HL Deb 28 January 1987 vol 483 cc1330-1


Lord Campbell of Croy

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 how effectively the suppliers of energy in the United Kingdom have met the very high demands during the recent severe cold spell.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, the energy supply industries did a commendable job in meeting the record levels of demand brought about by some of the coldest weather experienced in this century.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his reply. Did any power cuts have to be made deliberately, as distinct from the effects of the weather on overhead lines, and did gas supplies run out anywhere?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, in spite of extreme weather conditions, electricity supplies were in general maintained and there were no major breakdowns in the gas supply system.

Lord Mellish

My Lords, may I ask the Minister how much of the electricity supply was supplied from nuclear power, both from France and this country? What percentage of it was nuclear, and have the Government yet had any protest from those who protest about nuclear power?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I cannot give the exact figures for the amount of electricity produced from nuclear power for the particular period, but I can say, so far as concerns imports of electricity, that I understand that the CEGB took supplies from both France and Scotland during the severe cold weather and that those were valuable in meeting the record levels of demand.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, further to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, if the noble Viscount does not know what contribution was made by nuclear power and by the AGRs in particular, will he look into that and give us the information? Is he aware that in paragraph 90.18 of the Sizewell Report we are told that impressive improvements in AGR construction performance became apparent during the course of the inquiry? Therefore rather than there being a one in five chance of the AGR being superior to the pressurised water reactor, what has happened in the recent cold spell may point to a much stronger argument in favour of retaining our own gas-cooled reactors.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I admire the way in which the noble Lord has brought Sizewell into this Question. That is another question.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, is it correct that the peak period of demand on 12th January reached a record figure in England and Wales? Does my noble friend agree that the industries concerned are to be congratulated, because if they can get through that severe period they can tackle any other?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I agree that this was a record demand figure and that the workers in all the energy supply industries did a magnificent job in keeping supplies going during this period of exceptionally severe weather. They deserve our heartfelt thanks and appreciation.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, is the noble Viscount aware that we wish to associate ourselves with the congratulations that have just been uttered? Will he associate with them also thanks for the personal efforts of those in the transport industry and also those on repairs and maintenance and so on who contributed to there being no significant breakdowns during this very extreme period?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, yes; I am delighted to do so.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, we were told last week from the Government Front Bench that it takes eight years to plan and build a power station. Ought not the noble Viscount to congratulate the Labour Governments from 1964 to 1979 on their careful planning of the power supply for the late 1980s?

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