HC Deb 21 June 1966 vol 730 cc264-8
13. Mr. Ian Lloyd

asked the Minister of Power how many firm contracts have been placed by the Gas Council for pipelines to convey natural gas from the North Sea to the national grid; and what is in each case the length of the pipeline, the diameter and the date on which contracts are expected to be completed.

14. Mr. Nott

asked the Minister of Power what quantity of steel piping was used in the existing trunk pipeline distributing Algerian natural gas running from London to Leeds and elsewhere; how much of this piping was provided by the British steel industry; and how much piping will be required to join the British Petroleum off-shore gas strike near the Humber to the existing trunk pipeline.

Dr. Bray

About 330 miles for the Algerian gas pipeline, all of whom was provided by the British steel industry. About 90 miles of 24 in. pipe will be required to make the connection to this line from the landing point where the gas from the B.P. find will be delivered to the Gas Council. Of the 90 miles, 28 will have to be imported. The contractual arrangements for these supplies are matters for the Gas Council.

Mr. Lloyd

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether his inquiries have shown that it will be necessary to import all of this balance of steel, and were these orders for the residual 28 miles placed after all attempts had been made to obtain steel from our own industry?

Dr. Bray

Yes, certainly.

Mr. R. W. Elliott

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, following the statement which was reported in The Times of 25th May that Ministers were unhappy because they felt that the British steel industry would be unable to supply sufficient piping, the two principal steel firms were extremely irritated in that they felt that the capacity required would be well within their reach?

Dr. Bray

That does not correspond with the facts as they have been presented to us by the steel firms themselves.

27. Sir C. Osborne

asked the Minister of Power what representations he has received that British industry is unable to make the pipes required to bring the North Sea gas to the mainland; and if he will make a statement.

28. Mr. Patrick Jenkin

asked the Minister of Power what estimate he has given to the British steel industry of the amount of pipeline that will be required to pipe the current sources of off-shore gas strikes to consumers in the years 1967–68, and 1969–70, respectively.

37. Mr. R. W. Elliott

asked the Minister of Power if he is satisfied that an adequate supply of steel piping will be available to cope with the supply of natural gas from the North Sea; and if he will make a statement.

51. Mr. Peyton

asked the Minister of Power what has been the result of his discussions about the supply of steel tubes to convey natural gas from the North Sea.

Mr. Marsh

I would refer the hon. Members to the answer I gave to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) on 16th June.

Sir C. Osborne

I have not the faintest idea what he said on that occasion—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must put his question.

Sir C. Osborne

May I put it this way, that we are aware that—[HON. MEMBERS: "Question."] Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that very few hon. Members behind him have any idea of what he said on that occasion? If British industry can produce these required pipes, is it not scandalous that the Press should be making statements to the contrary and denigrating what our people can do?

Mr. Marsh

The hon. Member should get two things clear. On the initial orders, apart from about 28 miles of pipe, British industry will be able to provide the piping. There is certainly some doubt about the extent to which pipe will have to be imported from overseas in future.

Mr. Jenkin

Was the right hon. Gentleman then himself responsible for the leak to The Times for that paper's article of 25th May, which said that Ministers were deeply shocked by the large quantities which would have to be imported? Is he aware that that had to be denied the following day?

Mr. Marsh

I am never responsible for anything which appears in The Times, but certainly Ministers are concerned about the extent to which imports of steel pipe may be necessary in future.

Mr. Peyton

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that what he said on 16th of June and what he has just said conflicts very sharply with that leak which was put out from the Ministry of Power alleging a complete incapacity on the part of the steel industry, and that he is now being very much more restrained and cautious? However, will he be careful in future before he makes allegations which are highly damaging to an industry against which, I agree, he has the most improper motives?

Mr. Marsh

No leaks were put out by the Ministry of Power—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I will repeat that. I am not sure what hon. Gentlemen are trying to say. If it is argued that this side of the House and Ministers are satisfied with the British steel industry and that it will be able to meet all the requirement on a large scale for large size steel pipe, I am sure that there are considerable doubts on this side of the House as to whether that is so.

Mr. Barber

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he cannot ride off so easily on a matter of this kind? Will he answer this simple question? Is he aware that the political correspondent of The Times repeated that a Minister of Her Majesty's Government had said that the inability of the steel industry to provide pipes showed that the case for the' nationalisation of steel was unanswerable? Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that that reference was completely untrue? If the right hon. Gentleman says that he was not responsible for the leak, will he make inquiries to find out which of his right hon. Friends was responsible?

Mr. Marsh

I repeat that there was no leak from Ministers about the extent to which we shall be able to meet all our steel requirements.

Mr. Bessell

Would the right hon. Gentleman state the diameter of the proposed B.P. pipe and whether it will be possible to manufacture pipe of the required diameter by the British steel industry?

Mr. Marsh

This is where the confusion arises, because there are two sets of orders. It may be necessary in the initial stages to import limited quantities of the B.P. pipe which, I understand, is 24 in. in diameter.