§ 8.42 p.m.
§ THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF LISTOWEL)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª. —(The Earl of Listowel.)
§ LORD HINTON OF BANKSIDE
My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will not jump to the conclusion that because I am the first speaker on this Bill I have been put up by the Central Electricity Generating Board as their champion. I speak first simply because the noble Baroness, Lady White, used all of her charm to persuade me that it would he better if I spoke before she did. I still hope to convince your Lordships that I am an unbiased judge in this matter.
I must confess that I still have a frail and tenuous connection with the electricity supply industry in that I am a member of what is called the Electricity Supply Research Council. This is a very part-time body which meets four times a year, and is made up of independent scientists and industrialists. It is run by the Electricity Council and not by the Generating Board. I was chairman of the Generating Board until nine years ago, but, as some of your Lordships may already have learned, and others will learn in due course, there is nothing quite so "ex" as an ex-chairman. My technical contacts with the Board have probably been more frail and tenuous since I left than they would have been if I had never worked for the Board. The last thing that Boards want to have is an ex-chairman breathing down their necks.
Although I left the Board nine years ago, their system has changed little since then, and I think that I am sufficiently well informed about the problems that they have to meet to give your Lordships some information which may possibly be of help in your consideration of this matter. The Dinorwic Bill or, to give it its correct title, the North Wales Hydro-Electric Power 1478 Bill, is a Bill dealing with a highly technical project. It has, in another place, gone through what I suppose is the most rigid routine of examination. It has been debated at some length, and has been examined with great care by a Committee set up there. But when matters of such a technical nature are being dealt with, I think there is always bound to be a suspicion that the Promoters have got the "inside track", and that because they are dealing with these matters constantly they, with their detailed knowledge, are able, as it were, to blind with science their opponents, however skilful their witnesses and their counsel may be.
I have read almost all of the evidence that was given before the Committee of the other House. I speak, I hope, without any bias, and if I have bias it may very well be against the Generating Board, because I think that there is a tendency, when one leaves organisations with which one has worked—and I have done this on many occasions during my lifetime—to look back on them rather as one looks back on one's old school or college when one visits there and says, "Well, undergraduates are not what they were in our day. We never did quite such stupid things as that." So, as I say, if there is any bias on my part, I think that it may be against the Generating Board rather than in their favour.
Speaking, as I believe, without bias, I do not think that in this case the Generating Board have overstated their case. In fact, if I had been presenting that case to the Committee I would have put forward a stronger one than the one which was in fact considered by the Committee. I think that this is perhaps understandable. The Generating Board tried to confine their arguments to financial questions arising in connection with the operation of a complex scheme, and which could be tested by economists or by financial analysts. They did not put forward matters of opinion. This may have been extremely laudable but, after all, engineering is still an art, and it will be a sad day for engineering when projects are decided simply on the basis of figures produced by financial analysts. I think that there are many points where experience, knowledge and judgment still count, and still have to be superimposed on the figures which are produced in support of a 1479 scheme. I may perhaps give your Lordships examples of what I mean.
In the first place, as your Lordships know, we have a fairly large nuclear programme in this country and most people would agree that the percentage of nuclear plants in the overall mix of generation plants will have to increase as time goes on. Those nuclear plants have been justified in the past, and for a long time into the future will have to be justified, on the assumption that they are worked at full load whenever they are available. But the load on the electricity system in this country is a very variable one, and the load in the summer months at the time when I was at the Generating Board was little more than 15 or 18 per cent. of the peak load in winter time. That position has been improved since I left, largely as a result of efforts on the part of the industry to improve the load factor by introducing night storage heaters both for water and for space heating, so that the problem of providing a full load for nuclear power plants throughout the whole year is less pressing than it was. But we are still fairly near the bone, and judgment would lead me to feel that it is very advisable, provided that a satisfactory financial case can be made, to have that little bit of extra freedom which enables us economically to increase the amount of nuclear power in the overall mix.
