HC Deb 14 April 1980 vol 982 cc766-7
3. Mr. Waldegrave

asked the Secretary of State for Energy when next he intends to meet the EEC Energy Ministers.

Mr. Norman Lamont

I expect to meet other EEC Energy Ministers at the Energy Council meeting planned for early May. The exact date has yet to be arranged.

Mr. Waldegrave

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is difficult to imagine a European common energy policy, whether based on a levy on imported energy or on anything else, which would not constitute an even greater absurdity than the common agricultural policy?

Mr. Lamont

The Government's view is that the main thrust of energy policy must come from national energy policies. At the same time, there may be certain areas, such as setting oil import targets for the Community as a whole, where international collaboration is called for and where an EEC attitude may be appropriate. However, the main thrust of energy policy remains with national Governments.

Mr. Hardy

Will the Minister ensure that his right hon. Friend discusses very thoroughly at the next meeting of Energy Ministers the appalling problems of the coal mining industry in the rest of the Community? Will he also ensure that Britain supports arrangements and policies which will assist its industry and equitably bring about the necessary support which our own industry should receive?

Mr. Lamont

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that we have put forward a series of proposals emphasising the importance of coal in supplying the Community's energy needs. Of course, we have drawn attention to the great part that the United Kingdom's coal industry can play in supplying the Community's needs. Those proposals are before the Commission and we are awaiting an answer.

Mr. Gummer

Does my hon. Friend agree that, in a world in which there will be increasing competition for energy, a sensible energy policy for this country cannot be worked out—even if most of it comes from our own resources and decisions—except within the context of a European common energy policy?

Mr. Lamont

I agree with that, but my hon. Friend must also recognise that the resources of the different countries vary considerably. National policies diverge considerably and consumption patterns vary from country to country. Therefore, it is not easy to agree a common production policy.

Mr. Stoddart

Can the Minister give an absolute assurance that there will be no trade-off of our energy policy and our own energy interests at the Summit meeting in return for any reduction in our net contribution to the EEC?

Mr. Lamont

If the hon. Gentleman is referring to our contribution to the budget, that question stands on its own, unrelated to energy.