Electricity Generation (East Lothian)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:45 pm on 4th December 1996.

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Photo of Mr George Kynoch Mr George Kynoch , Kincardine and Deeside 1:45 pm, 4th December 1996

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will note those comments by my hon. Friend, whom I am pleased to see here for the debate, because he has always expressed a great interest in power—[Laughter] I mean, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that my hon. Friend has a great interest in power generation.

The hon. Member for East Lothian has also raised the matter of PowerGen's application to build a power station at Gartcosh. Hon. Members will know that the application has been referred by my right hon. Friend to a public inquiry, which should start next April. My right hon.

Friend has, as is entirely proper, written to the reporter explaining general Government policy on such matters, and mentioning the issues that at present appear to him most likely to be relevant to the decision that he will have to take.

The Government's general policy is clear: matters such as need, location, design and choice of fuel for power stations are usually best left to developers in line with their own commercial judgment. As I have already said, that policy has brought substantial benefits to consumers.

Again, I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern about jobs in his constituency, but the Government strongly believe that competition in the industry is in the public's best interests. No one can easily predict the shape of the generating market in future, and it would be foolish for the Government to introduce uncertainty to the market now, when it is showing how successful it is in delivering cheaper and more reliable supplies of electricity.

There does, however, seem to be confusion in some quarters as to what my right hon. Friend's statement actually means for the scope of the inquiry. I should therefore like to make it absolutely clear that it is for the reporter to decide what evidence he believes should be laid at the inquiry. There is no question of my right hon. Friend seeking to limit the scope of that inquiry.