HC Deb 26 March 1979 vol 965 cc167-200

10.1 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn)

I beg to move, That this House takes note of European Commission Documents R/2311/78, R/2163/78 and R/2712/78, and endorses the Government's approach in pursuing the national interest and those of United Kingdom industries and consumers in discussion of these proposals.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant God-man Irvine)

Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment.

Mr. Benn

I welcome the debate. It is timely, as the Energy Council meets in 12 hours' time and the OPEC Ministers are now meeting in Geneva. I hope that we can follow precedent and have a wide-ranging debate.

The background of the debate is of great importance, because occurrences in Iran create a more serious situation than that which existed in 1973, in that supply has been cut and from 2 million to 2½ million barrels of oil a day have been lost to the world's energy consumers.

There are great uncertainties. Britain's interests lie in secure supplies and reasonable prices. We have an oil sector, but our main interest is in reasonable prices. We have a key role, because we are the only OECD country that will be self-sufficient in oil in 1980. Britain is the thirteenth largest oil producer in the world—larger than some OPEC producers. Britain is the third largest producer in the International Energy Agency and the only substantial producer in the EEC. We have rising production, which stands at 1½ million barrels a day, a successful licensing regime, and security of supply. We have many international links. The International Energy Agency is to be chaired by a British Minister in May. We have the EEC, our contacts with OPEC, our belief in the desirability of East-West contacts and our advocacy of the United Nations role.

There is no conflict between national policy and our international role in the world energy scene. Indeed, the strength of national policy to develop resources under public control permits us to be good international partners at a time of world shortage. I believe that the former Prime Minister, in 1973, discovered too late how weak he was in dealing with the international oil companies.

If the policy that we are following were challenged or abandoned it would be bad for Britain, bad for Europe and bad for the world. The only beneficiaries would be the international oil companies. That is why the oil companies support the Common Market Commissioners so strongly. They hope that the Commission will release them from the control of the oil policy that I have described. It is also why the Opposition are so foolish as to back the Commission and the oil companies in that joint endeavour. It is not in the interests of Britain for the control of our oil to be relaxed.

The response that the Government have taken to the present shortage is, first, to introduce a coalburn scheme over the winter, costing £17 million of public expenditure. I have no clear indication whether the Opposition support that scheme, but it has saved substantial amounts of imported oil.

We are monitoring oil movements and seeking assurances from the oil companies that they will not take advantage of the shortage to exploit high prices in the stock market. We are maintaining normal patterns of trade in the discharge of our obligations. We have set up an oil committee under the Energy Commission. I have asked the Minister of State, who has gone to Brussels ahead of me, to chair the oil emergency committee. We have agreed to a 5 per cent. cut in oil imports in the IEA. That will be achieved by increasing our coalburn over the next 12 months to 80 million tonnes, which is a 5.5 million tonne increase, which will save 2½ million tonnes of oil.

Mr. Neil Macfarlane (Sutton and Cheam)

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the all-important question of oil within the EEC and in the United Kingdom, will be consider a recent headline which indicated that President Carter was looking to the United Kingdom and the Prime Minister, perhaps, to provide a large quantity of oil, perhaps the better part of 15 million tonnes a year, for use by Israel? Can the Secretary of State indicate whether or not he would approve of that particular measure?

Mr. Benn

That has nothing whatever to do with what I am discussing, but the account that appears in the Daily Mail this morning was, as is usually the case, absolutely wrong, and there is no truth in that proposal.

We have therefore adopted an increased coalburn. We shall extend and develop our conservation programme. Of course, we are expanding exploration by the granting of sole licences to BNOC and by the announcement that I made in the House today.

I turn to the agenda at tomorrow's Energy Council. I should like to go over the points that will arise, which embrace the three regulations that are before the House. First, there will be a discussion of the world oil situation. We shall be very much concerned with the price question, which is also being discussed with OPEC, and the desirability of some dialogue. Our own proposed talks with the OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers are relevant in this context. We have before us the decisions of the summit meeting of the European Council, calling for a reduction of dependence upon imported energy to 50 per cent., a restriction on consumption, a limitation of oil imports and a reduction in the ratio of oil consumption to growth, but I must make clear that that does not involve any Community control of the rate of depletion of our own resources. We shall monitor the savings that will flow from those decisions, but it is for national Governments to decide how to implement the commitments into which they have entered.

On emergency measures—this concerns document No. R/2311 /78—we made some progress in earlier Council meetings, but there are two points at issue to which I should draw the attention of the House. One is that we have the right to introduce surveillance licensing, but the Commission is now arguing that we cannot abandon that surveillance licensing and introduce substantive export licensing without its approval. We do not believe that is right. If it were to be adopted, it would mean that member States would go for substantive licensing much earlier than would otherwise be the case.

The second unresolved issue relates to the detailed implementation of crisis measures, where in certain circumstances we have agreed to a 10 per cent. cut. The Commission has been asked to work on further details if the situation gets more serious, but the Council will have to agree to the implementation of any further measures and, therefore, the Commission proposals must be acceptable to member States.

I now come to the question of coal. This relates to document No. R/2712/78, which is the subject of an amendment by the Conservative Opposition. We have tried on many occasions to get a coal-burn scheme agreed in the Community. This has been rejected because other countries have based themselves on the very arguments that the Conservative Opposition now use so widely in the domestic context, namely, that they must be free to buy the cheapest coal from wherever it is to be found. I am amazed to find that the Conservative Opposition tonight are arguing that there should be massive subsidies—they are massive; 250 million units of account—spent through the EEC to subsidise British coal production.

The minimum figure that is of any benefit to the British coal industry is 250 million units of account, at 20 units of account per tonne, in order to make it worth while from a national point of view to undertake this. If the Opposition are really saying—I fully support this, because I have argued it very strongly—that they want to see subsidies for British and German coal to make it profitable for that coal to be burned against cheaper coal that may come from Australia, South Africa or Poland, it is a complete double standard from the attitude that they adopt in a domestic context.

Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)

Will the Secretary of State tell the House what advice he has received? Our advice—that chairman of the NCB is prepared to stand by it—is that a figure closer to 5 million tonnes would be applicable to the United Kingdom production.

Mr. Benn

I was talking not about tonnes but about million units of account and the cost that would benefit the Coal Board. I mentioned 250 million units of account at 20 units of account per tonne. That is the basis upon which we work. It would depend on what coal was available for that purpose. The hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) is totally misleading. At home all the public speeches from the Tories call for cuts in public expenditure and allowing market forces to determine the movement of goods and services. The Opposition have tabled an amendment tonight in order to try to embarrass the Government, regretting, as we do, that we have not been able to achieve that. In doing so, they commit themselves firmly to the subsidy of higher cost Community coal in order to resist imports. That is entirely a matter for them, and I welcome it, although I shall watch the Opposition's European speeches with greater care to see whether they have any relation to the Friedmanite views that have gripped the Conservative Front Bench during the pre-election period.