May I give your Lordships another example of where judgment would lead me in the direction of putting forward stronger arguments for this scheme? The Board have now a large number of big high pressure, high temperature generating sets in commission. Those sets have given a good deal of odd trouble in the start-up period, but I am quite sure that the trouble will be cured with the passage of time; and I am also quite sure that it was a wise decision to put in sets of that sort. It was realised when they were bought that these 500Mw. and larger sets would have to work for some of their life taking part load, and it was specified that they should be so designed that they could do that. But when you part load one of these large heavy sets, you put it through cyclical temperature changes which are damaging to the set and which increase the cost of repairs. Once again, the provision of pump stor- 1480 age enables one to minimise that trouble and so to run the system more economically. As a third example of the conservatism of the Board, I should like to mention the fact that they have taken, as the obsolescence period for the pump storage scheme, only 55 years, whereas general international practice would lead one in the direction of assuming a considerably longer period—perhaps between 70 and 90 years. I mention those examples simply to show your Lordships that, in my view, the case which has been based largely on economic figures is stronger than the one which has been put forward.
Since leaving the Board, I have worked for one of the independent agencies under the United Nations and have seen something of electricity schemes in many other parts of the world. Many other countries have far greater hydro resources than we have and are able to have reservoir hydro storage, which makes it less necessary to install pump storage schemes. But even some of those countries are converting reservoir hydro schemes into pump storage schemes, and so are providing themselves with hybrid schemes which enable them to meet the problems of variable load. Pump storage is a well-established and universally accepted method of meeting the problem of load variation. Opponents of the scheme put forward in Committee suggestions that, instead of using pump storage to smooth out the load on the new high efficiency sets, storage of compressed air should be used. What one does in this system, instead of pumping water to a high level during periods of low load and then letting it down through turbines when the load is high, is to compress air into a rock chamber and use that air in a gas turbine at times of peak load. Schemes of this sort have been under examination by the Generating Board for many years and have been turned down as being uneconomic.
The new factor which was introduced to the Committee was the use of the salt chambers in Cheshire. It just so happens that I have a certain amount of knowledge of those salt chambers, because they are worked by I.C.I. Salt underlies quite large areas of Cheshire where it occurs in keuper marls. At certain points in the sea, water finds its way down 1481 through fissures in the marl on to the rock head. It runs along the rock head dissolving the salt, and it is this brine which was pumped and used for salt manufacture and in the various alkali processes. But as far back as 1926, Brunner Mond and Company, who were the predecessors of I.C.I., decided that the damage caused by uncontrollable subsidence when brine was pumped in this way was insupportable, and they moved to an area East of Northwich where there is about 600 feet thickness of rock salt and produced brine artificially by pumping water down into the salt and forcing brine up. The system—and it is a sophisticated one—by which this was done was worked out between 1930 and 1940, when I happened to be chief engineer of the Alkali Division of I.C.I. and as such was responsible for the whole development.
I should like to point out to your Lordships that you are quite wrong if you envisage these chambers as being nice clean holes inside a solid bed of rock salt. In the total thickness of salt, there are bands of marl which vary in thickness from a few inches to a few metres. Some of those marl bands fall while the salt is being dissolved; some of them stay there. If the chambers are used for air storage, they will quite certainly fall and marl dust will be carried forward and cause trouble. This cannot be considered as an immediate and tried solution to the problem. It is something which may work but which would need long trial. So on all technical and economic grounds, I suggest that the scheme which hiss been put forward by the Generating Board is well justified. But it is a scheme part of which falls in a National Park and part of which falls in an area adjacent to a National Park. The upper reservoir is in National Park area. I do not think that I would consider it as being a particularly beautiful part of the National Park, but it is remote, it is isolated and, as such, it has attractions. It will be necessary to build a dam there; it will be possible to do away with an unsightly road that exists at the moment; and I understand that road access to the area is not going to be permitted by the Generating Board.
The other works which are necessary are in the area of Llanberis. Llanberis itself is not, I think, a beautiful town; 1482 and the Dinorwick area is very badly scarred by the slate workings. But I do not think that, as in the debate in the other place, those points should be argued in favour of the scheme. In that debate it was said that Llanberis was not really a beauty spot, and that the Dinorwick quarries were an awful and unhealable scar on the landscape. My own view is that the beauty of the whole valley is such that as one looks down it one can overlook the scar of the Dinorwick quarries; and what I would say is that the work that is proposed in that area will do something to tidy up some of the dereliction which has been left by that quarry.
