HC Deb 26 January 1987 vol 109 cc4-5
4. Mr. Nicholas Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if it remains Her Majesty's Government's policy to limit the amount of oil consumed as vehicle fuel in the United Kingdom.

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

Our aim is to encourage energy efficiency measures that are cost-effective.

Mr. Baker

If I am correct in assuming that my right hon. Friend has not made representations to the Home Office that the present speed limit on motorways should be enforced for the sake of oil conservation, will he join me in making representations to the Secretary of State for Transport that the speed limit on motorways should be raised?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

My hon. Friend is correct in saying that the matter is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. As I am sure my hon. Friend will acknowledge, many complex considerations and factors are involved. As I understand it, one of my right hon. Friend's main considerations at present is the very important question of road safety.

Mr. Douglas

When the Minister considers oil consumption, will he give some advice to the consumer, who seems somewhat bemused by the fact that when oil prices fall the advantage is not passed on to him, but when oil prices rise the oil companies take immediate steps to raise prices at the pumps?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

As the hon. Gentleman knows, whatever the price, energy conservation measures are worth while. I hope that he pays tribute to the work done by the motor industry in already achieving much better performance of British cars.

Mr. Chapman

I appreciate the need to encourage energy conservation, particularly in vehicles, but will my right hon. Friend confirm that it will not be at the expense of the Government's programme and commitment to introduce lead-free petrol, even if lead-free petrol is less efficient that leaded petrol in miles per gallon?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The Government are committed to the introduction of lead-free petrol, and differential pricing and duty are a positive encouragement. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced that he will be saying more about that in the next Budget. More than anything else, that policy underlines the Government's commitment to unleaded petrol.

Mr. Rowlands

Is the Minister aware that other issues could play a vital part in the whole question of oil supplies? For example, what will happen if the Iranians reach Basra? The hon. Gentleman will know the impact of what happened in 1979. Have the Government considered meeting the Institute of Economic Affairs to discuss that nightmarish possibility, which could have a profound impact on oil supplies and prices?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Thus far, the IEA has not requested any meeting to discuss the fuel efficiency of vehicles in Britain.