Fuel Industries (Nuclear Strategy)

Oral Answers to Questions — Energy – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th October 1976.

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Photo of Mr John Pardoe Mr John Pardoe , North Cornwall 12:00 am, 25th October 1976

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he has involved the electricity, coal, gas and oil industries in the development of a nuclear strategy for the United Kingdom.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

I am in regular contact with the energy industries about the formulation of energy policy, which includes the role of nuclear power.

Photo of Mr John Pardoe Mr John Pardoe , North Cornwall

Given that our coal, oil and other resources give us a breathing space of perhaps 10 or 20 years of self-sufficiency, what estimate has the right hon. Gentleman made of the contribution that could be made to our energy use by alternative sources of energy, such as solar and wind power? Has he done a similar study to that conducted by the Lockheed Corporation, which has estimated that 20 per cent. of the United States' energy use could be supplied by wind power by the year 2000?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

All the information that we have on this subject has been published and I shall send it to the hon. Gentleman so that he may have an opportunity to study it. There is no doubt that these benign alternative sources of energy are available at a cost and after a period.

When the hon. Gentleman has had a chance to study the recommendations made to me by those who have studied this matter, we might pursue it further. There is no doubt of the scope, but whether it would make an impact in the mid-term is not altogether clear.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , West Lothian

Does my right hon. Friend think that this country needs a green field oil refinery?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

That is another question.

Photo of Mr Trevor Skeet Mr Trevor Skeet , Bedford

The right hon. Gentleman has been talking about an energy policy for years, but when are we to have a policy for the United Kingdom and when will the Government work out a realistic arrangement with the EEC?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

As far as the EEC is concerned, the hon. Gentleman follows these matters carefully and will know that I went to the Energy Council in February or March ready to endorse the recommendations from the Commission, but difficulties arose elsewhere. We had a meeting in Luxembourg last week, when there was some serious discussion. I made the point, with which I think the House will agree, that protection of energy investment that has already taken place is a necessary preliminary to any energy policy that relates to minimum support price.

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Bristol North East

Can my right hon. Friend give us an assurance that there is no danger of nuclear development being given second place in the thinking of his Department? Is he aware that the industrial future of this country depends on our having an adequate nuclear capacity?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

My hon. Friend knows, because his Select Committee is working on it, that discussions are in progress about the steam-generating heavy water reactor, and I have made clear that there must be proper public debate before a decision is reached on the fast breeder. I think that the House will believe it right that matters of this importance should be discussed before decisions are made.