My Lords, it would be quite wrong to visualise the dams which are proposed as the straight, level banks which one sees in, for instance, the Woodhead Park. The art of landscaping has been applied only in recent years to industrial projects, and I think the Generating Board, under the wise leadership of Lord Holford, can claim some credit for developing that art. But the dams which are proposed here are moulded into the hillside. They are curved both in plan and in elevation; and although the water in the upper and the lower lakes is bound to vary in level, it is possible to landscape the inter-water levels so that, I think, they will have something of the attraction that one gets in the tidal stretches of the coast.
So I feel that this scheme is well justified. It is, of course, a scheme which falls, as I say, partly within a National Park and partly on the fringe of a National Park. It would be quite wrong immediately to give to such a scheme a green light, and what was wisely done in another place was to give it an amber light. I believe that the time is coming when the light should be changed, and I hope that when that change becomes due your Lordships will change it not from amber to red, but from amber to green.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ BARONESS WHITE
My Lords, we are very greatly in the debt of the noble Lord, Lord Hinton of Bankside, that he should have attended this debate and given us the benefit of his very wide knowledge and experience. I have listened with intense interest to what he has said because much of it was relevant to the evidence given by the 1483 Petitioners to the Select Committee in another place. I think that at the outset I should make it clear that I have some slight degree of personal embarrassment in this debate because some ten days ago I had the honour to be elected the President of the Council for the Protection of Rural Wales, and that body was one of the bodies which petitioned against this Bill in the other place. When that course of action was decided, I was not myself in any position to claim to be consulted; and I must say that I have very little doubt that the great majority of the members of the C.P.R.W. would remain in opposition to the Bill. If I was speaking to a Petition I would have to speak as a representative, but that, of course, is not the situation tonight. Tonight we are having a general debate on the Second Reading of a Bill. Therefore, mindful as I obviously must be of what I think are the fairly widely held views of the membership of the C.P.R.W., I think it is my duty tonight to speak as frankly and as honestly as I can on the merits and demerits of this Bill as I see it.
I would say that I find this Private Bill procedure for matters of what are really national interest extremely unsatisfactory. What we ought to be doing tonight, in my view, is having a debate on the principles of development in National Parks, and we ought to be discussing this straightforwardly with Ministers who are responsible for policy concerning the environment. But as this is a Private Bill it is at least conceivable that we may have no intervention from the Government Front Bench. There is no obligation upon them; it is not their Bill. Therefore it puts us in a difficulty, because so many issues are in fact raised. There are the issues raised by the Promoters of the Bill, and, if I may say so without the slightest touch of patronage, I think they have been extremely ably put forward and supported by the noble Lord, Lord Hinton. He has said, and I think very convincingly, that the technical arguments for the particular type of power station and pump storage scheme are very strong, and that in his view—and again one defers to his knowledge and experience—the economic arguments are also very strong indeed
1484 But of course those of us who are looking at this in a much wider context are, I think, bound to be concerned because there are very strong feelings on the other side. For example, I have here a note passed to me by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, who would have been here had there not been the change in the time of business—and this applies to some other noble Lords who also had hoped to be here to discuss this Bill but who, because of the change, were simply not able to be here at this hour of the night. My noble friend Lord Chorley made some slight protest about this earlier on, and I know that one or two other noble Lords had wished to be here. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, who holds a most distinguished position in the mountaineering fraternity, enjoined me to make it clear that he himself would have been in opposition to this Bill. He opposes it because of the feelings of the British Mountaineering Council and mountain lovers generally regarding the danger that they think will be done to the amenities of the Park by the proposed scheme.This in our view is another instance of whittling away the essential purposes of National Parks for reasons of material expediency.I quote those words of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, because he puts in a nutshell the opposing view. It is a view which I think is shared by many people, particularly by members of the various amenity societies, that one does not know how far this whittling away is to go.
