HC Deb 28 October 1985 vol 84 cc648-9
1. Mr. Favell

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on the relative changes in productivity in the energy industries since 1980.

The Minister of State, Department of Energy (Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith)

Labour productivity generally in the public sector energy industries has improved since 1980. I hope this progress will continue.

Mr. Favell

I am glad to hear that productivity has increased, but is my right hon. Friend happy that, in July this year, his Department could not say by how much productivity in the gas, coal and electricity industries had increased since the end of 1980, nor could it compare their productivity with the economy as a whole? Are not those figures vital to all British industry?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

It is important to ensure that any figures provided are meaningful. It is difficult to provide such figures for different industries with different capital intensities and different balances between output and labour and capital use. However, I understand my hon. Friend's concern, and would be happy to discuss the matter further with him.

Dr. Godman

May I ask the Minister a question about the important offshore oil and gas industries? In recent times, what changes in productivity have there been in the offshore construction yards, and is it likely that those yards will receive contracts for offshore structures within the next eight to nine months?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I do not have the exact figures for which the hon. Gentleman asks, but I am delighted to say that our oil fabrication yards have had a good record in recent months and have won a major share of orders from oil industry in the face of fierce international competition. In that respect, their productivity is high.

Mr. Patrick McNair-Wilson

Has my right hon. Friend discussed North sea oil production with representatives of OPEC? Does he agree that, although there are obvious attractions in a falling oil price, excessive production at a time of falling prices worldwide could lead to a disorderly market?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Any large cut in production would cause a reduction in productivity. Our main concern, as I have said many times in the House, has always been to ensure stability in the oil market. In an area such as the North sea, where risks are great and capital investment is high, it is important to have as stable a market as possible so that such investment continues.

Mr. Robert B. Jones

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the British Gas Corporation makes no comparisons between the productivity of its men in small-scale distribution work and that of private contractors in reaching a decision to take work from the private sector and do it in-house? Does he agree that that is disgraceful?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Attention has been drawn to that matter from time to time. If there is any sign of unfairness in that area, I hope that my hon. Friend will urge those who think that is the case to draw it to the attention of the Office of Fair Trading.

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