It takes four years or more to erect a station. How much more is that than before the war? How much more is it than in industries with comparable capital expenditures in comparable conditions of foundation, and so on? If the figures are a great deal higher than in comparable industries, what are the reasons, and what action is the British Electricity Authority taking to bring into the electricity industry conditions more in line with those in other industries?
My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) referred to the cuts in capital expenditure imposed last autumn by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time of the economic crisis—£25 million on the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry mostly on capital expenditure for electricity. Can he give us some idea of how this is to be spread and, in particular, whether it is true that it is to fall mostly on distribution? There can be few other industries—perhaps I need hardly say this to him—where a capital cut of this size will have a more detrimental effect on the general productivity of this country than in an industry which is as basic as coal or transport.
It will be interesting to see whether the hon. Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. Pryde) is more successful than some of us in East Lancashire have been in bringing electricity to some of our more remote farms. I ask the Minister to have a look at some of these farming projects which have been knocking around for 10 years or more, although I know that six of these were war years. I have one farming area in my constituency where for over 10 years, a scheme has been delayed, to bring electricity to 30 farms in the remote and high ground above Burnley and the total cost involved is only £5,900. This delay for want of a very small sum of money is in the northwestern area which has the best record of any area in England for installing electricity on the farms. Even in the north-western area which includes most of Lancashire we still have 10,000 farms not connected up with electricity, and every other farm is still to be connected. For all the lead in rural electrification given by the old private enterprise undertakings before nationalisation there is still a great deal of work to be done in bringing electricity to the farms which are as much productive units as the factories to which it is being brought.