HL Deb 15 October 1986 vol 480 cc800-2

2.50 p.m.

Baroness Robson of Kiddington

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the report of the inspector at the Sizewell public inquiry has been sent to the Department of Energy and when it will be published.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I understand that the inspector intends to deliver his report to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy in the next few weeks. My right honourable friend will arrange the publication date after he has received the report.

Baroness Robson of Kiddington

My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount for that reply, but I cannot say that it is encouraging as I thought publication was closer than it seems to be. Can he say whether preliminary discussions have taken place with the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate and whether it is likely that the power station will be given full safety clearance for a construction licence?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I regret that I am unable to prejudge or speculate on any of the inspector's recommendations.

Lord Taylor of Mansfield

My Lords, can the noble Viscount state the cost of this inquiry and how long it has taken since its inception?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I am unable to state that today, I am afraid.

Lord Morris

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend why Her Majesty's Government will receive the report for publication? Why has this been necessary?

Viscount Davidson

Because, my Lords, that is the normal practice.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, is the noble Viscount aware that there is a great deal of disquiet over this report, which was first promised at the back end of last year, then in February, then in July and then in September? We have still not received it and the noble Viscount is still unable to give a firm date for its receipt by his department and for publication to the country. May I have an assurance from him that the Government will take no decisions until this matter has been discussed fully and decided by both Houses of Parliament? Do the Government intend that a decision on Sizewell B should be taken before or after the next election?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, the preparation and submission of the report is a matter for the inspector. Once my right honourable friend has the report he intends to reach a decision as soon as possible. So far as concerns any future debate, I suggest that that is a matter to be raised in due course through the normal channels.

Baroness Burton of Coventry

My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount a question that I put some time ago? Are the Government considering any possibility of solving these serious problems by other means than these very lengthy and expensive inquiries?

Viscount Davidson

I am afraid, my Lords, that I am not in a position to answer that question.

Lord Broxbourne

My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that the House can have every confidence in the inspector of this inquiry, whose conscientious zeal and ability are apparent to all who have the privilege of knowing him, and that the length of the proceedings is a manifestation of the application of that zeal and conscientiousness?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I have pleasure in confirming my noble friend's remarks.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, is the noble Viscount aware that the CEGB has made it known that before too long further generating capacity will be required? In view of the length of this inquiry, the time that it has no doubt justifiably taken to report and the time that will be required for consideration of the report, would it not be desirable to make a decision to go ahead with the coal-fired power station in the meantime, as was discussed last Monday?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, that is a matter for the Central Electricity Generating Board.