I was attending a conference in Aberystwyth this week at which Professor Sir Robert Grieve, the former chairman of the Highlands and Islands Development Board, with his great knowledge, was speaking of Scotland where one has a far larger scale of landscape than the compressed scale of North Wales. He was pleading for what he called "wilderness areas" within the National Parks. One cannot oppose development of all kinds in National Parks; for people live and work there and that would be unreasonable. But there is no security for these who feel that for the salvation of their soul they must somewhere be able to find Wordsworthian solitude if we are to endorse development of the kind described to-night. The corollary of that would be that we should have a national 1485 policy for "wilderness areas" and that there should be some areas which might be selected by agreement where one could condemn all development if it is of an intrusive nature.
I do not regard Llanberis as coming within the range of any such area. One does not wish to be too derogatory, but I cannot myself regard Llanberis itself as a place of outstanding beauty. It is the views away from it which are sublime. Therefore, my own considered opinion of this Bill is that on balance, although I want to come to various reservations that I have, it will do more good than harm. I say this partly because while I am concerned that we do not have the guarantees which I think are becoming essential in some of these areas, nevertheless one must accept the situation that there is an increasing number of people visiting these areas and one must make provision for them. I am looking at this from the point of view of amenities and recreation, leaving aside the more technical arguments.
I was very sorry that rather inadequate consideration was given to all this in what I thought a superficial debate in another place. It was late at night; but there was a good deal of special pleading and no one tried to put it into a wider context. But the way I look at it is this. Unless one is prepared to close to vehicular traffic all the roads in the vicinity of Snowdon, with the possible exemptions for doctors, nurses, undertakers and all such absolutely essential persons, these roads will become more and more saturated every year. I was at Penygwryd last Bank Holiday Monday. One might have been at Piccadilly Circus. There were cars, coaches, ice cream vans and other vans of all sorts. The big petrol firms put up a ghastly and obtrusive sign in the heart of Snowdonia. On Snowdon, the paths are becoming more and more worn by erosion caused byBoots, boots, boots,Stamping up and down…".In these circumstances, unless one is prepared to take Draconian measures and restrict almost all wheeled traffic, surely the right strategy is to adopt what is known in planning circles as the "honeypot policy". In other words, you deliberately attract as many people as 1486 possible to certain selected places with the aim of protecting other areas from intrusion. I should have thought Llanberis an ideal "honeypot" area. It is an area which could be developed for even larger-scale tourism than at present. It is the terminus of the Snowdon railway. It is a favourite staging point for tourists. It has an additional amenity started very recently to which I wish to refer later: the new slate quarry at Dinorwic which is an outpost of the National Museum of Wales. There is the evidence of its industrial past, the slate debris to which the noble Lord, Lord Hinton, referred, but it is a place where I believe there could be considerable development. It is because on balance I think that the "honeypot" strategy is one which should be adopted in Snowdonia, in order to protect other sensitive areas in the neighbourhood, that I should be willing to agree that, on the whole, the Generating Board's proposals in such a context can be fitted in without too great an outrage particularly the lower reservoir and the works associated with it; although I am concerned about the proposed height of the lower dams.
I think that the people who move in the high hills are much more concerned about the change of character of the upper reservoir at Marchlyn Mawr. Climbers coming down from the Glydyrs particularly regard that as a wild and remote area which for them is part of the whole Snowdon complex. I repeat that on balance I think there is a reasonable case made out for the scheme as a whole, if only one could be assured that this was not the beginning a series of pump storage schemes which the C.E.G.B. may have hidden away in its pigeonholes. There is great suspicion about this. We have one at Ffestiniog which, although it got an award some ten years ago, I think sticks out like a sore thumb. I am glad to learn that the landscaping proposals for the proposition before us to-night are likely to be a good deal more sympathetic. Nevertheless, there are various practical matters which have not yet been fully resolved. I refer more especially to the question of the height of the lower dams.
If one studies the evidence given by Sir Frederick Gibberd, the landscape consultant to the Promoters of the Bill, 1487 one finds that he referred to Llyn Penis dams as the most critical, particularly the one at the North end. As he says,It cuts across the views of the Snowdon Rangeas, indeed, it does. I have been quite unable to discover what precisely is to be done about the height of the dams. Proposals have been put forward on behalf of the county council for a much lower dam than that suggested by the C.E.G.B. I understand that conversations and negotiations are taking place which may be all to the good, but we are asked to pass this Bill, and I am not at all clear about what the outcome of this matter may be.
