HL Deb 25 February 1988 vol 493 cc1314-26

4.41 p.m.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall now repeat a Statement on electricity privatisation which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy. The Statement is as follows:

"With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a Statement about the future of the electricity supply industry in England and Wales.

"In our manifesto, we promised to bring forward proposals to privatise the industry. Our purpose is to give the customer and the employees a better deal and a direct stake in the industry. I believe the industry will achieve more if it is moved into the private sector, freed from government interference, and made accountable to its customers and shareholders, including its employees.

"In framing my proposals, I have adopted six principles: Decisions about the supply of electricity should be driven by the needs of customers. Competition is the best guarantee of the customers' interests. Regulation should be designed to promote competition, oversee prices and protect the customers' interests in areas where natural monopoly will remain. Security and safety of supply must be maintained. Customers should be given new rights, not just safeguards. All who work in the industry should be offered a direct stake in their future, new career opportunities and the freedom to manage their commercial affairs without interference from government. "There is substantial room for competition in the electricity industry. The distribution and transmission of electricity are largely natural monopolies, in which it would not be economic to duplicate resources. But there is no natural monopoly in electricity generation, which accounts for some three-quarters of the cost of electricity. Only if competition is introduced will there be real incentives for generators to build power stations efficiently, to have their stations available and to fuel and run them efficiently.

"There are three conditions which must be met if competition in generation is to develop. First, the effective monopoly enjoyed by the Central Electricity Generating Board will have to be ended. It will not be sufficient to leave the CEGB in its dominant position and rely on the growth of competition from Scotland, France and private generators. Secondly, ownership and control of the national grid will have to be transferred to the distribution side of the industry. However well regulated, the CEGB would have little incentive to allow competing generators fair access to a grid it owned and controlled. Private generating companies would have little incentive to enter the market and compete. Finally, the CEGB's obligation to provide bulk supplies of electricity will have to be ended, since it obliges the CEGB to take all the key decisions on power supply.

"I therefore propose to introduce legislation at the earliest opportunity to provide powers to restructure and privatise the industry. These powers will be used to reorganise the CEGB into three new companies. The first will be a new generating company, owning some 30 per cent. of the CEGB's existing capacity, all of it non-nuclear. The second will comprise the remainder of the CEGB's generating capacity, both fossil-fuelled and nuclear. The third will be a national grid company, whose ownership will be transferred to the 12 existing area hoards. The area hoards will in turn be converted into 12 distribution companies, preserving their strong regional identity. The Government will consult the industry about the implications of privatisation for the employees and continuing functions of the Electricity Council, but the council itself will be abolished when the new structure is put in place. Once they have been established, the shares in the 12 distribution companies and two generating companies will be sold to the public and employees.

"In future the distribution companies will be able to look to private generators, Scotland, France, the two large generating companies or their own generation to meet demand. The new structure will introduce competition, which will be the best guarantee of the customer's interests. But the legislation will also provide safeguards and new rights. It will create new opportunities for employees.

"First, it will establish regulatory arrangements to promote competition, to provide incentives for efficiency and to oversee electricity prices to the consumer.

"Secondly, a number of measures will be taken to ensure the security of supply. Because there are no alternatives to electricity in many of its uses, security of supply is of great importance. The legislation will therefore place a clear obligation to supply on the 12 distribution companies, which will ensure that they contract for sufficient capacity. But security of supply is not simply a question of having sufficient capacity. Power has to be transmitted through the national grid, and the grid controllers have a central role in planning and directing the use of power stations so as to prevent the failure of the system and to minimise cost. Our proposals will ensure that the national grid company, owned by the distribution companies, retains this central role. The integrity of the grid and the operation of power stations in merit order will be preserved.

"The other principal condition for maintaining secure supply is to ensure that electricity is generated from a diversity of fuels. It would be irresponsible to rely on fossil fuels to meet all our electricity generating requirements. The legislation will therefore provide for a clear obligation to be placed on the distribution companies to contract for a specified proportion of non fossil-fuelled generating capacity.

