand to industry and consumers to keep the lights burning. That was the will of Parliament. The companies have a duty to fulfil that obligation. To do so, they must make sure that power stations are built.

If there is any surplus, it can be fed into the national grid and used elsewhere. The climate in the north-east is more kind at times than it is perhaps in the north-west and the south. Vice-versa, the north-east can take advantage of the power fed into the national grid from other stations. The arrangement is sensible and the power stations are justified. It would be churlish of the Opposition to block the almost completed power stations for the sake of short intake and outlet water pipes to the river Humber. We have heard that there is no pollution involved. The water is kept absolutely separate. I cannot understand the position of Opposition Members, many of whom I have supported on other issues.

I was formerly commercial director of a coal-fired power station and the chairman of an oil company. I am now in the nuclear industry—an interest which I declared earlier. That is why I take such an interest in energy matters and why I have come here tonight to support the people of the north-east and allow them to have the power station which they so richly deserve and need. On that note, I hand over to other hon. Members who wish to speak.

8.41 pm
Mr. Malcolm Moss (Cambridgeshire, North-East)

We need to go back to basics in discussing this revival motion. It is obvious from the speeches made by Opposition Members that they have not read the Bill. Nowhere does it mention planning permission or the type of power station. It is simply a Bill to change the wording of the 1972 Act which prescribes pipes of a certain length to the Humber. The Bill simply seeks to replace that length of pipe with shorter pipes to supply the cooling water to the gas generators.

Several points were raised by Opposition Members. The environment and clean coal were mentioned. Hon. Members may be interested in some of the figures on the so-called environmental benefits. Existing coal-burning stations, with 38 per cent. efficiency, pump 125 per cent. more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than a combined cycle gas turbine plant—the type proposed at Killingholme—which has a 50 per cent. efficiency burn and only a 100 per cent. output of carbon dioxide.

The so-called benefits of flue gas desulphurisation have been mentioned. Drax, a 4,000 MW power station, will produce 1.1 million tonnes of gypsum. It needs 0.7 million tonnes of limestone for the process. The limestone comes from Derbyshire and 0.7 million tonnes of it represents about 35,000 lorries with a 20-tonne load crossing from Derbyshire to Drax. That is 673 a week or about 96 a day. If Labour Members believe that those are the benefits of flue gas desulphurisation, I suggest that they examine the problem a little more closely.

The Bill is simple. It is about changing the wording of the 1972 Act to allow new pipes to take in water. The power stations have planning permission. There is no local opposition to them and, in the case of the PowerGen site, work has already started. We should vote for the revival motion without further ado.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 96, Noes 61.

Division No. 35] [8.44 pm
Arbuthnot, James Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Hunter, Andrew
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Irvine, Michael
Bellingham, Henry Jack, Michael
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Janman, Tim
Blackburn, Dr John G. Jessel, Toby
Boswell, Tim Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Bottomley, Peter King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Bowis, John Kirkhope, Timothy
Brazier, Julian Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Butler, Chris Knox, David
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Lawrence, Ivan
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Carttiss, Michael Maclean, David
Cash, William McLoughlin, Patrick
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Mans, Keith
Chapman, Sydney Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Mills, Iain
Monro, Sir Hector
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Colvin, Michael Morrison, Sir Charles
Conway, Derek Moynihan, Hon Colin
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Nicholls, Patrick
Cormack, Patrick Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Norris, Steve
Davis, David (Boothferry) Page, Richard
Dickens, Geoffrey Paice, James
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Patnick, Irvine
Durant, Sir Anthony Porter, David (Waveney)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Sackville, Hon Tom
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Shaw, David (Dover)
Fallon, Michael Skeet, Sir Trevor
Fenner, Dame Peggy Speed, Keith
Forman, Nigel Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Fox, Sir Marcus Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)
Franks, Cecil Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Fry, Peter Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Gale, Roger Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Glyn, Dr Sir Alan Thorne, Neil
Goodlad, Alastair Thurnham, Peter
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Viggers, Peter
Hague, William Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Wheeler, Sir John
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Widdecombe, Ann
Hampson, Dr Keith Wiggin, Jerry
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Yeo, Tim
Harris, David
Heathcoat-Amory, David Tellers for the Ayes:
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Mr. Malcolm Moss and
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Mr. Michael Brown.
Allen, Graham Haynes, Frank
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Hood, Jimmy
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Hoyle, Doug
Barron, Kevin Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Bellotti, David Ingram, Adam
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)
Bermingham, Gerald Kennedy, Charles
Blunkett, David Leadbitter, Ted
Buckley, George J. McAvoy, Thomas
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) McCartney, Ian
Campbell-Savours, D. N. McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Clay, Bob Maxton, John
Clelland, David Meale, Alan
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Michael, Alun
Cousins, Jim Morgan, Rhodri
Crowther, Stan Murphy, Paul
Cryer, Bob Patchett, Terry
Cummings, John Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Redmond, Martin
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Rooney, Terence
Dixon, Don Short, Clare
Dobson, Frank Skinner, Dennis
Eadie, Alexander Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Spearing, Nigel
Fatchett, Derek Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Fisher, Mark Turner, Dennis
Foster, Derek Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Foulkes, George Wigley, Dafydd
Godman, Dr Norman A.
Golding, Mrs Llin Tellers for the Noes:
Grocott, Bruce Ms. Dawn Primarolo and
Hardy, Peter Mr. Eric Illsley.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Ordered, That the Promoters of the Killingholme Generating Stations (Ancillary Powers) Bill [Lords] may, notwithstanding anything in the Standing Orders or practice of this House, proceed with the Bill in the present Session; and the Petition for the Bill shall be deemed to have been deposited and all Standing Orders applicable thereto shall be deemed to have been complied with; That if the Bill is brought from the Lords in the present Session, the Agents for the Bill shall deposit in the Private Bill Office a declaration signed by them stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill which was brought from the Lords in the last Session; That as soon as a certificate by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office, that such a declaration has been so deposited, has been laid upon the Table of the House, the Bill shall be deemed to have been read the first time and shall be ordered to be read a second time; That, since no Petitions remain against the Bill, no Petitioners shall be heard before any committee on the Bill save those who complain of any amendment as proposed in the filled up Bill or of any matter which arises during the progress of the Bill before the committee; That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the last Session.

Message to the Lords to acquaint them therewith.