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Lord Peston: My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but I find that remark astonishing. The noble Lord says that he does not "believe". Is he saying that that is a matter of law or a matter of his judgment? It would seem to me obvious that if you are building a power station, the question of how you get the product to market has to be answered. That has a community aspect and we ought to answer it in terms which are convincing to the community. Is he saying that I am wrong because it is a matter of law that does not arise or for some other reason?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the key characteristic here is that where you have a power station which has to lock into the National Grid, that itself is clearly part of the project which is under consideration. Where the ramifications of the joining of the power station to the grid in conjunction with other things that might happen elsewhere in the future might have an impact on other parts of the grid, that is not a matter to be taken into account at the original planning permission stage.
I recognise the importance of combined heat and power. It is the Government's policy to encourage combined heat and power and combined heat and power is growing. But it is a commercial decision for operators whether to operate in this way and where they want to locate. ENRON is operating a station in a combined heat and power mode. The maximum supply to ICI has been 380 tonnes per hour of steam, which is roughly half of ICI's total requirements, with the minimum being 80 tonnes per hour. Even if ICI does not require steam, the link is used for 50 tonnes per hour just to keep it in operation and good condition. The electrical efficiency of the plant is a little over 50 per cent. but when running on full steam output to ICI that rises to over 90 per cent.
The majority of those who have made representations to my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade, either in correspondence or through the inquiries and hearings, have expressed concern about adverse health effects. In particular, the public is concerned about health risks as a result of studies published in other countries concerning a possible association between electromagnetic fields and cancer.
My right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade can only take into account the most current and authoritative evidence, including advice from the Department of Health and the National Radiological Protection Board, which is available to him at the time he makes his decision. This applies in the case of any overhead line decision and such decisions are being taken every day.
The National Radiological Protection Board's current advice is that it has considered all the available information and has concluded that the evidence does not establish that exposure to electromagnetic fields is a cause of cancer, although it does provide some evidence to suggest the possibility exists, which justifies moving forward with research. The significance of an
As I indicated, my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade has yet to receive and consider a number of reports by independent inspectors on different aspects of this project. Indeed, some of the inquiries have not yet finished. He is also obliged to consider any relevant new evidence which he receives before he makes his decisions. Equally, he cannot take into account other matters. If he takes into consideration any such new evidence or new matter of fact which disposes him to disagree with recommendations made by any of the inspectors, he must, under the relevant rules of procedure, give the parties involved an opportunity of asking for the reopening of that inquiry.
I should like to conclude by assuring my noble friend and the House that no decisions on the various individual applications before my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade will be taken until he is satisfied that he has all the information before him to enable him to take that decision properly, and that he will take all relevant matters into account. Furthermore, as the House will realise, my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade cannot take a decision which will in any way restrict his discretion in relation to any other decision.
I am sure that we all agree that this debate has been helpful. I thank all those who have participated and contributed and in particular my noble friend Lord Crathorne for raising the subject for debate.
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