HC Deb 12 December 1985 vol 88 c1056
6. Mr. Archer

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if, in the light of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, he will seek to reopen negotiations with the Irish Government on the supply of gas from the Kinsale gasfield; and if he will make a statement.

Dr. Boyson

No, Sir. The Government announced in September 1984 that the Kinsale gas project would not proceed as it would not be economically viable for Northern Ireland. There have been no changes in the economic factors determining the viability of the project for Northern Ireland which would justify reopening negotiations. Price and particularly demand factors remain clearly detrimental. Many of the undertakings have decided to close, and consumers are aware of the level of assistance available to them to convert or replace town gas appliances.

Mr. Archer

If the Anglo-Irish Agreement is intended to provide a framework for discussing matters of serious concern to the people of Northern Ireland, has the Minister not grasped the fact that both employees and consumers are intensely worried about the future of the gas industry? If the Government of the Republic make proposals to discuss again the price of Kinsale gas, will the Minister at least respond by inquiring what captial may be made available, whether private or public, from Lloyds Bank or elsewhere, and meanwhile suspend the closures? Or is this one more subject where the Government have abdicated any attempt to govern the course of events?

Dr. Boyson

The worst form of co-operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic would be if we were to agree immediately to a project which is not economically viable in Northern Ireland. By all means we shall discuss—

Ms. Clare Short

But Northern Ireland is not economically viable.

Dr. Boyson

The Government are responsible for Northern Ireland. If our first economic co-operation initiative is not successful for Northern Ireland, it will spoil the whole atmosphere. The gas industry in Northern Ireland has been considered for closure for about 10 years, which includes the period of the Labour Government. There is no sign that it can be made viable. At present all the gas companies are moving towards closure.

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