HC Deb 15 November 1982 vol 32 c15
18. Dr. J. Dickson Mabon

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a further statement on the future of the British National Oil Corporation.

Mr. Gray

BNOC continues to have the very important job of trading participation oil. It is now free to concentrate on that task, and we have strengthened its board accordingly.

Dr. Mabon

May we have an absolute assurance that there will be no suggestion at a later stage of any privatisation, however minor, of the assets of the BNOC, slender though they are? Is there not some genuine concern about the viability of the corporation as a trading organisation, given that it has only the right of trading?

Mr. Gray

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made it clear from the outset that the BNOC would continue its role as a trading arm and that it would be 100 per cent. Government-owned. There is no change in our view on that. As the largest oil trader in the North Sea, the BNOC will continue to provide challenging opportunities to its staff. It has made a small profit in the past, and we see no reason why it cannot continue to do so.

Mr. Douglas

Is the Minister really being honest with the House? Is he suggesting that the BNOC will continue to make a profit on its slender trading base? What proposals, if any, do the Government have for subventing this operation?

Mr. Gray

The hon. Gentleman served on the Committee that considered the Oil and Gas (Enterprise) Bill, and he will be aware that there is provision to subsidise, if necessary. However, there is no reason to believe that that is likely to happen.