HC Deb 28 November 1983 vol 49 cc637-8
4. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on his recent visit to China.

The Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Peter Walker)

My visit to China was in response to an urgent invitation from the Chinese Minister of Petroleum during his visit to this country in September.

I was able to assess at first hand the important opportunities for United Kingdom companies to compete for business in China, in the offshore supplies industry, the coal machinery industry, the electrical power industry, the gas industry, and industries involved in energy efficiency.

Mr. Adley

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply and congratulate him on what was obviously a most beneficial visit. Does he agree that, in addition to the advantages for Britain and China, the technology, transportation and financial services skills available in Hong Kong should also benefit that territory from the arrangements that he has announced today?

Mr. Walker

There is no doubt that the magnitude of energy developments in China is substantial. It is likely that the offshore oilfield, which is in the discovery stage, will be as big as the total discoveries in the North sea. The plans of the Chinese for increasing the size of their coal industry mean that eventually it will be six times the size of the British coal industry. Likewise there are big investment programmes in gas and power stations. It is obvious that the commercial skills and the many connections of Hong Kong will play an active role in all these developments.

Mr. Douglas

Will the right hon. Gentleman concede that, notwithstanding the important overtures that he has been making in China about offshore engineering activities, it would reflect much better on our export potential there if we could ensure the delivery and prospective construction of rigs such as the one in Scott Lithgow at present?

Mr. Walker

The important feature of any developments in the offshore industry is that contracts are competitive in cost terms compared with other nations and that delivery should be on time. That is what the Chinese will be looking for with any orders that they place.

Mr. Orme

This may have been a fruitful visit by the Secretary of State, but he was absent when the Cabinet decided to increase gas and electricity prices. How did the consultation take place? Did the right hon. Gentleman agree with the increases before he went? The House is entitled to be told.

Mr. Walker

I look forward to answering a later question on gas and electricity prices. I am interested to hear the right hon. Gentleman's report of what happened in the Cabinet, which is rather different from the minutes of the meeting.