Similarly, I am not at all clear about the real situation with regard to the quarry museum at Dinorwic. I went, at his request, to meet the Director of the National Museum of Wales recently, and he has since written to me. It is quite plain that no real conclusion has been reached, apart from safeguarding the actual building itself, as to the surroundings of this museum. The Director sent me drawings, showing the proposed approach road in relation to the museum and he writes:It crosses an area where we had hoped to have outdoor exhibits. We understand also that the C.E.G.B. propose to establish a vehicle and plant compound within about 100 yards of the front entrance to our museum. We have not been able to obtain any drawings from them about this.He goes on to say that they were hoping to have meetings between the local authority and the Department of the Environment:but no doubt any decision we take could be upset later by the C.E.G.B.These are just two matters which, I believe, are of some consequence and which are not yet fully determined.
There is also the, perhaps, more important constitutional position. We have received correspondence from those who petitioned in the Commons indicating quite clearly, as the noble Lord the Lord Chairman of Committees indicated in his Statement to the House the other day, that had they been in a financial position to do so, they would have petitioned your Lordships' House. This brings out a very important point in the whole procedure for dealing with these major matters on what is, after all, a very large- 1488 scale development in areas which are either in or abut on to the National Parks. It is, to my mind, quite wrong that voluntary organisations should have to bear unaided the whole brunt of standing up to very large bodies, whether they be public, as in this case, or private, as in the recent case of the Shell Company at Anglesey.
It seems to me that we have a constitutional responsibility to examine this Bill further and to make quite certain that any remaining doubts are adequately dealt with. I was therefore very glad when the noble Earl the Lord Chairman indicated that he would be prepared, if this feeling was expressed in the House, to send this Bill to a Select Committee for such further examination as seemed necessary, in spite of the fact that there are no formal Petitions against it. I say this without committing myself to the merits of some of the points put up by the Petitioners, but on the principle that it is, as I say, an extremely unsatisfactory state of affairs that bodies which have worked extremely hard but have now exhausted their funds—they have spent some £3,500—just have not the money yet again to brief counsel, to bring in experts, and all the rest of it. I find this a most distasteful aspect of our public life. I was particularly concerned with it in Anglesey, where one had not only a Private Bill but also a very lengthy planning inquiry, and where in the planning inquiry (which does not apply in this case, admittedly), there is not even a transcript of the evidence supplied and one has to provide this at one's own expense. It is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs, and if only for that reason I hope very much that this Bill will go to a Select Committee.
I think one ought to say, in fairness to the Generating Board, that they have endeavoured to be very co-operative indeed as to the general amenities in the area: they have agreed to put the cables underground; they have agreed to landscaping; they will provide extra roadworks, and so on. Nevertheless, there is going to be considerable disturbance in the area over a period of up to seven years. That means that there will be building work going on, large earth-moving equipment, mud and muddle over a long period. I should hope that we 1489 might in this situation adopt the provisions which were approved in the Water Bill, which has recently gone through your Lordships' House. Clause 22 provides that it is a duty in Walesfor a water authority who are carrying out works for or in connection with the construction or operation of a reservoir which permantly affects one or more communities, when it is not primarily intended by the authorities to benefit the inhabitants of those communities, to provide, or assist others to provide, facilities for recreation or other leisure-time occupations for the benefit of those inhabitants.It seems to me that if that is sauce for the water supply authorities, it should also be sauce for the electricity supply authorities. They are both constructing reservoirs for a purpose which is not primarily for the benefit of the local inhabitants.
It seems to me that it will be most encouraging if the Generating Board could go even further than they have, and adopt what I call the honey-pot policy for Llanberis. They can do something really outstanding and distinguished there by way of an interpretation centre for the whole of the Snowdonia complex. This is not the occasion to go into the details. I have been up to Scotland and seen what has been done in the Cairngorms areas. I think this is something to be discussed with the amenity societies. Of course they would not be reconciled to the main scheme; I do not think that could be hoped for. But this project might be a bridge between those who are putting over £100 million worth of industrial development in the area and those who are concerned with the amenities of the National Park. I think this would be a constructive and, I would hope, a pacifying gesture on the part of the C.E.G.B. in relation to those who, like my noble friend Lord Hunt, really do feel passionately against what they regard as an intrusion into this area. I repeat my hope that the Chairman of Committees will carry out his suggestion that the matter might be further considered by a Committee.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, the Motion before the House is that this Bill be read a second time and, as far as I know, the noble Earl has not yet given any undertaking or indeed has not specifically suggested that this Bill should go to a Select Committee. I intervene only very briefly, tempted as I am to follow 1490 other noble Lords and my noble friend into discussing this acute and difficult problem of how to handle matters that are becoming increasingly of national interest although naturally dealt with under Private Bill procedure.
