HC Deb 20 February 1984 vol 54 cc551-2
9. Mr. David Atkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Energy how long he estimates Great Britain will be self-sufficient in gas.

Mr. Peter Walker

Estimates of proven United Kingdom continental shelf gas reserves are equivalent to some 14 years of gas consumption in Britain at 1983 levels. The life of United Kingdom continental shelf gas reserves is, however, prolonged by the availability of gas imports, which currently provide between 20 and 25 per cent. of total supplies to the British market.

Mr. Atkinson

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. In view of his answer to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) today, will he comment on Friday's press reports that the British Gas Corporation is seeking to import Norwegian gas at a price one-third higher than the cost of producing from British fields? Does my right hon. Friend or British Gas have any plans to import gas from Siberia?

Mr. Walker

I have no plans to import gas from Siberia.

Mr. Foulkes

Why not?

Mr. Walker

I should certainly like to send certain people to look at it.

The British Gas Corporation is in the process of conducting negotiations with Norwegian gas suppliers. Of course it will report to me on the state of those negotiations, but nothing has been finalised.

Mr. Hardy

Does the Secretary of State accept that extended self-sufficiency is hardly assisted by the extensive gas flaring to which he has already referred. Does he further accept that the position in 1979 was due largely to the special circumstances of the Brent field? Should we not have learnt to do a great deal better in the intervening five years?

Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman will be delighted to know that we have done a great deal better. Gas flaring is now about 45 per cent. less than it was then.

Sir Dudley Smith

Further to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton), is my right hon. Friend aware that a varied minority of my constituents are extremely puzzled by the fact that, although some of them live within a mile of a gas pipeline, they cannot get gas supplies? I suspect that that applies in many areas. In the circumstances, because of their feelings in this respect, will my right hon. Friend have discussions with the chairman of the British Gas Corporation about the problem and consider bringing forward fresh legislation to make it much easier to extend gas supplies?

Mr. Walker

If my hon. Friend draws my attention to a specific case in his constituency, I shall be only too delighted to refer it to and ask the chairman of the BGC to consider it. The coverage of domestic users in this country is very high compared with most other countries. In many countries where there is freedom to operate private as well as public utilities, substantial numbers of the population do not have gas supplies made available to them.