HC Deb 04 July 1983 vol 45 cc3-4
2. Mr. Viggers

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he is satisfied with the current development programme for oil and gas resources in the United Kingdom.

The Minister of State, Department of Energy (Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith)

Yes. Twenty-one offshore and two onshore oilfields, and seven offshore gasfields are currently in production.

Mr. Viggers

Does my right hon. Friend agree that his many right hon. and hon. Friends will miss the previous right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Gray)? I am sorry that he is no longer a Member of the House, but rejoice in his translation to another place. I also welcome my right hon. Friend to this portfolio.

Is not the centre point of the Government's policy on the oil and gas industry to maintain the momentum of success, especially in the British element of this important industry, which employs over 100,000 people?

Mr. Speaker

Order. We must have shorter questions, please.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. I shall certainly find it hard to follow my former right hon. Friend, who was particularly active in obtaining a high degree of participation by British firms in North sea oil. I am only sorry that the Labour party does not appreciate the result that has been achieved so far.

Mr. Douglas

Will the Minister say something about the nature of the development of Marathon's Bray field? Will he confirm that at present that field does not have an annex B and that, therefore, it is a little presumptuous of the company to make wholesale press announcements on the development? In particular, will he give an assurance that British steel will be used in any construction on the field?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we want to see the maximum participation of British industry. I intend to continue that policy as vigorously as possible. I shall certainly scrutinise the annex B proposals carefully.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

Bearing in mind British Petroleum's recent 8p increase in the price of its petrol, the third increase this year, which will almost certainly be followed by other major companies, will my right hon. Friend refer the matter to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission? Does he agree that capitalism and Conservatism are about genuine competition, not price-fixing at the public expense? Does he further agree that a company with a £30,000 million turnover a year can in large degree decide what is a profit and what is a loss?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Only one company has announced an increase and there is considerable competition. We shall wait to see what happens to that and other companies. As my hon. Friend knows, this matter was looked at recently and it was concluded that there was adequate competition.

Mr. Budgen

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the new experiment of allocating licences by auction is much to be preferred to the dangers of allocation by ministerial or executive discretion?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Different systems have their place in different circumstances. I do not want to be dogmatic about it at this stage, but I shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend said.

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