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Written Answers

Volume 490: debated on Thursday 19 November 1987

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Writtten Answers

Electricity Supply: Power Station Building Programme

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the Central Electricity Generating Board will either own or operate the six new pressurised water reactor power stations which the Secretary of State for Energy announced on 3rd November will be needed to meet increasing demand by the end of the century?

Security of electricity supply is one of the Government's major strategic objectives. The nuclear programme ensures diversity in electricity generation and so makes a substantial contribution to that security. This is one of the major reasons why the Government are committed to a nuclear programme and will remain so. Proposals for the structure of the industry after privatisation and the means for ensuring a continuing role for the nuclear programme are being developed; decisions have not yet been taken.

asked Her Majesty's Government:How they reconcile their refusal on 22nd February 1984 to endorse anxieties expressed in debate about the ageing element in the Central Electricity Generating Board's generating capacity (cols. 828–9) and the possibility of blackouts with their admission on 3rd November 1987 that "a failure of supply is a fundamental threat" (HC debates, col. 806)?

It was true to say in 1984 that for the next few years the CEGB would have surplus capacity. That surplus is now being reduced by the retirement of generating plant and growth in electricity demand. Since the close of the Sizewell Inquiry in March 1985 the CEGB has revised its estimates of future generating requirements, and now foresees a need for an additional 13 Gigawatts of capacity by the year 2000. It plans to meet this need by building 6 PWRs (including Sizewell) and 4 large coal-fired power stations.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will identify the eight-year period referred to by the Secretary of State for Energy during which no new power station was ordered?

The eight-year period in question was between 1979, when investment approval was granted to the CEGB for an Advanced Gas Cooled Reactor (AGR) at Heysham 2, and 1987, when Section 2 consent and investment approval was granted to the CEGB for a Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) at Sizewell B.

Prisoners Held In Police Custody

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many male and female prisoners have been held in police custody on every night since 1st September 1987 because of the current overcrowding in Her Majesty's prisons.

The number of male and female prisoners held in police custody in England and Wales on each night from 1st September onwards was as follows:

September 1st3156
September 2nd3701
September 3rd3360
September 4th4163
September 5th4760
September 6th4760
September 7th4760
September 8th5431
September 9th5681
September 10th5690
September 11th5680
September 12th5770
September 13th5770
September 14th6196
September 15th6200
September 16th6201
September 17th5970
September 18th6252
September 19th6118
September 20th6118
September 21st6562
September 22nd7099
September 23rd7177
September 24th6369
September 25th6309
September 26th7181
September 27th7181
September 28th7181
September 29th7880
September 30th8180
October 1st8090
October 2nd8420
October 3rd9091
October 4th9091
October 5th9091
October 6th9743
October 7th9380
October 8th9580
October 9th9730
October 10th1,1211
October 11th1,1211
October 12th1,1211
October 13th1,1801
October 14th1,2190
October 15th1,2530
October 16th1,2498
October 17th1,295*10*
October 18th1,295*10*
October 19th1,295*10*
October 20th1,32015
October 21st1,28121
October 22nd1,24922
October 23rd1,26830
October 24th1,26426
October 25th1,26426
October 26th1,26426
October 27th1,24015
October 28th1,13216
October 29th1,07619
October 30th9608
October 31st89911
November 1st89911
November 2nd89911
November 3rd81613
November 4th79218
November 5th77413
November 6th73318
November 7th80416
November 8th80416
November 9th80416
November 10th74621
November 11th76524
November 12th70445
November 13th72940
November 14th74739
November 15th74739
November 16th74739
November 17th75357
(*Figures for 17th, 18th and 19th October are estimates; accurate statistics for the Metropolitan Police area were not available owing to computer failure.)

Dangerous Substances: Discharge Into Aquatic Environment

asked Her Majesty's Government:What conclusions they have reached concerning the need for a broader approach towards controlling inputs of the most dangerous substances to the aquatic environment.

The Government have been giving careful consideration to the proposals made in the 15th Report of the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities (Session 1984–85), and in particular to the Committee's view that EC member states should work towards a unified approach to controlling discharges of dangerous substances, which would involve both meeting prescribed quality standards in the receiving waters and minimising discharges from individual sources. A similar view was expressed in the recent report on the Pollution of Rivers and Estuaries by the House of Commons Select Committee on the Environment. Ministers from participating countries also agreed to work towards developing such an approach at the 1984 ministerial conference on the North Sea at Bremen.The Government agree that EC member states should seek to develop a unified approach to the control of the most dangerous substances, whose long-term effects on the environment are uncertain. We propose to do so in the United Kingdom.The Government consider that the main elements of the unified approach in this country should be:

  • —to identify a limited range of the most dangerous substances, on the basis of strict scientific criteria, to be termed the "Red List".
  • —to set environmental quality standards, wherever scientifically possible, for all "Red List" substances;
  • —to set emission standards based on the best available technology not entailing excessive cost for industrial processes discharging significant quantities of these substances
  • —to take further measures where necessary to control inputs of "Red List" substances from diffuse sources.

The new policy on point source emissions will directly affect the small number of industrial plants which discharge in their waste water heavy metals or organic chemicals of a particularly dangerous character. The initial focus will be on new and refurbished plants; this will allow any increases in industrial costs to be phased in over a number of years and planned for. The policy is not expected to impose significant additional costs on water authorities, or other sewerage undertakings.

In relation to those "Red List" substances which enter the aquatic environment from indirect and diffuse sources, the Government recognise the need for effective controls over the supply, storage and use of these substances.

The new approach will require legislation, including amendments to Part II of the Control of Pollution Act 1974. We shall be publishing detailed proposals and consulting industry and others on these in due course. The Government will also be outlining this more precautionary approach to environment ministers attending the second International Conference on the North Sea in London on 24th and 25th November.

Driver Testing

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the purpose of the review of driver testing arrangements and whether they have yet had its findings.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport
(Lord Brabazon of Tara)

The aim of the review was to find ways of improving the driver testing service without prejudicing its integrity. My right honourable friend is determined to cut the queues for tests; to reduce the wastage of resources implicit in a failure rate of over 50 per cent; and, to end the situation in which candidates—the customers—cannot get through to booking sections on the telephone.The report has just been submitted. It proposed a strategy for immediate action to cut waiting times quickly and a package of longer-term measures to improve the standard of candidates coming for test and hence increase the pass rate. Provided these improvements can be delivered, my right honourable friend is inclined to accept the review's general conclusion that the best way forward would be to build on the current system rather than privatise driver testing. He has accordingly asked for an action plan to be formulated as a matter of priority.

The review emphasises that too many candidates take the test too soon and fail. That lengthens the queues for everyone else. The worst 20 per cent. of candidates have virtually no chance of passing. If they delayed their tests until they were ready, queues could be halved in a year. Candidates should seek and follow their instructors' advice about whether they are ready to take the test and instructors should give firm and professional advice even where it may be unwelcome.

The review also discusses ways of providing learner drivers with a better basis on which to choose a good instructor and of encouraging all instructors to bring their performance up to the standard of the best. These are very important aspects. Good teaching produces good drivers. We are keen to move forward in these areas as quickly as possible and I am consulting those concerned with a view to finalising early in the new year a programme for action which might contribute to our general goal of improving driving standards and reducing casualties.

Copies have been placed in the Library.