"The legislation will also incorporate an electricity supply code, consolidating and updating the legislation that currently governs the supply of electricity, dating back to the last century. Above all, we will maintain present standards of safety throughout the industry.

"Finally, the legislation will establish new rights for the consumer. Even after privatisation, the local distribution companies will remain natural monopolies. Although their prices will he regulated, I do not believe this will be sufficient. The consumer will therefore be given the right to financial compensation if the distribution companies fail to provide a guaranteed level of service. They will also be required to provide a range of indicators of standards of service, which will be published.

"Competition and the other measures I have described will benefit the consumer. But the employee will also benefit, and that is just as important. The new structure of the industry will provide wider career opportunities for employees, and there will be attractive provisions to ensure that they can acquire shares. Existing pension obligations will be safeguarded. The legislation will make no changes to the industry's negotiating and consultation machinery.

"Because of the importance of these proposals, I am today publishing them in the form of a White Paper and copies are now available in the Library and in the Vote Office.

"The electricity industry has much to be proud of, but I believe it can achieve more. My proposals will create a modern competitive industry, owned by the public and responsive to the needs of customers and employees. There are real benefits in prospect".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, we are grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement made in the other place. However, I am afraid that there are a number of questions which I shall have to ask him today. The first question has to be: why? We know about the manifesto commitment, but we have seen with other issues that manifesto commitments arc not always implemented and often the mandate is questionable. So what evidence is there of the need to privatise? At the moment we enjoy security of supply. The Minister gave us six principles to which he is working, but the first five of those are already satisfied.

Security of supply was proved in the recent disasters that we suffered, particularly in October last year. Nothing could have been better than the work which the present supply industry carried out. We are aware too that an efficient integrated system is widely recognised throughout the world as being the best way of organising. There is not a non-integrated electricity supply system anywhere in the world. We wonder what the excuse is for dismantling that in the way which is now being proposed.

We have low prices in spite of the recent increases which have been announced. I shall return to that in a moment. May I ask who has advised the Secretary of State on his proposed structure? Is he not attempting to construct an inappropriate competition model in an industry where it is not in place anywhere in the world? We should like to evaluate the quality of the advice, so I must ask the Minister again where that advice came from. Regarding prices, does the Minister accept that an Electricity Council report shows that our electricity prices are the seventh cheapest of the 20 OECD countries, and that the six countries where prices are cheaper all have state-owned electricity supply industries? That is a point which should not be readily abandoned.

The Statement mentions security; but it is not at all clear from the paragraph on security who will be ultimately responsible for it. Does the Minister appreciate the importance of security of supply in this very sophisticated society where our whole economy can be brought to a halt if there is any long interruption in supply?

We have a debate tomorrow morning on the paving Bill for this legislation and I propose to reserve my other questions until then. However, I must finally say to the Minister that at the end of this exercise which we are now discussing we shall still have a regulated monopoly. The aim of competition will not be achieved, it has been admitted even in the Statement. Is this not just a money raising exercise in order to finance more tax cuts?

Lord Ezra

My Lords, I too should like to welcome the Statement and the opportunity that it gives us of initially having a discussion on this important issue, and asking some questions.

Incidentally I should like to ask the noble Viscount whether he can throw any light on the fact that The Times this morning was able so accurately to forecast what was contained in the Statement that was read to us today. I should also like to remind the noble Viscount of the Question put by the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, on Monday, the burden of which was that a Green Paper would be preferable to a White Paper so that we could have a wider debate. However the Government have decided otherwise and we are now faced with the White Paper. I should like to limit myself to five questions which I believe cover the crucial issues which arise from this measure.

First is the question of security of supply. This has already been referred to by the noble Baroness. Lady Nicol. Many of us have been concerned at the debate which has been going on about this in which the noble Lord, Lord Marshall, has pointed out in many statements referred to in the press that he would not feel that the security of the supply of electricity could be guaranteed if the CEGB were broken up. That was a viewpoint expressed by the man who is managing the industry at present. Are the Government satisfied that the question of security of supply can he adequately catered for under the measures which they now propose?

