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Power Failure, South-East England

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 16 May 1961

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asked the Minister of Power if he will make a statement about the power failure in the South-East Region on the evening of Monday, 15th May, 1961.

I am told by the Central Electricity Generating Board that the extensive interruption of power supplies in South-Eastern England at 9.30 last night was probably caused by failure in the 132,000-voIt transmission system. This appears to have tripped off the automatic switches on a number of circuits to prevent danger and damage from overloading. All supplies were restored by midnight, and some much earlier. I have had no report of any damage or injury.

The Board has set up a committee of inquiry and its first meeting will be held tomorrow morning. The technical aspects are complicated, and the full investigation will take some time. Meanwhile, all the lines and the cables which had been taken out of service for routine maintenance have been temporarily put back, in order to give the greatest possible security of supply until the investigation is complete.

While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware that there is a great degree of urgency about expediting the report on this matter? I am sure he will appreciate that it was a matter of public concern last night, when the circumstances were somewhat frightening.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the great public concern which has been felt when circumstances could arise in which miners were trapped in the coalfield in Kent, buses were brought to a standstill because of the failure of traffic lights, and hospitals were plunged into darkness? Will he, therefore, treat the matter as one of urgency and make a full statement to the House as soon as possible about the steps which are to be taken to prevent any recurrence?

The whole House is well aware of the dangers and inconvenience that can be caused by this kind of failure. The Board is well aware of the necessity of making its investigation with great speed and I hope that it will be able to complete the inquiry fairly soon.