HC Deb 18 June 1973 vol 858 cc16-8
14. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on discussions between his Department and European Governments regarding a common energy policy.

The Secretary of State for Trade and industry (Mr. Peter Walker)

The Government maintain close contact with our European partners on energy matters. both through EEC institutions and bilaterally. On 22nd May, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy reported to the House on 23rd May, the Council of Ministers considered a range of energy policy issues. My hon. Friend the Minister for Industry attended the meeting and certain specific items were agreed, and the Commission was invited to come forward with further proposals on other matters by the end of the year.—[Vol. 857, c. 473–90.]

Mr. Douglas

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us how he can have meaningful discussions with the Community and other institutions on energy policy before presenting to the House an indication of the energy mix that we are likely to have in, say, 1980? Will he assure the House that we are unlikely to alter our licence agreements to meet any demands that the Commission might place upon us until we are sure that our offshore supply industry can get the same take from these fields as other countries, such as France and, perhaps, Norway, have from their industries?

Mr. Walker

On the energy scene the Government have announced and made clear their decisions on a whole range of specific issues in the nuclear, oil and coal industries. The Government have repeatedly made clear that the oil finds are national assets and will be used to bring the maximum benefits to the United Kingdom's economy.

Mr. Skeet

Will my right hon. Friend work out a co-operative arrangement through the EEC or the OECD? If so many of these countries have similar interests, and we have the coal and energy that the European countries have not, are we to dilute our purpose to accommodate them?

Mr. Walker

There is a wide range of energy matters concerning both the Common Market and other countries in the Western world on which sensible collaboration and discussion of ideas is important. We have discussed these matters in both the OECD and the Community.

Mr. Eadie

I think that the right hon. Gentleman will be aware that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was questioned by me on this aspect of energy policy. Does he agree that statements being made in Europe, for example, that North Sea oil is European oil are causing concern in this country? Does he also agree that it is time that this House was informed about the Government's policy towards Europe and that, if there has to be a European energy policy, it should be informed, and we should indeed debate it?

Mr. Walker

The House will be kept constantly informed as talks take place. The oil and gas deposits on the Continental Shelf were not discussed at the Council meeting. The Government have repeatedly made it clear that these are national assets which will be used for the benefit of our economy.

Mr. Edward Taylor

There is no doubt about the ownership of the oil, but would it be helpful now, or in the near future, for the Government to make clear the extent to which they believe Europe should participate in decisions on the use and development of North Sea oil?

Mr. Walker

I repeat that this is a national asset of the United Kingdom. Concerning co-operation on energy matters—not only oil, but nuclear energy, coal resources, and others—it is obviously vital for Europe as a whole and the British economy that we have an energy policy that ensures that the industries of Europe are kept moving.