Secondly there is the matter of competition on which the Government set great store. But will this new arrangement induce the maximum degree of competition? We shall have two mammoth concentrations of power of which 70 per cent. will be concentrated in one company and 30 per cent. in another. What chance will the smaller generators have in facing up to those- two great companies? There has been much discussion in the press on the part of economic experts who have taken the view that if there was to be a break up and competition was to be stimulated there should have been many more companies involved.

Thirdly there is the matter of the proportion of non-fossil fuel to be used for the generation of electricity. This was mentioned in the Statement and is presumably to cover nuclear energy. But when the proportion is imposed on the distribution companies (which is apparently intended) will it include other forms of non-fossil fuel energy such as wind power, tidal power, and so on'? Will the companies be able to choose between the different forms of non-fossil fuel energy in the proportions which are allocated to them?

Fourthly there is the regulatory system. It is interesting to note that the Government consider that the regulatory system for electricity should be a good deal tougher than that which was proposed for gas. Many of us felt that that was fairly weak when it was going through the Committee stage. But if there is going to be a tough regulatory system in a situation in which competition is being stimulated, how will this bear down upon the smaller companies? Are they likely to suffer from an excess of regulation which will prevent them from competing with the bigger companies which could take that in their stride?

Finally there is the matter of the consumers. A lot of emphasis was put in the Statement on the rights of consumers. But what was not clear was whether the consumer councils were going to be retained or not. There was a debate on that in this House last night in which we compared the contrasting ways in which the consumers' interests were attempted to be safeguarded in the telecommunications industry and in the gas industry. Which way will it go under electricity? That was not clear.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I shall start by warmly congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, on her appointment as the official Opposition spokeswoman on energy. I must say that I sympathise with her for having been thrown in at the deep end and in having as her first task to respond to a Statement which is both technical and inevitably politically controversial. But she has shown that she is clearly not out of her depth on the subject. I look forward to facing the noble Baroness across the Dispatch Box, if not always in harmony at least with goodwill on both sides.

I should also like to take this opportunity to express my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, for the very amicable relationship which we enjoy outside the Chamber although it may not always have been apparent inside the Chamber. I wish him well in his retirement from the Front Bench.

Before beginning to answer the questions from the noble Baroness and the noble Lord perhaps I may just remind your Lordships on a general point that a White Paper setting out the proposals in detail is being published today. Some of the questions which have been asked already do find an answer in the White Paper. Also, there is to be a general debate on energy in the name of my noble friend Lord Beloff on 9th March which will give your Lordships an opportunity to discuss all aspects of energy generation in detail. This of course does not preclude a debate on the White Paper which if required would be arranged through the usual channels. However I thought it courteous at this stage to remind your Lordships of that debate.

The noble Baroness asked me a number of questions. First she asked why the Government were doing this. The proposals of my right honourable friend are widely supported within the industry. The majority accepts that it is perfectly possible to have the grid and power stations owned by different companies. The Institution of Electrical Engineers takes the same view. These proposals will preserve the current role of the national grid while introducing real competition. We feel that real competition will come about under the proposals.

As regards the overseas experience. I must say that every electricity supply system in the world is different. Nowhere else in the world is there a supply system like the one we have at present. Most systems—as indeed our own system at the beginning of the century—evolved piecemeal. In Germany for example there are over 600 companies supplying electricity to the consumer. Overseas models provide useful lessons for us to learn and we have studied several overseas systems. That has shown that no one country's system is the best and is the one that we should use. As the Government have shown with previous privatisations, they are leading the way and not following other countries.

Regarding prices, there is considerable misunderstanding. The price increase that we are talking about in April is in effect the first electricity price increase since 1985. On average domestic electricity prices have fallen by about 15 per cent. in real terms over the past five years and average industrial prices have fallen by even more than that. The electricity price rise due in April will add only between one-fifth and one-eighth of 1 per cent. to industry's costs in England and Wales.

