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Power Station Efficiency

Volume 889: debated on Monday 7 April 1975

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4.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what study he has made of the efficiency of power stations; what was the impact on this efficiency of the mass employment of outside contractors, evidence of which has been supplied to him by the hon. Member for Cannock; and if he will make a statement.

My right hon. Friend regularly reviews the efficiency of power stations with the Central Electricity Generating Board. The use of outside contractors is, however, a matter falling within the day-to-day management responsibilities of the industry.

My hon. Friend will be aware that an investigation at power stations in my constituency was recently undertaken on my behalf. Will he take it that there is a considerable impression in that area that the employment of contractors, and hence of subcontractors, must involve a profit at each stage and that this can in no way contribute to economic efficiency? Will he accept that there is a dark suspicion among workers in the industry that in some of the employment of contractors and subcontractors there is an element of hidden denationalisation?

I am aware of my hon. Friend's constituency interest and of the information which he has gathered. I understand that he had a full explanation from Mr. Arthur Hawkins, the Chairman of the CEGB. I ask my hon. Friend to accept from me that what he regards as the high level of contractor involvement in Rugeley in 1974–75 was due to a major overhaul at the station, and there was no question of the industry's own staff being underemployed or being prevented from earning their bonuses. On the contrary, the staff have earned the maximum bonus available over the period of the overhaul.

Would not the biggest improvement in the economic efficiency of power stations come if the CEGB were directed to do something about marketing its waste heat? What is the Department doing to speed up that programme?

There is a Question about that later on the Order Paper. I remind the hon. Gentleman that day-to-day matters in the running of the Central Electricity Generating Board are matters for the board.