§ Mr. Aspinwall
asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he has received the report of the joint Government and industry review of the technical standards of overhead electricity lines he announced in December 1981; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Mellor
I have now received the report of this review which I initiated at the time of the interruptions to electricity supplies during last winter's severe weather.
The review, carried out by a joint Government—electricity supply industry panel under the chairmanship of the Department's chief engineering inspector, Mr. Alan Baldock, established that overhead line design standards were generally satisfactoty. The panel also examined the distribution system in other countries and concluded that the reliability of the United Kingdom system was equal to, if not better than, those of our European neighbours, the United States of America and Canada. However, the panel 183W found design weaknesses of some rural overhead lines and damage caused by trees had exacerbated last winter's supply interruptions.
The panel has recommended a programme of improvements to be carried out over the next 10 years, which it estimates to cost between £100 million and £150 million. The panel has also recommended the establishment of a study group to revise the statutory regulations governing the design of overhead lines. I understand that a number of area electricity boards have already adopted measures recommended by the panel and the rest of the industry will be putting them into effect forthwith.
This is a valuable report pinpointing a number of key areas where practical and worthwhile improvements can be made to reduce the risk of disruption of electricity supplies in extreme weather conditions.
I welcome the panel's recommendation and have strongly commended them to the Electricity Council.
I have arranged for copies of the report to be placed in the library of the House.