HC Deb 12 March 1984 vol 56 cc2-3
2. Mr. Eggar

asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he last met the chairman of the British Gas Corporation to discuss the importation of Sleipner gas.

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

I have regular meetings with the chairman of British Gas. Possible sources of new gas supplies, such as those on offer from the Norwegian Sleipner field, are kept under review.

Mr. Eggar

Is my right hon. Friend not concerned that the purchase of high-price Norwegian gas will delay the development of United Kingdom sector gasfields, with the inevitably adverse effect that that will have on onshore and offshore employment, as well as about the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Erewash (Mr. Rost) about CHP? If he allows the Sleipner transaction to go ahead, will he ensure that gas exports will be permitted from the United Kingdom sector?

Mr. Walker

I assure my hon. Friend that in whatever decisions are taken in this connection careful consideration will be given to the importance of maintaining progress in developing our own offshore facilities.

Mr. Bruce

I am glad that the Minister has explained the position, but will he confirm the report that his Department is recommending that British Gas should import gas from the Dutch sector, instead of going ahead with the Sleipner deal? Will he also acknowledge that, if that is so, it is a recognition that Sleipner gas would so distort the British market as to cause considerable uncertainty for future supplies from the United Kingdom sector?

Mr. Walker

No, Sir. However, I can confirm that the British Gas Corporation has spoken to the Dutch and Norwegians and also to suppliers of gas in our North sea fields, and that it has taken all three potentialities into consideration in coming to whatever conclusions it reaches.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle

Has not the Oil and Gas (Enterprise) Act encouraged exploration in the southern basin of the North sea where the gas is? If so, has my right hon. Friend any idea of how long it will be before we are self-sufficient again in gas supplies?

Mr. Walker

In any projections for the 1990s, Britain will continue, as now, to be a net importer of gas.

Mr. Rowlands

Did not the Secretary of State, in answer to previous questions on energy, draw attention to the value and importance of Sleipner gas as part of a long-term depletion policy? Is there an application before the right hon. Gentleman? What procedure will now be followed to decide whether he will authorise that arrangement with the Norwegian authorities?

Mr. Walker

The Norwegians and the Dutch have made certain offers to the BGC. We are examining those, as we are examining other alternatives, and we shall then come to a conclusion.