HC Deb 28 February 1983 vol 38 cc11-2
12. Mr. Hooley

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what was the total energy consumption in the United Kingdom expressed in million tonnes of coal equivalent in 1982; and how this compares with 1981 and 1980.

Mr. John Moore

United Kingdom energy consumption was 328.7 million tonnes of coal equivalent in 1980, 317.1 million tonnes in 1981 and provisionally 311.2 million tonnes in 1982. While energy consumption was 5.3 per cent. lower than in 1980, GDP was 1.9 per cent. lower, indicating a substantial further improvement in energy efficiency.

Mr. Hooley

In the light of that fall in demand, why are the Government hell-bent on depleting North sea oil resources as fast as possible, thereby wasting a valuable national asset?

Mr. Moore

The hon. Gentleman will remember that the Select Committee complimented the Government on their depletion policy for the North sea. The use of assets and their relationship to the market place is something that I know the hon. Gentleman might have difficulty in understanding fully in so far as it has been the most successful feature of energy conservation.

Mr. Michael Morris

Will not the consumption of coal continue to decrease unless the National Union of Mineworkers takes note of the report of the Select Committee on Energy on pit closures, which showed that uneconomic pits, such as the one in south Wales, must be closed?

Mr. Moore

All hon. Members will recognise the importance of the all-party Select Committee which looked into the problem. As I have already said sufficiently during this Session, competitively priced coal and security of supplies are the key to the coal industry's retention of its present markets and winning new ones.

Mr. John Smith

Dealing with the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) about depletion policy, does the Minister think that it is wise for this country to be exporting 60 per cent. of its North sea oil production—a net figure of 30 per cent. after imports are taken into account? Is it not unwise to export so much oil when there is a falling price, or do the Government have to pay such a high bill for the unemployment that they have created and the tax cuts that they propose to make that they have no depletion policy whatsoever?

Mr. Moore

The official Opposition show an extraordinary inability to understand markets. If the oil price had been going up we should have been accused of not conserving the oil to retain its enhanced value for future generations. In all other production and industrial areas the official Opposition are asking for increased exports rather than the reverse.