Both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, spoke about security of supply. As I have already indicated, that is covered in detail in the White Paper. I shall quote from the beginning of paragraph 44 where it is stated: There are three principal conditions for a secure supply of electricity: Proper control of the generating and transmission systems, to ensure that power can be delivered where it is needed. Sufficient generating capacity to meet demand. Protection against interruptions in fuel supply. All those matters are covered in that section of the White Paper.

As regards alternative forms of supply, of course all the area boards will be able to take their supply from whatever is available and is offered to them. That is where the choice really comes in. The regulator, about which the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, asked, is based on two of the Secretary of State's six principles: competition is the best guarantee of the customer's interest, and regulation should be designed to promote competition, oversee prices and protect the customer's interest in areas where natural monopoly will remain. Distribution transmission will remain largely a matter for monopolies which will need an effective regulatory regime; and this will be based on price control as for gas, telecommunications and airports. The Director General of Oftel in his recent consultative document concluded that no case appears to exist for changing from a "price-cap" approach to one which is more closely related to the rate of return.

On the last point made by the noble Lord. Lord Ezra, on the consumer interests, I certainly sat in and listened to the Unstarred Question last night put down by the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs. I can assure your Lordships that it will be very much in the interests of the area boards to ensure that consumer relations are given the very highest priority. In addition, the benefits of the national grid will be maintained. There will be guarantees of standards and regulation, including technical regulation, as there is at present. There will be penalties for companies which perform badly, and compensation for consumers. We will ensure that power is supplied to consumers in an efficient, reliable and safe manner. I hope that I have answered most, if not all, of the questions put by the noble Baroness and the noble Lord.

5 p.m.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

My Lords, perhaps I may ask several questions of my noble friend. He referred first to the Government's belief that the industry will achieve more on this new basis. Will he be good enough to give the foundations for that belief, seeing that the competition will be very much more apparent than real so far as most customers are concerned?

My second question is: to whom will the duty to supply, at present on the shoulders of the generating board, he transferred? My next question is this: is my noble friend aware that the suggestion that the responsibility for the grid to be transferred to the area boards is one which causes me at any rate considerable alarm and concern?

Lastly, does my noble friend appreciate that to propound a policy for electricity which makes no reference to coal is really something very unrealistic: so much so that proposals which do not contain such a reference can hardly be taken very seriously?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, perhaps I may take the extremely important question of coal first. I must tell my noble friend that coal will continue to be the major source of fuel for electricity generation for years to come. British Coal has increased its productivity by 50 per cent. in the last four or five years and my right honourable friend is confident that it can supply coal reliably and competitively. Her Majesty's Government have shown their commitment to the future of British Coal through an investment of £2 million a day. I stress that reliability will of course be important from the point of view of getting contracts and the geographical position of British Coal will continue to give it an advantage so far as competition is concerned.

I must disagree with my noble friend on one point. I am quite convinced that there will be a very strong element of competition and the transfer of' the grid from the CEGB to the area boards will have a considerable effect on this. The purpose of privatising the industry is to introduce real, visible and effective competition. I would advise my noble friend perhaps to postpone judgment upon these matters until he has read the White Paper.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, would the noble Viscount care to tell the House a little more about who will eventually own the industry? Is it not a fact that at the moment the industry is owned by the taxpayers? Would he care to tell us what steps will be taken to ensure that foreign interests will not be enabled by various means to own this industry? Also, will the Minister address himself to the explanation that the industry is all for what he has proposed? For instance, would he tell us the response of those who work in the industry, that is, the employees? What consultation has taken place with them to enable him to make that statement? Would he also care to tell us what consumer bodies he has consulted in order to be able to say that those who are affected by the industry are all for it too?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, the industry will be owned by the shareholders and I trust that the employees will be very strongly represented among their number. So far as foreign interests are concerned, I have to say to the noble Lord that this is looking much too far into the future at the moment. I am afraid that that is as far as I can go.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, can the noble Viscount say whether the White Paper includes any references to various knotty problems lying behind the scenes, such as the future of the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, the future of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, the future of the NNC (that is the Government holding in the subsidiary which designs nuclear plants), the future of Barnwell, which does "trouble-shooting" for the conventional plants, the future of the fast reactor at Dounreay and the future of British Nuclear Fuels in relation to what the new set-up is going to be? If the White Paper does not include those items, I think that before we debate it there should be a supplement issued to the White Paper dealing with them.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I can tell the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, that the future status of the NII, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, and the NNC will not be changed by the proposals announced today. The nuclear safety regime does not depend on the ownership of the power stations. We are determined to maintain the current high standards.

