Electricity Generation (East Lothian)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:30 pm on 4th December 1996.

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Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian 1:30 pm, 4th December 1996

With respect, no. The Secretary of State is changing the ground rules. If we could start all over again, I would love to put lots of sections of the transmission system in East Lothian underground, but it is simply not fair to apply completely different rules in South Ayrshire to those which apply in other parts of the country.

The position now is that the Secretary of State for Scotland made an announcement, not in the House but elsewhere, two weeks ago, and he brought his political perspective to bear—at the behest, I suspect, of the President of the Board of Trade, Mr. Struan Stevenson and other people who should know better.

The Secretary of State announced that he was minded to grant consent only if four sections were put underground, at a cost of £28 million, which could put the whole enterprise and the jobs of 240 of my constituents in jeopardy. He has given Scottish Power until 20 December to respond to that unwarranted and unprecedented imposition, and I can only speculate about their reaction. I have serious fears about the news that my constituents at Cockenzie might get for Christmas. In the name of fairness to my constituents and of consistency in planning decisions, I appeal to the Minister to reconsider that extraordinary decision.

I refer to another reply that the Minister gave me yesterday. I asked him what estimate he had made of the value to the Scottish economy of an electricity interconnector with Northern Ireland. His reply was, "None." He simply said that it was a matter for the private companies concerned, Northern Ireland Electricity and Scottish Power.

With respect, it has enormous potential value to the Scottish economy. The agreement with Northern Ireland Electricity would run for 15 years and would represent a coalburn of 600,000 tonnes, which is worth about £20 million a year. The interconnector would also attract £61 million of European union grant support. All that could be put in jeopardy.