The next item on tomorrow's agenda is the energy-saving and demonstration projects. The proposals at 150 million units of account will be satisfactory, provided that British Gas gets its composite gasifier under that scheme. On hydrocarbon exploration, the Commission has for a long time been urging that it should engage in drilling in the North Sea. The Conservative Party has suggested leaving it all to the oil companies, and I shall be interested to see whether it is in favour tonight of Community exploration of oil on the continental shelf. There is a case for drilling off Greenland, but our general reserve rests.

There have been consultations on energy labelling with the interests in this country. Subject to the view of the House, that arrangement is acceptable.

The last item, which may or may not come up tomorrow, is the Commission's desire to get an agreement on what are called three nuclear communications—the fast reactor, reprocessing, and nuclear waste. I have strongly expressed the view that all matters of nuclear policy must remain within the control of member States, and it would be totally unaccepable for control to pass to the Commission.

It is the eve of the Council meeting, and I invite the House to assess the European energy policies and see whether there is general agreement for the line that we have been taking. We have pursued an active role within the Council of Ministers. We have supported the coking coal scheme, which mattered greatly to the Germans, the Euratom loans, which helped the Italians and the French, and the fusion research, which we thought sensible. The EEC energy policy must be firmly based on national policies. Totting up the global cost of the programmes in the EEC, one finds that 18 billion dollars is the total cost of investment, added up country by country. That compares with 500 million dollars for collaborative projects like Eurenco and the Anglo-French link on electricity. The EEC programme is only 250 million dollars.

Any argument in favour of transferring greater control to the Commission would mean, in effect, transferring large chunks of investment undertaken by all member States to the Commission, rather than have this done in a way that makes it accountable to the member Parliaments.

Having attended every Energy Council in the past four years from beginning to end, I feel that there is a danger of "creeping competence" on the part of the Commission. This begins with the general resolution to which no one could object, and then moves on to producing directives and trying to persuade all member States gradually to give up their powers of control in the light of that general proposal.

In case anyone is in any doubt about this, I shall give some examples. I begin with the nuclear field. When the former Prime Minister signed the Treaty of Rome, he handed over to the Community the ownership of all the plutonium in this country. If plutonium is generated now in thermal reactors in England and it has to be used in Dounreay in Scotland, it requires the approval of the Commission. There is now a court judgment which implies that the Commission has the power to take responsibility for the protection of our establishments. It was not possible to sign our uranium supply contract with Australia—the deputy Prime Minister came to London to sign it with me—because of delays by the Commission.

We have the chapter 6 question, which is a matter that concerns other Governments as well as ours, and now we have these general communications on fast breeders, reprocessing and nuclear waste. These are unrealistic and dangerous tendencies which the House must take seriously, regardless of its views on the EEC.

Commissioner Vouel is about to threaten action against this country on the interest relief grant scheme, which has brought thousands of jobs to Scotland. I must point out that this was a Conservative scheme and not a Labour one. I am told that unless I am prepared to extend a full British IRG cover to the other eight members of the EEC we are likely to be taken to court. Then we have Commissioner Davignon challenging the role of the Offshore Supplies Office—again, set up by the Conservative Government. This office ensures the full and fair opportunity to guarantee that British firms have an equal right to tender. The Commissioner is challenging, very delicately but with unmistakable intent, the insistence that all oil be landed in this country, even though in the export of oil we have been following our general obligations.

Questions are now being raised whether it is right for British Gas to buy all the gas from the North Sea. Behind all these are the threats of court action. I warn the House that after the direct elections and the general election there will be an attempt to apply the Treaty of Rome to the continental shelf and to transfer the control of policy from member States to the Commission. I base that belief on four years as an active member, and now the overwhelmingly senior member of the Energy Council. These are very big issues. They affect the national interest, and any British Government must consider the impact of "creeping competence" by the Commission on these vital interests.

I have looked very carefully at the Opposition amendment. I wish that we could get coal subsidised through the Community. I have argued this strongly, and I welcome Tory conversion to it. However, the amendment reveals the Conservatives' failure to think through what they are advocating. It is very naive to suppose that if I had voted "Yes" in 1975 and were not prepared to defend our interests, countries like France and Italy would be ready to pay substantial sums of money to buy our coal or German coal rather than imported coal.

The Conservatives' policy on this matter is unclear. If they were to hand over control of the oil or to dismantle BNOC—there has been some evidence that their view on that body is not sympathetic—it would not solve any of the problems that I have described in regard to the practical matters to which I have referred. These are important issues.

Mr. Peter Rost (Derbyshire, South-East) rose

Mr. Benn

I am sorry, but I set myself a target of 20 minutes, in order to give other hon. Members a chance to speak. I have almost concluded my remarks.

The value of our assets, which we are now discussing, is enormous. The value of our oil reserves is £200 billion, gas reserves amount to £100 billion, and our coal, which will last for 300 years or more, if it can be valued at all, can be put at a figure of about £1,000 billion. There are 630,000 people employed in the energy industries of this country.

What is happening is that important shifts of power are taking place from London to Brussels, from Parliament to Ministers and from Ministers to officials. There are officials over there every day of the week, with two of our officials in Brussels at any one moment. There is a shift from public debate to private council meetings, and there is no Hansard report to record tomorrow's meeting of the Energy Council.

There is also a shift from legislation to directive, from flexible policies to rigid policies. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, that is the case, because there is no provision for the repeal of directives that are agreed. There is also the shift from political decisions to legal action. These are fundamental changes in the control of our own resources.

I conclude by saying that there is a big choice to be made in energy policy, and I do not know the Opposition's view on that aspect. Either we go for a fully federal control of our energy resources, under the Commission, or we work on the basis of co-operation between member States, each basing itself on national policies approved by the House of Commons. This motion is just such an opportunity to reach a view. It is not an argument based on our being in or out; it relates to the sort of European energy policy that is wanted and the role to be adopted by Parliament and people.

The House will do well not to try to argue these matters in a pre-election atmosphere. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If Opposition Members want to make energy policy, and, indeed, EEC energy policy, an election issue, they will live to regret it. This is a question whether this country is to retain control of its own resources—and that is why we have tabled this motion.

10.23 p.m.

Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)

I beg to move, to leave out from the second "and" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: while recognising the need to safeguard the national interests and those of the United Kingdom industries and consumers, regrets the failure of the Secretary of State for Energy to obtain a share of the European market for the British coal industry.". The Secretary of State for Energy widened the debate from the three narrow issues set out on the Order Paper. However, we make no complaint on that score, because we took the opportunity to table an amendment which itself will widen the debate.

The right hon. Gentleman said that I would not find his speech disagreeable. I did not find it disagreeable, but I certainly found it somewhat amazing. I was interested in his remarks about the shift of power. I felt that there was another shift behind the other shifts to which our attention was directed. I refer to the shift from the Parliamentary Labour Party to the NEC to the home policy committee. That has happened before our very eyes.

We had one or two trailers to the fact that this debate might be taken as the opportunity to embark on a wider speech on a wider issue. That certainly happened in the right hon. Gentleman's remarks.

I was glad that the Secretary of State mentioned the serious international background against which the debate is taking place. He drew attention rightly to the Government's international obligations, which they accepted recently at the summit. The Government have stated that they strongly endorse this programme of action and particularly welcome the fact that all member countries of the International Energy Agency were able to support it. One of the agreed proposals was the need for the fair distribution of oil among consuming countries. The Conservative Party accepts that obligation.

It is desirable to have clear international arrangements. Some of my hon. Friends were a little concerned at the comments of the noble Lord speaking for the Government in the other place when he referred to the need to maintain adequate oil stocks. When an attempt was made for clarification of adequate oil stocks, the noble Lord said: the latest figures for United Kingdom oil stocks show that we are holding 191 days on the EEC basis and 88 days on the EEC basis. This is equal to 72 days of expected consumption.—[Official Report, House of Lords, 7 March 1979; Vol. 399, c. 261.] I wonder whether the matter is being tackled in a sufficiently serious and coordinated way if there is such confusion about the figures.

The documents that come before the House, to which the Secretary of State referred briefly, are, as he said, not the most exciting elements of the Community energy policy. I should like to outline briefly the Opposition's view in advance of the Secretary of State's visit tomorrow to the Council of Energy Ministers. There is no particular benefit for this country in the coking coal proposal. That measure largely benefits the Federal Republic of Germany, but we see it as part of a package that includes the coalburn proposal, to which we have referred in our amendment, and the proposal to encourage the building of more coal-fired power stations in the Community. We regret that the opportunity was lost on the last occasion and we hope that there will be greater success in the negotiations tomorrow.

With regard to the export licences for oil, that is, in some ways, a technical correction to the error made by the Government in previous negotiations. We believe that the present proposal goes some way to help to remove the anomaly of the inability to revoke licences in the previous agreement. We hope that a satisfactory agreement will be reached on that proposal.

Energy efficiency labelling is an item to which the Opposition have always attached considerable importance. It is recommended by the Select Committee on Science and Technology and is supported by the Advisory Council on Energy Conservation and the Consumers' Association. We believe that it could be a useful additional method of consumer information provided that it is kept simple. There are many who sometimes despair of the complications of the Community. A senior official of the Commission, whom I met recently, said that the trouble with a proposal like this is that it is given to the lawyers, who then produce 18 pages of detail so that it becomes far too complicated. It cannot be pretended that that is a situation foreign to Ministers in this country as well. It is vital that energy efficiency labelling should be kept simple if it is to be an effective and useful I weapon in the cause of energy conservation.

The House will appreciate that the debate has been widened in an interesting and characteristic way by the Secretary of State. Opposition Members have the difficulty that we do not always know which Minister will handle the debate. None of my right hon. and hon. Friends can be under any illusion that if the Minister of State had spoken there would not have been a speech like the one that we have just heard from the Secretary of State.

The Minister of State has put the situation clearly. Speaking to the London Europe Society recently, he said that the Secretary of State is busy proving his Britishness to the home audience", The Minister of State said that his right hon. Friend had changed his views from pro-Market to his present stance as the "most dedicated anti-Marketeer." I might not have chosen those words, but I am not in the same position as is the Secretary of State's colleague to observe these matters.

I have some sympathy with the Minister of State's comment on the question of what the Government's attitude should be on British control of British oil. The right hon. Gentleman said: Well, this is a point on which I would be less nervous than Mr. Benn. I would be quite relaxed about European intentions on oil. If the Europeans said they needed help, I would say 'You'll definitely get it. But don't make rules. Leave it to us.' Mr. Benn would be nervous and guarded rather than sympathetic. The Government and he would get along much better if only they could relax and stop being over-sensitive about Europe. It is not for me to make any such allegations, but we must note the quotations of the Minister of State.

The other problem is that we do not know what mood we shall find the Secretary of State in. He has not been entirely consistent on this issue. I make no complaint about that. I respect the different views about the benefits of Europe that he has taken at different times. He said once: I can really see significant long-term opportunities for ordinary people in Britain and in the Six if we could persuade the British people to vote for entry. We know how the right hon. Gentleman changed his view on that at a later stage, but let no one accuse him of not being a democrat. In case anyone should have the illusion that he has any reservations about our membership of the EEC, I remind the House that immediately after the referendum he said: I have just been in receipt of a very big message from the British people. I have received it loud and clear. I have always said that the referendum would be binding … There can be no going back. That message seems to have been somewhat dulled over the years and I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should remember his words at that time.

I agree with the Secretary of State that there are differing points of view and that it is necessary to argue Britain's case with vigour and determination. The response to that remark from below the Gangway on the Government side is typical of those who say that we who share the Labour Government's view that Britain should remain a member of the Community can no longer argue Britain's case. Our complaint against them is that they believe that there is no alternative to those two views.

The Government and the Secretary of State for Energy have lost considerable benefits for Britain. We could have had a coalburn scheme, not on the Secretary of State's figures, which are incorrect and impossible, but on the figures that the NCB has been working on. It would have been a scheme of considerable benefit to the coal industry. I cite the Secretary of State as evidence for that view because he confessed, in an interview with the Financial Times, that he could have handled the coalburn negotiations differently. I accept the honesty with which he admitted that.

The right hon. Gentleman invites us to endorse his approach. He will understand from some of my comments why we find it impossible to do that. In the process of standing up for what he defines as the British interest, the right hon. Gentleman has blocked some valuable measures that would have been in the interest of Britain and Europe.

I thought that, for instance, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) was in favour of further research into projects such as solar, liquefaction and gasification of coal, alternative sources and the conservation of energy. Is he aware that the Secretary of State, on his own, against all other countries of Europe, has been blocking two major projects which could be helpful? One is for research and development into these projects and the other is for new demonstration projects.

