HC Deb 27 January 1992 vol 202 c692
8. Mr. Hague

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy when he expects to announce the terms of the inquiry into the plans by the National Grid Company to erect new overhead power lines in North Yorkshire and Cleveland.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

The public inquiry will start in Northallerton on 19 May. My Department is writing to all those who have been registered as objectors to the applications, with details of the arrangements.

Mr. Hague

I thank my hon. Friend for announcing the inquiry today. Is he aware that my constituents remain strongly opposed to the proposed overhead power lines and are rightly concerned at their impact on the rural landscape? Will he confirm that the inquiry will be wide ranging and will pay close attention not only to the environmental impact of the proposed lines but to whether they are needed at all for the national grid to meet its licence standards?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

I am well aware of the views of many of my hon. Friend's constituents in this matter. I assure them that both the issues mentioned by my hon. Friend will be considered at the public inquiry.

Mr. Dobson

Does the Minister think that it is satisfactory for the people of Teesside to be faced with an application for a power station, another for a gas plant for the power station, and a separate application for the overhead line? Would not it have been more sensible to request all those concerned with the project to put forward their plans together and subject them all to just one public inquiry?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

I am quite satisfied with the structure and scope of the inquiry as announced.

Mr. John Greenway

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the terms of reference for the public inquiry that he has announced today will allow the inspector the option of recommending that my right hon. Friend refuse the National Grid Company's application? Does he agree that the private sector electricity industry makes it ever more important that safeguards should be built in to the process so that the need factor and the environmental impact are taken into account?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

The National Grid Company has a number of statutory obligations, including that of running a co-ordinated and efficient transmission system. The need for those new lines to discharge that obligation will be considered by the inquiry. I agree that it is an advance to have the industries in the private sector, regulated by the public sector, rather than having ownership, operation, regulation and the planning system all in the Government's hands.