§ 2.56 p.m.
§ The Earl of LAUDERDALE rose to move, That this House takes note of the Twenty-second Report of the European Communities Committee (Session 1974–75), on EEC Energy Policy Strategy (R/3333/74). The noble Earl said: My Lords, I should begin by thanking my colleagues and all the advisers, specialist and clerical, who have helped us in this work. It is not the business of a Whip to behave like a scorpion, nor was it necessary for the Chairman to do so: they worked long and hard and with a will.
§ This Twenty-second Report was drafted eight months ago, on the bundle of documents which I have brought with me for the information of the House so as to 483 show your Lordships how thick it is. Those documents were themselves prepared in the European Commission more than a year ago and they were first commissioned by the Paris Summit more than three years ago. It might therefore be said that this was all "old hat"; but it is in fact still relevant because it forms part of the continuing dialogue between Britain and her colleagues in the Community—a dialogue of which this debate forms a perfectly proper part.
The Report has a legitimate parentage. The Fifth Report of the Select Committee of the 1974 Session, which was prepared under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Champion—to whom I was greatly indebted on that occasion—drew attention to Britain's pre-eminent position because her,
immediate and potential resources of coal, oil, and natural gas exceed most, if not all, of those of our partners.
Indeed, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, instead of sitting on the gentle Woolsack or on a nobbly bag of coal, might more appropriately be cushioned today on a barrel of oil. To those facets of Britain's position in the energy matter we might well have added that Britain has superior access to the resources of raw materials for nuclear power, quite apart from London's position in the recycling of petro-dollars—now a by-product of the energy crisis and an element at the heart of the world's money system.
Our debate today coincides with the Summit in Rome, and it is perhaps as well to recall that Elihu Root said:
The Government that shakes its fist first and then its finger afterwards falls into contempt.
I believe that that is unlikely to be the outcome in this case. No doubt the Prime Minister will be able to remind our partners in the Community that before many years have passed Britain will be producing 45 per cent. of the Community's energy and 90 per cent. of its oil. Somebody said once that heiresses are never jilted.
§ The documents which we examined light up one of the deep-seated problems of the Community. It is the question as to what exactly the Community is. The ambiguities first of all arise from the proceedings of the Council of Ministers. All 484 one gets from Ministers is the Greatest Common Platitude and one might well feel that, in advising the Council of Ministers, the authorities were at their wit's end and that it did not take them long to get there. The fact is that our own Government assented to Council Resolutions bidding the European Commision produce an energy policy as if the EEC were not nine countries but one. The Commission of course responded by seeking eagerly to provide something matching America's "Project Independence" and Japan's "Project Sunshine", as if the EEC were indeed like them a single country. In doing so, the Commission naturally drew on its own built-in taste for supranational intervention and seized on energy policy as an area where the Community could be pushed a step forward towards economic and political union. In that cause the Commission made a number of assumptions, about OPEC, about the level of oil prices, about the engineering possibilities in regard to developing nuclear power on a vastly increased scale and about the availability of uranium.
§ Those assumptions obscured these realities. First, the Treaty is silent about energy, and therefore imposes no specific obligations on any of the Members. Second, the Community is not a geographical but a political entity. Next, if oil really lies at the heart of national foreign policy, so nuclear power relates to policy on national defence. Fourth, if producers—that is to say, Britain's offshore oil interests—require for oil the best price that is possible, consumers (that is, the other eight Members of the Community) want the lowest possible price, or at any rate a price that is competitive with other energy sources. Finally, the Commission, in preparing these documents, overlooked the fact that eight of the nine Members of the Community belong to the International Energy Agency; that is to say, they think that these matters can best be settled in company with the United States. But one, that is France, stands out and sides with the Commission.
§ The documents before us ignored those realities, or at any rate papered them over. They must therefore be said to amount to an exercise in trying to impose a sort of Europeanist solution on objective problems which eight out of nine Members of the Community feel are of wider ambit 485 than the Community itself. Members of our own Committee, in looking at these matters, were properly reluctant to be mistaken for civil servants who can find a difficulty for every solution. But we did as a Committee feel bound to conclude that the documents were unsatisfactory for Britain in that they carried an undertone of interventionism. There is the menace of the crash nuclear programme; there is the spectre of export licensing on oil; there is the spectre of non-tariff barriers under the guise of conservation requirements; finally, there is the clash with the International Energy Agency, in which we are partners with the United States.
§ But, my Lords, although our Report is critical and at points might even be described as "sharpish"—it sparked off a wholly constructive reaction which, I think we should say straight away, is enormously to the credit of the European Commissioners. There was a wholly frank response by the Commission—for which we are particularly indebted to the Vice-President and Commissioner M. Henri Simonet—and it would not be disclosing diplomatic secrets if one added that my noble friend Lord Bessborough, who is speaking later in the debate, played a considerable part behind the scenes as a Member of the European Parliament, and as a Member of your Lordships' House, in helping to bring about a frank understanding between ourselves and the Commission.
§ The second consequence was an historic offer—I repeat, "historic"—by M. Simonet to visit this national Parliament and give evidence to us at Westminster; it was something which hitherto had not been approved by Members of the Commission. The Commission had until now said that it should not deal with national Parliaments as such. M. Simonet broke that tradition and set a completely new pattern in coming over here and meeting our Committee in person. The consequence of that example has gone all the way down the line, and we are now encouraged to expect that officials of the European Commission will be available to give evidence to Sub-Committees of your Lordships' Select Committee on the Communities as and when the occasion seems to be suitable.
§ Arising out of that there is the beginning of a very active two-way movement of ideas. Members of our Committee 486 have made contact with Members of the Commission and vice versa, and there is a degree of informal exchange which can only improve and give greater value to our work in the future. We have found that the Commission officials, and certainly Commissioner Simonet, on the nuclear aspect of the programme they have put forward, take a much less rigid attitude than we had been led to expect. But above all—and this is a valuable product of the dialogue that has been proceeding in this past year—a new approach to energy policy is now beginning to appear. Instead of trying to suggest a theoretical policy from the centre, the Commission now sees that it is better to take existing national energy plans as a starting point, as indeed was suggested by our own Government, and as indeed is mentioned in paragraph 63 of the Government's Command Paper 6349 on developments in the Communities between April and October of this year.
§ My Lords, having therefore reached the point that the Commission is prepared to begin from the outside and work inwards rather than try to dream up a theoretical policy from the centre to be, if not imposed, at least hopefully wished on to the nine Community Members, where do we go from here? What I now proceed to say in part is a result of our private exchanges with the Commission. First, the aim of an energy policy should surely from now on be to try to identify the areas of overlap between national energy programmes, and then the areas of possible co-operation between national energy programmes; and, after that, the areas of possible conflict between those programmes until, finally, one arrives at the areas of problem which can be resolved only by collaboration, if not one day by some supranational decision.
§ If the first requirement is to analyse the energy problems in that order, surely the next is that we should admit what indeed our own Committee's researches have made very clear from our close look at coal, oil and nuclear power: it is that no one of these resources is a winner by itself; that each of these resources has countervailing defects; and that reliance on a single solution is simply freedom from fact. Further, if there is a third leg on which a Community policy might now be stood, it is the leg, if I 487 may mix metaphors, of listening to one another humbly in the matter of research and development.
§ In our Report we have referred to an earlier Report—the Seventeenth—by our same Committee on research and development programmes in the Community in the energy fields. We recorded that there is a lamentable duplication of effort as between agencies of the Community, of the OECD, of the International Energy Agency, and of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna; so there is some duplication to which we have drawn attention. We discern obscurity in the present Community programme for research in regard to fusion and coal conversion. We question the balance of the studies that have been set in hand as between conservation, hydrogen, solar energy, geothermal energy, and systems analysis; and as regards the last, we wonder whether there is any point in exploring that at all, unless and until there is thorough research and development in the area of resource availability.
§ To that matter we drew attention in the Seventeenth Report, which I have here; we refer to it again in the Twenty-second Report, our latest Report. This takes up that point once more. We call for much extended research on the availability of recoverable resources of fuel and on methods of improving their yield. Indeed we quote a pregnant sentence from Sir Kenneth Berrill referring to wave power; and, perhaps, when the Minister comes to reply at the end of this debate he might say what the Department of Energy are proposing to do on the matter of wave power beyond the present grant of £65,000 or so over three years for use in Edinburgh. We also plead for better conservation focused not simply on turning off lights at home, which makes very little difference, but on the point of generation of electricity as well as its industrial consumption.
My Lords, the urgency we know. Western Europe needs more energy per square mile than anywhere else in the world save, perhaps, Japan. That is unless our civilisation learns to distinguish between energy for general advantage and energy for the lazy demands of mere comfort; or unless our civilisation turns at last to wage war on waste, the very mother of want. For it is not
physical energy alone that we need. As the philosopher Bacon put it:
True greatnesse consisteth essentially in population and breede of men".
My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House takes note of the Twenty-second Report of the European Communities Committee (Session 1974–75), on EEC Energy Policy Strategy (R/3333/74).—(The Earl of Lauderdale.)
§ 3.12 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of STATE, DEPARTMENT of ENERGY (Lord Balogh)
My Lords, at this point I wish to pay tribute to the Select Committee of the House on the European Communities for their Report on EEC Energy Policy Strategy, and also to the work of Sub-Committee F on Energy. Members of the Sub-Committee have thoroughly examined the Commission documents—
§ Lord LLOYD of KILGERRAN
My Lords, may I beg leave to intervene at this stage? I am not sure whether the procedure of the House is being complied with—I am not very familiar with it—but there was a list of speakers published in which I appeared to be the second speaker. I am only too happy to give way to the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, if he is in any difficulty about matters and if he feels that it is proper and necessary that he should speak second in my place. I will of course give way, in those circumstances, and will depart from what is printed on the list.
§ Lord BALOGH
My Lords, I am sorry. I apologise to the House. The arrangements between the Whips and my office seem to have been less than perfect, and obviously I shall follow the order—
§ Lord CARRINGTON
My Lords, I do not know what the House would think, but it would seem to me to be greatly to the convenience of the House if the noble Lord would continue, because it seems to me that there is something to be said for a Government speaker speaking early in the debate so that your Lordships may know, broadly speaking, the attitude of the Government. I know that if the noble Lord wishes to make another speech at the end—and I am sure we should like him to—he would have the leave of the House with great pleasure.
§ Lord LLOYD of KILGERRAN
My Lords, I should like to support the view in that matter of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. As I said, if the noble Lord wishes to continue I have no wish to speak second in this debate; and it would be most helpful to hear the noble Lord in this matter.
§ Lord BALOGH
My Lords, that is very kind of noble Lords, and again. I apologise for the slight difficulty which seems to have been caused. I do not wish to blame anybody else; I have to take the responsibility. My Lords, first I wish to pay tribute to the Select Committee of the House on the European Communities for their Report. Members of the Sub-Committee have thoroughly examined the Commission documents, and they had before them an impressive array of experts, the evidence from whom will be a valuable contribution to policy-making. I regard the Select Committee's Report as a most valuable document and a pointer to the kind of energy policy which we ought to pursue.
May I say that I rejoice in the fact that the Report was very controversial. It did not try to paper over differences where they exist, and it did not avoid the discussion of problems which give rise to controversy. The first 18 pages contain some criticism of the Commission's proposals. In turn, the Report gave rise to criticism. This, I am sure, the Sub-Committee must have welcomed, for it showed two things: first, it showed the importance of the topic; and, secondly, it showed that at all levels in this country and in all spheres there is room for criticism, and that there is a real interest being taken by the Press in the work of the Select Committee. This is a recognition not merely of the importance of the subject but also of the quality of the Report.
But it was not only in this country that the Select Committees Report gained attention. Over at the Commission, in Brussels, I understand that passages in the first 18 pages of the Report created quite a stir. The members of Sub-Committee F subsequently visited M. Simonet, the EEC Energy Commissioner, his Director-General, M. Spaak, and members of his staff, to discuss the Report and energy matters generally. I think all these gentlemen must have been impressed, however much they may have 490 been put out, by the attention paid by the noble Lords to their own proposals on energy. At any rate, I gather that the few days spent at the Commission were a success. M. Simonet paid a return visit and came to the House and talked to the members of Sub-Committee F. I am glad that the noble Earl has paid tribute to this initiative, and the Government are extremely glad that this visit has taken place. It will undoubtedly have forwarded our common purposes. This must have been the first time that a Commissioner has appeared before a Select Committee and it created a precedent which we welcome.
The noble Earl has recalled that it is almost a year since we last debated this subject. It is also more than a year since R/3333/74 was issued by the Commission. But the rather long time which the Sub-Committee have spent in their examination of all these documents undoubtedly demonstrates the importance which they attach to energy questions. The Select Committee's Report also demonstrates the usefulness and the necessity of our special Parliamentary process for scrutinising EEC proposals. Personally, I was grateful as it relieved me of some of the "Balogh-baiting" by the noble Earl. The relief, considering the weightiness of the Report, was rather small.
Before I comment on the Reports and documents, I hope the House will bear with me in analysing the general problem of energy against the world background. New energy forecasts and policy recommendations are by their nature fraught with difficulty and danger. I do not know of any which hit anywhere neat the bull's-eye. Indeed, those who by their professional duties were forced or were found complaint enough to indulge in this pastime usually, indeed regularly, lost their reputations. Energy is an essential ingredient of our civilisation. Energy requirements, therefore, are inextricably linked with the growth of the national income, and only the most strenuous propaganda and possible rise in prices can mitigate this intimate connection but cannot destroy it.
On the other hand, the establishment of new sources of energy or the creation of alternatives is extremely costly and takes a long time. Thus, violent swings can be expected in sentiment and action 491 as the relationship between demand and supply changes. We have in this respect lived through a period of unprecedented and brutal change. The Harvard-trained experts of the "host" OPEC countries wrought a revolution in their relations to both companies and consumer countries.
The first stage of their intervention was the establishment of a "posted" price by which they secured a higher "take" from the oil, mainly at the cost of the Treasuries and the consumers in the industrial countries. Then there followed an accelerating takeover. Finally, the price of crude quadrupled at the turn of 1973–74 and rose further in 1975. With respect to the noble Earl, what we were confronted with was not an energy crisis, but a crisis of the price of energy—a very different matter; but in the short run quite as dangerous and far reaching. The change came abruptly. And it is the abruptness of the change which created our problems. We must not lose a sense of proportion in our difficulties. The increase in the value of oil exported by OPEC, some 100-billion dollars, was not more than 3 per cent. of the national product of the OECD bloc of industrial countries. The readjustment, had time been available, was not too difficult. Had the change occurred slowly and in harmony with the development of the exporting countries it would have been easily managed. Two facts made for a critical situation. On the one hand, the available real resources of the consumer countries fell appreciably—and in our case some 5 per cent. to 7 per cent. This was an event wholly unparalleled in the West since the end of the war. We never had a year which did not show some advance, sometimes a small advance, over the previous year. This was the first time that we had a return to the scourge of the depression which haunted the world before the Second World War.
The comfortable conviction of the solidity of the expectation of a year-in-year-out growth in real income made a speedy and balanced adjustment difficult. As prices rose, wage demands increased. The world, already undergoing a hectic boom since 1972, was plunging towards accelerating inflation. In consequence, there was a regrettable competition to eliminate deficits by orthodox monetary restriction causing a sharp decline in 492 production and employment in the developed countries with their deficits decreasing to the detriment of the poorer countries. On the other hand, the oil exporters were quite unable to deal with their surpluses. Thus, a vast accumulation of short-term balances took place coming on top of a reckless speculative boom in assets, both creating an extremely unstable situation. It is to the sagacity and resourcefulness of the Bank of England and its sister institutions that we owe it that, in contrast to 1931, distress sales did not result in a collapse of the international monetary and banking system. Lately, there are signs that aid by OPEC to weaker countries and the increase in imports has reduced the acuteness of the threat; but we have lived through a dangerous period and tribute must be paid to those who stood the test.