My view is that it is not sensible to try to construct an overall complex, intricate, master plan for European energy policy. I believe that there are considerable benefits in certain areas in combining together. I have the support of both the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State for that, because that is what the JET diffusion project, now located at Culham, is. I did not hear the right hon. Gentleman give dire warnings about the sinister aspect of European collaboration over JET. He made a great song and dance about the battle that he was fighting to ensure that that European project came to Britain.

I believe that European co-operation in expensive combined research and development projects makes abundant sense, but in this important area the Secretary of State has been blocking these projects. I hope that if he has one moment of repentance before the office of Secretary of State for Energy passes from him, if the events of Wednesday are as some anticipate, when he goes to Europe tomorrow he will at least lift his objection to those proposals.

I know that the Secretary of State hoped that this would be a major occasion on which to illustrate the great importance and significance of his approach to Europe and what he considered to be the inadequacy of the Opposition's approach. He chooses always to represent any criticism of himself as selling out to Brus- sels, to the oil companies or to any vested interest that he thinks will sound offensive enough to the British people. I courteously suggest that he may not always be right, that there may be other approaches to the problem, and that it may be possible to stand up for British interests without surrendering our essential national priorities and to obtain benefits for Britain by co-operation with the European Community. I suggest that to approach all these issues in an atmosphere of hostility and non-co-operation may not be helpful in the longer term.

We believe that this European debate that the Secretary of State has chosen to launch provides a valuable opportunity to reaffirm our belief that there are benefits for us in collaboration with our European partners, provided that we start from a position of strength, which we do. The Secretary of State is not the first person to observe the undeniable fact that our interests in energy, as the prime energy producers of Europe, are not identical to and synonymous with those of our partners. We are in a very strong position, but that position of strength gives us an opportunity to negotiate benefits for this country. Our criticism and reason for moving the amendment is that, with the strongest hand of all the Nine, the Secretary of State has played it so badly that the benefits to this country so far are minimal.

10.40 p.m.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Rother Valley)

Before coming to the remarks that I had planned to make I ought to say, since many right hon. and hon. Members will have become rapidly aware of it, that the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) said very little about energy and did not enhance our knowledge of Conservative policy, but gave an example of playing the man rather than the ball.

It would have been useful if the hon. Member had made any comment about the licensing arrangements, which undoubtedly need amendment along the lines proposed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. It would have been useful if the hon. Member had demonstrated a real interest in energy by putting some questions to my right hon. Friend about the proposals for labelling domestic appliances.

I put two questions in that regard to my right hon. Friend. First. does he really think that a 1 per cent. saving will be achieved, given that a great deal of energy will already have been consumed in dealing with the piles of paper which will have been published in all the member States, and that, by the time the Community as a whole has finished dealing with it, a great deal of energy will already have to be offset against any saving?

Secondly, I ask my right hon. Friend whether we can be sure that before completing our arrangements for the introduction of this labelling our partners will themselves be making the same arrangements. In the past we have seen delay in other member States in complying with regulations, and I hope that we shall not embark upon the implementation of this proposal until we are sure that it is to be a joint effort with our partners.

My main concern, speaking as an hon. Member who represents a mining constituency, obviously has to do with coal. I recognise that there is some merit in a proposal which seeks to sustain the coal industry, but the difficulty is that this proposal does not go far enough. If the hon. Member for Bridgwater is correct in his confidence, and if this is the precursor of other schemes which will ensure that Britain receives advantage, perhaps it is entitled to a warmer welcome. However, at present, Germany will be the overwhelming beneficiary from this scheme, and if the aid to coal industries in Europe stops there it will be an injustice.

I am concerned about the Opposition amendment. It seems to me to lack clarity. The Conservatives appear to suggest that we should be providing coal to Europe. I have long argued this. My right hon. and hon. Friends argued that case for years before a Labour Administration were elected. But the amendment does not spell out what the terms and conditions of that export should be. We know, for example, that the Opposition do not like subsidies. Certainly they are not at all enthusiastic about the tremendous achievements of the British coal industry, which is the most efficient deep-mine coal industry in the world. I do not believe that they ever wish to pay tribute to the achievements of the National Coal Board. I do not think they are all that enamoured of the enormous assistance which this Government have given since "Plan for Coal" had its inception in 1974.

It seems to me, therefore, that there is a real danger that the arrangement which any Conservative Administration would make for the export of coal would not be upon the basis of subsidy, except from us to Europe, which has been the established pattern for some time, but would require the NCB to export 5 million tons of coal to Europe at the present prevailing world price. That would not be in our interests.

The Opposition would be happy to see that burden placed on the NCB. They know full well that at present the German coal industry is having to be subsidised by enormous amounts. One figure in the documents before the House puts the subsidy at 35 million deutschemarks per ton. The level of subsidy is astonishing. It is enormously higher than the very modest amount which the NCB receives from the present Government.

Therefore, we are entitled to demand from the Opposition a clear statement about whether they want that coal from Britain to be exported to Europe with the same level of aid per ton as is currently available to the German industry, or whether they expect Britain to export coal at the current world price for steam-raising fuel. If the latter were the case, they would be selling Britain very short. The amendment is not at all clear about it.

There was no indication in the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgwater that he had shown any real perception of the fact that even on present rates of extraction oil and gas will be disappearing or much diminished by the 1990s and that, as a result, it is essential that the British coal industry is sustained. It is essential that the new technologies to which the hon. Gentleman referred in his closing remarks should proceed. But it appears that the hon. Gentleman does not keep fully abreast of knowledge, because, although the pilot plants for the gasification and liquefaction of coal and the chemical feedstocks of coal are to go ahead, I doubt very much whether the hon. Gentleman would show the same enthusiasm for the coal industry that the Government have shown during the last five years. Given the speech that we heard from the hon. Gentleman, I doubt whether the Conservative Party has begun to learn any of the lessons that should have been driven home very clearly in February 1974.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Bedford)

The Secretary of State, in what was possibly his last speech before the general election, wanted to present his case to the electorate of the United Kingdom before going over to the Commission. He seems to feel that the Conservatives are totally against British control of the energy policy of the United Kingdom. That is wrong. Control has already been secured. The Oil Taxation Act, the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-lines Act, the Energy Act and a dozen other Acts, including the 1964 Continental Shelf Act, gave the Government full control over the oil sector of the United Kingdom. It does not stop there.

British Petroleum Company Limited, in which the Government have virtually a half interest, and the British Gas Corporation, in which the Government have a whole interest, are both operating in the North Sea where their influence can be exerted. Finally, there is control through the Council of Ministers, where the Government have a right to veto any proposals found disadvantageous to the United Kingdom.