So far as Barwood is concerned—that is the CEGB's generation and transmission research division—it will be up to the industry to propose the best means of continuity in order to make the best use of its important expertise. As regards the fast reactor at Dounreay, in itself privatisation will not mean any change. I can say that the Government remain committed to the future of their nuclear programme.

Lord Gray of Contin

My Lords, will my noble friend accept that there are many in the country tonight who will be greatly relieved that such a Statement has been made, particularly as it affects the nuclear industry? It will be seen as being implicit in the White Paper that the Government confirm their wholehearted support for that industry.

Will my noble friend also accept that the seven-minute Statement which he made contained an enormous amount of information which the House will wish to study with care. Indeed there are many questions which come to mind which it would be wrong to pose without further consideration. However, will he accept that there are two points which I believe to be of vital importance? The first is the commitment in the first of the requirements which the Secretary of State has set out, that the supply of electricity will be governed by the needs of the consumer. One would hope that within this context it will be borne in mind that the domestic consumer in this country has enjoyed cheap electricity for a very long period of time and that it will be necessary, between now and the time that a Bill following upon this White Paper is presented, for a major exercise in communication to be carried out. Is it not the case that the Government are fortunate in having as their Secretary of State for Energy probably the best communicator within the Palace of Westminster.

Finally, will my noble friend accept that the integrity of the grid is essential? We are happy that it is to be maintained and that the merit order within the power station sector is also to be maintained. These are of vital importance to future supply.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend and accept everything that he says. I shall convey his remarks to my right honourable friend.

Lord Peston

My Lords, can the noble Viscount confirm one matter that I understood him to say, namely, that the ordinary consumer of electricity will still be confronted with a monopoly supplier and that there will no competition at that level at all? Therefore, the market for electricity at that level will be regulated, subject to price control, and in any meaningful sense of the word there will be no competition or free market in that respect?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, there will he competition.

Lord Peston

My Lords, where will there be competition?

Lord Grimond

My Lords, some of us at least do not believe that the consumer can be reconciled to increases in electricity prices by a massive public relations exercise, as appears to have been suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Gray of Contin. Can the noble Viscount explain why, when the raw materials— the fuels that generate electricity—are coming down in price, a 10 per cent. increase in price is necessary?

Secondly, can he reply to the question asked by my noble friend Lord Ezra as to how the details of the White Paper appeared this morning in the press? Thirdly, can he say what will be the effects of the proposals upon the coal industry in Scotland?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, the question of Scotland is a separate one. In due course there will be a Statement on Scottish electricity and a separate White Paper.

I cannot comment on what appeared in the press this morning. I am not the Minister but the spokesman in the House. I do not know about that at all.

Lord Grimond

My Lords, the noble Viscount has not explained why a 10 per cent. increase in electricity prices is necessary when the prices of the fuels that generate electricity are decreasing.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I am afraid that I shall have to write to the noble Lord.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, perhaps my noble friend can help me on several points in the Statement, which leaves me blinded by science. First, is it not the case that, if the grid is to maintain the existing highly successful merit order in which stations are brought into supply under conditions of competition, the generators will all need to have surplus capacity to compete, which in turn must surely raise rather than lower prices?