It is also clear that severe cut-backs were needed to buttress the new high price of oil. This was so—and it is very important to an understanding of the position—since Rockefeller senior first organised a monopolistic control over oil which was followed by the price leaders of the oligopoly which succeeded the truncation of Standard Oil Company of America. The advantages—a disproportionate rise in prices for a given cut—remain and it would be a bold man who would predict that what has happened regularly in the last 100 or so years would be impossible in the next 10 or so. At the same time, I would, with respect, differ from one point of the Committee's report when they say that a "total demand is relatively easy to forecast"(page 18). The discomfiture of many of my colleagues—and colleagues of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins—will testify to the difficulties of this task as the Central Electricity Generating Board might testify. It is against this background of this critical change that we need to judge the documents of the European Commission as reflected in the important and weighty Report of your Lordships' Committee.
Since the Commission's documents were issued there have been changes on both sides. I can recall, my Lords, I must recall, that in our earlier debate on these matters our main preoccupation was about United Kingdom North Sea oil and the Commission's attitude towards this. Ministerial statements made it 493 clear—and the distinguished noble Lord concerned is now here in the Chamber —that North Sea oil belonged to this country and that it was essential that the United Kingdom should continue to exercise full rights and control over such resources. On the other hand, statements (referred to in the Report) which might have been interpreted as claiming that the Commission were anxious to get hold of our newly-found source of wealth, were fortunately countered by others clearly saying that the Commission were not proposing to deprive us either of the economic benefits of those discoveries or even of the control which we exercised over them. We gladly accept these assurances. I am sure that the noble Earl would himself accept them.
I think it can be said that the recent developments in the Commission's energy policy thinking have shown more realism or at least a recognition of the need for more realism, if perhaps not wholly realism. Progress in developing an energy policy for the Community has been slow, certainly slower than the Commission would have liked, but no slower than we ourselves had thought possible. The common energy policy amounts at present to a few Resolutions outlining general policies for the different energy sectors and a larger number of directives, regulations and decisions on specific points such as restricting the use of petroleum products and natural gas in our power generation. With this we agree.
It is clear that the extent of progress made demonstrates the difficulties of reconciling the differing views of Member-States both between themselves and with the Commission. When we first began trying to formulate a Community energy policy, the United Kingdom pointed out the desirability of a realistic approach. We suggested—and I think that the Committee of this House acknowledged this—thatregard should be had to nations' different energy positions and also to their abilities and willingness to adapt their policies to a commonly agreed one.
At the Energy Council on 26th June this year my right honourable friend the Secretary of State took the initiative in proposing that each Member-State should prepare a Paper on its national energy position from which the Commission could compile a comprehensive and 494 realistic assessment of energy needs for the Community as a whole. I am glad of the tributes paid by the noble Earl to my right honourable friend in this respect. This approach was agreed to by Member-States and the Commission and good progress has been made. It is expected that Ministers will be able to discuss the results at their next Energy Council to be held very soon. In this way we hope to arrive at a number of common denominators from which to build a soundly-based and realistic policy.
Some noble Lords are aware from discussions with M. Simonet that this more pragmatic approach is gaining support with the Commission. We rejoice in this. The Committee has stated at the end of its Report that the Commission's documents raise important matters of policy and principle. There is no dispute that this is so, but these important matters have been under discussion for some time and views have been modified. On the whole, I can agree with the general line and opinions expressed by the Committee On many of the Commission's proposals they are not so different from our own. For example, the Committee questioned the rate and size of the programme for generating electricity by nuclear plant; the proposals for control of oil imports and exports, and they stress the need, in the event of oil supply difficulties, for compatability of arrangements with those of the International Energy Agency (IEA).
As I have said, a new approach is being explored at the initiative of my right honourable friend. It is obvious that we need to increase our degree of self sufficiency and to make plans to counteract long-term reserves shortages. The Government have agreed to work towards a sensible Community energy crisis and planning policy. This must be compatible with the rules laid down by IEA. They hope that the French Government (the only one of the Nine not in IEA) will see its way towards a general harmonisation of policy. In this, active participation of the Commission is needed. Indeed, the Secretary of State, during his recent visits to EEC capitals, emphasised the desirability of a common approach to the Community's energy policy. Her Majesty's Government are ready to support all constructive efforts to further progress towards that end. The issues are undoubtedly comp- 495 plex and difficult, but by adopting the more realistic approach that has now been generally accepted, I am sure we will be able to produce worthwhile and workable solutions acceptable to all Member-States, and non-Members who are represented in IEA.
I will not take the House through all the documents covered by R/3333/74. I think by now they are familiar with the main points and will have read the Select Committee's views on them. There are, however, one or two matters which I should like to mention, with the permission of the House. On electricity, we agree with the Select Committee's view that the forecasts set out in the document referenced COM(75)1970 entail an over-ambitious view of the ability of the Community to expand its nuclear capacity to 200GWe (200,000 Mw) by 1985. However, the other Member-States, which are more critically dependent on imported fuels than we are, regard a rapid development of nuclear power as a necessity. We in the United Kingdom are able to take a more flexible approach which suits our own national circumstances of being blessed with significant reserves of, indigenous fuels. We have the greatest reserves of coal to which increasing supplies of oil and gas will be joined. For this reason, we are able to embark upon a modest programme of constructing 4,000 Mw of Steam Generating Heavy Water Reactors (SGHWR). In this way, we feel that we will be able to build up a viable nuclear component in our electricity supply industry while at the same time establishing public acceptance of the safety and reliability of nuclear power. The Government attach the utmost importance to this last aspect.
The document on nuclear fuel supply (COM(74)1963 final), sets out the Commission's targets for nuclear capacity up to 1990 and examines the implied requirements for natural uranium, enrichment facilities, fuel fabrication and reprocessing plant. The assessment of fuel needs is based on the nuclear electricity generating plan which we have already seen is over-ambitious. The exaggerated nuclear target inflates the related estimates of the requirements. Nevertheless, there may be a world shortage of nuclear fuel in the 1980s and the Euratom Supply Agency will have a role to play in alleviat- 496 ing the Community's position. We do not, however, favour the dominant and interventionist rôle for the Agency which is envisaged in the Commission's document. Although the Treaty, which established the European Atomic Energy Community, also gave the Supply Agency a monopoly of nuclear fuel procurement and supply, the world glut of uranium over recent years enabled the Agency to implement a simplified procedure under which national suppliers simply notified their contracts to the Agency for retrospective approval. In today's sellers' market, the Supply Agency holds that this would be unsuitable. We believe that it would be advantageous to continue with something very similar to the "simplified procedure" and that the Supply Agency could make its best contribution in a supportive, rather than an interventionist, rôle. Indeed, independent operations by the Agency might well distort the market to the detriment of consumers.
In accordance with their view that the Treaty does not permit operation of the simplified procedure in today's market conditions, the Agency introduced a new regulation in July 1975 which, among other things, requires prior approval of all contracts by the Agency. But the indications are that member countries would much prefer to continue along the lines of the "simplified procedure". Chapter 6 of the Treaty which governs these matters is at present under revision. We have not yet seen a draft, but we hope that the opportunity will be taken to remove legal impediments to the "simplified procedure" in all circumstances when Member-States wish it to operate.
I should now like to say something about the two coal documents (COM(74) 1860). When these were debated in another place in February my right honourable friend the then Secretary of State for Energy said that the Medium Term Guidelines for Coal 1975–1985 was,fully compatible with the Government's own policy of support for the National Coal Board Plan for Coal as set out in the final report of the Coal Industry Examination".The Community's policy for coal remains unchanged; so also does the Government's support for our coal industry. If the Community is to achieve the objective (endorsed by the December 1974 Energy Council) of maintaining coal production 497 at the current level of 250 million tonnes of coal equivalent, then it is essential for the Government to maintain their commitments to the United Kingdom coal industry. Overall, therefore, our policy of firm support for coal remains steady and compatible with that of the Community.
I do not think I need say much about the Government's policy for our North Sea oil, as we have debated that recently. What is not yet certain is how much oil there will be for export to our friends in Europe, or the rate at which we will wish to and be able to produce it in the 1980s. But there will undoubtedly be some oil available for export, and Europe is the obvious natural market. Oil is, of course, at present the main energy source which concerns the Community and in Document COM(74)1962, the Commission have put forward a proposal for exploration projects which entails financial aid for drilling by companies on the Continental Shelves of Member-States. Their proposal is still under discussion in Brussels. Our position on it has not changed. We are not persuaded of the need for such a scheme, at least for the foreseeable future.
The Commission's proposals for Community projects in the hydrocarbons sector are already being supported by Member-States. The Council in 1973 adopted a regulation to encourage technological development activities in the exploration, exploitation, storage and transport of hydrocarbons in order to improve the security of the Community's energy supply. The scheme had an annual budget of 25 million units of account for the years 1974 and 1975. It is worth while noting that the first allocation of funds under this scheme which took place in December 1974, amounted to some 40 million units of account over three years, of which United Kingdom firms should receive 17 per cent. The Commission's current proposal for a second allocation is still under discussion by officials in Brussels. The future outcome depends on decisions yet to be taken on the level of the 1976 budget, but we expect United Kingdom firms to do significantly better than in the first allocation. For 1976 and thereafter the Commission have proposed an annual budget of 50 mua, but this is unlikely to be agreed. The scheme has its value, but we should prefer the level of funding 498 to be considered in the context of the Community's energy policy as a whole.
The document referenced COM(74) 1974, on action in the event of oil supply difficulties has, as its general aim, bringing the EEC into line with the emergency oil-sharing scheme worked out by the 18 member countries of the International Energy Agency, of which France is not a member but the United States is. From our point of view that is much more important, as American saving in oil consumption—they being the preponderant consumer in the world—would have very helpful consequences. We accept the overall objective, though we should want the proposals modified so that they go no further than the IEA arrangements. As the noble Earl has said, no progress has been made in Brussels since the Commission published the proposals, because the French are unwilling to be associated with them and, by implication, with the IEA scheme.
To turn now to the important subject of the rational use of energy, although, as noted by the Select Committee, the Commission Document referenced COM (74)1950 is wide-ranging and speculative, the work which has been carried forward under this programme during 1975 has been generally realistic and pragmatic. A total of eight sub-groups have been established which are considering possible energy conservation measures which might prove suitable for application within the Community. They are dealing with such diverse subjects as the thermal insulation of buildings, transport vehicles, the con, version of power stations and the efficiency of appliances. Our representatives have made useful contributions to the work of these sub-groups and have established contacts with representatives of the other Community countries which could well yield useful ideas for our own domestic energy conservation programme. There is no doubt that this is a field in which co-operation at Community level is worth while, and we shall continue to play an active part.
There are a number of references to energy research and development in the Commission's R/3333 Documents and also, of course, there are the specific documents on energy research and development to which the Select Committee have referred at the end of their 499 Report. Neither we in the United Kingdom nor the Community as a whole are neglecting research for the longer term to bring new energy sources into use. There is, however, a somewhat different approach between ourselves and the Commission in that we are prepared to spend a little longer time than they would wish in assessing the potential of such sources as solar energy, geothermal energy, wave power and the like, before we deploy our limited resources in the most advantageous way. We must, however, enforce strict priorities in our present circumstances. I hope that the wise words about the need to avoid duplication, and thus the waste of scarce resources, will be taken note of by the Commission and by the other organisations which were mentioned by the noble Earl.
The second document attached contains proposals for the five-year research programme on radioactive waste management and storage which were adopted by the Council on 26th June last. If we are to continue the successful expansion of nuclear generation, we must ensure that we can safely and economically treat, store, and ultimately dispose of, the resulting radioactive waste products. I am sure that your Lordships will agree that our right to enjoy the benefits of nuclear power carries with it the duty to ensure that we do not bequeath to subsequent generations burdensome problems of waste management.
We have supported the Community proposals, subject to their careful review after two years. It is necessary to get the waste into a physical state in which it will not deteriorate and give more difficult storage problems in the future. I should perhaps touch upon energy R and D in the International Energy Agency and reassure noble Lords that the Agency's research is complementary to the Community efforts, avoiding duplication and bringing in the great potential of non-European IEA countries.
I would not presume to think that I have satisfied your Lordships on all the points which are mentioned in the Select Committee's Report. I am impressed by the range and variety covered and congratulate members of Sub-Committee "F" on their extensive energy interests, 500 I hope, however, that what I have said will have served to demonstrate that I have indeed taken note of the views and ideas in the Report. I have indicated already that I accept the general line and I have mentioned some specific areas of agreement and a few points where we differ a little. There is, however, one particular point which is made in the Report which I would endorse whole, heartedly. It is, in a sense, allied to the United Kingdom's aim of pursuing a realistic energy policy. The opinion of the Committee includes the view that a rigid fuel plan could constrict rather than enlarge the Community's best use of resources and it is necessary to have flexibility to keep options open. I can assure noble Lords that that has been, and will continue to be, an imperative which Her Majesty's Government will not only keep very much in mind but also practise.
We have had rapidly to adjust our policies to the hectic changes of the past two years. In general we were successful; and both Community and world-wide arrangements are, if not perfect, in being and, being in being, are already enough to reduce our risks, if not eliminate them. I am far from a rabid optimist. Yet the fact that we have surmounted the greatest difficulties of 1973–74, and that though the economic situation is plainly unsatisfactory we are improving our balance of payments, is encouraging. The coming of oil—if we do not throw away our advantages because of some Selsdonite dogmatism—should allow us to surmount our differences and difficulties and usher in an era of conscious acceleration of the rise in our national production and available income. We hope and trust that the social compact at home and sane co-operation with our partners abroad will set us on the right road after a century of relative economic decline.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Lord LLOYD of KILGERRAN
My Lords, I should like to pay two tributes to the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale: first, for the statesmanlike way in which he has presented the Report of which your Lordships are to take note. Secondly, in my capacity as a member of the Sub-Committee of the Select Committee, of which he is Chairman, may I pay tribute to his chairmanship, for his hard work and initiative and for the way he dealt with the masses of papers with which 501 we had to deal. I should also like to thank him for having created the opportunity for this valuable dialogue between Members of your Lordships' House and Members of the Commission and their staff in recent months. I am also very grateful, as I am sure your Lordships are, to the noble Lord the Minister for having made such an interesting and helpful intervention at this stage. Certainly I think that your Lordships will be glad to know that as a result I can shorten my speech very considerably, in view of the analysis he has made of the Commission's Reports.
However, there are certain matters in relation to the EEC Commission's Reports which it is necessary to stress to your Lordships. The strategy for the Commission for the next ten years that we have been asked to note in their R/3333 Documents of 1974 was based on the assumption that nuclear energy would provide a massive new source of power and, indeed, could provide 16 per cent. of all the EEC countries' requirements by 1985. Your Select Committee found that this was totally unrealistic. The noble Lord, Lord Hinton of Bank-side, who was a member of this Committee and is one of the greatest experts on nuclear matters in the world, put it into graphic words when he said that the whole castle of EEC planning fell to the ground like a pack of cards because it was based on a totally impracticable nuclear programme.
In view of the kind words of the noble Lord the Minister as to the effect that the Report has had in Brussels, I do not presume to weary your Lordships by too much detail, nor with some very positive statements that are recorded in this Report as to what noble Lords have said about the proposals in the course of the discussions. I should like to say that the Report of your Select Committee was unsparingly critical of the EEC proposals as then published. It seems now that these criticisms have had effect. They certainly produced a strong reaction, as your Lordships have heard, from the Vice-President of the Commission, M. Simonet, who asked to be allowed to come and give evidence to the Select Committee. As the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, has said, this was indeed an historic moment. The Report also achieved far more, in that it gave the 502 officials of the Commission the opportunity to reconsider their proposals, and also enabled them to discuss with noble Lords on this Committee the matters which we had put in our Report. This, in my view, as the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, has said, has constituted a considerable advance in the political and technological thinking on future strategic planning in relation to energy.
