HC Deb 09 July 1979 vol 970 cc17-8
11. Mr. Michael Morris

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what further discussions he has had with the oil companies to ensure an adequate and equitable supply of domestic heating oil for the coming winter.

Mr. Gray

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I are having regular discussions with the oil industry on all aspects of the supply of all major oil products. On present indications, a 5 per cent. saving in the use of oil should be sufficient to ensure that supplies this winter are adequate to meet demand.

Mr. Morris

Will the Minister point out to the oil companies that domestic heating oil is used primarily in rural areas and on some major council estates? Is it not the case that this is the one area of oil consumption where there is no alternative source? Will the Minister take on board the point that domestic consumers would rather see a cut in the other uses of oil, such as petrol, than in heating oil where they have no other choice if it is a tough winter?

Mr. Gray

This is a very important point which my right hon. Friend and I have discussed with the oil companies. Though it is not quite of such importance in mid-summer, we have emphasised to the oil companies the importance of this issue as autumn approaches.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

Will the hon. Gentleman look particularly at the problem of paraffin and accept from me that his recent statement—that the price of paraffin is to be allowed to shoot upwards—will cause great consternation among pensioners and others on low incomes who depend on paraffin?

Mr. Gray

It is very much preferable to there not being any paraffin available, which was the danger if we did not allow that to happen.

Mr. Penhaligon

Can the Minister say how, if we are to have a 5 per cent. reduction in supplies, some of the individual companies—which have a monopoly in certain areas—are 20 per cent. ahead on fuel supplies? What powers does the Minister have to make the oil companies share their fuel?

Mr. Gray

I accept that the 5 per cent. shortage has not been experienced across the board. However, by means of negotiation this has been overcome to a very large extent. The regular meetings that we have had with the Petroleum Industry Advisory Committee and with certain distributors have helped. We shall continue to keep a close watch on the situation so that no area has to go without fuel.