§ 17. Mr. Gordon Wilson
asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will give his estimates of British oil consumption by 1980, 1985 and 1990.
§ Mr. Varley
Estimates of United Kingdom oil and gas production and reserves were given in the Brown Book presented to Parliament last month. As regards other estimates, my Department is engaged continuously in preparing forecasts of various aspects of energy supply and demand. Many features of the present energy situation are very uncertain, so that forecasts of specific items are constantly changing and could be very misleading. I consider, therefore, that publication of estimates of either future energy consumption or of the performance of the energy industries would not he helpful.
§ Mr. Skeet
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman realises that he is saying absolutely nothing about the Question. He must realise that fuels are to some extent interrelated in the energy market, and as North Sea oil and gas are buoyant they may have an adverse effect on the other fuels. In view of the fact that coal productivity has dropped from 47 cwt. to 42 cwt. per man shift in the past year, what will be the position of coal by 1980, and shortly after that? Will it not be overtaken by the buoyancy of North Sea oil and gas?
§ Mr. Varley
It is our intention to maintain coal production and, where possible, to increase it. When the interim report is published tomorrow the hon. Gentleman will be able to study it and see how we intend to do it.
I am sorry that at the moment I cannot give estimates of the sort the hon. Gentleman requires, but, as he knows, 18 over the next few weeks critical statements will be made on nuclear power, the nuclear reactor policy and on North Sea oil and gas.
§ Mr. Wilson
I regret that the Secretary of State has failed to give a positive and definite answer to the Question before him, but does he not agree that on the basis of the material in the Brown Book recently produced by his Department, the question of the myth of self-sufficiency is disposed of? What proposals has he to deal with the question of control of production of oil in the North Sea in future years?
§ Mr. Varley
Control of production in the North Sea will come when Labour's policy is implemented. That policy is majority participation in operations in the North Sea. That was made absolutely clear in the manifesto and in the Queen's Speech and debates upon it.
British self-sufficiency is certainly possible. If one considers the question of coal supplies, the nuclear power policy and British oil, the perspective of self-sufficiency by 1980 is certainly realistic.