Industry: water, steel & energy

Camsey, Granville (10 of 16). An Oral History of the Electricity Supply in the UK

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  • Recording date

    2013-04-18, 2013-05-02, 2013-09-26, 2013-10-22, 2013-12-10, 2014-01-14, 2014-01-28, 2014-03-17, 2014-04-15

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Buckinghamshire

  • Interviewees

    Camsey, Granville, 1936- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 10: Remarks on running of Didcot Power station: experienced manager Norman Holland running difficult station well; description of accident with ash crusher, which GC chaired inquiry board for; Norman Holland's dynamic style leading to GC promoting him post-privatisation at National Power to run difficult Thames power stations; Holland's decision to run Didcot in spite of problems with shop stewards; risks of a strike at Dicdot spreading around region; anecdote about Holland imaginative solution to problems over blacking of staff by trade unionists; Frank Ledger visit to Didcot to verify Holland approach; [05:20] Didcot's heavy burn of oil during strike; anecdote about Holland's toleration of unusual arrangements for driver comfort; anecdote about oil supply drivers attempted substitute of water for oil. [07:10] Remarks on: GC attempt to borrow American helicopters, government crisis unit, GC asking for Government support in accessing American support; general planning for possibilities of strike; contingency planning laid down in Red Book; board member for operations Gil Blackman using Red Book to explain situation to Margaret Thatcher. [10:55] Description of Gil Blackman: outline of background in power stations and in senior roles in CEGB regions; skilled judge of situations; role in dividing CEGB personnel at privatisation of industry; last chairman of CEGB; thoughtful and considered management style; well humoured; masterminded CEGB response to miners strike with Frank Ledger. [14:45] Remarks on: GC position in hierarchy, reporting to Operations Director Frank Ledger; Ledger subordinates GC, System Operations Manager Ed Wallis, fuel supplies officer John Wooley, nuclear fuel officer. [16:06] Description of Frank Ledger in 1980s: well liked by GC; analytical mind and judgement important in miners' strike; good at dealing with people; replaced Trevor Broom as Director of Operations, who was returned to research where he was better suited; good man to work for; Howard Sallis and Ledger writing useful, academic account of miners' strikes. [20:05] Remarks on workplaces and commuting: commuting to South East from Litchfield whilst on secondment to CALMU group, then initially to London when posted to headquarters; description of CEGB Sudbury House headquarters; strain on family life from commuting; CEGB support for staff to move house, GC remarks to Gil Blackman resulting to support for moving home; GC surprise at being offered South East Region Director of Production post. [24:30] Story about GC purchase and renovation of present home: difficulty affording move from Midlands to London; GC friend Earnest Rowley finding a possible house; purchase of house in closed bid process almost unsuccessful due to delayed train; GC being outbid on house purchase, until intervention of CEGB deputy chairman in convincing rival purchaser, director of major contractor to CEGB, to withdraw bid; living in caravan in garden whilst GC and wife renovated home. [29:00] Description of home in Chalfont St Peter before and after renovation: outline of history of house, once occupied by actress Flora Robson; anecdotes about renovation process; history of private housing estate built in 1920s on Chalfont Park Estate, containing a mix of architectural styles and building patterns over years. [35:25] Remarks on lost opportunities for personal advancement, once offered by state industries to able staff, doubts over fairness in societal terms of privatisation in spite of personal benefits. [37:25] Remarks on typical day at CEGB headquarters: regular, non-urgent hours of staff role; outline of pattern of work day; GC spending many hours in evening renovating house, previous renovations of earlier homes; difference in headquarters posts from power station work, anecdote about Frank Ledger encouraging GC to gain pleasure form drafting a good report; typical management tasks, such as working with Phil Willet on national contracts; GC and Roy West position between board desire to cut expenditure and demands from power stations for more spares, sophisticated analysis of spares; attendance of NJIC and NJAC. [43:25] Comments on accidental deaths leading to GC chairing inquiry boards: fatal fall from Littlebrook chimney; fatal fall through flooring at Eggborough; death at Aberthaw; reports accepted by board without comment. [48:30] Remarks on organisational freedoms and constraints: scheme to cut costs by closer cooperation between Directors General; anecdote about South East Director General building a maintenance facility for Rolls-Royce gas turbines, unavailable to other regions; hierarchical nature of state industry creating tension between central control and local initiatives; GC later frustration with constraints of organisation; GC finding few exceptional superior managers in CEGB; anecdote about Bob Peddie pointing out the wisdom of constraints on personnel; need for success if going against organisational constraints; [55:20] anecdote about consultants and CEO's praising initiative but organising against it; difficulty of large organisations in allowing initiative; stagnating of initiative CEGB's ability to innovate by 1980s, a factor in GC decision to leave CEGB; risks of easy criticism of organisations; mix of critical and valuing feelings toward CEGB by 1980s. [59:30] Further remarks on initiative: role of GC initiative and Operational Services Department in originating ideas for contingency plans during miners strike; example of GC initiate in decisions around electronic governor issue at Rugeley power station; Bob Peddie's extreme initiative; risks around initiative contrary to CEGB mitigation against risk taking; benefits of commercial pressure in forcing risk taking. [1:04:00] Further discussion about miners strike: focus of activity around power stations and their management; importance of ensuring fuel supply, responsibility of John Wooley; anecdote about CGEB heavy expenditure on oil during miners strike, potentially having cost implications; GC and group on sidelines of main issues; Monday morning management meetings; Ed Wallis role managing coal burn across system to maximise endurance; Frank Ledger and John Wooley important roles; [1:08:15] use of gas turbines during strike to generate electricity creating huge demand for spares; everyone having a story about what they did during miner's strike; determination within CEGB to keep the lights on; sympathy toward miners in some regions; concerns around ability of some stations to deliver; heavy use of little used oil burning stations, such as Isle of Grain; anecdote about difficulty supplying enough cash to pay huge amounts of overtime for workers at Grain. [1:14:25] Remarks on contingency plans: GC nervousness over helicoptering in supplies over pickets; probable success of other measures if needed; risks of running out of gas turbine spares, reliance on Royal Navy; success of schemes as support for decisions over strike; Bradshaw pushing through a change in regulation to allow boilers to run longer between shut down inspections. [1:19:00] Comments on GC feelings about the miners' strike: GC little troubled at time of strike; 1990s BBC television programme with other CEGB personnel challenging GC feelings about strike; repercussions of strike becoming clear by 1990s, destruction of mining communities, Arthur Scargill's manipulation of situation compared to moderate stance of Nottinghamshire miners; GC sometimes feeling he would rather not have been involved with strike due to sadness over its consequences; GC sadness at demise of miner's brass bands and other aspects of communities; GC reading book on 1980s government attacks on Arthur Scargill and NUM; Labour politician Roy Hattersley's opinion on power of government to demolish; 1980s view that CEGB role was to allow strike to be settled on its own terms.

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