Industry: water, steel & energy

Vey, Peter (10 of 10). An Oral History of the Electricity Supply in the UK

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  • Recording date

    2016-01-28, 2016-02-19, 2016-04-04, 2016-04-18, 2016-05-10, 2016-05-20

  • Interviewees

    Vey, Peter, 1928- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 10: Further remarks on nuclear fuel flask train crash test: descriptions of newspaper cartoons of event; mentions being at a marketing conference afterwards where CEGB were criticised over expense of event; crash ending complains over nuclear fuel train risks. [02:20] Remarks on working at CEGB: anecdote about office moving to less pleasant part of building, which had advantage of being closer to staff; outline of office, PV open door policy; excellent secretary Lorraine Camp, description of duties and value to PV work, later secretary to John Baker; CEGB admin staff often related to people who had worked there before, most CEGB secretaries from East London. [07:35] Remarks on CEGB PR: outline of organisation, regional PR staff reporting to PV, over 100 staff in total; outline of duties of staff across different topics; CEGB staff trained as public speakers to give talks to public and interest groups, mentions health physicist Gordon King giving talk on nuclear power to Women's Institute annual conference; Don Ratledge tasked with monitoring political developments; dinners organised for politicians and political groups, mainly Conservative, hosted by Walter Marshall; CEGB presence at Labour and Conservative party conferences; politicians receptive to CEGB, good standard of hospitality; Conservative politicians warm to CEGB after miners strike. [16:00] Comments on 1984-85 miner's strike: mounting realisation that there would be a dispute, Arthur Scargill calling strike without a proper ballot; Scargill mistake in calling strike in spring; CEGB policy of getting on with strike rather than talking about it; CEGB industrial workers disliking both Scargill and Thatcher; Walter Marshall focusing organisation on keeping the lights on; CEGB policy of keeping a low media profile annoying some journalists; BBC seen as sympathetic to miners, ITN seen as more trustworthy; anecdote about PV recommending ITN viewing CEGB huge coal stocks by helicopter; media invited into National Grid control room at crucial period when clocks went back; [22:55] anecdote about Walter Marshall and press visit to Didcot power station, leading to workers blacking coal; outline of difference between black and white coal; BBC anti-government stance, more sympathetic to miners; newspapers straightforward to deal with; CEGB not popular amongst press due to quiet stance, except when Scargill's extreme claims needed to be countered; ugly scenes of picketing; anecdote about disagreement with Didcot Power Station manager over Walter Marshall speech to press that caused coal blacking; anecdote about Walter Marshall interview with an 'Observer' journalist, accidental release of cost information needing to be balanced by a leak to 'The Sunday Times', leading to complaints from Department of Energy; [27:00] closeness of power workers and miners in communities, requiring sensitive approach to avoid provoking power workers; CEGB oil fired power stations left idle by 1970s oil crisis proving invaluable during strike; Walter Marshall meeting to urge Thatcher not to use army to force through imported coal to power stations, giving CEGB management a clear sense of task; Marshall's calmness during this period, good working relationship with Peter Walker, confidence that CEGB would prevail, admiration for CEGB engineers; [31:45] [cont' from 31:45] Frank Ledger book on strike revealing more uncertainty further down CEGB hierarchy; PV experience in car industry leaving him with poor opinion for trade unions, viewing miners strike as battle government needed to win; mentions recent news stories about possibility of investigation of South Yorkshire Police over Ogreave riots; mentions violence elsewhere in strike; views on strike within CEGB; public service ethic of CEGB in keeping the lights on; PV experience of 1970s power cuts; [37:00] little direct contact with government for PV, industry communications via Electricity Council; PV strongest memories of strike of objections from Department of Energy over Walter Marshall interview and CEGB meeting high demand when clocks when back; PV not expecting CEGB to fail in dispute; lists press initiative, quite few due to need to keep a low profile. [41:45] Remarks on CEGB relationship with press: CEGB typically on media defensive, but wanting to publicise positive developments too; description of opening of Dinorwig by Prince of Wales, PV first job at CEGB; anecdote about Scargill attempting to picket Dinorwig. [45:30] Further remarks on Miners strike: major issue for CEGB at time; RAF assistance for CEGB gas turbines, organised by Granville Camsey; importing of oil in huge amounts; Walter Marshall important decision to burn oil.

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