The Secretary of State made some curious statements. Let me select one of the half-truths he mentioned. The right hon. Gentleman was right in saying that fissile material is owned by Euratom or the Commission. That was provided by the orginal statute, although it is argued that it should be changed. But the unrestricted use of the material is in the hands of member States, as the Secretary of State knows. While difficulties may occur in the bilateral arrangements with Australia, he knows that the Commission would not interfere or fail to authorise the supply of adequate uranium to the United Kingdom for our nuclear reactors.

The Secretary of State said that he had received assurances from the oil companies that they would not profit on the spot market in Rotterdam and that they would not deprive the United Kingdom market of the oil essential for United Kingdom requirements. What was the attitude of the BNOC? The BNOC has the right to dispose of between 360,000 and 400,000 barrels a day. Forty per cent. went to internal sales, 30 per cent. was exported to Europe and 20 per cent. went to the United States. We can therefore say that about 50 per cent. has been exported.

The BNOC is obviously selling at market prices. The Secretary of State, in a recent reply, told me that the Corporation is buying and selling all its crude under term arrangements and at prices which are substantially below prices obtainable on the spot market. I ask the Secretary of State: at what price is he selling oil to Europe? Is it 15 dollars a barrel, 18 dollars a barrel, or even higher? I am prepared to sit down and allow the Secretary of State to reply to the question.

As trustee for the money which we provide, the BNOC is under an obligation to get the best prices and render it ultimately to the Exchequer. If it does not get the best price, it is falling down on its responsibilities. State companies in the Middle East do not hesitate to cash in on the opportunities provided and put a surcharge of $1.20 on top of the $13 which is the market price for Saudi Arabian crude. Some of them are asking as much as $5 a barrel.

Mr. Alec Woodall (Hemsworth)

Which of these documents is the hon. Gentleman talking about?

Mr. Skeet

The Secretary of State invited us to have a wide-ranging debate because he is going to Europe and wants to collect the views of the House. One of these documents refers to the export of oil, and the right hon. Gentleman mentioned prices.

Mr. Woodall

He did nothing of the kind—he was referring to an emergency.

Mr. Skeet

I should have thought that it was an emergency when Iranian supplies have been halved to 3½ million barrels a day and Saudi Arabia might not renew the additional 1 million barrels a day that it supplied in the last quarter.

At what price is BNOC selling its oil? Is it not true that the Secretary of State had no right to accuse the private oil companies of breaking their assurances? They were operating responsibly in the circumstances.

I agree that it would be advantageous to supply coal to Europe, but British coal is subsidised by at least £2 a tonne, including all the money flowing from the State. There are other obstacles. United Kingdom production is 120 million tonnes per annum; Germany's is 91 million; France's 21 million; Belgium's 7 million. The rest, including the Italians, have none. They have the right to choose between expensive British coal—less expensive than German, I agree, but still expensive—and importing from countries such as Poland.

Poland exports 42 million tonnes, half of which goes to the EEC. Its production is 140 million tonnes a year, plus additional lignite. By 1980 its production will be 200 million tonnes. It has two advantages—thick seams and higher productivity.

Poland has 70 mining units, producing 171 million tonnes of coal. The United Kingdom has 241 units, producing 113 million tonnes. The figures are for 1975–76. Poland has mines with a capacity of not less than 2.7 million tonnes a year. Figures supplied to me by the chairman of the National Coal Board show that we have no mines producing more than 2 million tonnes; we have only two producing between 1½ million and 2 million; 15 produce between 1 million and 1½ million; the majority — 212 — produce between 50,000 and 1 million tonnes.

Mr. Hardy

What does that prove?

Mr. Skeet

It proves that the United Kingdom has many uneconomic units. That means that we cannot compete with other countries unless we heavily subsidise the coal by earmarking units of account for that purpose.

The obstacle, then, is perfectly clear. The Italians will not stand for this. They will veto the proposal at the Council of Ministers. The House must therefore recognise the limitations, the problems and the difficulties of the Italians and be prepared to meet them on certain of their proposals.

The Italians say that if we are prepared to meet them on some of their refining problems they will try to meet us on coal. But the abrasive Secretary of State is not prepared to meet them on any of these issues. He has been blocking right, left and centre. His next trip to Europe will probably be his last as Minister. After that, it will be for my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) to see what he can do.

The Minister must bear in mind the difficulties in Europe. He does not even have an energy policy for the United Kingdom. He will not get a European energy policy until he has one for the United Kingdom. Unless we can get our coal costs down to a competitive level there will have to be a vast subsidy, and that would be very difficult to contemplate in the United Kingdom.

10.56 p.m.

Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)

The hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) made merry about some of the alleged differences of opinion that are said to exist on the Government Benches about European energy policy. He had better be careful. The hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) pointed out in a public speech a short while ago that the Conservative Party had better watch out in any future public political debate on two issues—North Sea oil and the Common Market.

The hon. Member had good reason for saying that. The country knows the Conservative record on North Sea oil. It knows that when we took office there was no control over North Sea oil, no effective control over exploration, and no means of securing revenues from that enormously valuable national asset for the public purse.

The hon. Member for Bridgwater said that we have the powers. Of course we do. The Labour Government took those powers under the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-Lines Act 1975 and the Energy Act 1976. Those Acts provided effective powers over exploration, over who was to operate in the North Sea, over the rate of depletion, and over development plans. In addition, we created our own indigenous operator—the British National Oil Corporation—with compulsory powers to share in the licences and to take 51 per cent. of the oil extracted.

All these powers were brought into effect by the Labour Government. While in power the Conservatives did nothing to control the activities of the great oil companies. If they did nothing whatever in that area—and they must admit that—what confidence can we have that if they should come to power they would take any effective action to resist the encroachment of the power of the Common Market in this vital field?

Mr. Russell Fairgrieve (Aberdeenshire, West)

Who got the oil out of the North Sea?

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, Central)

It was not the Conservative Party.

Mr. Hooley

It will be got out in the future by companies operating with the approval of the elected Government of this country. It will not be a wild, free-for-all, uncontrolled scramble as it was under the regime that the Conservative Government allowed to develop.

Let me quote a statement put out by British Petroleum which, as an operator, is very concerned about the matter. In a document issued in November last year, it stated that British public authorities now have an impressive range of powers to enable them to ensure that the patter of UKCS hydrocarbons exploitation conforms with what government determines to be the national interest. That is the situation that BP admits exists, and it has been created entirely by the legislation of this Government. That situation did not obtain in 1974, when the present Government took office.

