HC Deb 07 November 1983 vol 48 cc10-1
11. Mr. Waller

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what representations he has recently received concerning holdings of obligatory oil stocks.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

A number of hon. Members and others have made representations to me.

Mr. Waller

Despite the reassurances that some independent companies have received, does my right hon. Friend accept that they are still very worried about the matter? Although the independent companies control only about 3 per cent. of the market, does he recognise that their flexibility and competitiveness are assets which the country cannot easily afford to lose?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Yes. In view of the position of some of the smaller independent companies, I have invited those who have any worries to describe and discuss them with my Department. Some discussions are continuing at present. I am genuinely concerned that if we do not extend the measures proposed, thereby ensuring the security of supply to some of the smaller companies, certain areas of the country could, at a time of emergency, be put at risk. For that reason, the Government have proposed their policy.

Mr. Penhaligon

Does the Minister realise that the major suppliers have opted out of the rural areas? If the proposed measure comes into effect, we believe that the small independent companies, which are the sole suppliers to those areas, will be squashed to death. What advantage can there possibly be in the Government pursuing such action?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I have received no evidence, least of all from the hon. Gentleman, that the smaller independent suppliers will be squashed to death. Where difficulties have arisen, I have asked the relevant companies to explain them to officials in my Department. As a result of our discussions with companies it has been realised that the position is not as difficult as was previously thought. Is the hon. Gentleman prepared, at a time of emergency, to see his constituency without petroleum supplies?

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