Wednesday, November 25, 1998 Published at 18:04 GMT
Eclipse minister plea blotted out
Thousands are expected to descend on Cornwall
The government has refused to appoint a minister to deal with the effects of a total eclipse of the sun next summer.
Hundreds of thousands or even millions of people are expected to pour into Devon and Cornwall to get the best view of the event in August.
But his plea was met by the government response: think of the money-making opportunity for businesses and the tourist industry.
Junior Environment Minister Nick Raynsford said that charges for bed and breakfast and fees from campsites alone were likely to generate more than £150m from people eager to see the phenomenon on 11 August 1999.
'Millions without facilities'
Mr Taylor called for a parliamentary debate, warning of 1.2m visitors.
"Roads, sewage and water could not cope at these levels."
Mr Taylor said the ambulance service had budgeted for an extra air ambulance, motorbikes and ambulances, but might have to call on the RAF for support.
Women had been advised not to get pregnant in November, because traffic jams could prevent them getting to hospital in August.
He said: "If it is wet there may be 2m people without anything to look at, in campsites without proper facilities."
The cost to health and emergency services was likely to be more than £5m, he said.
Mr Raynsford rejected the call for a minister, but stressed he would raise with the health secretary the health risks of looking at the eclipse with naked eyes.
He said the eclipse was not an emergency or a sudden danger requiring urgent action.
Home Secretary Jack Straw expected extra costs would be less than half of 1% of the county's police budget.
"The Association of Chief Police Officers, which has had a working party looking into this issue, is of the opinion that forces should not ordinarily be given assistance."
Mr Raynsford said many other areas wished they were so fortunate.
"So far government ministers seem unaware of the scale of what will be hitting the county and have not yet decided which parliamentary department should be responsible," he said.
The first mainland eclipse since 1927 will be seen for two minutes and six seconds between the towns of Penzance and Falmouth.
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