The Government now having got these powers, it would be absolutely foolish to let them be worn away, driven away or taken over by the Brussels Commission. My right hon. Friend is right in talking about creeping competence, a gradual takeover of powers from the member State Governments by the Commission. We have seen the attacks on the refinery policy, on the Offshore Supplies Office, on the interest-relief grants scheme; we have seen the arguments about the landing requirement and the arguments about licensing. All these have been an attempt by Brussels not to interfere but to assert its power and authority in an area that is of vital interest to this country.

The Iranian revolution has shown us how fragile the world supply of oil can be. We have also seen the uncertainties in pricing, to the extent that even the power of the OPEC cartel has been threatened by recent developments. It is of fundamental importance that our enormous asset of oil should be kept firmly in the hands of the elected Government of this country.

Of course there is a case for concerting international energy policies. That is why the International Energy Agency exists and why we take part in its deliberations. There is a case for co-operating and discussing with other countries, on a genuinely international scale—including the United States, Japan and other industrial countries and the OPEC countries—on questions of depletion policy and of renewable sources of energy, on the problems of conservation and on the needs of the Third world. All these things are immensely important.

But it is neither sensible nor reasonable to suppose that this sort of matter can be satisfactorily handled within a narrow grouping of Western European States. The proper forum is the international forum, where all the major industrial countries can be represented and the interests of the Third world taken into account.

I am interested to see, in the document on coal, that the policy on coal is to subsidise the price down to the world price—a flat contradiction of the common agricultural policy, where the aim is to tax prices up to the Community prices. If some measure of intelligence is creeping into Community policies in that respect, that is at least encouraging.

In so far as the labelling proposal represents a move towards sensible conservation, it is to be welcomed, and I would have no quarrel with it.

11.3 p.m.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

As a Member for Northern Ireland, I am well used to one-and-a-half-hour debates, and I know that many hon. Members want to take part in this one. I shall therefore make only two points.

First, I regret that the Conservative Opposition have tabled an amendment. We would be in a stronger position if the Secretary of State for Energy were able to go to Europe with the full backing of the House to represent British interests. When the French representatives stand up for France in Europe, they are not suddenly labelled as being anti-Europe. It seems that every country in the Common Market but Britain can stand up for its interests, and it is a good thing that, at long last, people are standing up for our country.

I believe that the Secretary of State should have our full endorsement to fight for this country and for the national interest. The people of this country are alarmed at the creeping powers of the Commission over the sovereignty of this House and the sovereignty of the Government of this country. This is a live issue across the whole nation. That is my first point.

My second point is—I call the Secretary of State's attention to this—that in Northern Ireland there has been a serious cutback in oil supplies. The undertaking given to him by the oil companies is not being honoured in Northern Ireland. Schools have had their supplies cut, factory supplies have been cut, businesses are suffering. The oil that was being sold to Northern Ireland has been diverted to Rotterdam, to be sold on the European market for better prices. I trust that the Secretary of State will look into that matter for the people of Northern Ireland.

11.6 p.m.

Mr. David Stoddart (Swindon)

The Opposition have decided tonight not to have a serious debate on energy but to take the opportunity for yet another "Benn-bashing" exercise. That does not do the cause of Europe any good.

During the debate on the referendum in 1975 I remember hearing, and confirmed it with him tonight, the previous Secretary of State for Energy, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley), speaking on the BBC programme "The World at One" and warning that the ownership of our North Sea oil supplies was at stake. What we now see is the fruition of those warnings, and we should take that into account.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) made great play with the supposed differences of opinion between my right hon. Friend and his Minister of State. The hon. Gentleman had better be careful when going along this line. It is not only the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) who has different views from his own. The hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott), from the same region as Bridgwater, gave fair warnings about our loss of sovereignty and the absurdities of the EEC. So, when the hon. Member for Bridgwater criticises differences on the Government side, he had better note the differences on the Conservative Benches as well.

The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) quite clearly does not understand the position. On the questions of ownership and the landing of oil supplies, he said that we could use our veto. He has missed the point, because what the Commission is querying is whether, by our insistence on oil being landed in this country, we are operating against the Treaty of Rome.

There is no veto in the Council of Ministers on that question, which can only be decided by the European Court. What we on the Government side fear is that the European Court, as it has done already in the case of nuclear materials, will rule against the best national interests of this nation.

Mr. Tom King

That is rubbish.

Mr. Stoddart

It is not rubbish. It is fact, and the hon. Gentleman, if he really believes in the sovereignty of this country and in our continued and complete ownership of North Sea oil supplies, had better look at this very closely. I would not accuse him of wishing to sell out the best interests of this country but I implore him to look at the facts.

Many of us are worried about the ruling by the European Court on 14 November 1978 on the ownership of nuclear supplies. It is clear from that ruling, if it is binding, that our fissile materials are owned not by the Defence Department, not by the Central Electricity Generating Board or by the Government, but by the Commission.

That ruling also states that the movement of all fissile materials within the Community is a matter for the Commission. It states that the defence of nuclear establishments is the responsibility not of national Governments but of the Commission. It states that arrangements with countries outside the EEC for the supply of nuclear materials is a matter not for national Governments but for the Commission.

Those are serious rulings. They affect the ownership of valuable raw materials. The action that the Government intend to take to reassert their ownership and control of fissile materials must be explained to the House urgently.

Does the Secretary of State intend to have discussions with the French Government, the members of which are equally worried about the future ownership of fissile materials and the movement of them? I hope that my right hon. Friend will assure us that the Government will take firm action to ensure that fissile materials remain in our ownership and that, if necessary, they will combine with the French to ensure that that happens.

11.12 p.m.

Mr. Peter Emery (Honiton)

The Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) have attempted once again to further two myths which are basic tenets in Socialist energy policy. These myths are that only a Socialist Government have attempted to gain for Britain the benefits of North Sea oil and that only that Socialist Government have protected British oil from encroachment by the EEC.

Both myths are untrue. I wish to give my reasons, without harangue. In the period 1970–74, all exploration—licences and all exploitation—the finding and getting of oil—were under Government control. All oil has to be brought to the United Kingdom. I do not accept the comparison made by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Stoddart) between fissile material and oil. He must realise that part of that arrangement is based upon the Euratom structure, the treaty in respect of which we signed and which his Government did not feel the need to renegotiate. We are now talking about a Commission regulation.

