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Orders of the Day — Electricity Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:28 pm on 13th December 1988.

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Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office 4:28 pm, 13th December 1988

The creation of a private sector hydro-electric company presents an exciting opportunity to the north of Scotland. It will be by far the largest company there. As hydro-electric power has often been seen as a resource that comes from the north of Scotland, and as a renewable source in the Highlands and Islands, I thought that the hon. Gentleman would welcome the opportunity that the Bill provides for the people of the Highlands and Islands, and of Scotland generally, to acquire at least a proportion of the company providing their electricity.

I conclude by referring to remarks made in the House on 3 February 1947 by the then Minister of Fuel and Power, Mr. Emanuel Shinwell, when moving the Second Reading of the Bill nationalising the electricity industry: Electricity is an all-pervading service, and if it is to be satisfactory we must maintain the closest contact with local requirements, together with a sense of local responsibility … It is far from my desire that problems which can be settled locally shall be taken to London."—[Official Report, 3 February 1947; Vol. 432, c.1410.] Mr. Shinwell's solution, and that of the then Labour Government, was to nationalise 560 separate electricity undertakings and to transfer control of them to London. The Conservative Government of the 1950s broke up that state monopoly to some extent by the creation of the South of Scotland electricity board with headquarters in Scotland and answerable to the Secretary of State for Scotland. It is entirely appropriate that it should be another Conservative Government that propose taking that policy one stage further and creating two new Scottish electricity companies to meet the requirements of Scottish consumers in a more efficient, successful and dynamic way than it has been possible to enjoy for the past 40 years.