HC Deb 20 February 1984 vol 54 cc546-7
3. Mr. Wallace

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what consultations he has had regarding further North sea gas-gathering projects; and whether he will make a statement.

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

I am in regular touch with the oil industry over its plans for offshore developments, including, as appropriate, plans to expand or extend the present gas-gathering infrastructure.

Mr. Wallace

As the Government's failure to back an integrated gas-gathering project in 1981 now means that we have to import more expensive Sleipner gas, and as private industry has failed to respond to the initiative at the end of last year for a gas-gathering system in the central North sea, do not the Government have a duty to take an initiative in this matter to ensure future continuity of supplies from our resources and to avoid the loss of, according to one estimate, up to 20 per cent. of our North sea gas reserves?

Mr. Walker

Before making such remarks the hon. Gentleman should learn more about the facts. It is wholly untrue that, as a result of not preparing certain pipelines in previous years, we shall now be dependent upon importing gas from Norway. As the hon. Gentleman should know, we have been importing gas from Norway for some time. It can even be argued that certain changes in the pipelines in the period that the hon. Gentleman mentioned will mean that the gas will be available in the 1990s, when it will be more needed.

Mr. Rowlands

Is the Secretary of State aware that in 1981 the integrated gas-gathering line proposal was sunk and sabotaged by the Cabinet, against the advice, it appears, of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor and the Minister of State of the day? When shall we have in place a comprehensive gas-gathering pipeline, whether financed by the private or the public sector?

Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman will be delighted to learn that a great deal is going on at present. Three major schemes have been approved during the past year. I am very confident that what we are now seeing is the completion of a network which will bring us a great deal of gas at the time when we need it. Compared with 1979, for example, the amount of gas flaring now required is down by 45 per cent.