HC Deb 19 January 1995 vol 252 cc838-9
6. Mr. Foulkes

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he expects the Director General of Electricity Supply to publish his report on the proposed interconnector with Scotland.

Mr. Ancram

I am informed by the Director General of Electricity Supply for Northern Ireland that he expects to publish his report by the middle of February of this year.

Mr. Foulkes

I am grateful to the Minister. Does he accept that the interconnector would result in a 15-year monopoly with electricity prices going up and job losses in Northern Ireland? As we now know that the Ove Arup report to the European Commission said that that was not the most economic solution, if the director general comes to the same conclusion, will not the Secretary of State be obliged to reconsider that misconceived project?

Mr. Ancram

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the planned interconnector project is being promoted jointly by Northern Ireland Electricity and Scottish Power, which are two private companies and which must make their own judgment. Two planning inquiries are taking place at the moment, one in Scotland and one in Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentleman knows enough to realise that, as Ministers will eventually have to take a view of the results of those planning inquiries, it would not be right for me to pre-empt the outcome of those inquiries at this stage.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does not my hon. Friend find it astonishing to hear a Scot not wanting to sell something that is produced in Scotland? Is not that another example of not caring about jobs in Scotland?

Mr. Ancram

My hon. Friend makes his point very well, but he will understand if I am not drawn into making a statement about the project in advance of the outcome of the inquiries.

Mr. John D. Taylor

Since the decision in favour of the Moyle interconnector between Northern Ireland and Scotland was made—the decision was certainly welcomed by most people in Northern Ireland—it has been announced that operation of the other interconnector between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is to be restored. That is the north-south co-operation which Ulster Unionists welcome. Will the Minister therefore tell the House whether the restoration of that north-south interconnector enhances or reduces the need for the Moyle interconnector to Scotland?

Mr. Ancram

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his question. I understand that the two interconnectors will serve different purposes, because, in effect, the interconnector between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is for mutual support during temporary shortfalls rather than to meet future electricity requirements. The interconnector between Scotland and Northern Ireland is meant to meet the latter.