Again, I should like to say—and I am sure that the members of the Sub-Committee which went to Brussels will endorse this—that it was the wise leadership of the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, in these discussions which in these initial stages had such an important effect, for the time being at any rate, on the international planning of energy strategy. As the Parliamentary Secretary at the Department of Energy said, when giving evidence to our Sub-Committee on 1st May, the first point about an energy policy is that it should move at a realistic speed, and, if may quote from his very instructive statement, he went on:There will be a tendency for the EEC Commission to he over-ambitious"—I am quoting from page 185—and perhaps over-interventionist, and I do not think there is any harm in it provided there is political control from the Council of Ministers and means whereby individual countries can make their needs known and, where suitable, tone down the policy or, where suitable, firm it up.It is in that context that I think that the Sub-Committee of your Lordships' House has made some contribution, in that it therefore introduced not only technological matters, but a concept in relation to the politics of the United Kingdom in that regard.
Therefore, I think it is appropriate that at least some gratitude should be expressed by your Lordships to the Commission, for having produced that mass of documents earlier this year. I see the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, shaking his head, and I am therefore tempted to quote something that he said about these papers in our public hearings. But I resist that temptation and beg, respectfully, to differ from him. I think that some gratitude should be expressed to the Commission for producing strategy documents which at least indulged in some forward thinking, which some countries of the EEC had not done and 503 which, of course, the United Kingdom had done. Therefore, I think that some gratitude should be expressed to the Commission for the initiative that they took.
I was greatly struck by some statements made to me by a high official of the Commission, when we were discussing these matters recently in Brussels. He said that the wealth of the United Kingdom in its resources of coal, gas and oil was the envy of other Governments in countries of the EEC. We have by far the greatest resources of coal and coke and, as the noble Lord, Lord Energlyn, has pointed out to your Lordships on many occasions, and as he pointed out to the Sub-Committee, the resources of the other EEC countries are in almost a parlous state compared with the wealth which is in and around our shores. I think it is significant to remember the envy with which we are looked upon in relation to the wealth of our resources, before we are too critical at the present time of the attitude of the Government in relation to energy matters in Europe.
This official then went on to suggest the general terms which he thought might be the basis of an EEC energy strategy for the next two decades. It may be, therefore, that the Government will wish to comment upon these proposals this afternoon. His first proposal—and he was an eminent European—was that the United Kingdom should develop nuclear power stations more rapidly to produce electricity, so as to release more coal, coke and oil to EEC countries. His second general proposition was that there should be more rapid development of the National Coal Board's new projects and new techniques for the extraction and utilisation of coal; and there is a very high regard on the Continent of Europe for the work being done by the National Coal Board in these directions.
His third proposal was that the United Kingdom should consider whether it should not just burn up this oil but should allow countries of the EEC to help turn a large part of it into petrochemicals, not only to assist in the economic future of the EEC but to help the developing countries. I do not know whether these three points might form a basis for the future. Of course, your Lordships do not wish to job backwards, but will want 504 to look to the future—and I am not in a position to judge the feasibility of these proposals, but perhaps later on in this debate we may hear something from the Government.
I should like to conclude by referring to one part of the evidence given to the Sub-Committee; that is, the evidence of Sir Derek Ezra, as Chairman of the National Coal Board. The noble Lord, Lord Balogh, has made reference to the position in regard to coal as set out in the EEC documents. Policies for the coal industry have had a very unhappy history this century. I was pleased to hear from Sir Derek of the close working association between the EEC and the National Coal Board, following the tripartite discussions between the Minister for Energy, the trade unions and the National Coal Board in this country. Therefore, I should like from these Benches to endorse the present policy of the Government towards the coal industry. It seems to me, on the whole, that it is imaginative and realistic, and I welcome the importance now given to our coal resources in the United Kingdom's energy scene in an EEC context, as expressed in the other place by the right honourable gentleman the Secretary of State for Energy. I should therefore like to emphasise in that context the enormous value to the United Kingdom and the EEC of the development of the United Kingdom's reserves of coal, coupled with the recognised skill and the contributions now being made by those working in the mining industry and its associated research associations.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Lord GEDDES
My Lords, the apprehension that I feel in rising to address your Lordships for the first time is tempered by the knowledge that, unlike some other British institutions, this House treats its new boys and girls with great kindness. I ask for your indulgence. The noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, has, with great skill and forbearance, outlined to us the conclusions of the Commission of the European Community. The Committee of your Lordships' House, under his chairmanship has given an opinion that:The Community's policy would be best confined to certain activities which might produce some increased degree of self-sufficiency and some mitigation of the likely long term resource shortage.That I applaud.
505 What does disappoint me, however, is that no reference is made to marine energy other than a brief paragraph on page xiv of the Report, which is then almost immediately drowned by the comment:The Commission's proposals are geared to 1985 and none of these possible [other] energy sources [including marine] is practicable on such a time scale.Of the Commission's alternative 1985 target for energy demand, some 79 per cent. is from finite or inherently polluting sources. Marine energy, on the other hand, is relatively infinite and, perhaps just as important, non-polluting. Can we afford to postpone research on marine energy just because it may not fit an arbitrary time scale?
Your Lordships will be aware that there exist in the Straits of Gilbraltar contra-currents of relatively constant strength and direction. On the surface, the current flows eastwards from the Atlantic. At a depth of 300 feet there exists a constant and opposite current. Interestingly, the Phoenicians found that the only way to exit westwards out of the Mediterranean was to drop sea anchors into this current 300 feet below their craft and be towed out by its energy, apparently against the prevailing wind and surface current. I menton the Straits of Gibraltar purely as an illustration. My point is that in the sea there exist vast sources of untapped, non-polluting energy. I suspect that those famous 11th century waves were polluted by, rather than polluted, the good King Canute. Either way, he certainly failed to arrest their power. Since then, however, considerable research on wave power has been carried out. Clearly, waves have clean energy which could be harnessed, but a great deal more research is still required before the commercial exploitation of such a source may begin.
The harnessing of tidal power, on the other hand, is much closer to home, both temporally and geographically. There exist in the United Kingdom at least three suitable tidal energy sites: in the Severn Estuary, the Solway Firth and Morecambe Bay. Again, the fuel is, to all intents and purposes, non-polluting and free, both financially and politically. The possibility of a scheme for tidal energy and pumped storage in the Severn Estuary has been on the drawing-board for many years. The Central Electricity 506 Generating Board has rejected the scheme as uneconomic and technically unproven Its views, which have achieved considerable publicity, are given in Appendix 34 to the Energy Resources Sub-Committee of another place. No publicity, however, has been given to the next and much more comprehensive Appendix No. 35 which comes to the somewhat different conclusion that,There is a growing need for a comprehensive study of possible [tidal power] schemes".The Severn is part of Great Britain and British technology will be involved. At the same time, France has the most practical experience of tidal energy from her pilot project at Rance; the Netherlands have the most experience in construction of the required dams; and Germany has great practical experience in pumped storage. We need to combine such expertise to assess whether the economics of the Severn scheme look competitive, particularly when linked with an attendant deep water port within 100 miles of the industrial Midlands, and recreational facilities. We need to know more, much more, and only research can give us that information.
The European Commission in its Marché Communautaire of 30th October of this year recognises the importance of research, particularly on energy, on which proposed expenditure is increased from 54 million units of account this year (56 per cent. of the Commission's proposed total research budget) to 183 million units of account, or 77 per cent. by 1980. My case is that a significant proportion of those sums should be channelled into research on alternative marine sources of energy, such research being motivated as much by economic as political considerations.
My Lords, it is at this stage that I must declare what I can only describe as a quasi interest. I am aware of a nonprofit-making association of major European companies, Eurocean, which was formed in 1971 specifically to research into, and, as appropriate, bring into commercial operation, marine related projects of such magnitude that no one company or country would have either the total expertise or finances to go it alone. Such a non-profit-making body, which includes British companies, might well undertake the necessary research into the potential 507 of marine energy, funded by the Commission, as is suggested in its policy document.
Can we afford to wear energy blinkers? To continue exhausting finite resources, such as hydrocarbons essential for the chemical industry, at today's rate is surely not only stupid but suicidal. We must plan now for the 21st century. Even an end to the present political oil crisis cannot be considered as the end of the energy crisis. Nuclear power is probably the easy way out, but at what cost to humanity? Many already consider its polluting effects frightening and we have barely seen the tip of that iceberg. New sources of clean and relatively permanent energy have to be found if the world, and particularly Europe, does not want to find itself confronted with problems of such magnitude and nature that they lead necessarily to economic and social chaos.
I have tried to illustrate the potential of marine energy, which is clean, free and infinite. Surely it is in all our interests to research these sources now. Such research would—I almost said "should"—be expensive if it is going to mean anything. Can we, Europeans, afford not to spend such sums? May I end by reminding your Lordships of the words of the first Lord Balfour, in 1885:The energies of our system will decay, the glory of the sun will be dimmed, and the earth, tideless and inert, will no longer tolerate the race which has for a moment disturbed its solitude. Man will go down into the pit and all his thoughts will perish.The noble Earl was indeed an eminent and far-sighted philosopher.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Lord STRATHCONA and MOUNT ROYAL
My Lords, not least of the value of this important debate is that it seems to have flushed out a very promising, remarkable and accomplished new recruit to this House. It is the first time that it has ever been my happy duty to congratulate a noble Lord for having endured the horror of breaking his duck in this place and I can honestly say that I have never heard a more distinguished and better informed contribution. The fact that the noble Lord shares the rather dubious distinction of having the same unusual Christian name as myself may have something to do with it, but it is 508 more likely that our other common interests in the sea are of greater importance. I am sure that all Members of this House were impressed and interested by the care which he has taken in researching his speech, the erudite manner in which he presented it and the extremely interesting thesis which he was putting before us, which I found entirely to my personal taste. If I may add one word to what he said, I have a suspicion that the only way in which we shall succeed in getting right the costings on some of the projects to which he was alluding is when we devise a satisfactory method of putting in a proper evaluation for the social and amenity benefits which so often derive from the tidal schemes to which he was referring. I congratulate him most heartily on behalf of everybody in the House.
After the kind of introduction that we expected and had from my noble friend Lord Lauderdale, we got into a spot of bother on our procedure, but I am bound to say that I am glad it happened. I am not glad that we got into trouble, but I am glad of the nature of the trouble because originally I intended to say that I thought it was a pity we were not getting any Government reaction to this Report at an early stage in the debate. We are grateful for the contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, and I am sure we can tell him in advance that he will be graciously permitted to speak again before the end of the debate indeed I am sure a number of us will be distressed if he does not do so, because we shall have questions to ask him and points that we hope he will comment upon. He made a long and detailed speech which we shall have to study before it is possible to register our reactions to it.
To me the importance of this debate lies in the points that it raises about our relationships with the EEC and with the IEA. I must start by apologising again for the unfortunate habit we all have of referring to these pestilential initials, which, I suppose, save us a certain amount of time.
The Report alludes in an important manner to the problem of Parliamentary control and influence over the kind of Government representation which is being made to such international bodies as the EEC and the International Energy 509 Agency. We have our own governmental approaches to them; we have our European Parliament; we have our delegates to the European Parliament and we are glad that we shall be hearing from one of them later this afternoon. Ultimately, one can envisage that the kind of function being undertaken by the Select Committee will gradually be handed over to our technical delegate to this kind of body.
Certainly this debate raises the question of the genuineness of our devotion to Europe. It is a complex field. We ourselves have so far regrettably failed to enunciate an overall energy policy, and if we have failed it is undoubtedly true that Europe has failed completely until now. That does not mean that the effort should not be made. We are engaged in hammering out a policy in a very difficult area and unfortunately we cannot sweep under the carpet the fact—the point has already been made several times this afternoon—that this country has a different interest and is in a different situation from the majority of its partners in the European Community. I say, "unfortunately"; it is not, of course, unfortunate for us, as has already been said, but it is a difficulty which we have to recognise and deal with.
The Report rightly defines the major question as a choice between indicative planning, attempting to define a common objective, and supranational intervention whereby Governments would be required to implement a common policy agreed at the Community level. The Report refers to a speech which puts it very well when it mentions the choice between, "the low road of inter-governmental co-operation when we should be taking the high road of integration". I was relieved to see the Report, and indeed the Government, saying unequivocally that they prefer the low road, at least for the time being. Interventionist policies of the kind which are threatened at times in some of the utterances of the Commission would be premature at this stage and could indeed retard the achievement of the kind of common policy we are seeking.
The noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, put it very well when he said that the Commission have now recognised that they 510 would be wise to formulate their policies from the outside looking in. The reservations, which we inevitably have in these documents, have been previously referred to. These reservations are underlined by both the content of some of the policy statements and the way in which they were arrived at, but I feel it would be a pity if, in criticising both the approach and some of the conclusions, we attempted to throw the baby out with the bath water. There is no doubt at all that the enormous amount of hard work which has gone into producing these rather wordy documents—upon which I understand the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, has a slightly different view from that expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran—serves to focus our minds and to point up some of the difficulties. Indeed, if they enrage us by their conclusions, it may well he that the effort we put into controverting some of those conclusions will do us no harm if thereby we are forced to think carefully about the implications.
If I may refer to one specific field in which there is an example of the kind of thing I have in mind; it is the question of nuclear policy. It seems to me wholly right to criticise what I might call the "universal panacea" approach which was evident in some of the earlier thinking in these EEC documents I believe that what happened was that, when an energy gap appeared to loom, the temptation was simply to say, "All this will be met by nuclear power". I do not think it is necessary for me to underline some of the objections to this, which are made clearly in the Report.
However, I take issue with one point in the Report, which says:Uranium supply difficulties are more likely to he political than physical".My impression is that we are now speaking about needing to find new uranium supplies for any power station which is to be ordered from now on. I understand it to be correct to say that all the uranium which has so far been discovered is now bespoken for a power station which is already planned. The figures I have seen suggest that we may very well be talking about the need to double the supplies of uranium by 1985, or multiply by a factor of seven by the end of the century.
511 A well-known journalist from the Financial Times recently suggested:A worldwide search lasting from the end of the Second World War until 1960, probable more intensive than any metal ever received before, revealed commercially attractive reserves totalling only 700,000 tons of uranium. This figure must be set against an estimated annual demand for uranium which may well reach 300,000 tons before the curve levels out in response to the much higher fuel-burning efficiencies of the fast breeder reactors.That is really saying that we could find ourselves in a situation where potential demand amounts annually to half the total world commercial reserves, so that would suggest it is not just the politicians who are creating a potential shortage of uranium.
My Lords, I have said already that the other hazards are clearly alluded to in the Report, but there is one other very important point which I believe is a danger. One of the conclusions drawn from the decision to go over to nuclear generation is that Europe should deliberately go in for increased utilisation of electricity. The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, pointed out the danger of this. If one is using conventional generation of electricity, it is about the most inefficient use of a primary fuel of which we know. The argument is whether it is 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. efficient; but the point is that it is much less than half. It seems to me a dangerous proposal to suggest that Europe should make itself all electric on the basis that it will have a nuclear supply which, to put it mildly, is extremely unlikely in the light of some of the figures we have recently been reading.
My Lords, this points up another difficulty. If we are not going to have a nuclear supply on the scale suggested as being needed, where are these energy supplies to come from? There are only two possibilities. We have to make massive savings in the forecast of potential demand. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, in saying that the Select Committee was perhaps a little over-optimistic in saying forecasts of demands are relatively easy, because I do not believe they are for that very good reason. There is considerable scope for saving, and there is also scope, I believe, for a much quicker yield for some of the alternative sources, not so much the ones 512 referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, but some of the less "way out". I believe that solar energy and wind energy could make a significant contribution to supply; or by providing a certain amount of supply on a small scale, it would have the effect of saving on potential demand. It does not really matter which side of the equation one inserts the figure. I would go further and suggest that we would be wise to consider the possibility of devoting more of our research and effort to the short term possibilities of some of the alternative sources of supply, rather than to go all out on nuclear research.