Secondly, can he say whether the two mammoth companies of the CEGB—one being 30 per cent., and the other, 70 per cent.—will themselves be mainly responsible for providing the new generating capacity valued at £45 billion to provide 13 GW of electricity capacity by the end of the century? Will they provide it all or part and, if the latter, how large a part are the Government looking to other new companies to provide?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, we are going quite a long way into the future. The Statement says that the existing Central Electricity Generating Board will be re-organised into three new companies. It continues: The first will be a new generating company, owning sonic 30 per cent. of the CEGB's existing capacity, all of it non-nuclear. The second will comprise the remainder of the CEGB's generating capacity, both fossil-fuelled and nuclear. The third will be a national grid company, whose ownership will be transferred to the 12 existing area boards". In addition, the area boards will be able to generate electricity themselves so there will be competition.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Lords, can my noble friend explain why it is suggested that all the nuclear stations should be grouped in one of the two generating boards? Can he assure me that this will in no way inhibit the transfer of the shares in both generating boards to the general public and that there is no fear that he has not listened to the anxieties of those who said that nuclear power would be safe only in state hands? Is it not a fact that in many of our competitor countries round the world some of the most efficient nuclear stations in operation have been operated by private companies?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, the Government are confident that investors will be attracted to the prospects of the privatised industry. The private generating companies in other countries have shown that nuclear power can be a successful private sector investment.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, perhaps my noble friend can answer a question that occurred to me in the course of the Statement. There are of course not simply two great groups of nuclear fossil and non-fossil fuels, but many different types of generator. Who would be responsible for the fundamental and applied research in this field as to the different types of generating capacity that will be employed? Where is the scientific research in the picture?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, the new companies will have the same motivation to invest in research and development. It is possible that the increased commercial awareness that will result from privatisation will increase useful research and development in consumer-related areas.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, can my noble friend confirm whether the White Paper refers to the provision of new capacity needed by the end of the century?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I regret that I do not have the answer at my fingertips. Perhaps my noble friend would like to read the White Paper first.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, the noble Viscount, in reply to my noble friend Lord Peston, said that consumers would enjoy a competitive situation as between different sources of supply. The choice in generation and scope for competition is defined in paragraphs 41, 42 and 43 of the White Paper, of which I have a copy. It is perfectly clear from the White Paper that the distribution companies will have to bid for part of their business in a competitive environment. According to the White Paper: Adjacent distribution companies could find themselves competing to supply large users near their common borders". Is it not the case that this does not apply to small consumers, the matter to which my noble friend Lord Peston referred, so that there will he no competition in that respect?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, a large number of companies will allow greater scope for competition by emulation and inter-company comparison. It will give the regulator a wider range of information on which to base his judgments. The companies will be able to build on their own local identity and existing customer relationships. Even with 12 companies, each will he one of the largest companies in its area.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, on Monday the House accepted a recommendation of the Procedure Committee of this House that Statements should not exceed 20 minutes. I have not intervened— in any case, I am in the hands of the House—but that was accepted by the House only four days ago. We ought at least, I think, pay some cognisance to what we accepted on only Monday.

Perhaps I may suggest that, after we have taken the question of the noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston, the House might then consider how we proceed, having taken half an hour already. I realise that this is an important Statement. That is why I have not intervened before.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, I assume that when the noble Viscount refers to the grid he means the national grid and ignores all the other grids that exist in electricity supply.

In the last severe winter, by common agreement distribution boards moved staff and resources from one area to another to ensure security of supply. That was arranged through the normal working arrangements of the Electricity Counci. Will there be an obligation on any of the new distribution boards or companies to supply that kind of service to other areas? If not, will it he left entirely to their own commercial judgment to decide the cost of providing such services, should they provide them?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, supplies of electricity will continue to be secure and reliable. The benefits of the national grid will be maintained under privatisation in the same way as they have been maintained when not privatised.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, with all respect to the noble Lord, the Leader of the House, I did not ask about the national grid. I want specifically to distinguish betwen the national grid and local grids. I must explain because evidently the Minister does not appreciate the difference. There are two kinds of grid: there is the national grid and in rural areas there are grids which supply electricity to outlying farms and dwelling houses. In the last severe winter it was necessary to transfer resources from the Merseyside and North Wales electricity board to the south. Will there be an obligation on the hoards to carry out that kind of exercise? If there is, will the Minister tell me who will bear the costs of transferring those resources from one board to another?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, it will be in the interests of the area boards that all electricity supplies are maintained all the time. I am afraid that I cannot answer the last part of the noble Lord's question.