Industry: water, steel & energy

Vey, Peter (12 of 14). 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, 1949- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 12: Remarks on acid rain: press visits to Scottish lakes, involving CEGB chief scientist Peter Chester, showing how Sottish lakes were not effected by acid rain; large coal stations later fitted with flue gas desulphurisation equipment; Nitrous Oxide emissions not such problem at time; issue lacking emotional threats of nuclear power; good relations with CEGB scientists, such as Peter Chester; acid rain easier to explain to public than nuclear power risks; people confusing cooling tower condensation with acid rain emissions; publications to support CEGB case; [05:00] ongoing debate over issue, steady process of putting across CEGB case; CEGB response to acid rain quite effective; [06:15] Remarks on: Electricity Council responsible for most opinion surveys and advertising; public not understanding role of CEGB well, but Electricity Council forbidding CEGB from corporate advertising; tensions between large CEGB and smaller area boards, CEGB lacking direct contact with public; CEGB lacking public familiarity, seeming big and remote compared to friendly local area boards, a disadvantage at privatisation; power station open days popular with public, but CEGB policies often unpopular with public; [11:00] national campaign of open days, in run up to privatisation; open days successful; CEGB publicity having educational aspect; CEGB speakers made available to schools, supported by educational and films material for schools; outline of work of publication department, including publications for schools and MPs; CEGB preferring to develop marketing in house rather than using outside agencies, concerns about loss of jobs; publications on complex issues best done inside CEGB where experts were on hand to assist; [16:50] outline of typical dialy activities outside of major issues; excellent 'Power News' CEGB newspaper; press cuttings service and attention to energy issues in parliament; PV visiting CEGB regions and power stations; management satisfied with PV work. [19:50] Remarks on CEGB: large and bureaucratic, but splendid; focus on efficiently keeping the lights on; CEGB strength in long range planning; dedicated and intelligent staff; layered and bureaucratic management, but less so than UKAEA. [21:25] Remarks on privatisation of CEGB: wider process of privatisation of nationalised industries; committee formed to explore privatisation, including outside advisers, coming to realisation that CEGB would be split up; short story about a train journey with Walter Marshall and energy minister, where it became clear to PV that CEGB would be broken up; PV experience of private industry previously, able to see advantages of privatisation, but wary of splitting CEGB; PV wary of having independent National Grid due to economic advantages of highly integrated system; [25:45] splitting up CEGB having negative effects on nuclear power; short story about Walter Marshall's final talk on nuclear power after sacking from CEGB, predicting difficulties for nuclear power in competitive energy market; need for a large organisation to buffer costs of nuclear power. [27:50] [cont' from 27:50] Remarks on Walter Marshall over privatisation process: confident at start of process, but believing that CEGB would remain as a single organisation; strained relationship between chairmen of CEGB and Electricity Council, increasing when Marshall became chairman; description of bright but acerbic Electricity Council chairman Philip Jones; clashes between Jones and Marshall; Marshall good relationship with Margaret Thatcher, example of briefing at Chequers over acid rain; positive portrayal of Marshall in Thatcher’s memoirs; [31:40] changing perception of privatisation as process continued, Marshall against transfer of Magnox power stations out of National Power; Marshal lobbying of MP's to try and keep CEGB together, Cecil Parkinson leak over issue; growing difficulties between Marshall and government; PV learning of Marshall's sacking from John Baker; PV learning that National Grid would be handed to Area Boards at executive meeting, PV and Bernard Ingham advising against Marshall holding a press conference over issue; [36:20] Marshall more upset over fate of industry than his own sacking; Marshall sacked as he was seen as an impediment to government's plans for industry, disagreements with senior civil servant John Guinness; Guinness advice to John Wakeham that CEGB needed to be split, and opponents removed; ruthlessness of government toward Marshall, despite his handling of miners strike; [39:50] PV spending much time supporting Marshall in preparing speeches; PV developing personal friendship with Marshall; Marshall subsequent work establishing WANO and advising Eastern European counties, occasionally asking PV to assist with press conferences; short story about Marshall informing PV he was dying and asking PV to advise wife on memorial service, where John Wake delivered eulogy; industry losing a great advocate of nuclear power with Marshall's death.

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