HL Deb 15 April 1980 vol 408 cc113-4

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have considered that the increase in electricity prices by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board is in direct contravention of the original charter of this board and could be disastrous both for the Highlands and in particular for the Western Isles of Scotland.

The MINISTER of STATE, SCOTTISH OFFICE (The Earl of Mansfield)

My Lords, the Electricity Consultative Council for the North of Scotland District has submitted formal representations to my right honourable friend under the provisions of Schedule 7 to the Electricity (Scotland) Act 1979, asking that he should give a direction to the board on this matter. My right honourable friend has the representations under consideration.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his Answer, but it is not entirely satisfactory. May I ask whether the Government realise that the original charter of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board was devised largely for the benefit of the Highlands and Islands, and that has not taken place? We have to a large extent been absorbed by the South of Scotland Electricity Board and our headquarters have been moved out of our area. In fact, the savings that could be made in the administration would probably amount to a great deal of money and the cost of electricity, which is very serious in the Highlands and Islands, could be mitigated.


My Lords, I appreciate my noble friend's concern in the matter, but regret I cannot comment further on this aspect of the question since my right honourable friend is presently considering a formal representation from the Consultative Council which may in due course lead to his issuing a direction to the board. It would not be appropriate for me to express any opinion on the legality, and still less the merits, of the board's decision. I should add that the fixing of tariffs is a matter for the commercial judgment of the board and, apart from the possibility of issuing a direction to the board following a representation from the Consultative Council, the Government have no powers to intervene in the board's decision in such matters.


My Lords, in supporting my noble friend Lord Cromartie, may I ask the Minister whether he is aware that the late Mr. Tom Johnston, who was probably the best Secretary of State we ever had in Scotland, assured us that the Highlands would benefit from the water which was running to waste and that water would provide what he considered would be the equivalent of "pit-head prices" to consumers in the North? Is he also aware that Mr. Johnston assured us we would get rateable values accruing in the county council from the harnessing of our rivers, and that did not happen either? I consider that the Highlands have been very badly treated in both instances.


My Lords, without necessarily agreeing with my noble friend's estimate of the gentleman's capabilities as Secretary of State, I am aware of the historical aspects of this particular Question.

Back to