HL Deb 02 November 1976 vol 376 cc1155-7

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time. Your Lordships will recall that in his speech on the Second Reading of this Bill the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, suggested that when a Bill such as this one comes to your Lordships' House from another place endorsed with the Speakers' Certificate that it is a Money Bill then the fact that it is a Money Bill should be stated clearly on the text of the Bill. I undertook to take up this suggestion, which appeared to me, with respect, to be a valuable one. I have now done this, and I can tell the noble Earl that his proposal is at present being considered by the House authorities, and I am optimistic that we may be able to take one small step towards greater clarity as a result of his initiative. My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, that the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord McCluskey.)


My Lords, I should like to make one small point. I must apologise to the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, that I omitted to give him his "learned" appellation in my congratulations on his maiden speech. I had not appreciated at the time that all Law Officers of the Crown in this House were "learned". I now do know that, and I apologise to him for the omission.

The Earl of SELKIRK

My Lords, may I thank the noble and learned Lord for what he has said. It is a wonderful thing in this House actually to get something done; and may I say that the noble and learned Lord has already made a deep impact in this House in the short time he has been here.


My Lords, I would not take the time of the House on the Third Reading of a Money Bill especially when we are so pressed as we are if it were not for a very exceptional circumstance. When the Bill was debated on Second reading last Tuesday the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, made his businesslike maiden speech which I am sorry I missed. But he devoted a significant part of it as your Lordships will see in col.412 to the provision of capital expenditure for the nuclear power station at Torness in East Lothian where I live. The figure he mentioned—and it is commonly known; it came out in a Government Paper—was £600 million at current price levels. On that very day came the announcement of the proving of some 50 million tons of good quality coal under the Forth near Musselburgh some 25 miles away and right beside the existing Cockenzie Power Station. The Scottish Press rang with the news and The Scotsman's headline was: Major coal find may mean end of nuclear power plan". The local weekly papers in East Lothian reacted in the same strain.

My object in taking your Lordships' time is simply that I feel this should go on the record as we give this Bill its Third Reading, as we must, especially because this announcement came the same day as the Second Reading—and that is what is so odd. Torness is already beset with difficulties. Inevitable indecision as to the type of reactor to be employed, as the noble and learned Lord said in his speech; bitter technical objections to the selection of the site and its costly seawall—a problem which is still unsettled so far as I know—local fears about nuclear dangers; loud local protests on environmental and amenity grounds not only in regard to the powerhouse which is not necessarily unattractive thing but the labyrinth of power lines which must radiate from it; there are local demands for more labour-intensive undertakings and now next door work for almost 500 miners for 100 years. These were the figures of the East Lothian Courier; they are not mine.

There it is, my Lords: The space in the Cockenzie—Musselburgh area for more generating plant with an existing cats-cradle of power lines. I hope your Lordships will agree that, in giving this Bill a Third Reading, these factors should be recorded—as they must now be registered in the mind of the Government which I am sure they are. That was the object of my intervention; and of course willy-nilly I support the noble and learned Lord's proposal that this Bill should be read a third time.


My Lords, I wish to support my noble friend. He used the very mild word "odd". It is indeed a most odd situation that we should be engaged on a Bill to deal with a nuclear power station and suddenly there is sprung upon Scotland—at least, upon those in Scotland who are not closely involved in the coal industry—this marvellous discovery of coal under the Forth. Of course, it had been known that there was coal there, but not, I suppose, the extent of it. Suddenly to have this discovery made at the same time as we arc talking about making plans for building a nuclear power station seems most extremely odd. I should like to reinforce what the perspicacity of my noble friend has brought to the surface today.


My Lords, if I may say so, the Government endeavour to be farsighted and farseeing but, in fact, the consent which is issued under Section 2 of the Electric Lighting Act 1909 for construction of the Torness generating station followed a public local inquiry in February 1975. The consent carried with it planning permission for the use of the site for the erection of the nuclear power station but, as I said in my speech on Second Reading, no work on the construction of the station will be undertaken before the completion of the examination of the future of the steam generating heavy water reactor programme. An examination is now being carried out by the Government. I think my remarks are contained in column 411. While acknowledging what the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, has said, I do not think I used the expression "beset with difficulties".

On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed.