Skip to main content

Power Plant Industry

Volume 927: debated on Monday 7 March 1977

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement on the outcome of his consultations on the CPRS Report on the electrical plant industry.

When will the consultations be concluded? When will the announcement be made? Can my right hon. Friend assure us that discussions about mergers will not delay a decision on Drax B?

The discussions are being pressed ahead as quickly as possible. I agree with my hon. Friend that the matter is urgent. I have had meetings with the companies concerned, the TUC Fuel and Power Committee and the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, the unions most directly involved in representing the men who work in the industry. The consultations will be pressed ahead as quickly as possible, but I think that it will be some little time before I can make a definitive statement to the House. However, I can tell my hon. Friend that we want agreement in principle for a restructured heavy electrical plant industry and that we see Drax B as a first component in a minimum ordering programme for the CEGB.

Will the Secretary of State remind his hon. Friend that the CPRS Report stated that the Drax B decision, taken in isolation from all others, would only postpone redundancies in Newcastle and elsewhere for about two years? Will he assure the House that no decision will be taken to oblige the Central Electricity Generating Board to order power plants for which there is no apparent need if that will have the effect of putting up industrial costs for employers in every other industry throughout the country?

What is at stake is whether we should preserve the heavy electrical plant industry. It is clear that if we were not to have a minimum ordering programme, of which Drax B is an essential part, we should probably finish up with no heavy electrical plant industry. The discussions with the companies concerned are going ahead as quickly as possible. I hope shortly to be able to make a statement about the outcome.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he last used the phrase "as quickly as possible" at the end of February? The end of February has passed without its coming about. Is he also aware that my constituents will welcome what he said about Drax B, but that the redundancies in C. A. Parsons' plant in my constituency are now imminent and that we must have an announcement from him soon?

I can only re-emphasise that I understand the urgency of the situation, but we must get some restructuring of the industries concerned. That is our policy, which is in line with the CPRS Report. I hope that further progress can be made in the days and weeks ahead. It is our view, too, that the National Enterprise Board should be involved in the discussions. I understand that the companies have already had discussions with that body.

Will the Secretary of State, in considering this very difficult matter which is on his plate, bear in mind that any money to provide a power station ahead of requirement must come from somewhere and that as many jobs may be destroyed and as much industrial damage done elsewhere in finding the money as in the solution which some people are urging on him?

I do not see the situation quite in those terms. It is clear that the CEGB will have to order power stations, as will the two Scottish boards, in the 1980s. We are talking about having a minimum ordering programme and preserving an industry which we certainly hope will have an export potential. It is clear that if we let our industry go we shall be permanent prisoners of overseas suppliers. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman would like to see that situation.