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Central Electricity Generating Board

Volume 24: debated on Monday 17 May 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on his decision not to reappoint Mr. Glyn England as chairman of the Central Electricity Generating Board.


asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he expects to announce the appointment of the chairman of the Central Electricity Generating Board.

I have written to Mr. England expressing my appreciation of his long and distinguished service to the electricity supply industry. I have decided, however, that it is time for a change. I hope to announce the appointment of a new chairman fairly shortly.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the virtual dismissal of this eminent engineer, who probably knows more about the public electricity supply business than all the race of politicians put together, has caused great resentment within the electricity supply industry? Secondly, is not the the real reason for the virtual dismissal of Mr. Glyn England that he dared to oppose the doctrinaire policies of the Government?

First, the policies of the Government are in no way doctrinaire. Secondly, Mr. England was not dismissed. His five-year appointment simply came to an end. Thirdly, to suggest by implication, as the hon. Gentleman does, that Mr. England is the only man in the electricity supply industry who knows anything about electrical engineering or the industry as a whole——

is to abuse the whole electricity supply industry. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would be the last person to wish to do that.

Does my right hon. Friend accept the desirability of finding a chairman who will be sympathetic towards improving the efficiency of the industry, giving the area boards far greater independence to produce as well as to distribute, and, above all, seeing that the fuel in our power stations is burnt more efficiently, and raising thermal efficiency by doing more to try to market some of the wasted heat?

I am sure that one of the advantages of having a new chairman with a fresh viewpoint—quite possibly from outside the electricity supply industry altogether—will be that it will allow a fresh impetus, to make the industry more efficient for the benefit of domestic and industrial consumers alike. However, it is premature at this stage to judge the means of achieving that greater efficiency.

Does the Secretary of State accept that the going of the chairman of the CEGB has been rather offensively handled, and that other people who may be attracted to the public service may now draw back in view of the way in which it was done? Now that the Secretary of State says that someone may be appointed from outside the electricity generating service, or the professional side, will he assure the House that, whoever is appointed, it will not be a narrow political appointment?

I assure the right hon. Gentleman that whoever is appointed will be the best man for the job and that it will not be what the right hon. Gentleman calls a "narrow political appointment".

Will my right hon. Friend consider requiring that any future chairman of the Central Electricity Generating Board should be under a contractual obligation to place his resignation before any new incoming Government?

My hon. Friend raises a major question of nationalised industry policy in general, which goes far beyond the limited confines of the question.

Does the Secretary of State realise that Governments come and go, as do Secretaries of State? If the chairmen of the various nationalised industries are to suffer because they happen to disagree with the right hon. Gentleman, and are therefore not reappointed, does that not create the impression that it is not the welfare of the country as a whole that matters, and that any Government will look at the problem simply from their political standpoint, not that of the future of the industry?

It is the duty of each Secretary of State of whichever party and whichever Government to do what he thinks is best for the industry and for the nation. That may occasionally involve a change in the chairman of a nationalised industry. That is a fact of life.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of all those replies, I wish to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment next Monday, 24 May, to be precise.