Mr Hamish Gray: 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.
Mr Hamish Gray: 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...
Mr Hamish Gray: 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.
Mr Hamish Gray: The point is well and truly taken. The Government will give every consideration to the best method of proceeding along those lines.
Mr Hamish Gray: Yes, that is the case, and I remind my hon. Friend that the United Kingdom spends £4 million, of which half is spent by the CEGB, on research into the effects of acidification.
Mr Hamish Gray: 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.
Mr Hamish Gray: That is a very interesting point. The discovery that was made in Czechoslovakia shows that, environmentally, nuclear power is very much cleaner.
Mr Hamish Gray: No. Present depletion policies have served us well by giving the oil industry the freedom and confidence to develop the resources of the North sea to the economic benefit of the nation. The tax and royalty concessions announced in the Budget will further encourage the new development that we need.
Mr Hamish Gray: The hon. Gentleman is wrong. There is absolutely no case for delaying development when Britain's main activity must, be to stimulate new developments to come on stream once production from the present fields begins to decline.
Mr Hamish Gray: Jealousy will get the hon. Gentleman nowhere. The Opposition are afraid of good news. The North sea has an abundance of good news. I have said outside the House—[Interruption.] If hon. Gentlemen will keep quiet for a moment, I shall tell them that the future of the North sea is in safe hands and is very bright. The prosperity of the North sea could only be inhibited by the policies of the...
Mr Hamish Gray: I expect my Department to spend approximately £14 million on research into new and renewable sources of energy in 1983–84. I have arranged for a breakdown of this estimate to be published in the Official Report.
Mr Hamish Gray: The amount of money being spent on renewable resources has been substantially increased in the life of this Parliament. Work is proceeding all the time on the development of our nuclear programme. Many people working in the nuclear supply industry are still in employment as a result of this Government's policies.
Mr Hamish Gray: My right hon. Friend is hoping to make a statement in the near future about the Severn barrage.
Mr Hamish Gray: That is correct. The Government are always prepared to examine the involvement of the private sector in any way that can be helpful.
Mr Hamish Gray: My Department will be spending £1 ¼ million in the current year on solar energy. I regret that statistics in the form requested by my hon. Friend are not available.
Mr Hamish Gray: I confirm to my hon. Friend that we are concentrating our available research and development funds on the most promising of the renewable technologies for the United Kingdom, which are wind, geothermal and passive solar design. Among the solar systems, my Department is concentrating on the passive solar design, which is the most promising means of exploiting solar energy in the United Kingdom.
Mr Hamish Gray: The Government's programme for alternative sources of energy is flexible, and, of course, were such a breakthrough to take place, the Government would take account of it.
Mr Hamish Gray: The advice of the chief scientist is always taken seriously and carefully considered.
Mr Hamish Gray: I shall very shortly announce the Government's decision on the recommendations of Sir Hermann Bondi's committee.
Mr Hamish Gray: I accept that the hon. Gentleman made his suggestions with the best intentions. He will be aware that considerable consultation has taken place. I assure him that he will not have to wait much longer for a statement.