§ 15. Mr. Gordon Wilson
asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on oil depletion policy.
§ 19. Mr. Kenneth Carlisle
asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he expects to make a statement on the Government's depletion policy.
§ Mr. Wilson
I accept that the Varley assurances, given so recklessly by the previous Government, have allowed the oil companies an unnecessary bonanza in relation to oil production, but will the Minister agree that the formula he has just put forward to the House is meaningless as it stands, and that there is an urgent need for a depletion policy to be evolved to take care of the gap between supply and demand which will emerge in the early 1990s?
§ Mr. Gray
I accept what the hon. Gentleman said about the need for a depletion policy, but I remind him that any depletion policy announced by this Government must take into consideration the ever-changing position within the oil industry, both at home and abroad. It is, therefore, better that we should take some little time in ensuring that we evolve the proper depletion policy, rather than rushing into it.
§ Mr. Carlisle
I welcome the Government's intention to restrict the flaring off of North Sea gas which cannot be brought ashore, and believe that the flaring off of excess North Sea gas is wrong, but will the Minister inform the House in what circumstances, if any, he might allow such flaring off to take place in the future?
§ Mr. Douglas
Will the Minister accept that a vital element in discussing the depletion policy is the Government making up their minds on a gas-gathering system? When do they propose to do that?
§ Mr. Gray
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the present study being carried out by the British Gas Corporation and Mobil is likely to be completed early in the new year. It is hoped that it will be available for consideration by about the end of March. Before that is received it would obviously be unwise to make any positive decisions.