But it is clear from this Report that the one great contribution which could be made at the EEC level is in the area of research. This was a point that came out last week when we were talking about defence. The one big area of potential saving on a European level is the co-ordination of research, development and purchasing for the armaments supply industry, and exactly the same thing almost certainly applies in the energy field.
We stand to benefit from the EEC research effort. We have talked about our happy position in relation to our resources, but it is also true that the research effort of the National Coal Board is second to none. They are currently earning a large proportion of their income by research which has been commissioned in the United States of America. It is extremely important that we should recognise that not only do we have coal resources but that we lead in research on the utilisation of coal resources. We must recognise the fact—and we have said this before in this House—that our oil-based energy industry is a comparatively short-term affair. By the end of the century the chances are much higher in so far as one can forecast anything happening then, that we shall be more dependent on coal by then than we shall be on oil. I think that is a reasonably safe statement to make.
It is also worth remembering that we have always been in the forefront of nuclear research. I daresay that there are times when we might have wished that we had not been so much in the forefront, but nevertheless, it is a passing phase, and the continuation of this research must be something that is right for this country. Let us by all means 513 criticise the efforts of the Commission. If it is constructive criticism, it will be welcome. We have already been told this afternoon that these criticisms have borne fruit; that the Commission have listened to what has been said in this country, they have acted upon it, and are making their contribution in a more meaningful and realistic way. It is very satisfactory once in a while, for us on this side to be able to agree with almost everything the noble Lord on the other side has said; this happened this afternoon. I particularly enjoyed the reference to the word, "realism" which we have sometimes accused him of not recognising fully. I also noticed that our old friend "flexibility", cropped up again. On this occasion, we can agree totally that it is right for us to continue to retain our flexibility, and not tie ourselves to some rigid structure of European research, which in the end could only impede progress.
My Lords, I should like to ask one question in a genuine spirit of inquiry. I am not quite clear how it is intended that we should make our representations to the International Energy Agency. This is relevant to an argument currently going on. Do we intend to make our representations direct, or are we envisaging that we should make our voice heard through the EEC alone? This is a matter of considerable importance because we have to accept that Europe must be careful not to become parochial in its outlook on energy. We are part of a world pattern. Much the same conflicts exist between consumers and producers on a world scale as potentially exist between Britain and its European partners on a European scale. So many of the problems are the same problems, but on a bigger canvas, and the procedural way in which we set about coming to common policies, as I said at the beginning, is really the most important point which lies behind this admirable Report.
My Lords, I do not know that I have adequately paid tribute to the Committee of the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale. I am bound to say that I admire their boldness—I might almost say their temerity—in trying to summarise these complicated and wordy documents. On the whole, they have succeeded admirably in doing this. They have pointed to a real step forward in the relationship with the 514 Commission. Let us remember this is our Commission; we are part of this organisation. We have a right to be heard. We should work with the Commission, and I believe that cause has been advanced by the work of the noble Earl's Committee. Throughout this Report, it has been recognised that what we are triyng to do is to create a better means of communication to arrive at a common policy. I should like to congratulate the noble Earl on his work and the work of his colleagues.
§ 4.30 p.m.
Lord BRUCE of DONINGTON
My Lords, I should like to associate myself with the very justifiable tribute that has been paid by the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, to the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, on his maiden speech. I listened to it most carefully, and not only was it well documented and well delivered but it also carried with it the sense of conviction and sincerity which this House, I know, and we all know, always appreciates. I hope that there will be many occasions not too far distant when the noble Lord will take the opportunity of addressing us again, not only on the subject he has chosen today but also perhaps on a variety of other subjects with which he is undoubtedly familiar.
I should also like to offer my congratulations to the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, and his colleagues on the excellent Report of the Select Committee on energy which we are discussing this afternoon. The late Aneurin Bevan said that when dealing with experts one should always present a substantial hump of irreverence, and indeed the attitude of their Lordships on this Committee towards the various experts that came before it in the course of its deliberations was of such an incisive character that the results, not only in the Report itself but also in the minutes of evidence, have contributed powerfully to enabling those of us who are amateurs in this field to become more enlightened than they otherwise would have been.
I think the noble Lord was quite right, after having dashed the Commission down, to pick them up again on to their feet, to dust them down and to say what an excellent job in total they have done. It is quite true that the documents dealt with in this Report do not deal with all aspects of the energy problem, but I think the whole House will agree with 515 the noble Lord that the various matters with which the Commission have dealt have been dealt with thoroughly; and they go into many fields which perhaps many Parliaments and indeed many Governments may not have had the time or the inclination to penetrate in the course of their day-to-day activities.
My Lords, one thing that the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, and his Committee have successfully proved is that the European Economic Community has no agreed energy policy. This must be a matter for some disquiet. This country is now in, and is taking an ever increasing part in the activities of, the European Community; and I think it is our purpose, as indeed is reflected in the efforts of the delegates from this Parliament, including the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, to produce constructive ideas for the enlargement of the Community's activities and its more effective working. But there is still no common energy policy.
It is perhaps a little regrettable that where energy policy has been discussed in our national Press over the past month much more attention has been paid to the question of whether this country should have independent representation at the conference which is to take place on the 15th and 16th of this month than to the actual problems created by the energy situation itself. I would venture therefore to think, even though the matter has not been raised in this House today, that Britain is quite right, its Prime Minister is quite right, its Foreign Secretary is quite right, to seek a separate seat at the forthcoming conference. From the comments one reads in the daily Press, as faithfully reproduced by the broadcasting media, one would think that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary were doing something outrageous, disruptive of European unity, in seeking separate representation. That is all they are seeking. They are not seeking to monopolise the oil. They have not indicated how far or otherwise they are prepared to stand on their rights within the European Economic Community. All they have done is to seek separate representation. I would respectfully suggest to your Lordships that in view of the fact that in the 1980s this country will probably be the only net exporter of energy 516 in the continent of Europe, it is something to which this country is properly entitled, not only in its own interests but in the interests of Europe as a whole.
As the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, pointed out, and I believe the point was also made by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, with the remainder of the Western countries, this country is a member of the International Energy Agency, which is looking at this problem on a global basis. It has indeed already had very significant success, first in securing its own recognition by the OPEC countries, and, secondly, in devising machinery whereby shortages appearing in one country can be contributed to in terms of oil by other countries. The point has already been made that M. Giscard d'Estaing and his Foreign Minister are not members. France, for reasons best known to itself, prefers to deal direct with the OPEC countries. It is for consideration whether France may find it highly convenient to have Britain's interests slightly watered down, by confining her interests to EEC representation at the discussions that are to take place on 15th and 16th of this month, whereas France still retains the right of independent contact with the OPEC countries on her own behalf.
So in order that we can lay this point once and for all, I would say that in seeking separate representation the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have done this country a very good service indeed. I can only hazard a guess at the reaction there would have been in the Press had they unilaterally taken the opposite decision and decided not to reflect this country's interest by seeking their own interest in a Community whose energy policy has not yet been agreed. There would have been cries, from precisely the same sources that have been denouncing the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, to the effect that we had betrayed the country's interest; there would have been howls of derision.
I do not wish to pursue that point further, or to deal with many other aspects of policy, and indeed the Commission's Report and the Select Committee's Report, have been covered by other noble Lords. I want to return to a theme touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, to which I think we have to give 517 considerable thought. In this House we are not necessarily dealing with matters of immediate or short term interest. One of the functions of your Lordships' House, as many of us see it, is to take a 25 or 30 year perspective ahead. This may well be conceived as our real value to the whole institution of Parliament. I would suggest that we are being unnecessarily complacent, perhaps not intentionally, if we acquiesce in the apparent short and medium-term vista of being dependent for our energy supplies on fossil fuels of various kinds.
Other forms of energy producing processes were of course touched upon in the noble Earl's Report, and one relating to marine energy has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Geddes. I now refer to an additional field, that of thermonuclear fusion and plasma physics. This is a project which was initiated some years back by the Commission, and it promises to make available energy through thermonuclear fusion which does not possess the disadvantages of the current fission process, which results in polluting the atmosphere and carries certain dangers in terms of missile proliferation. The whole process of thermonuclear fusion and plasma physics, a programme for which was produced by the Commission, carries a prospect for the massive production of energy from inexhaustible supplies of hydrogen and duterium which does not have any pollutant effect at all so far as one can ascertain. This programme is already planned.
Despite the efforts of the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, and his colleagues on the Energy Committee in the European Parliament, and for reasons that are obscure to me, the Council—and of course that includes our own Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary—deleted from the Community's 1976 Budget the expenditure that was projected for 1976 on this most important project. I regard that as highly regrettable, and if there is pressure to be brought to bear upon our own Government to take an even more constructive part in the whole working of the Community, I would respectfully suggest that pressure be directed towards our own Government with a view to restoring this item to the 1976 Budget of the Community. Possibly the expenditure on this item, which may not yield results for 25 years, may 518 be costly; it may also, on the basis of cost effectiveness and thinking as of now, appear to many to be a course of action which would be regarded as unduly expensive in the future. I think that we need to take a far more careful look than that at these future prospects.
It may well be that, with the progressive exhaustion of ordinary fossil fuels, this country one day, in 25 or 30 years' time, may have to look to these very sources which at the moment seem to us to be fanciful, in terms of marine power, thermo-nuclear fusion and plasma physics, the utilisation of wind and the tides, geothermal energy, and the rest. In the next 25 years we may have to change our lifestyle, may have to slow down considerably, may deliberately have to make use of items such as petrol and oil. We may have to transform our lives in the next 25 to 30 years. A proper consideration of all the matters which can he gathered from careful perusal of the Commission Reports and the documents that have been put forward, has been powerfully assisted by the Report which the noble Earl and his Committee have produced. I conclude by saying that in my opinion the whole House should be indebted to them.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Lord KINGS NORTON
My Lords, unfortunately, I entered into an engagement for this evening long before the date for this Motion was fixed, and I am therefore unable to stay until the end of the debate. I hope that the noble Lord who is to reply, and all other noble Lords, will accept my apologies. It is the first time since I have been in this House that I have found myself in this position. Secondly, may I add to those he has already had my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, for the substance and the manner of his admirable maiden speech. Like the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, I hope that we shall hear from him many times in the future.
As has already been evident from what has been said this afternoon, two aspects of the Commission's papers on energy which came before the Sub-Committee presided over by the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, were especially disturbing. One was the apparent assumption that policy was to be defined in Brussels, and 519 the other was the assumption of increasing and significant dependence on nuclear energy. There are now, we have heard, most encouraging signs that the first assumption will not be sustained. For that I am quite sure we owe a great deal to the leadership and determination of the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale. We have great satisfaction in reading in Cmnd. Paper 6429, paragraph 63, which is called "Developments in the European Communities, April-October 1975,"that at its next meeting on energy the Council of Ministers will be continuing discussions on this topic and will, at the suggestion of the United Kingdom, be taking existing national energy plans as the starting point.
I hope that they will go even further than this and conclude that the only likely means of getting a practical, co-ordinated plan for the development of European energy supplies is for each of the Nine to submit its national energy plan and for their representatives, by a process of give and take, by a process of sharing facilities for research and development, to get them into harmony. The nature of each country's resources and the character of its demand differs so widely that I believe no other policy appears practical.
There is a danger that the process of harmonising, of getting agreement, even on what I believe is this practical basis, may hinder the development of national plans. The problems facing us are, in my view, so urgent that in this country we must push ahead with the solution of our outstanding energy problems and not wait for the Commission and the Council of Ministers to reach agreement. The process of harmonisation may ultimately require the modification of our national plan, but modification of programme is preferable to the postponement of decision and action.
The other great worry to which I refer—I am the fourth speaker to refer to it today—is the consequence of increasing dependence on nuclear energy. This has been referred to not only today but many times in energy debates in your Lordships' House. The problem is the safe disposal of the products of nuclear fission, products with a half-life of 30,000 years, and highly dangerous to man. I am not sure that even now the true magnitude of this terrifying problem is sufficiently 520 appreciated. While I feel that at present we must go ahead with the development of nuclear fission power stations and continue to develop methods of nuclear waste disposal and neutralisation, we must, as matter of great urgency, devote our energies to the development of power sources alternative to nuclear fission.
First, we must continue to develop higher and higher efficiencies in the engines burning hydrocarbon fuels. Perhaps I may say in parenthesis, that the Commission are under a mild criticism for equating the word "hydrocarbon" to oil and natural gas, because coal and lignite are hydrocarbons as well. But, secondly, we must develop to the full, as other noble Lords have indicated, and with a proper regard to their costs and priorities, the use of the older and less dramatic sources of energy—the waves, the tides, the wind, the currents, the sun; in other words, geothermal energy. I wish that we had what two or three years ago was proposed in this House in an energy debate; namely, an Energy Commission who were really weighing these things up and deciding the order in which they should be tackled. I do not think, with all deference to the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, that wave and tidal power are likely to make large contributions to the total energy supply of this country, although they most certainly can help, as can the other things I have mentioned. Indeed, all of these non-polluting sources of energy should be prosecuted with the maximum determination, having due regard, as I said, to their cost.
It is an unfortunate fact that most of the ways of utilising the lower grade sources of energy, such as the waves and tides, are rather expensive to set up, but I believe that the wind could make an appreciable contribution. As a matter of fact, there is a great reviving interest in wind power both in the United States and here, and experts here with whom I have recently been in touch believe that wind power could supply as much as 10 per cent. of the present electrical demand. Certainly as a result of advanced aerodynamic theory applicable to helicopter design, it is possible to design extremely elegant, efficient and reliable windmills, and I urge that this method of power generation, which compared with conventional power stations is economic in the 521 first cost, should be encouraged. The direct use of the sun's heat in simple heat exchangers can make only a small economy in overall power consumption in this country, but is a worthwhile device in the domestic field and could provide considerable economies for the domestic user.
The big dividends can come, as the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, said, only from the control of nuclear fusion or from the practical solar cell. These are both long-term possibilities. The noble Lord referred to 25 years and I am sure he is right; I do not believe they will come in a practical form any sooner, but I hope and believe that the full force of our basic scientists is being deployed in those directions. I know some of those who are working on these objectives and, as a result, my own belief is that the solar cell is nearer to practicability than controlled fusion. After all, we have not yet controlled fusion but we have made silicon cells which convert light directly into electrical current.
I now come to what is really the main point of my speech; there is one other way in which the number of nuclear power stations—in fact, the number of all power stations—can be diminished, perhaps even halved, and that is by conservation. To a scientist, the conservation of energy is the theory which states that the quantity of energy in any system of bodies is constant, though it may be changed into various forms. That meaning is not irrelevant to what we are saying this afternoon, but I do not intend to elaborate on it today. To many others, conservation of energy is economy in the use of energy, and that is very relevant to our present problems. In this context, I feel that I must once again mention the heat pump, to which I feel we should give more attention than we have in the past. We should also carefully discipline the use of energy, not only in the home but in industry. But the meaning in the present context, which is of primary importance, is that conservation means the storage of energy, and singularly little attention is being given to this absolutely basic notion. To conserve is to keep, to store, and I believe that a major effort should be made to develop energy storage. The idea of pumped storage has been 522 mentioned—the idea of pumped storage at power stations at low demand, pumping water to an elevated reservoir so that at high demand times the water can fall through a turbine and deliver power, and this idea is familiar to most of us. However, it is not a system which can be readily applied; it depends on the terrain.
