HC Deb 19 December 1973 vol 866 cc1331-4
11. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on recent discussions regarding energy policy with the EEC.

16. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the recent discussions in Copenhagen about the formulation of a European energy policy.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Hon. Members will have seen the statement issued by the Copenhagen summit meeting on 15th December, copies of which are available in the Vote Office. The Council of Ministers has agreed to meet again by 7th January. At that meeting we hope to take decisions to put into effect the provisions of the summit communiqué regarding energy policy. Meanwhile, on a voluntary basis we shall be making available to the Commission the necessary information about our own supplies to enable it to report by 15th January.

Mr. Douglas

Will the right hon. Gentleman concede that one of the mysterious factors about the situation is that the international oil companies seem to be embarking upon a procedure of sharing the crude oil coming into Europe, and that this is being done without the activation of the OECD's oil-sharing organisation which was set up in 1967? Will the right hon. Gentleman indicate the attitude of Her Majesty's Government towards the procedures adopted by the international oil companies? Do they agree with the method of sharing?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The obligations of Her Majesty's Government are to see to it that nothing infringes our treaty arrangements with Europe or with other parts of the world in relation to the distribution of oil. Nothing has done so, and we have taken no action that would interfere with the ordinary supply and distribution of oil.

Mr. Wilkinson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is the possibility of forging a relationship of great potential mutual benefit between Western Europe and the Arab oil-producing nations, especially if, like our good friends the French, we understand the importance of technical and industrial assistance for the Arab nations?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

There is a very large question here, which is of enormous importance to relations between the consumers and the producers. It involves much more than the production and distribution of oil. It involves investment, technology, and so on. This was raised not only in the European Community but very pertinently by Dr. Kissinger in his speech to the Pilgrims not very long ago. I think that the proper forum in which to discuss this is the OECD, which has the advantage of including not only America and Japan but Canada, which will be a very important country in the new era of oil production.

Mr. Hamilton

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that one of the decisions at Copenhagen, if not the major one, was the need to link questions of economic union with energy policy and regional policy? Will he give a categorical assurance, anyhow, that in no circumstances will we share our North Sea resources with anyone else unless and until we get a satisfactory regional policy, and that if we get neither we shall think of withdrawal from the EEC altogether, or at least of withholding our payments to the common agricultural policy?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The matter of the full production and distribution of North Sea oil is under our complete control. At the European Community meeting yesterday I said that I thought it desirable that matters of economic and monetary union and matters of regional policy and energy should all be settled at the same meeting. I hope that we shall be able to do this on 7th January.

Dame Irene Ward

May I take this opportunity to thank my right hon. Friend for standing out for the regions at the recent meeting? Is he aware how grateful we are, at any rate in the region where I live and which I represent, and that we hope that he will have great success in getting his own way for us?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. She is on to a question which certainly ought not to arouse any ribaldry on the Opposition benches. It is manifestly important for Britain, in her relations with the Community, to have a regional policy of substance. On that, yesterday, I insisted. I hope that on 7th January the Community will agree that this is right.

Mr. Callaghan

Is not it clear that the pretence is at last showing through, that it is impossible to get an agreed European policy on such a combination as oil, monetary union, the balance of payments and political union, and that as long as the Foreign Secretary pretends to us that he hopes to get this early in January, so long will British policy itself be paralysed? Is not it time that the right hon. Gentleman removed some of these problems from the ambit of the European Community and transferred them to the OECD and that we had a real attempt to look at these problems though our national eyes while, as far as we can, combining with our neighbours in our common interest?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is too pessimistic. Of course, we shall not solve the problems of economic and monetary union or energy on 7th January. But at least we can make progress towards a European view on these matters. However, regional policy is essential to this country, and it must be adequate. The right hon. Gentleman is right, of course, when he says that we cannot solve these matters. Taking the world view, obviously the OECD is the right place in which to consider the energy problem, but we can make progress with the European Community, and I hope that we can do so on 7th January.