HL Deb 18 November 1981 vol 425 cc504-5

2.46 p.m.

Viscount Rochdale

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 when the results of the public inquiry into the proposals of British Nuclear Fuels Limited and the North-West Water Authority for drawing substantial additional quantities of water from Wastwater and Ennerdale are likely to be published and the Government's decision made known.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, the Government are considering the report of the public inquiry and hope to announce their decision shortly, when the report will also be made public.

Viscount Rochdale

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that very brief answer. Can he give me some indication, briefly, of what it will be?—bearing in mind that the whole matter has been before the public for three and a half years, when the North-West Water Authority first put down their proposal. Is he aware that this very long delay must be causing considerable concern to conservationists and considerable embarrassment to the water authority and to British Nuclear Fuels, not to say actual financial damage when they are considering their forward planning?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, my noble friend has raised this question at a very sensitive time, in that the report, which was received on 25th June 1981, is at this moment being considered by my honourable friends. I hope he will bear in mind that I cannot prejudge their decision at this particular moment.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, will my noble friend agree that it is important to try to speed up public inquiries and their results, both north of the border and south of the border?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, of course I agree with my noble friend. I did say that this report was received only on 25th June 1981, which is not very long ago.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, will the noble Earl bear in mind that, as regards those of us who have the outstanding natural beauty of Wastwater and Ennerdale at heart, our enthusiasm for an early announcement of the Government's decision rather depends on what that decision will be? Is the noble Earl aware that if, in the unlikely event of the Government's decision being contrary to the advice being given to them by the Countryside Commission, the Lake District National Park Committee, the Friends of the Lake District, the CPRE and a host of other bodies, the longer the announcement of the Government's decision is delayed the better, and preferably until we have a new Government who could then take a new decision?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, the noble Lord is making his point very well. I presume that he does not want an answer for the next two and a half years; otherwise, if he is fishing, he will be unsuccessful.