We need methods of storage which can be more nearly universally applied, and such a method is storing energy in the form of hot water—very hot water, at 200 or 300 degrees centigrade. Remembering the success I had in your Lordships' House explaining how the linear electric motor works, I should dearly love to explain to your Lordships how storage by hot water can be done, but without my blackboard and some diagrams of power station circuits, which I think noble Lords might find rather tedious, I feel unequal to it. Broadly, power stations at low load can store energy as hot water, energy which can be extracted when the demand is high. I assure noble Lords that this can be done; in Sweden and Germany systems have been worked out and I believe that our own electrical supply industry is already looking into them. My understanding is that, though less efficient than pumped storage, the capital cost of heat storage in this way is much less. Perhaps at the present time the storage of energy is the most important of the ideas on which we should be working, be it pumped storage, chemical storage, compressed air storage, flywheels or hot water storage; they all have their place. To develop the best ways of keeping in stock, so to speak, some of the energy we create is vital to the energy economy and could provide real dividends long before the major alternatives—fusion, solar cells—to conventional and nuclear fission power stations are available.
§ 5.0 p.m.
The Earl of BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, I wish first to join with other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, on his maiden speech. Having known many members of his family, I am certain they will have been very proud of the contribution he made to this debate. His remarks on marine energy, wave power and tidal power will, I am sure, be noted by Her Majesty's 523 Government and, indeed, by the Commission. I happen to know that the chairman of the relevant committee, called Crest—the Committee for Research and Science and Technology—has been looking at the whole question of wave power and the chairman himself has been to Edinburgh to see what progress is being made. We must be grateful to my noble friend for having raised the matter. Like others, I hope we shall hear from him frequently. I am also grateful to my noble friend Lord Lauderdale for giving us this opportunity for a debate on European energy policy, and I congratulate him on his assiduity and that of his colleagues, who are extremely well qualified to discuss these matters. It is a most valuable document.
I should like also to take this opportunity of saying how glad I was to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, from the Government Front Bench. He gave us a very full account of progress in the development of an EEC energy policy and I was very glad to see that he seemed to consider that the Commission—perhaps under our influence, perhaps under that of the Government, perhaps under that of my noble friend's Committee—has been producing more practical proposals. There is no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, has gone into them in detail. I am grateful to him for what he has said.
For me, personally, it is very useful indeed to come back from Brussels, as I did last night, to hear what noble Lords have to say at home about the Commissions' proposals and, indeed, about Council decisions—because, in some cases, we are discussing what has been decided by all Governments. This is a great help to me in discussing these matters with the Commission and, on occasions, with appropriate members of the Council. There is, however, one procedural question which rather worries me. The main EEC document which we are discussing is over a year old and, as my noble friend Lord Lauderdale and the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, indicated, a good deal of water has flowed under the bridge since it was published. To have a really up-to-date debate on EEC energy policy, we should be considering numerous Commission proposals and Council decisions which have appeared since the publication of R/3333. For 524 example, yesterday, in Brussels in our Energy Committee, we were discussing for the first time three very important new communications from the Commission to the Council. The noble Lord, Lord Balogh, will be horrified to see these. They are not yet in the Printed Paper Office and they are a new batch of purple papers which he will have to consider. We were looking at them for the first time yesterday. One, dated 7th November, is entitled Overall Concept for the next Multiannual Research Programme of the Joint Research Centre, which is to a considerable extent concerned with energy research, including nuclear reactor safety, hydrogen production and the work of the Institute for Transuranium Elements, and also problems of radioactive waste disposal, to mention only a few of the largely direct action projects to be undertaken by the Joint Research Centre.
The second communication, dated 29th October, concerns the objectives, priorities and resources for a common research and development policy. This again is very much concerned with energy research, including not only those sectors which I have mentioned but also geothermal energy—Lord Energlyn's famous "hot rocks"—about which I am sure we shall hear something further this afternoon.
Thirdly, we were discussing the draft report of a member of the European Parliament from another place. I believe I am entitled to mention his name. That is Mr. Tom Ellis, who is a member of the European Parliament. It was a very interesting report on the Commission's proposals for a regulation regarding Community procedure for information and consultation on the prices—and I emphasise that—of crude oil and petroleum products in the Community. That Commission document is dated 8th September. It involves the whole question of how much information Member-States and the oil companies should provide to the Commission. It deals with the role of the International Energy Agency and the practical difficulties arising from the Commissions proposal to adopt what may loosely be called "mechanistic price reporting" and the oil industry's fears of jeopardising commercial confidentiality.
I cannot go into all these matters this afternoon, but I should like to say 525 something about the development of a European policy in these fields. Some of my colleagues—like the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington—contend that Europe has no energy policy. Others say that it will not have one until the Community creates a European Energy Agency or authority with certain positive powers. In my view, however, the beginning of such a policy exists, though no one would wish to underestimate the difficulties. A Community energy policy in the best sense should provide rules and the means of enforcing them for the development of European energy resources and a common approach to the energy—primarily in the form of oil—which we buy from outside the Community.
However, it is impossible to ignore the fact that Community countries are energy producers as well as energy consumers and that in some cases they are oil producers as well as oil consumers. In certain matters, there could well be more identity of view between some Community countries and perhaps the United States than between all the Community countries. The creation of the International Energy Agency is a reflection of this but, despite the difficulties, arrangements exist for consultation within the Community and, in the relations between the oil-producing and the oil-consuming countries, the Community has at least made a start towards speaking with a single voice. At any rate, they did so when the Chancellor of the Exchequer attended that last energy meeting in Washington. However, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, I must admit that I regret, and am somewhat mystified by, the Foreign Secretary's insistence that Britain should have a separate seat at the conference in Paris.
We were very much concerned about this in the European Parliament at the time. What I ask is: are we or are we not a member of the Community? Do we accept the result of the referendum? Do we or do we not accept our obligations? It is no use justifying our independent action as an odd man out on the grounds that General de Gaulle might have taken up a similar attitude. The fact that General de Gaulle was obstructive in regard to Community policy or that France has taken an independent line over membership of the International Energy Agency is no reason 526 why we should be gratuitously difficult. General de Gaulle was, in any case, in a stronger position than is the Foreign Secretary and so is M. Giscard d'Estaing. As a friend said to me this morning, it is no use huffing and puffing when you have no air in your lungs. I regret that somewhat similar foot dragging seems unfortunately to be evident in the Government's attitude to other EEC matters, such as direct elections to the European Parliament.
I believe that the time has come for us to drop a narrow nationalistic outlook. It is really not wise. The only sector of European Community policy where we seem to be fully co-operative is over the Lomé Agreement and overseas aid, which were discussed last week in your Lordships' House. Therefore I hope that we shall not be too negative in regard to a European energy policy. From what the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, said, I do not think that we are being so, but I only hope that some resolution of this main problem regarding a separate seat may be reached at the Summit meeting in Rome this week.
The fear that too close an involvement with Europe may mean losing our control over North Sea oil seems to me to hold no water at all—or should I say, no oil! The complaints about the interventionist character of EEC policy I find surprising, inasmuch as Her Majesty's Government are daily extending their already formidable powers over North Sea oil by, for example, proceeding to set up the British National Oil Corporation. Co-ordinating our policies with other States in Europe clearly cannot mean that we arc going to lose control over exploration in our sector; and it is indeed a condition in regard to the granting of Community funds to assist deeper sea oil and gas exploration that the United Kingdom will have complete control over such exploration in their sector as, for example, the Norwegians will have in theirs.
In this connection I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Government on the appointment of Mr. Len Williams, with whom I used to work in the old Ministry of Technology, as the new Director-General of the Energy Division of the Commission, replacing M. Fernand Spaak, whom we should also congratulate on his appointment as the 527 new Community Ambassador in Washington. I hope that the appointment of a British Director-General in the person of Mr. Williams will lead to Her Majesty's Government being constructive in this whole energy field.
The Commission certainly produces a great many documents—perhaps too many—and it must be very difficult for national Parliamentary committees to keep up with the flow. Like other noble Lords, I should like to congratulate the Commission in trying to draw up this policy. It is doing its best. It is certainly not easy to get agreement between nine different nationalities—if not nine Governments—but it certainly seems as though the meetings which my noble friends had with M. Simonet, both in Brussels and here—and I was glad to be of assistance in this matter—have borne fruit. Certainly there are now better relations between the Commission and my noble friend's sub-committee.
There is one area—and this has come out in the debate today—in which there is no disagreement; this is in the application of science and technology to our energy problems. Here the Community has recently taken important steps forward, as the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, knows, for its own purposes and as a contribution to the activities of the International Energy Agency. A series of Commission proposals on energy research, which we have mentioned in the House previously, amounting to 59 million units of account over a period of three years, has now been accepted by the Council. This programme was put forward by the Commission, discussed in detail by the European Parliament—where I acted as rapporteur—and agreed by the Council in a commendably short period of time. I pay tribute to the Ministers for having agreed to it. It was a period of time which shows that, given the need for urgent action, the Community's machinery can respond.
Perhaps equally important, although not perhaps so clearly leading to specific action, have been the agreements on the conservation measures—and I listened with great interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, said on these problems of conservation and storage. There has been agreement on the medium 528 term guidelines for coal, and an agreed Community position in respect of the two principal methods for enriching uranium. Other Commission proposals are fairly numerous. Some were adopted in July this year. I will not spell them all out, as sonic of them have already been mentioned this afternoon. The Council also passed a Resolution this year on the setting up of a short-term target for the reduction of oil consumption. On the same day it adopted a Resolution extending the powers of the advisory committee on programme management for the treatment and storage of radioactive waste—a "direct action" programme. Although I regret the cuts which have been made in the programme in regard to thermonuclear fusion, I think we may say that within certain defined limits a Community energy policy is gradually emerging. I only hope that the Government will do nothing to jeopardise this progress, and I again congratulate my noble friend on his Report.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Lord ENERGLYN
My Lords, at this moment there are millions of idle hands in the Community; millions of idle units of human energy. It is ironic that the more energy we have available, the more automated become our industrial processes, and this inevitably leads to redundancy. It is always an uncomfortable process to look reality in the face, but the plain fact is that large sectors of the Community arc producing goods which the world no longer needs—the motor and steel industries are cases in point. The plain reality is that the Community, America and Japan have practically saturated world markets. So now it is a matter of salesmanship, rather than of engineering expertise, which will enable these industries to survive.
In contrast, the world needs chemicals, and despite the state of world trade our chemical industry in 1974 achieved an all-time record in exports. It earned £2,148 million of foreign currency, and there is little doubt that when this year's figures emerge that picture will have survived. This bonanza industry needs minerals and hydrocarbons; and let it be said to the credit of the Prime Minister that when he projected £50 million into the search for non-ferrous metals he injected imagination and foresight into this sector of industrial growth. Small 529 mines can produce the metals required by the chemical industry because they are not needed in large quantities, but they are needed in a highly refined condition. To achieve this requires considerable quantities of cheap electricity for electrolytic refining and electrolytic extraction of minerals. If the many mines abandoned in Britain—not worked because of the accident of history—were revived, we would be creating pockets of employment in those very areas which are being denuded of pride and of community life. So here is a sector which needs electrical energy.
Another action which should be laid on the credit side of the Prime Minister was his founding of the National Research Development Corporation. If one looks at NRDC one sees that there are hundreds of inventions which it deals with and tries to bring to industrial fruition. Many of these are before their time, while many of them are within their time but cannot be made viable because they lack cheap sources of electricity. I therefore submit that it is not policies that we need at the moment; certainly not rigid polices. What we need are new ventures to create new sources of energy, from which we can create employment, so that we can remove from the shoulders of these millions the indignity of having to suffer the destroying prospect of being unwanted and kept alive by the State.
While the policy-makers have been busy a number of us have been engaged on trying to develop new ventures. As the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, has said, I am associated with geothermal energy, and I am naturally delighted that within the last few days Harwell has declared that this is not a geological pipe-dream. When we pioneers put this forward some six or seven years ago it was thought to be a geological pipe-dream despite the fact that in Italy substantial contributions to electrical energy had been made for years by the geothermal characteristics of the central spine of Italy. Too often we are inclined to think in terms of geysers so far as geothermal energy is concerned. We, the people who have been projecting this, were not romantic enough to suggest that we could drill holes and form artificial geysers. What we were doing was what the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, was suggesting, and that was to use the heat storage of 530 the crust for various purposes. So, while we can draw comparisons between New Zealand and Iceland, it is wrong to think that we can in any way formulate this situation in Britain within reachable limits of the earth's surface. But there is no question about the fact that holes of the order of two metres, as shown at Los Alamos, can produce mini power stations and they can be produced at the right strategic points. So I would suggest again, now with complete assurance, having the support of people like those at Harwell, that we should explore the hot rocks of Cornwall.
I may remind your Lordships that in the early days of mining in Cornwall it was too hot for the workmen to work, not because the air was hot but because the water was nearly boiling. We have the Roman discovery at Bath. We do not really know what is the thermal source of hot water to Bath, but the lesson one learns from the Italian experience is that what one must find is deep-seated rock which is quivering—do not be frightened; just quivering—which will enable the heat to flow reasonably fast into any hole that pierces it. With this kind of heat flow you can generate steam, not at the pressure of a geyser but steam good enough to drive turbines.
I will not labour this point because there is a much more feasible twist to this. Any hole that is put into the ground is like a storage heater; it is self-insulating. So if you drop water down and try to bring steam up, the heat is not lost into the walls of the rock because the rock is hot enough to repel it. So I suggest to your Lordships with all seriousness that we look at the abandoned coal mines of this country. Every coal mine, I may remind your Lordships, usually has two shafts, the up cast and the downcast. If a shaft is 1,000 feet deep—and many shafts are—and two and a half million gallons of water are dropped down that shaft, it will drive a turbine at the bottom and generate 10,000 horse-power. If you take 2,000 horse-power of that and convert that water into steam you can push it up the up cast shaft; or as the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, has pointed out, you can store really hot water in the disused workings.
So here you have an interesting situation where we could within a matter of 531 years, and with very little expenditure, do something. I venture to suggest that the colliery at Nottingham could be fabricated into a pilot plant for a little less than £1 million, from which we could produce 10,000 horse-power. If that was a success imagine what this would mean as a contribution to the thinking on the energy policy of the Community. In the Belgian mines it was necessary—in fact, the Belgians were the pioneers in this matter—to introduce refrigerators to refrigerate the air so that the miners could work; it was as hot as that. Here we have, then, the abandoned coal mines of Belgium—hardly a colliery in Belgium is working—and so the Belgians have a source of geothermal energy such as I have been describing. Look at what a difference that could make to the economic contribution which Belgium make to the Community. Again, they could tap the buried flanks of the Ardennes, which is again this kind of quivering mass from which energy could be derived.
I now come to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Geddes—and I hope he will not mind my adding to the praise which has been given to him for his truly historic contribution to this debate—because he has opened up in your Lordships' House this tantalising subject of harnessing the power of the sea. It has been the dream of engineers for centuries, and the noble Lord has correctly put it into perspective—but, if I may say so, a little too modestly. I do not think this is a long-term project; I think it is a short-term project, and it is one we should go for as hard as we can because it can deliver power with unquestionable endurance, with undeniable volume, the like of which nuclear energy can never possibly achieve.
It is claimed from the Severn Estuary studies that 10 per cent, of the country's energy needs can be obtained by harnessing those tides. Why, then, have we not done it? There are several very good reasons. One of them has been the nature of the turbines that these tides would have to drive. This problem has now been solved by the French in the Rance tidal basin. They have designed turbines that can work below water and take the ebb and flow without any trouble whatsoever; so that problem does not now exist. The big problem lies in the construction of the barrage. Here, 532 again, we should look to our friends in the Community. The world's greatest barrage construction engineers were the Dutch. They made a country by creating barrages, not out of rock (they had not got any), not out of concrete (it was not invented); they made it out of earth, brambles and clay. The reason is that they discovered that it is no use pitting rock and concrete against the power of the North Sea; it would just smash it to pieces. What you do, as the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, pointed out, is to study the wave motion, for the way to defeat the action of the waves is to make the waves glide and not collide. Taking the moral of the Dutch experience, we have made use of research in this country which has come from two rather unexpected quarters. The first is the Paper and Packaging Research Association where they showed me the means of packing anything into plastic bags; the second inspiration came from the Rubber and Plastics Research Association who showed me plastics of high strength and high water repellancy. Here you have the two factors for making barrages cheaply and efficiently. A bag filled with anything and completely encased in water repellant material will lie on the sea floor undisturbed.
Let us now look at the prospects of the Bristol Channel which is among the top three areas in the world for the rise and fall of tides. Within 20 miles of Cardiff we could take all the coaltips, put them into plastic bags and build barrages 2½ miles long which will produce 10 per cent. of the energy that this country requires. At the same time, these barrages would be 200 yards wide, wide enough to contain factory sites and also would extend the harbourage of Cardiff and make it a trans-Atlantic port of first-rate magnitude. The same could be done at Swansea where we could take away the ghastly and dangerous coaltips and put them into bags. This, I guess, would create employment for about 5,000 unemployed people in South Wales. It would also create a plastic bag industry. The spin-off from this is not inconsiderable because the other countries would realise that this was a going concern, and the Middle East who need quays running out to sea—who have no rock and the most expensive thing that they can buy is cement—can make their seaports out of the sands of the desert put 533 into our plastic bags. To return to this country, we could barrage the Menai Straits by putting the wast tips of Penmaenmawr or the slate tips of North Wales across it. We could do the same at Morecambe Bay. We could do the same around the country and, as the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, pointed out, we would have a source of energy which will not pollute and which will be there for ever.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Lord WYNNE-JONES
My Lords, like other noble Lords I must congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, on his quite outstanding maiden speech. All of us were impressed by it. The only thing that I might be a little afraid of is that people who learned from his speech how the Phoenician ships got through the Straits of Gibraltar might be tempted to go to Loch Ness and to try to use the monster in order to get energy there.
This debate concerned with the problem of energy policy arises, as your Lordships will be well aware, from the various communications which have come from the European Commission. This Commission labelled their proposals a policy. I think that this is where the Sub-Committee of the Committee of this House dealing with European legislation ran into its first difficulty; because when we started investigating the various documents it seemed to us that there really was no policy. It was a set of expedients, not a policy.
The expedients arose in the first instance because we had two important and dominant industrial countries in Europe, both of which were either without much native fuel or were running dangerously short of native fuel. Both were looking for new methods of getting energy in adequate amount. The energy which they wanted was, naturally, electrical energy. To get electrical energy by most of the methods that have been used in the past you must use a lot of heat; you get high temperatures and, incidentally, get very inefficient conversion of heat into energy. This is part of they nature of the whole process. They there, fore started looking for something else, and they both felt that they could do it with nuclear energy. They were the only two countries involved—and I am referring to France and Germany—which had 534 the resources and the possibility of really developing nuclear energy in this way. We have been doing it in this country but, as I think we shall hear later from the noble Lord, Lord Hinton of Bankside, we have found the problems enormous in developing nuclear energy.
These two countries decided that by buying the American light water reactor and by setting up the process, they would be able to cope with their anticipated demands by 1985. That, I think, is why 1985 has appeared as the magic year. It is because this seemed to be the earliest date by which they could build the nuclear stations. We are told that all this is concerned with the extremely important economic crisis which has arisen—not fuel crisis but economic crisis—from the high cost of petroleum in recent years. But this policy was being planned before petrolum became so costly. In other words, that really was a post hoc justification of the expedient which had already been proposed.
My Lords, the other countries of the Community have no possibility of building these stations. They may act as subcontractors in a small way; but there are only two countries of the Nine which have put forward this programme. This was then adopted by the Commission because, as I understand it, the Commission were suddenly asked by the Council of Ministers to produce a policy; so they rushed together a set of expedients which is called a policy. I am not blaming the Commission for doing this. I think that the Commission found themselves in a difficult position and did the best they could. Nor do I object to a European policy for energy. I only doubt whether we are in a position to produce such a policy at the present time. I think that there is nothing wrong with the idea of the policy, but to call a set of hastily-assembled expedients a policy really does no justice to the idea of having a policy.
My Lords, I was for a long time not much in favour of our going into the Community; but we are in the Community and I am convinced that we must make a good job of being in it and I want to see everything done well. I think that your Lordships should be utterly convinced of the fact that the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, and his Sub-Committee have from the start been trying not simply to run down the efforts being made in 535 Brussels but rather to see where they went wrong and try to see how they could be improved.
With regard to a policy, we have to remember that we have here three different items. It is called an energy policy but, really, in the first place, it is a fuel policy and not an energy policy. The first point is the fuel. The reason was to try to reduce drastically the import of petroleum into Europe. Europe's resources of coal were running down and petroleum seemed the best way of getting the fuel. As the noble Lord, Lord Energlyn, said, from fuel chemicals can be produced, and also heat can be produced. The heat can be used directly for one's own comfort in houses, factories and so on, or for driving certain primitive types of machinery; but, apart from that, one uses heat to convert into energy.
Energy is a different "beast" from heat; although energy necessarily becomes heat when it is used, heat does not necessarily become energy. That is the problem one is up against all the time; one can turn heat into energy only by having a big enough difference of temperature. It is this big difference of temperature which is troublesome and expensive. It is one of the reasons why the so-called high temperature reactor—which has been talked about in recent times—has proved very difficult to realise; the temperatures that would have to be achieved in order to make it work are too high. Materials have to stand those high temperatures.
We have to remember that it is easy to turn fuel into heat; all you have to do is burn it and you get the heat. But to turn that into energy is a troublesome, difficult matter; it is something which the electrical industry has always been trying to do as efficiently and as well as possible. I am not referring to this country; I do not want to focus on the narrow national issue because the European issue is absolutely vital in this matter. First, we must have fuel, and we have to see how we get that. We have had many interesting suggestions: the noble Lords, Lord Geddes and Lord Energlyn, both put forward ideas which are of considerable importance. Their first importance is for heat. This is an extremely urgent and important matter. We can economise a great deal on fuel if we use some 536 of the suggestions which have been put forward. They may take time to develop, but this is vital. If we are to have a European policy for fuel and energy (as I would prefer to call it), then the European Community ought to try to find out everything it can by investigation, by inquiring from all the different countries in Europe and outside Europe, using the International Energy Agency and every other body, in order to get all the information that we urgently need. We still need information in order to be able to get the utmost economy in fuel.
Secondly, we have to think about the production of electrical energy. This is no slight problem. I have been looking at the figures quoted by the Commission. For electrical energy production in 1970 throughout the Community the equivalent of 188 million tons of oil were used. They estimated that to meet the demand for electrical energy by 1980, 361 million tons of oil equivalent would have to be used; nearly twice as much. By 1990, 803 million tons of oil equivalent would have to be used, and by the year 2,000, 1,500 million tons of oil equivalent would have to be used. When your Lordships remember that we are talking about getting 100 million tons of oil out of the North Sea, it will be realised that this figure of 1,500 million tons is gigantic. That is the important aspect one has to face. This is not the total use of fuel, but merely if fuel is used to produce electrical energy. Therefore, it becomes vital that we look towards other ways of producing electrical energy.
One of the ways is to use nuclear power stations; but we should have no confidence at all that we can solve our problem in a short time by the use of nuclear energy. We can build more of the type of power stations which have been built in the past, and which we are still building slowly in this country, which the Germans and French want to build. But they create great problems, and it is also doubtful whether the programmes put forward can be achieved. Certainly, the first programme put forward by France and Germany jointly, and summed together by the Community, is unrealisable. It is now realised by the Commission that it is unrealisable. But that still leaves the problem. We must think in terms of such things as breeder reactors which we have working at 537 Doorway. We must think in terms of the fusion process which, in the end, is nothing more than trying to bring the sun down to earth. We are using exactly the nuclear reaction which occurs in the sun and produces the energy of the sun. To bring that down to earth is not an easy matter. So far, although we have hopes it can be done, I should not like to predict that we shall do it within 25 or 40 years. Anyone would be very bold to assert that it could be done in a certain predetermined length of time. Therefore we are forced to take other action.
It is here that a European policy should now be working; looking at all these problems rather than just taking a little from Germany, France and this country, and putting it together and saying that is the policy. That is not the policy. My Lords, I am a convinced European and remain a convinced Socialist. If we are to have a policy, I am certain that we have to think seriously about these matters. We have to co-operate and try to produce the answer which we must have if we are to maintain our civilisation.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ The Earl of SHANNON
My Lords, I want to make only a short contribution to this valuable debate for which we all have to thank the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale. Your Lordships have already heard many details from other members of the Committee on the possible interventionism contained in the document under discussion, its individual technical failings and oversights. But there is one particular point which I should like to emphasise which has already been touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones. We as a country are new members of this club of the European Community. The organisation of the Community has been devised by the older, original members of the club. We must learn the inner workings of this club to see that we are neither excluded nor ignored. This document is a classic example of devising a European solution which was dictated by the national programmes of only one or two of its members. I fully concede that this document may have been prepared at a time when we were not participating as com- 538 pletely as we should in the Community which we had joined.
Before I visited Brussels with the Sub-Committee of the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, I was constrained to remark on page 45 of the Report how I was appalled at the technological naïveté of the authors of portions of this document. I further accused them of indulging in platitudinous hopes and pious pipe-dreams, certainly in respect of the aspects of energy conservation. However, since that visit, I believe that much of the error rests with us and others in this country for not making a positive contribution to the constructive thinking of the Community at the right time. The Commission's thinking can only he as good as the advice which the Members receive from their Member-States, and in that way they were nowhere near as fortunate as we in your Lordships' House this afternoon in having magnificent examples produced for us by the noble Lords. Lord Energlyn and Lord Geddes, which I think the Commission have now had forcibly brought to their attention.
As the noble Lord, Lord Hinton of Bankside, pointed out during that visit to the Commission, and as he will no doubt inform your Lordships later this afternoon, the impossibility of the nuclear policy was the kernel of the whole policy document. That document was immediately downgraded from being a policy document to something which was referred to as outlining "targets". It is finally due for a complete reassessment to be based on national plans, as the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, has said. But however inaccurate the original document may have been, it is a valuable initiative, as has been mentioned by other speakers, and we hope it will lead to a better document next time.
The Commission, when asked to produce evidence of the capability of the Community to build the stations in the times that had been projected, to equip them with the heavy generating machinery required, or even to finance the whole programme—because an enormous amount of money would have been required to build these stations—did not advance any evidence. They were questioned by members of the Sub-Committee, and in every case they said they had taken advice; but they declined 539 to say precisely what the advice or where it had come from.
The Commission has definitely had further thoughts about the subject of research and of improving its own knowledge. I should like, if I may, to read from a document which has recently come from the Commission and outlines the commitments and priorities for Community research in the years 1976 to 1980. It begins by saying:The European Commission has calculated that sums allocated to research and development will jump from 97 million units of account…in 1975 to over 230 million units of account in 1980.Then they give a rather nice little definition of a unit of account, for the benefit of those of us who have not the slightest idea what the term means. It says in brackets that one unit of account equals plus or minus US $1.3. I hope that we are now a little wiser at the end of that. The statement continues:Seen in this light, the Commission considers that the following sectors and sub-sectors should be given priority between now and 1980…".The very first one is energy, subdivided into energy conservation, production and use of hydrogen, solar energy, geothermal energy, thermonuclear fusion, radiation protection, reactor safety, waste processing and use of plutonium. So the Commission, as they pointed out to Members of your Lordships' Sub-Committee in Brussels, are only too willing to consider all opinions that are made available to them. Our fault probably lies in not making these opinions and suggestions fully available at the right time. Let us ensure that our Whitehall/Brussels interface works properly. We should send there our best persons—because remember that what they do there, and what advice they receive, can affect us.
Let us send our best persons, not those who can best be spared, so that our contributions may be considered in the preparation of documents, at the right time and not too late. We should not then get into diplomatic trouble by being accused of putting a spanner into the works too late in the day. Please let us make quite certain that we say the right things, because we can offer a lot of advice. Let us, as a country, offer the right advice at the right time.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Lord BALERNO
My Lords, I must apologise to your Lordships for not being here at the start of this debate. Unfortunately, I was delayed in the air by winds, and on the ground yesterday by the Loch Ness monster. I should like to elaborate on the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, which was also touched upon by the noble Earl, Lord Shannon, regarding the R and D aspects of the work. It was noticeable that the Council's scheme to encourage the technological developments in the production of hydrocarbons was deliberately aimed at the oil companies and the manufacturers. I would concur with this intention, but should like to add a rider to it; namely, that the complementary involvement from within the university and higher education sector not only contributes to the success of the supporting technology of hydrocarbon recovery but also establishes the necessary innovative engineering for current and future developments. Of equal importance is the fact that it also ensures the transfer of new knowledge at first hand to future generations of engineers and scientists.
At first sight, this Community grants scheme does not appear to lend itself to ready support of university-based initiatives. This is because, for most of the universities, the bulk of the support would have to be secured externally before the latent advantage of the EEC funding could be realised. In view of the significant relevant developments in the number of universities in the United Kingdom, primarily in the engineering and science departments, a case may be made for the Council or Commission to give explicit consideration to whether they wish positively and actively to support the relevant activities.
At present, the known hydrocarbon reserves are mainly located on the Continental Shelf areas. In consequence, the technological developments are very complex and have a substantial element of risk and positive danger. Time does not permit me to list, even if I could do so, all the relevant involvement of the universities in this matter; but I should like to use the Heriot-Watt University as an example and to make some reference to its activities.
541 The bread and butter of the university diet are the courses of study leading to the award of degrees, and also the research work. Recent additions to Heriot-Watt degrees are the B.Sc. in offshore engineering, the B.Sc. in marine biology and the master of engineering in petroleum engineering. There are students intensively and enthusiastically engaged in all these studies. Individual research projects are based in several of the engineering science departments, and among the better known of these is the unmanned submersible which they have produced, and which is called ANGUS.
High in the university's priorities in the offshore engineering field has been the provision of technical seminars, conferences and courses for engineering staff in industry. The use of explosives under water was the theme of a recent meeting, and next in line is a seminar on single-point moorings. The vehicle for these post-educational courses and much of the remaining industry-orientated offshore engineering is the Institute of Offshore Engineering—an integral part of the university. That has been got off the ground. very largely, by private benefactions of which the most notable came from the Wolfson Foundation. But, in addition, the Institute provides a technical information service and, with the aid of academic experts as appropriate, contracts to undertake both consultancy and research.
Staff of the university department of civil engineering and of computer application services combine with the Institute of Offshore Engineering staff to carry a feasibility study for the Department of Energy on single-point moorings. The purpose of a recently completed marine aerosol study was to investigate the salt content of the sea surface and relate it to meteorological factors. Among the partners in this combined operation were Government Ministries, university departments and a commercial company. The marine science unit is undertaking a marine environment study in the vicinity of Flotta in the Orkneys. The project is a baseline study to precede the operation of an oil handling terminal. This research covers measurements of currents and tides, as well as a study of the organisms of the littoral zone. Within the Institute some thought is being given 542 to the need for and the provision of research facilities, and particularly to the role and composition of a marine instrumentation team, and to the specification of a marine research base.
What I have been saying exemplifies the situation at only one university. The work that is being done at Aberdeen University on the economic side of these problems, and on the medical side—which is perhaps even more important—is fairly well known and is perhaps, on balance, of even greater importance than the work that is being done at Heriot-Watt. At other establishments specific interests are being developed. An outstanding benefit of locating in the university sector a major focus for this cross-disciplinary research, such as offshore engineering, is that it becomes very easy for the interests of different Government Departments—even Departments of different Governments—and industrial organisations to meet together and to collaborate informally on neutral ground.
