A memorandum on this subject prepared by the Central Electricity Generating Board for the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities, together with oral evidence by representatives of the board in May 1982, was published in the Committee's 16th report, Session 1981–82, of 29 June 1982.
As the Minister may know, I support the balanced development of electricity generation both from coal and nuclear sources. Bearing in mind that the bulk of our electricity will still come from coal-fired power stations well into the year 2000, is it not important that there should now be an authoritative statement from the Government on a matter that is causing increasing concern not only in Britain but on the Continent?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman, who has great experience in these matters, that they cause concern. However, acid rain is an international question, and the CEGB and the Government are fully prepared to play their part in the necessary research on the subject. We should not jump to conclusions too quickly. Much has been said and written about it, but there is still relatively little substantive evidence.
Can my right hon. Friend help the public understanding of the debate on the choice of fuels for power stations — and avoid the damage that may result from misunderstanding—by illustrating whether nuclear-powered stations are environmentally preferable to, as well as being more economical than, oil-fired or coal-fired stations?
Nuclear-powered stations are undoubtedly very much less subject to environmental pollution — [Interruption.] Hon. Members can argue about it until they are blue in the face—and they will have to remain blue in the face for a long time after the next election.
Will the Minister accept that we need very soon to make some demonstration to convince the international community that we are moving in the right direction? Before commissioning any further report, will he take action on the Atkinson report to ensure that the district heating—CHP—schemes proceed on the basis of fluidised bed combustion? That will demonstrate that we are prepared to burn coal properly, successfully and cleanly.
With respect to my right hon. Friend, does he agree that more important than acid rain fallout is that carcinogenic substances are falling on Britain every day from the coal-fired and oil-fired power stations, which should be investigated and brought to the attention of the public? Such an investigation would prove that nuclear usage provides a much safer fuel generation process.
That is a completely different question. I was asked about environmental matters and gave the view that nuclear power was undoubtedly less of an environmental hazard than some of the other methods that we have at present.
As it is my right hon. Friend's view that research concerning acid rain is not yet conclusive, will he ask his officials to look at the evidence from Czechoslovakia, where considerable problems have been encountered with acid rain as the result of the operations of German coal-fired stations?