I think it is a miracle how well our Private Bill procedure works as greater national interests arise. I personally am pretty sceptical that we are going to find Solutions to these problems in the near future, much as I personally would like to join in the debate, as one who originally voted in the famous Ullswater debate and on other occasions. Knowing the area as I do, and the arguments in favour of total conservation everywhere, I happen to believe that there is rather a strong case for this development—and indeed my noble friend Lady White did concede, despite the position that she holds (on which, incidentally, I should like to congratulate her) that there is a special case. It is the case that this Bill is widely supported in North Wales on various grounds, including of course employment. Naturally, the employment issue is an important one, and in this connection one might argue as to whether real employment is affected.
I would rather hope that one of the things the Bill would do would be to improve the environment, which in certain respects has a rather disfiguring aspect. However, it is not for me now to come to a view, and there is no doubt that there are very strong feelings which exist on the part of the amenity interests. There also still remain points of disagreement which, so far as I have heard, may not have been fully cleared up in another place. And it is, of course, an illusion that we can ever achieve certainty: we can only search for the best solutions possible. What we must do is to decide whether we wish to give advice to the noble Earl as to how he should exercise the undoubted discretion he has under Standing Order No. 92 to send the Bill to a Select Committee, despite the fact that it has not been petitioned against. He has this prerogative, and I am bound to say—although not so long ago I strongly opposed sending another Order to a Select Committee—that here nevertheless is a classic example of one that ought to go. I fully concede there may have been a thorough discussion on Committee in another place. I have not read 1491 the Report, but counsel will have been present. It is not so long ago, in the case of the Ashdown Forest Bill, that because of a procedural reason certain Petitioners were unable to petition because the Petition on which they were relying was withdrawn and it was then too late to take the matter further.
I am really referring to our duty as a House, without forming a judgment, but with a good deal of sympathy for those who feel that this development would be in the interests of the local people. I would in fact ask the noble Earl whether he will consider exercising his prerogative in this matter. The House ought not to consider that even this is a satisfactory procedure because counsel will not be appearing. It will fall very much on the Chairman of Committees, or whoever chairs this Committee, and the Committee, both to examine witnesses and make up their own minds. Equally, it will be even harder to ask the noble Earl, who personifies the Unopposed Bills Committee, to tackle such a "hot one" as this on his own. Without going into the merits of this matter—and there are strong feelings on both sides—I hope that the noble Earl will consider exercising his prerogative and that in due course he will ask the House (and when I say "in due course" there is a later Motion for a carry over into another Session which I hope the House will approve) to resolve that there should be a Committee which will be empowered to send for witnesses and examine them. That is my feeling as to what is best from the standpoint of the duty of the House of Lords, and that, if I may make so bold, is the advice I would give to the noble Earl.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ LORD CROOK
My Lords, I am most anxious to support the Second Reading and express a completely contrary view about another Select Committee. I do not think we need another Select Committee. If we come to the machinery which my noble Leader has been talking about, from the Committees I have sat on dealing with water power and so on, it is absolutely ludicrous that people should go to the Commons for day after day sitting in front of a Committee with counsel and then come to this House to 1492 a Select Committee. Counsel, who do not even give the Committee the documents regarding what happened in the Commons, will say, "Tell me, did you say to the Commons X, Y and Z?" The witness then says, "Yes". I do not know why there are two Select Committees, but I am not allowed now to discuss this. My noble Leader raised the general point and I could not agree more with him that we should look at the whole procedure.
