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Mr. Peter Bottomley : With the leave of the House, I should like to reply to the debate.

After that slashing attack by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) on his colleagues who do not seem to be interested in the social and economic welfare of Northern Ireland, may I say that, in view of the remarks of some Opposition Members, I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister for Health for coming in to ensure that no patching is needed.

The hon. Member for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs) asked whether we intend to sell off Northern Ireland Electricity to the electricity supply board in the south. The answer is

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no. There is no intention to sell it to a publicly-owned utility in another country. The Government's clear aim is to privatise the business.

The right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) and the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Walker) have been present throughout the debate, but they have allowed most of the comment to be made by their colleagues. There may be some sedentary interventions from them as I speak, but I hope not to provoke too many.

The Government believe that lignite is certain to be used for electricity generation in due course, but after more economic projects. Last year the Government decided that Kilroot 2 was more attractive economically than a new lignite station, so that should be carried out first. One of the essential elements of privatisation is to make sure that decisions are taken in the best interests of private consumers rather than as a result of political pressures. Those who had the opportunity of watching the "Counterpoint" programme will agree that that was one of the points it left out. It is important to recognise the interests of consumers throughout, rather than to use a researcher's good notes.

I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). His researchers provided him with some good notes, although they took no account of what I said, apart from refering to the fact that he spoke for longer than I did. That was predictable, which is no doubt why it was part of his speech.

Mr. McNamara rose --

Mr. Bottomley : I seem to have provoked the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps he should think twice before intervening.

Mr. McNamara : I spoke for longer than the Minister did because I had more and better things to say than he did. Will he answer the points that I raised about the future of Kilroot? Is it going according to plan? Are the costs as originally envisaged or are they greater? What will be done about the gas emissions? The Minister has to answer those questions. They are not matters of research ; they are matters of environmental concern in Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom and Europe. They affect the quality of life and the standard of living of people in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Bottomley : Perhaps the hon. Gentleman decided to intervene before I had got through more than two lines of my speech so that he could repeat some of the points he made in his own speech. That may be his way of operating, but if he can wait perhaps I shall give him some answers.

I have dealt with lignite. Perhaps the most important point is the separation between the order and what will follow. I was asked whether the Government still intend to produce a White Paper on the privatisation proposals. The answer is yes. It is important to ensure that Northern Ireland Electricity should be able to contribute to the process of deciding what the proposals should be. If only part of article 3 is considered it provides wider powers than are currently available. I refer to part of the speech by the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady).

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North asked about the cost of Kilroot 2. The power station will cost about £215 million at 1989 prices, about £95 million

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more for the flue gas desulphurisation if required. I was asked who will pay for Kilroot 2. The customer will pay, whoever owns the electricity service, whether it is private or public.

I was asked about the tariff link. The changes to area boards in England and Wales and the way in which Northern Ireland has derived tariffs under the link arrangements mean that it is right to review the link. When the companies produce the conclusions to that review, they will make them public. It would be wrong to anticipate the results, in the same way as it is wrong to assume that the link always works in the interest of consumers.

The hon. Member for Antrim, East asked about the reinstatement of the interconnector with the south. I do not think that that interconnector has proved durable in the past, so we should not automatically replace it. The question arises whether it is better to have an interconnector or whether to bring forward Kilroot 2 early. The preliminary results of a current study suggest that there may be advantages to providing new capacity by means of an interconnector with the Great Britain grid. The Government must try to make the most beneficial arrangements for electricity supply in Northern Ireland. We propose to consider that option in more detail before deciding on the timing of Kilroot 2. In the meantime, the action which Northern Ireland Electricity is taking on Kilroot 2 will ensure that construction can begin at short notice if required. That is a comprehensive and proper description of the situation. Nothing should be done which works against the consumers of electricity in Northern Ireland.

Mr. McGrady : Except privatisation.

Mr. Bottomley : People keep talking about privatisation and accusing the Government of trying artificially to distort the decisions that the electricity industry has to make. One of the advantages of privatisation is that we move away from that to a clear regulatory system, which makes up for any deficiencies there may be in terms of competition. A decision has not been made as to the form of privatisation. I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Sir M. McNair-Wilson) who has been here throughout the debate.

Sir Michael McNair-Wilson (Newbury) : Before my hon. Friend leaves the point about the possibility of an interconnector with the national grid, will he say who will pay for it if it is decided to go ahead with it?

Mr. Bottomley : In essence, the consumer, but if there were commercial advantages to the Great Britain grid--if it could sell electricity that would not otherwise have a customer--one assumes that the balance would be worked out between the two supply networks. It is wrong to assume that Northern Ireland will carry the cost of commercial advantage to people outside Northern Ireland.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North said that privatisation was bad and unpopular, but I remember the same remarks being made a week ago about water privatisation ; we are hearing a little less about that now. I suspect that privatisation will be popular in Northern Ireland with consumers, potential shareholders and those who work in the industry, who should like to have a chance of owning part of their own business. It is worth remembering that there are now more shareholders in the

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United Kingdom than trade union members, and I speak as someone who is rather more of a trade union member than a shareholder. I do not intend to go into the issues about private monopolies that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North raised.

The hon. Member for South Down asked about competition for fuel. Northern Ireland Electrictity reckons that 50 per cent. of its load in things such as space heating and water heating is open to competition. Consumers--not every individual consumer--have other fuels available, and in general bottled gas, coal and oil are competitive with the supply of electricity.

