HC Deb 08 March 1982 vol 19 cc585-6
4. Dr. J. Dickson Mabon

asked the Secretary of State for Energy how many barrels of oil produced daily from the oilfields in the United Kingdom sector of the continental shelf the British National Oil Corporation handles as a trader.

The Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Nigel Lawson)

In 1981 it was 1,037,000 barrels per day.

Dr. Mabon

As that is such a profoundly overwhelming proportion of the total, does it not suggest that BNOC should remain an integrated trading, exploration and production company?

Mr. Lawson

I fail to see the logic of the right hon. Gentleman's question. The figure points to the strength that BNOC, after the flotation of Britoil, will have in the world's oil markets.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Does the Secretary of State not recognise that the drop in world oil prices will affect the trading arm of BNOC, as it will the Government directly? Is it not time for the Government to act in concert with OPEC to cut production to maintain the price level and to save in Scotland jobs that will be lost if North Sea development does not take place?

Mr. Lawson

The fall in oil prices will have a much more positive effect on jobs in the Western world, including the United Kingdom and Scotland, than the policy that the hon. Gentleman would like us to pursue.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

Does the question asked by the right hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Mabon) not demonstrate the fact that the SDP has great difficulty in making up its mind whether it is for or against nationalisation?

Mr. Lawson

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The SDP has great difficulty in deciding where it stands on everything and anything.

Mr. Rowlands

Is the Secretary of State aware that BNOC is facing its greatest crisis since it was created and that the fall in oil prices has created a major problem for the trading arm, which could lose large sums of money? Does he agree that now is not the time to smash up the corporation, as it would destroy the morale of the State trading arm personnel? Will the right hon. Gentleman at least consider postponing that part of the Oil and Gas (Enterprise) Bill for at least 12 months to give the corporation a chance to weather the storm?

Mr. Lawson

No, Sir. I am confident that BNOC will remain fully capable of dealing with world economic developments and developments in the oil market as they occur.

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