asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if his attention has been drawn to the inability of the Southern Electricity Board to proceed with their plans to supply electricity to Woodland St. Mary and Lambourn Woodlands in Berkshire, owing to the high costs consequent on the requirement of the Air Ministry that part of the cable should be laid underground and if, in view of the urgent need for electricity to be supplied to these districts, he will consult with the Service Departments to ensure that such adventitious costs are met from public funds.
The question whether the Southern Electricity Board should proceed with this particular extension is a matter relating to the day-to-day operation of the Board and not one in which my right hon. Friend can intervene. As regards the cost of the work, there do not appear to be any special circumstances which would justify an approach being made to the Service Departments with a suggestion that they should vary the recognised practice in such cases.
Is it not a fact that the Southern Electricity Board have reached agreement with the local residents to proceed with their scheme, and that, through the action of the Air Ministry, the cost of the scheme was made prohibitive by some £4,000 or £5,000 by their requirement that some of the cables must be laid underground? Should that not be a charge on public funds rather than a prohibition on local residents?
There are many occasions when it is necessary to lay underground cables rather than have overhead wires, and this case did not seem to be one for intervention by the Department.
Is this not another case similar to one we heard about in. the last few weeks? Surely, the Government made the claim that nationalisation would provide cheap supplies of electricity in the rural areas?
Not at all. That has nothing to do with it. This has been the common practice of the electricity industry for many years.