The Commission's support scheme stresses the technological aspects of hydrocarbon exploitation, but there is a notable omission. It makes no reference to the related environmental risks. This factor will be clear to anyone with a knowledge of current offshore developments. It is perhaps less obvious that a major contribution to the reduction of environmental hazards can be made by those involved in the technological decisions, whether in manufacture, in operational control or in design. I would most strongly urge that, in assessing future projects for possible support, the Commission should apply the additional criterion that the proposals should indicate that proper regard will be given to the environmental difficulties, and that reasonable safeguards will be written in to ensure that the associated technology for environmental protection is in phase with the primary technologies of oil winning and oil production.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Lord HINTON of BANKSIDE
My Lords, I should first like to join with other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, on his maiden speech, which was indeed a distinguished one. Even after 10 years in this House, I wish that I could hope to speak as well as he did in a maiden speech, the contents of which were well thought out and 543 it was delivered with great distinction. I am quite sure that he was right in drawing attention to the need for work on wave power, although whether that can make a large contribution to the energy requirements of this country, let alone those of the European Community, within the foreseeable future still has to be proved.
I should next like to apologise for the fact that an inescapable commitment prevented me from being in my seat at the beginning of this debate, so that I failed to hear the first two speeches. On the other hand, coming so near to the end, after so many distinguished and well-informed noble Lords have spoken, I feel rather as Ruth would have felt if Boaz had used a combine harvester in his barley fields.
I speak this evening as a member of Sub-Committee F, which, as your Lordships know from our Report, found it necessary to question some of the recommendations made in the Commission's plan for energy supplies in 1985. We have discussed those differences with the Commission in Brussels, and M. Simonet has been gracious enough to come and talk to us about them in London. It would therefore be wrong of me, after all this has happened, to underline those differences, although I find it necessary to refer to them in trying to make a constructive contribution to this debate. In doing this, I am afraid that I shall be repeating what has been said earlier by other noble Lords, but I think that the quantification of their points may be helpful.
The plans which have been submitted by the Commission deal with the energy problem up to the year 1985, and I do not think we should expect an absolute and global shortage of energy within those next 10 years. What we are faced with is the economic problem of paying for energy, which exists if we can afford to buy it. But, in the years between now and 1985, the Community countries will be importing something like 50 per cent. of their energy, and such heavy imports of energy strain the balance of payments position. It is probable that the long-term shortage of energy which we are bound to expect around the end of the century could be solved by technological developments, but it takes a long time to 544 bring such new and large-scale technological developments into industrial use. I am afraid that both scientists and the public at large have a pathetic and entirely unjustified faith in the speed at which engineers can bring such large developments into industrial use.
In that connection it is worth while to remind your Lordships that we in this country began work on the fast breeder reactor in 1950—that is, 25 years ago—and that the first British prototype started to operate at low power ony within the last few weeks. In terms of the development work that is needed to solve the energy problems that we have to face, 25 years is a very short period of time. The time which is needed to meet the long term problem of energy supplies can, I suggest, be gained only by the economical use of energy as from now and I am not sure that anything like sufficiently harsh measures have been taken, not merely in this country but even more in Europe, to ensure that energy is used economically.
The historical rate of growth of energy demand in the Continental countries of the Community has been at the rate of 5.5 per cent. per annum. During the period since the Second World War the rate of growth of demand in Britain for total energy supplies has been 1.8per cent. per annum, which is only about one-third of the average rate in the Community. If one looks at the rate of growth of demand between 1967 and 1972, one finds that in such countries as Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and Italy the rate of growth of total energy demand has been around 6 per cent., while in the Netherlands it has been at the incredibly high figure of almost 10 per cent. per annum. That compares with a rate of growth in this country during the same years of only 2.3 per cent, per annum. When we drew these figures to the attention of the Commission in Brussels they suggested that the difference between the rate of increase in demand in this country and in the Continental countries of the Community was due to our low rate of growth in GNP. However, I am very reluctant to accept that suggestion as a complete and absolute explanation of the difference between the two figures and the question is one which ought to be carefully examined.
§ Lord WYNNE-JONES
My Lords, the noble Lord has raised a very important issue, but has he considered whether our inefficiency in the use of energy 25 to 30 years ago was so great that our opportunities for economy have been much greater?
§ Lord HINTON of BANKSIDE
My Lords, I have already said that I feel that this is a question which needs further examination, and I am not in a position today to offer any explanation of the difference. However, it is a notable difference and one which ought to be explored in detail. The first plans that were prepared by the Commission assumed that the rate of increase in energy consumption between now and 1985 could be cut from 5.5 per cent. to 5 per cent. Having suggested this reduction in the rate of growth, the Commission still found that they were in a difficult position, and they then made a further arbitrary cut to a 3.5 per cent. annual increase in the rate of demand. Even so, if one looks at the figures one sees that in 1985 the demand for energy in the Community will be about 50 per cent. higher than it was in 1973. That 50 per cent. figure should be borne in mind when we think of the figures of 2 per cent., or 5 per cent., or even 10 per cent., which have been quoted by certain noble Lords who have taken part in the debate as contributions that might be made by new forms of energy.
The Commission propose that to meet the 1985 energy requirements there should be a marginal increase in the use of solid fuels and that the consumption of oil should be kept at about its present level, but they propose large increases in the use of natural gas and nuclear energy. In fact, the plan proposed that the usage of natural gas in 1985 should be about three times as much as was used in 1973. With a massive engineering effort, I suppose that such a supply of natural gas could be ensured, but most of the additional natural gas would have to be imported because, as I understand it, the rate of supply from the Community's area in the North Sea and from the Groningen gasfield in Holland is already at about its peak. If that is so, the additional natural gas would in the main have to come from the oil producing countries. I should be 546 surprised if for natural gas they did not fix a price structure which brought it more or less into parity with their price for petroleum.
I do not want to spend too long on the question of natural gas supply because it is the almost explosive expansion in the nuclear programme that worries me most. In order to meet the programme which is proposed by the EEC, it will be necessary to have about 150,000 Mw of nuclear power plants in operation in the Community in 1985. At present, the output of nuclear power plants which are in use or being constructed is only 39,000 Mw. It follows, therefore, that in order to meet the 1985 programme it is necessary to construct and to commission about 113,000 Mw of nuclear power plants, and out of that total it is proposed than 75,000 Mw should be built and commissioned in France and Germany. In most—indeed, I think in all—Community countries it is necessary to obtain Government consents before the construction of nuclear power plants is put in hand, and so far as I have been able to discover consents have been obtained for very few of these additional power plants which still have to be built.
The procedures for obtaining consents vary from one country to another, but I am told it is reasonable to expect that in France it will take two years between the date of application for a consent and the date when construction work can be put in hand on site, and that in Germany, where there is a right of appeal to the courts, the period which should be allowed is three years. I take an optimistic view and assume that an average period of two years should be allowed. But when construction work starts on the site it will be six years before the station is commissioned and it follows therefore that none of these additional nuclear power plants can be in operation before the beginning of the year 1984. As is my habit, I am being generous and giving the two countries, France and Germany, not two years but three years in which to commission those 75,000 Mw nuclear reactors. This means that they will be commissioning at the rate of two reactors a month. I believe I am right in saying that no country other than the United States of America has as yet achieved a commissioning rate of more than two reactors a year; to 547 assume that the target rate of commissioning can be achieved is unrealistic.
§ Lord ZUCKERMAN
My Lords, I should like to interrupt the noble Lord with a question. I am enormously impressed by his argument and am more than sympathetic to it and agree with it, but is the noble Lord saying, in effect, that we know what types of reactor might be commissioned, with all the delays that the noble Lord is speaking about?
§ Lord HINTON of BANKSIDE
My Lords, I am making an assumption on that and I shall be dealing with that point a little later. I very much doubt whether manufacturing capacity for the forgings, the castings, and some of the other components which are required to meet that rate of construction will be available but I doubt even more whether so high a rate of construction and commissioning can be achieved while still ensuring the safety of the plant.
Few process plants are absolutely safe. Accidents can be and have been avoided by meticulous care in design, construction and operation. Most of the plants—I think this answers the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman—which are built in Europe will be of American design. It can, of course, be argued that the designs of those plants can be standardised, but if such standardised designs which have inherent safety are used on the Continent, real safety cannot be achieved in operation unless there is meticulous attention to quality control in manufacture and in construction and unless there is, additionally, operation by teams who are well-trained and thoroughly experienced. With so large a programme, I do not believe that one can guarantee the quality assurance and the operational skills which are needed to ensure freedom from accident. I believe, too, that a single serious accident could put back the whole of the nuclear power programme by several years. It would be a tragedy if this should happen at a time when nuclear energy is so badly needed to supplement the fossil fuels which we have used in the past.
I believe, and have always believed, that it was an over-ambitious nuclear programme which undermined the pre-eminence which British nuclear engineering had earned in 1956 and I should be 548 sorry to see a similarly ambitious programme undermine the development of nuclear energy in Europe. But the nuclear component of the EEC 1985 programme is so large a part of that programme that if, as I think will inevitably happen, the Community fails to build the number of nuclear power plants which it has counted on, it is inevitable that the whole of the card castle of that Community energy plan will fall to the ground. If that happens, I suggest that the energy requirements of the Community will need to be drastically cut or/and we shall need additional imports of oil which will put a serious strain on the balance of payments.
I am afraid my predictions have been gloomy, but they show the picture as I see it. Even supposing I am wrong, I should like to support and to emphasise the views that were expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, when he gave us his views on the availability of uranium. The surveys which have been done by the OECD and by the IAEA, as well as figures which were published in a paper by Dr. Bowie of the Institute of Geological Sciences, all forecast that if, in accordance with normal practice, an eight-year forward supply is demanded, all the known reserves and the probable additional resources of uranium will have been exhausted before the year 1990.
There is, of course, uranium in sea water but it is not proven that this uranium can be recovered without the expenditure of as much power as could be generated from the uranium which would be obtained from a recovery plant. Until now almost all of the reserves and resources of uranium have been discovered by aerial survey and by using electronic instruments. Such surveys are quick and easy but they only locate resources of uranium which are near to the surface. There is of course no doubt that additional uranium lies deeper in the earth's crust, but so far as is at present known those deeper reserves can be found only by drilling; and drilling is a much slower and more expensive process and the uranium in those deep reserves will be expensive.
I think that within the time available the only solution which gives us any hope is the fast breeder reactor, and the time for solving even that problem seems 549 to me to be all too short. I know that this is a gloomy picture. I do not suggest that technology is incapable of solving the problem of energy supply if it is given sufficient time, but we are desparately short of time and I know of no way in which extra time can be gained except by the enforcement of harsh restrictions on the use of energy in this country and throughout the Community.
§ 6.30 p.m.
Lord CAMPBELL of CROY
My Lords, towards the end of this debate I propose to speak briefly on a few points. I should like first to congratulate my noble friend Lord Lauderdale on his introduction of this Report, and for enabling us to have this debate, to which so much knowledge has been contributed. I would also congratulate the distinguished members of his Sub-Committee, some of whom have taken part in this debate, for enabling us to examine the whole subject, which is a very wide one, with considerable case. I should like to congratulate my noble friend and his Sub-Committee for having arranged for the visit of the Commissioner M. Simonet to a private meeting here in this building, which I was myself able to attend. That visit was a very helpful occasion, and a useful precedent for the EEC.
My Lords, I am also glad that the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, was given the opportunity this afternoon to comment for the Government's part on the matters raised by the Select Committee. I am glad that he was able to do it at an early stage in the debate, and we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, for allowing himself to be interrupted in that way. I was not surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, agrees in general with the Select Committee in its comments on the proposals from the Commission in the energy field. I was particularly interested in what he said about the Secretary of State for Energy having proposed that individual members of the EEC should themselves contribute information, presumably to the Commission or the Council of Ministers, on their own preferred proposals. That should provide very useful material from which further plans can be formed.
My Lords, I should also like to join in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, on an outstanding maiden speech. He spoke with great ease and 550 fluency, and we all look forward to hearing him again on many occasions in this House. I was especially interested in what he had to say about the potential for obtaining energy from the sea, from currents, tidal schemes and wave power. I hope these matters will be pursued, because we cannot afford not to examine every possible way of obtaining energy economically.
The Select Committee ranged widely over virtually all the sources of energy available to Europe. It was frank in its criticism of certain proposals put forward by the Commission. The Select Committee has already had an effect in influencing the thinking of the Commission. This is very clear from reactions in recent months.
The first point which has emerged clearly from the debate is that Britain is an oil producer, and will be a considerable oil producer in the years to come, as well as being a consumer country. Therefore, Britain, as a producer country, has a special position in the EEC. This point needs to be registered; I believe it has been registered, and well registered, but I have not yet heard anything from the Government which persuades me that it was necessary to have a dispute with our EEC partners about representation at the coming conference. I believe the Government stumbled into this dispute without having thought out the consequences beforehand. I have just seen the tapes outside. There is a report from Rome of a sharp exchange of words between our Prime Minister and the Chancellor of Germany, Herr Helmut Schmidt, who was speaking, as he said, for the other Members of the EEC. I believe that the Government may find that they have caused more damage to Britain by this tiff than any advantage likely to be gained by separate representation at this conference.
My Lords, the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister has recently been delving into anthropology. He has made some barbed references to Piltdown Man and, for that reason, I cannot refrain from pointing out that at the moment he appears to be giving a good imitation of Neanderthal Man, beating his breast as a way of expressing his willingness to trust and co-operate with his neighbours. If it is 551 any consolation, Neanderthal Man is described in an encyclopaedia as the most primitive known European.
§ Lord ZUCKERMAN
My Lords, would the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, allow me to correct him on a point of anthropology. Whereas Neanderthal Man is a reality, Piltdown Man is a fiction. Further, had Piltdown Man not been a fiction, he would have been older than Neanderthal Man.
Lord CAMPBELL of CROY
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, because I was just coming to that point; he has said it for me. Piltdown Man did not feature in exact anthropology because it was a fake, a point which the Prime Minister was at pains to point out as part of his analogy. The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, expressed very well my feelings about the unnecessary dispute caused over this matter.
I turn now to another point in the Report; that is, the crash programme of nuclear stations, as my noble friend Lord Lauderdale described it. The noble Lord, Lord Hinton of Bankside, has just pointed out that this is most unrealistic. Time is needed in order to bring nuclear power stations into commission, not only for reasons of safety and problems involving the environment but also because we have to consider the availability of uranium supplies for years ahead. As the noble Lord, Lord Hinton of Bankside, know very well—having been a leading mover in this field—it has been Britain's experience that we need time in order to develop our nuclear energy. But at the same time, we must record and register that nuclear energy is likely, in the more distant future, to be a principal source of energy; indeed, it must be, because the fossil fuels will run out in time. By about the turn of the century and thereafter, when Britain's offshore oil will have been much depleted, it will be necessary for us to have more power generated from nuclear sources. The noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, referred to the fast breeder reactor at Dounreay. Britain has been leading the way for a long time in this field, but I believe that one cannot work on the kind of programme put forward by the Commission, of so many power stations in such a short time, without running into the serious risk of things going wrong.
552 My Lords, flexibility must be part of the EEC energy policy, as was recommended by the Select Committee. The last five years have shown how greatly conditions can change. In our own case in Britain, the oil discoveries have taken place during these last five years, and during that time we have been able to assess the extent of the oil province in the North Sea. During that time, the Selby coal seam has been discovered, which has largely transformed the pospects for the future for coal in this country. As has been mentioned in this debate, the fact of the price of oil having risen so steeply in the last two years has also greatly affected the situation. The options for various sources of energy, or for the increased use of any particular source, should not be closed, and I believe the Select Committee has rightly pointed this out.
