HC Deb 11 November 1991 vol 198 cc768-9
6. Mr. Pike

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what views his Department has on the limitation on use of natural gas for the generation of electricity.

Mr. Moynihan

My Department sees no general case for restricting the use of natural gas for electricity generation. Gas generation offers efficient primary energy conversion and significant environmental benefits and can lead to lower energy prices to final users.

Mr. Pike

Does the Minister accept that his answer shows why the Government need to be voted out of office? Is not it totally wrong to leave to the private sector, market forces and short-term profit motives matters connected with the use of energy which are so crucial to the nation's future? Should not the Government be making policy on energy supplies, which are essential to both domestic and industrial consumers?

Mr. Moynihan

No, Sir. My answer shows exactly why this Government will continue in office throughout the 1990s. The hon. Gentleman should know that to achieve lower prices and efficiency the gas market should be determined by prices in the marketplace and not by bureaucratic intervention.

Mr. Hannam

Does not the attitude of the Opposition show that they are not concerned with the care of the environment? Will my hon. Friend confirm that a combined cycle gas generating station produces half the amount of carbon dioxide that a coal-fired power station produces and none of the sulphur dioxide that causes acid rain?

Mr. Moynihan

My hon. Friend is correct and that is why gas is excellent for the environment.

Mr. Doran

I am pleased that the Minister is still wearing his Kincardine and Deeside by-election tie. At least some Tories got something out of it.

The Minister will be aware that there is a price for gas over and above the economic. Has he had an opportunity to study the findings of Sheriff Principal Ireland in the fatal accident inquiry into the death of Timothy Williams on the Ocean Odyssey? In view of the sheriff's expression of regret that the terms of the inquiry were not wide enough to take into account all the evidence of the risks involved in deep sea drilling, what steps will the Minister take to examine the matter further? In the light of the sheriff principal's report, is the Minister satisfied that deep drilling in the North sea is safe? Will he confirm whether, in the award of licences to explore in the North sea, he takes into account the safety record of the oil companies involved?

Mr. Moynihan

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that we have just received that important and significant report. I give him an undertaking that I will reply to the important issues that he has raised in the House this afternoon.