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Civil Nuclear Power

Volume 116: debated on Wednesday 13 May 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will estimate the effect on electricity prices in Scotland of phasing out civil nuclear power.

The South of Scotland Electricity Board estimates that tariffs would have to rise by about 30 per cent. if civil nuclear power generation were to be phased out in Scotland.

I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for his reply. Does he agree that if Labour and the alliance got their way and scrapped nuclear power the high energy using industries would leave Scotland altogether? In particular, will my right hon. and learned Friend reiterate that if Opposition policies to scrap nuclear power are implemented the British pulp mill at Irvine will never go into production?

I agree with my hon. Friend. The Liberal assembly voted to abandon nuclear power, and the Labour party also carried such a resolution. No doubt because of the damage that would be done to the Scottish economy by the Labour party's policy, the Scottish TUC refused to support the Labour party on this issue. The TUC has emphasised that it believes that Torness should be commissioned and that Hunterston should continue to be available. It has emphasised its belief that nuclear power must play a crucial part in meeting Scotland's energy requirements. The Scottish TUC has clearly rejected the views of the Labour party in Scotland on such an important issue.

Does the proposal put forward by the Minister for Environment, Countryside and Planning—that people living close to nuclear power stations should receive financial compensation—have the right hon. and learned Gentleman's support?

The hon. Gentleman can be assured that any policy with regard to those near nuclear power stations that may be enunciated by the Government will apply throughout the United Kingdom.

If nuclear power were phased out in Scotland, what effect would it have on employment in the generating industry? What effect could it have on employment outside the generating industry because of increased costs?

The best estimate of those who would be directly involved is of some 10,000 jobs in Scotland associated with the nuclear industry. In recent weeks, we have had the decision on Sizewell by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, which has led, for example, to Weirs announcing 200 or 300 extra jobs, to Babcock confirming that it would now not need to announce additional redundancies and to other such improved opportunities. Clearly, phasing out would have a devastating effect in Caithness, where about 20 per cent. of all employment is associated with Dounreay, which might explain why one alliance Member is strongly in favour of nuclear power although his colleague the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) is strongly against it.

Does the Secretary of State accept that it does not help the economics of the SSEB to have the huge capital investment of Inverkip power station lying unused? Is he aware that Strathclyde region has suggested to the SSEB that it carry out a study into the feasibility of converting Inverkip to coal burning? Will the Secretary of State and the Government give every encouragement, both moral and financial, to the SSEB to carry out this important and valuable proposal by Strathclyde regional council?

The specific use of Inverkip is clearly a matter for the SSEB to determine in the light of its overall requirements. I was encouraged by the fact that when the SSEB made its announcement about Inverkip it said that it believed that those who would otherwise be employed at Inverkip could be re-employed elsewhere within the SSEB's activities. The future use of Inverkip must be a matter for the SSEB to determine.

Further to what my right hon. and learned Friend has said about Sizewell, is he aware that the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) has made it clear that the alliance policy is against the Sizewell decision, despite the importance of the jobs for Renfrewshire and Glasgow, and that the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) — I make nothing of the point that he is not here today, as he has many duties, for example, at Oxford university — has not dissociated himself from that statement? Is not the right hon. Member for Hillhead a disgrace to Glasgow?

Not only the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) but all alliance candidates in Renfrewshire and elsewhere in the west of Scotland must accept, as the Labour party must accept, that companies such as Weirs, Babcocks and many others which are heavily dependent upon such orders would suffer severe redundancies if the policies of those parties were implemented.