HC Deb 09 July 1968 vol 768 cc190-1
18. Mr. Crouch

asked the Minister of Power what estimate he has made of the value of the capital assets of the gas industry which will be obsolete as a result of the speed at which North Sea gas is to be introduced.

Mr. Freeson

The book value of assets made obsolete will be influenced by the rate of converting distributing systems to natural gas, and the conversion of oil reforming plant to produce synthetic natural gas for peak loads. The programme will adapt to developing needs. Subject to these factors, the Gas Council estimates that the book value involved might be about£300 million.

Mr. Crouch

Apart from being somewhat woolly, that is an incredibly disappointing Answer. While my hon. Friends are anxious to see progress made with natural gas as quickly as possible, is he aware that the White Paper referred to the uncertainties involved in this whole project? Would he agree that£300 million is an excessive amount to become an abortive investment?

Mr. Freeson

Not in the circumstances. In accepting that this will be, in effect, an obsolescence write-off, one is taking into account the fact that there will be a total benefit not only to the gas industry but to the other fuel industries and to the economy as a whole.

Mr. Hector Hughes

As my hon. Friends comments are based on the speed with which North Sea gas will be introduced, can be say what that speed will be and how it is ascertained?

Mr. Freeson

The estimated period of the programme on which the Gas Council has embarked has appeared in the White Paper and various other publications. I am not able to say in detail at Question Time how that programme was ascertained.