To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what decision he has made regarding phase II of Kilroot power station.
So many hon. Members are not here, for various reasons, that it has been quite difficult to keep pace with the questions.
It is quite understandable.
Revised bids for the provision of new generating capacity, including the completion of Kilroot phase II, were received from Northern Ireland Electricity and Antrim Power Company Ltd. at the end of January 1988. The revised proposals are currently being examined and until that process has been completed the Government will not be in a position to make a decision on future generating capacity.
I am grateful for that reply—eventually. I hope that the Minister will be rather more expeditious when considering the various options for Kilroot power station. I hope that he will bear in mind that Northern Ireland Electricity wants to convert phase II to coal and that that will also be very important for the coal industry in Ayrshire, particularly the area that I represent. I hope that, as a penance for his appalling delay in answering my question, he will agree that it ought to be converted to coal and give a long-term guarantee that that coal will come from Ayrshire.
The hon. Gentleman is quite correct in saying that the availability of the completion of Kilroot power station with coal provides an attractive option for Northern Ireland. But there is a further attractive option for Northern Ireland, and that is the indigenous brown lignite resource. We are considering very carefully whether coal or lignite is the appropriate resource for future generating capacity, and whether, if brown lignite is the choice, it should be through NIE or through the private bid which has been submitted to us.