"Government take"—the easiest way of explaining to the British taxpayer the benefits of North Sea oil—was fully under the control of the British Government, either by taxation or by an ad valorem tax. Both had been made clear to the oil companies. Those who say that the Conservative Government did not act correctly should remember that not one drop of oil reached the shore when that Government were in power. The Secretary of State may recall that he opened the valve which let in the first oil from the Argyll field. Therefore, the concept that we should have announced the taxation of oil that had not yet come ashore is complete and utter nonsense. Not only was the export of oil under the control of the British Government; its exportation had been stopped and limited by the Heath Government during the fuel crisis.

Lastly, we come to the matter of conservation and depletion. I know personally that the major oil companies had accepted that production targets could be agreed with the Government on an annual basis, reviewed over a revolving five-year forecast, which was the method that the Conservative Government were approaching.

Mr. Hooley

First, does the hon. Gentleman agree that the oil companies were paying virtually no corporation tax to this country and, secondly, that the petroleum revenue tax had not even been thought of by the then Conservative Government?

Mr. Emery

I would love to send the hon. Gentleman a host of Cabinet papers that would revert him over that period. But he should remember that we were trying to encourage the oil companies to get the oil here as quickly as possible. How does one tax them on oil that has not yet been landed? What absolute nonsense.

I proceed to the aspect about the EEC. I remind the Secretary of State that at that time he did not take part in energy matters and energy debates. The approach of the last Conservative Government in dealing with the Commission at the EEC, and at committee meeting after committee meeting, was an approach that I had suggested. That was to say to anyone at the Commission who wanted to try to obtain control of British oil that Great Britain would allow no greater control of British oil than we would allow control of British coal. That was the simile that was used, and that was the way in which the last Government stood out absolutely and completely in trying to ensure that we would retain exactly the same type of control as the right hon. Gentleman is setting out to obtain. But we believe that we can obtain that better by co-operation than by a confrontation with our European partners.

I turn specifically to the amendment. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) made an excellent speech. In discussions during the period from 1970 to 1974, particularly in the last two years, policy on coal-burn for Europe was detailed. I believe that the present Government were left with the possibility of obtaining longterm coal burn contracts within Europe, which they have entirely dished. If one looks at the coal export figures to Europe, one sees that in 1973 they were 2.5 million tonnes; in 1975, 1.97 million tonnes; in 1976, 1.24 million tonnes; and in 1977, 1.82 million tonnes.

What European coalburn wants is a consistency of supply. On the whole they are willing to pay for that consistency of supply. Indeed, a long-term negotiated contract is exactly what would be of the greatest benefit to the British coal industry as well as to the situation within Europe. It is important that Labour Members should realise that. It is the only way in which we can negotiate sensibly for a proper coalburn in Europe using British coal.

Mr. Hardy

Coal is available, but the price suggested is less than this country should accept.

Mr. Emery

The hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy) obviously was not listening. People are willing to pay premium prices for long-term contracts. When the Germans are placing the amount of subsidy to ensure their home coalbum, they do not wish to pay through the nose for coal at home. They are more than willing to negotiate with us as long as they can obtain the consistency of supply that they will not get from Korea, Poland or elsewhere. That is of the greatest importance.

It is of considerable importance that we do not allow the oil companies to get away with the suggestion that oil is fast running out and that we shall be without hydrocarbon fuel in the 1980s, 1990s or by the turn of the century. There has been an exhibition in the upper corridors of the House of Commons on the areospace and energy challenge, which graphically suggests that the potential oil supply is massively below oil demand from the 1990s. It is greatly in the interests of major oil companies to talk of oil shortages to keep up oil prices. The published figures are always established reserves, but until 1960 our recoverable reserves from any oilfield were normally between 25 per cent. and 33 per cent., when oil prices were running at 40 cents a barrel. All the oilfields that existed in the 1960s have the same amount of oil produced from them, and it can be simply produced with compression and reinjection at today's price.

We must be careful to ensure the greatest economy in the use of oil, but the oil supply will not dry up in the 1990s, the turn of the century, or even by the middle of the next. That is of great importance in the overall picture. It should also be firmly stressed that the Labour Government are not the only party to protect British oil or British interests in the Common Market.

11.23 p.m.

Mr. Benn

I am grateful to the House for giving me time to answer some of the points that have been raised. The reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy) on the question of energy labelling is that this is an outline scheme. We shall agree it in principle but apply it according to progress made. I share his view on the coal industry. We must see a real benefit to ourselves as the biggest coal producer in the Community if we are to have a workable scheme.

I found the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) hard to follow. On coal he favoured following market forces and on refineries he favoured handing over the control to Commissioner Brunner, who would determine which refinery should go ahead.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) mentioned the necessity to see this issue in a world context. There is no doubt whatever that if the Commission were to liberate the oil companies from our national control, that would not benefit the European Community. The oil companies operate internationally and the Community is quite a small part of their market. Therefore, we are actually defending the interests of Europe by having a tight oil control policy.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley)—I anticipate and welcome his full support on Wednesday—said he hoped that I would go to Brussels tomorrow with his encouragement. It is a fact that if we are to control the brokers who have been exploiting the oil situation we must have assurances from the oil companies to see that they do not do it and BNOC is an essential ingredient in maintaining supplies of oil. If BNOC were not there we would be in difficulty.

Last August the Financial Times ran a big headline Tories might abolish BNOC as an operating company", and quoted the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King), when speaking in America, as indicating that BNOC might not continue. But BNOC is actually the means by which we not only discharge our international obligations but fill in gaps in our domestic supply.

My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Stoddart) quite properly drew attention to the difficult problems of the European Court. This is not a problem within the experience of this country. The Commission comes along and threatens to take us to the Court if we do not do something, or if we do something. This is not our concept of a court. It is what the Americans call plea bargaining. The threat of the Court is held over one. The hon. Member for Bedford is quite wrong in supposing that there is any veto on court action. There is not. The answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Heeley is that I have discussed this matter with the French. and they take a similar view to ours.

The speech of the hon. Member for Bridgwater was very strange. In the Financial Times on 7 November there was a big heading Tories may stop coal industry subsidies. It went on to say: A Conservative energy spokesman hinted yesterday that a future Conservative Government would not automatically continue to subsidise Britain's coal industry if it failed to be efficient. The same report was quoted in The Times and The Guardian.

The hon. Member criticises us for a domestic coalburn scheme and presses us to cut public expenditure, and then tables—

Mr. King

The reports are a distortion.

Mr. Benn

My own opinion is that the hon. Member believes in a policy of pit closures, and yet he puts down an amendment criticising us for not subsidising our mining industry in Europe. The hon. Member can consult the newspapers concerned. If he believes that the stories are a distortion, it is surprising that he did not seek to correct them.

The truth is that the French Government, since 1928, have had a managed oil market. Not one word of criticism has been heard from the Opposition on that. The Germans—Deminex—came to see me and explained that they were required to refine 100 per cent. of the North Sea oil in their own refineries.