Mr. McGrady : Is the Minister suggesting that the consumer in Northern Ireland should go back to gas light?

Mr. Bottomley : I was not suggesting that. I was trying to give the information that Northern Ireland Electrictity has supplied. I want to emphasise that the order is not a substitute for the privatisation proposals but a way of ensuring that Northern Ireland Electricity can contribute to the development of them.

Many more people are moving to the use of electricity. I shall give an example that may be small to the House, but it is important to the 60,000 consumers who over the past six years have moved to Economy 7 for their space and water heating. Electricity is important to people in Northern Ireland, its industry, its domestic consumers and its agricultural sector. I am giving much attention to electricity supply in the rural sector under the rural policy initiative, which I hope will be welcomed throughout the House.

I commend the order to the House. It is an important paving order so that privatisation can go forward.

Question put :-

The House divided : Ayes 212, Noes 171.

Division No. 15] [10.27 pm


Adley, Robert

Alexander, Richard

Amess, David

Amos, Alan

Arbuthnot, James

Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)

Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)

Ashby, David

Atkinson, David

Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)

Baldry, Tony

Banks, Robert (Harrogate)

Batiste, Spencer

Beaumont-Dark, Anthony

Bellingham, Henry

Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)

Benyon, W.

Bevan, David Gilroy

Boscawen, Hon Robert

Boswell, Tim

Bottomley, Peter

Bottomley, Mrs Virginia

Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)

Bowis, John

Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes

Brandon-Bravo, Martin

Bright, Graham

Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)

Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)

Buck, Sir Antony

Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)

Carrington, Matthew

Chapman, Sydney

Chope, Christopher

Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)

Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)

Colvin, Michael

Conway, Derek

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

Devlin, Tim

Dorrell, Stephen

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Durant, Tony

Emery, Sir Peter

Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)

Evennett, David

Fallon, Michael

Favell, Tony

Fenner, Dame Peggy

Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)

Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey

Fishburn, John Dudley

Fookes, Dame Janet

Forman, Nigel

Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)

Forth, Eric

Fox, Sir Marcus

Franks, Cecil

Freeman, Roger

French, Douglas

Gale, Roger

Garel-Jones, Tristan

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Gill, Christopher

Glyn, Dr Alan

Goodlad, Alastair

Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles

Gow, Ian

Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)

Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)

Greenway, John (Ryedale)

Gregory, Conal

Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)

Grist, Ian

Hague, William

Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)

Hanley, Jeremy

Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')

Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)

Harris, David

Haselhurst, Alan

Hayes, Jerry

Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney

Hayward, Robert

Heathcoat-Amory, David

Heddle, John

Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)

Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.

Hind, Kenneth

Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)

Howard, Michael

Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)

Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey

Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)

Hunter, Andrew

Irvine, Michael

Jack, Michael

Janman, Tim

Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey

Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)

Jones, Robert B (Herts W)

Key, Robert

King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)

Kirkhope, Timothy

Knapman, Roger

Knight, Greg (Derby North)

Knowles, Michael

Knox, David

Latham, Michael

Lawrence, Ivan

Lee, John (Pendle)

Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)

Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark

Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)

Lilley, Peter

Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)

Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)

MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)

Maclean, David

McLoughlin, Patrick

McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael

McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick

Madel, David

Major, Rt Hon John

Malins, Humfrey

Mans, Keith

Maples, John

Marshall, John (Hendon S)

Marshall, Michael (Arundel)

Martin, David (Portsmouth S)

Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin

Mellor, David

Miller, Sir Hal

Miscampbell, Norman

Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)

Mitchell, Sir David

Monro, Sir Hector

Montgomery, Sir Fergus

Morris, M (N'hampton S)

Moss, Malcolm

Mudd, David

Neale, Gerrard

Neubert, Michael

Newton, Rt Hon Tony

Nicholson, David (Taunton)

Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)

Norris, Steve

Oppenheim, Phillip

Page, Richard

Paice, James

Patnick, Irvine

Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)

Patten, John (Oxford W)

Pawsey, James

Porter, Barry (Wirral S)

Porter, David (Waveney)

Portillo, Michael

Raison, Rt Hon Timothy

Redwood, John

Renton, Rt Hon Tim

Rhodes James, Robert

Riddick, Graham

Ridsdale, Sir Julian

Rossi, Sir Hugh

Rowe, Andrew

Sackville, Hon Tom

Sainsbury, Hon Tim

Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas

Shaw, David (Dover)

Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)

Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')

Shelton, Sir William

Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)

Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)

Shersby, Michael

Sims, Roger

Skeet, Sir Trevor

Speed, Keith

Speller, Tony

Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)

Squire, Robin

Stanbrook, Ivor

Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John

Stern, Michael

Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)

Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)

Stokes, Sir John

Stradling Thomas, Sir John

Sumberg, David

Summerson, Hugo

Taylor, Ian (Esher)

Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman

Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)

Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)

Thornton, Malcolm

Thurnham, Peter

Tracey, Richard

Twinn, Dr Ian

Viggers, Peter

Walden, George

Walker, Bill (T'side North)

Waller, Gary

Ward, John

Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)

Warren, Kenneth

Wheeler, John

Whitney, Ray

Widdecombe, Ann

Wilshire, David

Winterton, Nicholas

Wood, Timothy

Woodcock, Dr. Mike

Yeo, Tim

Young, Sir George (Acton)

Tellers for the Ayes :

Mr. John M. Taylor and

Mr. David Lightbown.


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