HC Deb 29 April 1969 vol 782 cc1144-5
37. Mr. Patrick McNair-Wilson

asked the Minister of Power if he will give the latest forecast for the availability of natural gas supplies from the North Sea.

Mr. Freeson

As my right. hon. Friend recently told the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries (Cmnd. 3996), present reserves should build up to a production rate of 3,500 million cubic feet per day. Further recent discoveries reinforce the planning figure in the Fuel Policy White Paper (Cmnd. 3438) that 4,000 million cubic feet per day should be available by 1975.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that, since there is now some confusion in forecasting for North Sea gas, serious consideration should be given to whether we should press ahead with the domestic conversions and use up this precious indigenous fuel too quickly rather than put it into industry as near the shore as possible?

Mr. Freeson

If there is any confusion it is confined to a few individuals, and I hope that the figures I have given today will correct it. The gas industry is doing an excellent job for industrial supplies but that does not mean that it should not attempt to get into the premium market as rapidly as possible. That is where it is most profitable for it to be active.

Mr. Ogden

But we are going to increase consumption from the North Sea, are we not? It is just not going to last as long as we thought, is it? We are just going to have to convert back, are we not? Why, in these circumstances, import oil instead of using our own coal?

Mr. Freeson

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the manner of his supplementary question, but I must disappoint him by pointing out that if he reads the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow he will find that I have already answered it. The industry had already been switching from indigenous coal to oil feedstock, and we are now going ahead with an even greater use of our home production of fuel. After all, North Sea gas is an indigenous fuel.

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