In Britain, in the recently passed Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-Lines Act, the Government have taken powers to exercise some control over the depletion of our offshore reserves. It should not be necessary to use these until the 1980s. We on this Bench agree that the British Government should have power to influence the rates of production after we have reached self-sufficiency in our offshore supplies. I would stress that gas is likely to be as important as oil. There are large supplies of gas with the oil in the North Sea. But there need not be conflict with our EEC partners, provided that a flexible energy policy has been worked out in the meantime before the situation arises in the 'eighties when the Government of the day might have to use their powers.
There has been mentioned during the debate, by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, and also by the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, an additional point which must not be overlooked. In the 1980s and beyond oil will be used increasingly feedstock for the chemical industry and manufacturing processes. It will be used, therefore, more for manufacture and less for fuel. Indeed, in years to come we may well look back with regret at the amount of oil which we allowed to be burned as fuel. It cannot be replaced. Britain and the EEC will, therefore, also be concerned with the use of offshore oil and gas for purposes other than direct sources of energy. Again general control of 553 rates of production will be relevant and necessary.
Another point to which the Commission and the Select Committee have drawn our attention is the need for conservation of energy, including research on new resources. Here several speakers, including the noble Lord, Lord Energlyn, have drawn attention to various possibilities, such as hot rocks and hot water stored underground. The noble Lord, Lord Balogh, told us that in the last two years we have been passing through not so much an energy crisis as a crisis in energy costs, and I would not disagree with that. Besides working out a flexible policy for normal times we should also prepare for emergencies, and part of an EEC energy policy should be devoted to contingency situations where normal supplies are cut off by unexpected events, for example, hostilities in some part of the world; and such contingency plans should fit in with wider international arrangements.
Britain's resources in relation to the EEC in the coining years must be considered against the background of the role to be played by the British National Oil Corporation. We have been discussing this in your Lordships' House recently over the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-lines Act, but we are still trying to find out more about it from the Government. At Question Time last Thursday the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, confirmed that it is the aim of the Government, through the BNOC, to secure majority State participation in all commercial oilfields. I then asked him what is to be the definition of a commercial oilfield. How is an oilfield to be defined as "commercial"? I received no reply to that, as Hansard confirms. Lord Balogh addressed himself to the definition of an oilfield, not what I had asked; he told us that, like an elephant, it cannot he defined but you know what it is when you see it. I appreciated the witty reply, but it was not an answer to the question how you define when an oilfield is commercial. I do not think that anyone in this House would have difficulty in identifying an oilfield almost as easily as an elephant, but the key questions are how it is to he decided that an oilfield is commercial and at what point during its appraisal and development.
§ Lord BALOGH
My Lords, I thought that we were discussing the Report of the Select Committee commenting on the Report of the EEC, but it seems to me that the noble Lord opposite wishes to turn this into a repeat performance of last week.
Lord CAMPBELL of CROY
No, my Lords, I am trying again to obtain information from the noble Lord, because he and others on that Bench have made it clear that in the coming years when Britain becomes a substantial producer of offshore oil, we shall have a special role in Europe. I agreed with that at the beginning of my remarks this evening. That is why I have said that because we still do not know exactly how BNOC is going to participate in the British Continental Shelf we will continue to pursue the Government on this matter. I suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, is difficult to follow sometimes, and particularly at Question Time. I said last Thursday that I would look at Hansard, and this has been the first opportunity for me to raise the point again. I think the noble Lord should forget about elephants. I pictured him the other day on safari at sea, trying to get the oil flowing single-handed and equipped only with a hand-drill and snorkel, and I think he appreciated that. We hope he will give us answers to our questions today because he has had plenty of notice.
Will he also tell us whether the launching of BNOC, which will require substantial expenditure, is to be affected by the forthcoming cuts in public expenditure? If so, we can help him with suggestions as to how the money can be saved. Where offshore oil is concerned—and this will greatly affect Britain's position in energy matters in the next few years—there is still a lot in Britain to be negotiated, planned and carried out. The Government should not be surprised, as the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, appeared to be just now, when we continue to interrogate them about their intentions and also about progress in carrying out the British programme, because this will largely affect the oil programme of the Community. In the meantime, the Select Committee's Sub-Committee has performed a notable service, not only for us in Parliament in Britain, but also for the EEC Commission.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ The Earl of KINTORE
My Lords, I must apologise for a slight misunderstanding with my own Front Bench and thank the Front Bench opposite for allowing me to speak for one minute at this stage of the debate. My noble friend Lord Balerno stressed the need for research and there is just one thing I thought he left out. There are about 1,000 divers working in the North Sea at this moment. Most of them are engaged in saturation diving. Saturation diving entails staying under pressure for a total period, counting the decompression time, of probably something of the order of a fortnight. If any diver has a serious accident during that period he is breathing mixed gases under high pressure, and what is very urgently required is research into the effects of, say, anaesthetics under these conditions—how does one administer an anaesthetic; how does the doctor go under those pressures and, if he does, the doctor is then tied up for the same length of time as the diver decompressing.
At the moment we are very short indeed of research, including research into the long-term effects on a man working under these conditions, which are entirely unknown. For example, bone necrosis is imperfectly understood, and so is a permanent deafness. An insurance policy is virtually impossible, because nobody knows what he is insuring against. These divers are not only British, in fact very few of them are; most of them are EEC personnel. I should have thought that a combined fund might be established by all the interested people in this field. I certainly think that the National Health Service, which stops three miles offshore, should be extended, or some arrangement made to look after these men. We have to police the rigs; the police have to go out there. This is a very difficult problem, and one very worthy of and urgently requiring finance and research.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Lord BALOGH
My Lords, may I have the leave of the House to speak again? My first duty is to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, who has given us an opportunity to debate what is a very interesting, far-reaching and deep subject. It is one of the most useful debates we have had, and I can assure 556 noble Lords that it will be studied with care in my Department, and, hopefully, by the Foreign Office, and action will be taken. The noble Earl has merited the thanks and gratitude of both sides of this House. Secondly, I should like to join with those noble Lords who have spoken and who have congratulated the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, on his really remarkable maiden speech. While I may have to say certain disillusioning things about wave power, that does not mean that I do not appreciate the brilliance with which it was defended.
I shall not be misdirected by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, into replying to his outburst about the Prime Minister on the basis of a fleeting glance at a probably incorrect wire, but I shall rigorously and scrupulously adhere to my original plan to answer the debate. It is very difficult for a poor economist to try to answer a debate which was on the technical expertise which is the notable aspect of this House. We can only look at the costs, whereas the technical experts radiate confidence and hope—not the noble Lord, Lord Hinton of Bankside, of course—for various substitutes for what I fear we have to rely on at the moment. I can assure the House that we shall carefully study this debate—indeed with much more care than usual—and see to it that the recommendations are fully taken into account.
As an economist I should like to take a slight divergence from the noble Lord, Lord Hinton, who ventured, as a physicist, into the economic field where I feel slightly more entitled to criticise. He contrasted our energy consumption with that of Germany and France. For one thing, the difficulty here, of course, on the basis of his figures as I noted them down, is that the difference in the rate of increase between us and the Continentals is decreasing; or, at any rate, it had decreased. We cannot say it is decreasing because we know very little of what the situation is at the moment. This is one of the problems which has been pointed out by the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough. I remember one debate in which he produced some figures which completely stumped me, which were flown over by the Commission probably in order to create some trouble for me.
§ Lord BALOGH
Yes, my Lords; friendly trouble, but trouble. Anyway, we do not know exactly what is happening. What we know is that our energy consumption has very much slumped, so that the correlation between the standard of life, production, and energy consumption has been very deeply disturbed. How this is going to react and how long this is going to last is one of those riddles in economics which cannot be predicted. That is why I say that even demand predictions are difficult, and certainly I would not join those of my colleagues who rush into this difficult and extremely complicated field and produce models. Perhaps that even goes for the models of my own Department.
If demand is not easy to predict, there are those terrible problems about supply. As the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, pointed out, supply conditions can change violently, and one of the difficulties is that when supply changes it changes with rather a bump. For instance, we are going to be confronted with gas from the Brent and the Frigg fields which will almost double the availability of gas in a year or two. This is difficult to absorb, and therefore it is extremely difficult to follow certain of the wise counsels of the Commission not to burn gas. What are we going to do with the gas which comes in a hurry and which has to be absorbed in an orderly fashion? This is a problem which we are carefully studying.
The criticisms of the Commission's nuclear programme, from both the economic point of view and the environmental and risk point of view, have been stressed in the debate. I can only say that the Government wholeheartedly agree, as I said in my speech earlier. We have certainly tried to implement our policy for new types of reactors with scrupulous attention to safety, because obviously one bad leak of radioactivity into the air or the water would cause a terrific revulsion of sentiment towards atomic energy, which ought to be avoided.
I cannot quite follow the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, in his demand that we should release oil and take on much more atomic energy. We shall go on with atomic energy as fast as we can safely do so, given the scarcity of resources from which we suffer. I must also correct myself. I meant to say 558 250 million tons not 150 million tons. The national target is 150 million tons, and 250 million tons is the target of the Commission. I apologise for that slip of the tongue. I should also like to say that the Commission has already recognised the unrealism of the Commission's original effort, and the figure has been reduced to 160 megawatts. Even that is regarded by us as an absolute, maximum target not to be taken too seriously for the reasons which have been explained so lucidly and extremely pursuasively by the noble Lord, Lord Hinton of Bankside. In this respect, I wish to comment on and commend the analysis of the noble Lord, Lord Hinton, on the fast reactor. We do not think there will be an occasion to order even a large-scale demonstration reactor much before 1978 and I do not feel that the system can be regarded as contributing in a big way until the 1990s, and perhaps even not then. I do not share the pessimism of the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, though it is better to be careful than sorry.
Coming to the question of wave power, while there is no doubt that as the sun does not shine in this country as intensely as might be desirable and while we cannot do anything about that yet, wave power is one of those sources of power which has to be looked at very closely. The Government have ordered a study of the subject find this is being carried out by the National Engineering Laboratory. This problem, like some of the nuclear problems and some concerning the North Sea, is at the very edge of known technology. One cannot therefore flatter oneself that these problems will be solved. Many new problems will arise, not least, for example, how to keep these mechanisms going in stormy waters. We have no doubt learned a great deal about that in the North Sea, but I do not think we can take it that the problem has been solved.
As for tidal power, I can tell noble Lords that my right honourable friend's Advisory Council on Research and Development has recently reviewed in some depth the case for a tidal barrage scheme in the Severn Estuary, the most promising site in the United Kingdom. ACORD concluded that a full feasibility study could not be justified, but that a further study of some of the technological problems was desirable, including the 559 impact of the barrage, which is to be the central point, on the tidal wave and especially on the reaction to the coastal plane.
I think I can gratify the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, by saying that we have direct representation at the IEA. We are not bound—in any case, no common policy has been developed by the Council of Europe—and therefore obviously we have a direct say; this we shall maintain until we are absolutely certain that the Community policy and our policies are in conformity with one another, which, even hopefully, will take some time as the French are at the moment completely refusing. I thought that perhaps some of the strictures of non co-operation might be addressed to the French, in a patriotic spirit. The analysis of the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, on the nature of the relationship with the national agencies was most interesting. I shall study it very carefully and perhaps I shall pose some questions to him in writing, thus reversing the usual protocol.
As for further alternative sources of energy, I must confess that our opinion is that we cannot expect very much. Geothermal energy is one thing in Cornwall where it is three miles down, and another thing in Italy where it seems that "steam" will come out of the earth when one shakes a burning paper. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, endorsed—as did the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, and I think the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough—our plan to have national plans prepared which are then co-ordinated by the Commission and discussed by the Council. It seems to me that if we are at all sensible about this, a useful and constructive policy can be evolved which should not hurt anybody and should benefit everybody.
There were complaints—I think by the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, or it might have been by my noble friend Lord Wynne-Jones—regretting that the fusion programme was not getting ahead as well as it should be. We must keep our resources well regimented; we do not have over-many resources at the moment. We are about to commission the AGRs and we are hopefully working on the heavy water reactor system, and of course we 560 have one of the oldest prototypes of fast breeder reactors.
On the question of fusion, there were very great hopes at one time. This operates rather like a yo-yo, in that the fusion programme sometimes looks like the complete solution to all our energy problems, without pollution, whereas in fact fusion has not yet worked. They thought it had worked and perhaps in the new Russian type it might have worked for a time, but as a practical proposition, to maintain this magma at 10 million degrees centigrade, not touching anything but just giving out heat, is a formidable proposition even in the light of the quite tremendous advances that have been made.
The noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, mentioned the hot water storage scheme as a way by which energy could be saved. The scheme is one of several ingenious methods for the bulk storage of energy; the CEGB is conducting a serious experimental study of it, and I hope that somebody will be able to announce something about it later. I conclude by repeating that we are delighted to have had this debate. I think it will help the Government to shape their policy, and I again thank the noble Earl for his leadership and sagacity, steering his ship through some heavy waters into what seems to be quite a good haven.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ The Earl of LAUDERDALE
My Lords, I am tempted by the final words of the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, to be diverted, but I wish to begin by joining in the plaudits to the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, on his maiden speech, which to all of us was a tonic. He used the phrase "energy blinkers". I have had the feeling at times that we all suffer from this—and that applies to the Government as well as to the Opposition. At any rate we had from the noble Lord a speech which was a tonic. It was urbane, informative, discreet, precise and persuasive. He has whetted our appetites for more and we are deeply in the noble Lord's debt for his maiden contribution.
This debate was first asked for through the ordinary channels as far back as last May and would have been timed for June and July had it suited everybody's convenience. I believe that it 561 has been worth waiting for even now. I should like to thank all noble Lords who have joined in the debate and who have been universally and, indeed, embarrassingly kind towards me, whereas really the kindness should be directed through me at the work of our Committee. I should again like to thank my colleagues, and our advisers and supporting staff for tremendous work in conditions which were sometimes not at all easy.
In all these matters I am a layman and there comes to my mind a remark by Lord Chesterfield, the author of Letters to his Son referring to another place. He said of your Lordships' House,Our position does not rest on brains.My position does not rest on brains, but that of our Committee does and we have been supported throughout by the assiduous brain power of noble Lords who have taken part in the debates and without whom our Report could not have been drafted. There was an element in today's performance which was curiously uncharacteristic. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, recognised the Earl of Lauderdale. Certainly the Earl of Lauderdale did not recognise the noble Lord, Lord Balogh. We have been exchanging bouquets whereas normally we bait one another. It has been agreeable to listen to the noble Lord and, as it were, to play tennis with compliments for a change.
I was just a little sorry that the noble Lord was not able to be rather more forthcoming on the research and development side, whether in regard to geothermal resources—I doubt whether the matter is to be wiped aside quite as simply as was done by comparing Central Italy with Cornwall—or high temperature storage, on which the noble Lord was a little more forthcoming. He was not very encouraging about wave energy and I was hoping that he would tell us something about the operations of the Wave Energy Research Steering Committee which, perhaps unknown to him, lurks in his own Department. When the noble Lord told us to safeguard our resources, I wondered whether that recommendation had filtered through laterally to other Departments of this Government. They seem at times to be curiously even-handed in their readiness to support unworthy causes. However, 562 do not let me spoil the atmosphere of the debate by reverting to type. It has been a pleasure to exchange compliments with the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, though we shall no doubt revert to more controversial exchanges on a future occasion.
The debate has certainly unveiled many useful and imaginative ideas, particularly about the areas in which there might be collaboration as between Community members in the realm of energy policy, at least on the research side. Areas of practical co-operation between the Nine are very well worth identifying and a few words are worth volumes of theory. There is little doubt that the voice of this debate will be heard in Brussels. We in our Committee certainly look forward to a closer contact and to the two-way exchange of ideas. Our Committee is much encouraged by the tributes paid to its work, and may I add that we have been much encouraged and greatly honoured by your Lordships' reappointment of the main Committee to carry on with the work. We shall go forward with a bold heart to continue to try to serve your Lordships and, through your Lordships, this House; through this House, this country; and, through this country, our Community.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.