HC Deb 09 May 1984 vol 59 c881
24. Mr. Thurnham

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what action has been taken to prevent a repetition of the power failure in the Palace of Westminster on 3 November 1983.

Sir George Young

The modernisation of mains switchgear has now been completed, and a new transformer installed. This enables the palace to be connected to an independent, reliable, stand-by supply within a few minutes.

Mr. Thurnham

Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that in the event of a prolonged national power cut, the emergency systems are adequate to supply the needs of the House?

Sir George Young

As a result of the steps that we have now taken, I hope that it will be possible, within about eight minutes of a power failure, to reconnect the sytems within the House and to enable the business of the House to continue. I understand that my hon. Friend visited all the engineering installations in the Palace of Westminster about two months ago as a result of the power failure last November, and I am grateful to him for taking such an interest in this matter.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Minister aware that the best way of ensuring that there are no power cuts in the Palace of Westminster, or anywhere else, is to call upon the chairman of the NCB to stop his pit closure programme, and then the Secretary of State will not have to go on television, as he did in 1972, telling people to clean their teeth in the dark?

Sir George Young

The hon. Gentleman has raised much broader issues that my modest responsibilities allow me to reply to. All I can say is that if there is a power failure in the Palace of Westminster we now have an independent generator, which should enable the hon. Gentleman to continue asking Ministers questions, even if the power fails.