The Conservative Party has consistently opposed all our policies for greater control of the oil companies on behalf of the United Kingdom, and has supported every move by the Commission to take control from us. I do not know whether to end by saying that if the Conservatives ever came to power they would be a push-over for the oil companies or for the Commission, or that their policy would be to favour unconditional surrender of interests that are essential to the future of this country.

11.29 pm
Mr. Peter Rost (Derbyshire, South-East)

Tonight we have heard the Secretary of State for Energy make two Europe-bashing speeches. They were made with enough bluster and belligerence to make people understand why the United Kingdom has got nothing out of Europe. The right hon. Gentleman's policies have deprived this country of £200 million in grants to our coal industry, and—

It being half-past Eleven o'clock, Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Questions necessary for the disposal of the proceedings, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted Business).

Question put. That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 165, Noes 167.

Division No. 106] AYES [11.30 p.m.
Adley, Robert Belth, A. J. Boscawen, Hon Robert
Aitken, Jonathan Bendall, Vivian Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)
Alison, Michael Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Braine, Sir Bernard
Arnold, Tom Benyon, W. Brocklebank-Fowler. C.
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Berry. Hon Anthony Brooke, Hon Peter
Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East) Biggs-Davison, John Brotherton, Michael
Banks. Robert Blaker, Peter Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)
Bruce-Gardyne. John Hutchison, Michael Clark Prior, Rt Hon James
Buck, Antony Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) James, David Raison, Timothy
Carlisle, Mark Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd) Rathbone, Tim
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead) Rhodes James, R.
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Jopling, Michael Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Clark, William (Croydon S) Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Rifkind, Malcolm
Cockcroft, John Kershaw Anthony Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Kimball, Marcus Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Cope, John King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Dodsworth, Geoffrey King, Tom (Bridgwater) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Lawrence, Ivan Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Lawson, Nigel Royle, Sir Anthony
Durant, Tony Lester, Jim (Beeston) Sainsbury, Tim
Dykes, Hugh Loveridge, John Scott, Nicholas
Emery, Peter McCrindle, Robert Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Fairgrieve, Russell Macfarlane, Neil Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Finsberg, Geoffrey MacGregor, John Shelton, William (Streatham)
Fisher, Sir Nigel Macmillan. Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Shepherd, Colin
Fookes, Miss Janet McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Sims, Roger
Forman, Nigel McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Skeet, T. H. H.
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Maude, Angus Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Glyn, Dr Alan Mawby. Ray Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Goodhart, Philip Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Sproat, Ian
Goodhew, Victor Mayhew, Patrick Stainton, Keith
Gorst, John Meyer, Sir Anthony Stanbrook, Ivor
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove) Stanley, John
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Mills, Peter Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Stokes, John
Gray, Hamish Moate, Roger Stradling Thomas, J.
Grieve, Percy Monro, Hector Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Grist, Ian Moore, John (Croydon C) Temple-Morris, Peter
Hamilton, Archibald (Epsom & Ewell) More, Jasper (Ludlow) Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Morris, Michael (Northampton S) Townsend, Cyril D.
Hampson, Dr Keith Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Hannam, John Neave, Airey Viggers, Peter
Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye) Neubert, Michael Waddington, David
Haselhurst, Alan Normanton, Tom Wall, Patrick
Hawkins, Paul Nott, John Weatherill, Bernard
Hayhoe, Barney Osborn, John Wells, John
Higgins, Terence L. Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Whitney, Raymond
Holland, Philip Page, Richard (Workington) Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Hooson, Emlyn Pattie, Geoffrey Younger, Hon George
Hordern, Peter Penhaligon, David
Howell, David (Guildford) Percival, Ian TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Pink, R. Bonner Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and Sir George Young.
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Hurd, Douglas
Allaun, Frank Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Home Robertson, John
Armstrong, Ernest Deakins, Eric Horam, John
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Dempsey, James Huckfield, Les
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Dewar, Donald Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Dormand, J. D. Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Bean, R. E. Duffy, A. E. P. Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Dunlop, John Hunter, Adam
Bishop, Rt Hon Edward Eadie, Alex Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Ewing, Harry (Stirling) John, Brynmoor
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W) Johnson, James (Hull West)
Brown, Ronald (Hackney S) Flannery, Martin Jones, Alec (Rhondda)
Buchan, Norman Foot, Rt Hon Michael Judd, Frank
Buchanan, Richard Ford, Ben Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Kelley, Richard
Canavan, Dennis Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Kerr, Russell
Carmichael, Neil Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Klnnock, Nell
Carter-Jones, Lewis George, Bruce Lamond, James
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)
Coleman, Donald Ginsburg, David Litterick, Tom
Concannon, Rt Hon John Golding, John Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Cowans, Harry Grant, George (Morpeth) Loyden, Eddie
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Grant, John (Islington C) Luard, Evan
Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E) Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Hamilton, W. W. (Central File) McCartney, Hugh
Cryer, Bob Hardy, Peter McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Cunningham, G. (Islington) Harrison, Rt Hon Walter McElhone, Frank
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Hart, Rt Hon Judith McKay Allen (Penistone)
Davidson, Arthur Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Maclennan, Robert
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Perry, Ernest Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Madden, Max Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Marks, Kenneth Price, C. (Lewisham W) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Price, William (Rugby) Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Meacher, Michael Richardson, Miss Jo Tinn, James
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Robertson, George (Hamilton) Tomlinson, John
Molloy, William Rodgers, George (Chorley) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Molyneaux, James Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Ross, William (Londonderry) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Morris, Rt Hon Charles R. Rowlands, Ted Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon ) Sandelson, Neville Ward, Michael
Moyle, Rt Hon Roland Sedgemore, Brian Weitzman, David
Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Sever, John White, Frank R. (Bury)
Newens, Stanley Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South) Whitlock, William
Noble, Mike Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Oakes, Gordon Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Ogden, Eric Silverman, Julius Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Orbach, Maurice Skinner, Dennis Wise, Mrs Audrey
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Smith, Rt Hon John (N Lanarkshire) Woodall, Alec
Ovenden, John Snape, Peter Woof, Robert
Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Spearing, Nigel Young, David (Bolton E)
Paisley, Rev Ian Spriggs, Leslie
Palmer, Arthur Stallard, A. W. TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Park, George Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham) Mr. Ted Graham and
Parker, John Stoddart, David Mr. Alf Bates.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House takes note of European Commission Documents R/2311/78, R/2163/78 and R/2712/78, and endorses the Government's approach in pursuing the national interest and those of United Kingdom industries and consumers in discussion of these proposals.