So far as this Bill is concerned, I think it is excellent. We all talk about energy, safeguarding energy and stockpiling it. You can stockpile coal, you can put gas in gasometers and oil in tanks. There is only one way to store electricity and that is by water. That is exactly what is proposed in this Bill. You have a lake which is not less than 800 feet above the lake below and you turn on the flexible power that is yours—something which is unusual and astonishing. The flexible power involved in what is before your Lordships to-night is such that the machine can go from zero to 1,320 meggawatts in ten seconds. It can build up to 1½ million kilowatts to feed into the grid. When we talk about energy, and what we ought to do about conserving it, when we talk about the difficulties that we may get with a sudden shutdown of a power station or troubles, we realise that this is not to be lightly looked at.
So far as the site is concerned, I think we are going to see an improvement of the area, not the opposite. The two lakes are there. We do not have to make a new lake. When we started on a similar scheme in Loch Lomond many years ago, we had to build the lake at the top to get the water to run down, to pump up the next morning. Here we have a drop of 1,600 feet from existing lakes anyway. It would be quite wrong to believe that all Wales—and I am so glad that my Welsh noble friend said this—is unspoiled and beautiful. Much of it we see is. But here there will be bad points of the Welsh countryside which are made better. As I understand what the C.E.G.B. have done, they will take over the break in some of the sides of the slate quarries and will do away with the slate quarry buildings down below, taking away dreadful eyesores rather than anything else.
1493 No one has mentioned so far—and at this late stage I cannot develop it—that this is one of the few occasions on which we can build a power station that one will never even see. The water will come down; it will cut inside the mountainside; it will go through an internal power station; it will do its job and then come on out. It is much better than the one at Loch Lomond, better than the one at Ffestiniog, better than anything that has so far been done. Mention was made of mud and mess. I am bound to say from what I know from local authorities there, the works of the C.E.G.B. are going to include £500,000 worth of improvements which will assist the whole locality. There are to be expenditures of gigantic amounts by C.E.G.B. in order to look after amenities: £4¼ million in undergrounding cables; there will be fewer pylons than there are now, not more, and a total of £5¼ million out of the £75 million cost will be spent in that connection.
I understand that employment is very bad in that area, that it is always running at somewhere over 10 per cent. There are men there who have written to me and to others who have been 17 years without work. I believe there will be employment for 1,000 local people for seven years—the period my noble friend referred to. There will not be a lot of permanent work afterwards it is true. It will be available for only forty or fifty, but that is something. There are many more things I should have liked to say. My noble friend has referred to the awards given. They were given by the Civic Trust, the Welsh Tourist Board and the Welsh Tourists' and Holidays Association in respect of Ffestiniog. I cannot believe that when this is finished, as I hope it will be, this will not have a very beautiful effect, not the opposite. This is so unlike the project I spent 22 days on for your Lordships—Cow Green and going round and climbing up the mountain to look at what we were to do there. Here we have beauty that we can take and improve. I commend the scheme to your Lordships.
§ 9.39 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, as your Lordships are aware, I am not permitted to speak on behalf of the 1494 Promoters of a Private Bill and I cannot therefore answer any of the criticisms that have been made of this Bill, but this purpose was admirably served, if I may say so, by the speech that we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Hinton of Bankside. I will of course draw the attention of the Promoters to everything that has been said by noble Lords and by the noble Baroness in the course of this debate. I am sure it will be perfectly clear to your Lordships that the House regards the preservation of amenity as a most important consideration. I have noted that the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition and the noble Baroness, Lady White, wish me to refer this Bill, whch is unopposed, because there is no Petition in this House, to a Select Committee, as if it were an opposed Bill. Before I decide whether to do so I should like first to consider the position of the former Petitioners. I referred to one of these Petitioners, namely, the North Wales Hydro-Electricity Protection Committee and Commons, Open Spaces and Footpaths Preservation Society, of whose position I am aware, in my Statement on Tuesday, but I should like to ascertain the position of the other three Petitioners who petitioned against this Bill in another place but have not done so here.
I will consider most carefully the advice, for which I am indeed grateful, that I have received from your Lordships to-night, and if I come to the conclusion that the Bill should be considered by a Select Committee I will inform the House accordingly at the earliest opportunity. I will also consider whether I should ask the House to give the Select Committee power to order evidence other than that tendered by the Promoters.
§ On Question, Bill read 2£.