HC Deb 09 July 1979 vol 970 cc3-5
2. Mr. Meacher

asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he expects to attend an EEC Energy Council.

19. Mr. John Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he expects next to met the European Economic Community Energy Ministers.

The Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. David Howell)

I expect to meet other EEC Energy Ministers at the next meeting of the Energy Council, which is due to take place this autumn under the Irish presidency.

Mr. Meacher

What action are the Government taking to oppose the Commission's declared intention to abolish the offshore supplies interest relief grant scheme? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that including EEC sub-contractor components would completely contravene the national interest criteria of our own legislation? Or does he intend tamely to accept this unwarrantable intrusion into British industrial policy which will cost this country tens of thousands of jobs?

Mr. Howell

I am not sure that I accept the rather extravagant estimates of the hon. Gentleman. He has perhaps missed the statement made by the Government. It is our intention, at the end of next March, to end the IRG scheme. That has been announced. The Commission has been informed of our decision. I do not know its views on the matter.

Mr. Evans

Will the Secretary of State discuss with his European colleagues the impact of oil price rises on the EEC's economy? Will he suggest to them that the OPEC countries might be more concerned or more determined in their attitudes if countries such as Britain stopped increasing tax, such as VAT, on petrol and petroleum products?

Mr. Howell

We discussed these matters at the Energy Council. To reduce the tax on petroleum products and on petrol would encourage further consumption. A major aim of policy must be to pull back consumption in order to take the tightness out of world markets and to stop huge profits from being transferred to the Arab OPEC monopoly. That is surely what the hon. Gentleman wants. It makes sense to keep on this tax.

Mr. John H. Osborn

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he is a welcome member of the Energy Council instead of his predecessor? What support will he give to Commissioner Brunner and others to impose a reasonable policy on the United States of America?

Mr. Howell

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I have talked with Commissioner Brunner and I have seen him recently. We must all support and encourage sensible measures which will enable the United States to make its contribution, through restrained demand and sensible pricing policies, to relieve the tight situation in world oil supplies that we now face.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Has the right hon. Gentleman received any assurances from our EEC partners that they will end export credit facilities for their oil-producing and manufacturing industry? If so, what machinery has he set up to monitor these assurances?

Mr. Howell

I have had no hard evidence on the kind of arrangements that the hon. Gentleman suggests, and obviously I have looked at these matters carefully in the light of our policies and decisions in this country. I am determined that we should pursue our own national interest. I came to the firm conclusion that the IRG arrangement was poor value for money, although we set it up in 1973, that it had now fulfilled its purpose, and that the sensible aim for British industrial policy was to phase it out next March. That is what we have done and what we intend to do next March.

Mr. Adley

Will my right hon. Friend take the earliest opportunity to raise with his colleagues and with the Commission the need for the closest possible harmonisation with our EEC partners of the control of oil pollution?

Mr. Howell

Yes, I shall be glad to do so.