§ LORD LAWSON
My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper, and may I, as it is the first Question he will answer, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Mills, on his high appointment?
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government if they will state who, or what authority, decides the location of works established for the production of atomic power; and the grounds upon which such decisions are based.]
§ THE MINISTER OF POWER (LORD MILLS)
My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for his congratulations? It 163 is a great pleasure to me, on the first occasion on which I have the privilege of addressing your Lordships' House, to answer a Question relating to a subject in which we lead the world, the development of atomic power for peaceful purposes. In the case of power stations for the public electricity supply, the selection of sites in England and Wales is a matter for the Central Electricity Authority. The criteria which the Authority adopt in selecting sites are well described in paragraph 89, and the following paragraphs, of the Central Electricity Authority's Eighth Annual Report, covering the year ended March 31, 1956. The most important of the criteria are large and readily available supplies of water for cooling purposes, and ground formation capable of bearing the extremely heavy reactors. Before proceeding with the construction of nuclear power stations on the sites selected, the Central Electricity Authority require my consent under Section 2 of the Electric Lighting Act, 1909, and deemed planning permission under Section 35 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. In Scotland, corresponding arrangements apply, the responsible Minister being the Secretary of State.
§ LORD LAWSON
My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for his answer? I read the first and second Reports, but is he aware that these matters are decided by people who are, on the whole, persons little known to the country and without any consultation at all with Parliament, which is doing a work that is practically directing the course of a new Industrial Revolution and is, therefore, a very important matter?
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, the final decision, of course, rests with the Minister, and I think it is up to the Minister to see that he makes all proper inquiries to enable him to arrive at a right and wise decision.
§ LORD LAWSON
My Lords, I apologise for troubling the noble Lord in this matter, but the inquiries are not altogether of a nature that gives satisfaction. Considering the powerful change that is being made by the establishment of some of these works, may I ask the noble Lord whether he is aware that a Commission sat upon this matter for 164 some years before the last war, and that practically every decision they arrived at is being ignored in the establishment of these stations?
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, before the noble Lord replies to that question—I will not harass him upon this occasion, although I cannot promise that we shall not on another occasion—would he take into consideration that there is widespread disquiet in this country not only about the location of these stations but also about the action of the Central Electricity Authority in their present murdering of the countryside?
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, in answer to the noble Lords. I think I should be lacking in my duty if I did not take into account any disquiet there might be on this subject. I am sure, even from my limited knowledge, that there are many criteria which must be taken into account. This is not an easy decision. The examination must be a long and far-reaching one, and, so far as lies in my power, I will do my best to carry it out conscientiously and thoroughly.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, before putting a supplementary question, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord upon his accession to high office and to say that some of my colleagues who remember his great service to a Coalition Government, of which we were members, in times of great danger, know full well that he will fulfil his duties to the satisfaction of the House.
The point I want to put to the noble Lord is this—and I am an interested party because I live within five miles, as the crow flies, from the site of the Bradwell Station. What I am concerned about is the inadequacy of the consideration given to people who raise objections and the imperfect machinery for holding a really judicial inquiry. Power is given to opposing parties to be legally represented. It may be that the Central Electricity Authority is legally represented. But you do not put a man really qualified in juridical procedure in the chair. No doubt from many points of view you appoint a competent officer. The last one I saw at Maldon, for the Bradwell site, was an engineer. We do not feel that our case was ever adequately considered— 165 that is no fault of the noble Lord—and we consider that in matters of such grave importance, and in taking steps in what my noble friend says is an Industrial Revolution, the objectors should have the right to appear before a tribunal which is completely neutral in its chairmanship and legally qualified in the occupancy of the chair.
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, I am sure that the noble Viscount's remarks will be of the greatest assistance to me in studying these problems. Of course there are many more atomic stations to be built, and I am impressed with the importance of preserving the amenities of our countryside, so far as may be possible, in developing those plans. I can only add my assurance that, for my part, it will receive careful attention.