HC Deb 13 July 2004 vol 423 cc1244-5
5. Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab)

What research he has commissioned on future international relations consequent upon demand, supply, distribution and trade in oil; and if he will make a statement. [183358]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Bill Rammell)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office White Paper entitled "UK International Priorities" identifies the security of UK and global energy supplies as a strategic challenge that, with our international partners, we intend to meet.

Harry Cohen

The Minister will be aware that current thought links energy security with industrialisation and modernity and that oil remains key to that despite its being a finite resource, but there is high demand for it, including from countries such as China, Brazil and India. Does he agree that it is a myth that such things can be controlled by the market and that, inevitably, military force will apply? Should not the Foreign Office commission a review now to seek some international order in oil supply and demand, rather than the current free-for-all, and to examine the United Kingdom's position, thus shifting us to more sustainable energy sources, less dependent on oil?

Mr. Rammell

If it comes to military action, we will certainly all be the losers in those circumstances. What we need is a comprehensive strategy that takes account of market conditions, whereby we seek to achieve greater political stability in energy-producing countries. We consider energy security, but we certainly consider sustainability. That is why our commitment to the Kyoto protocol and moving beyond that is particularly important, as is increasing our commitment to renewable energy, so our leadership in the renewable energy and energy efficiency partnership internationally is a key component in what we are trying to take forward.

Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con)

Has the Minister considered the foreign policy implications of the fact that we are about to become a net importer of energy over the next couple of years, much of it gas from Russia? If, for example, we wanted to invade a middle east country to remove its weapons of mass destruction, unless countries such as Russia agreed with us, they would turn off the gas. Given that the Government's energy policy is for us to become 70 per cent. dependent on gas in the future, does that not leave us rather exposed?

Mr. Rammell

The reason why we are pursuing such a comprehensive strategy is that we will become dependent on oil imports, for example, from about 2010. Our relationship with Russia is especially important, which is why we need to consider the security of supply, and the situation explains why it is such a key partner to us. There is no one simple quick-fix solution. The issue is extraordinarily complicated, so we need to take things forward on a variety of fronts.

Jane Griffiths (Reading, East) (Lab)

When my hon. Friend considers these matters, will he pay particular attention to the south Caucasus, given the presence of President Saakashvili in London today., and especially to the continuing tension between Azerbaijan and Armenia, given that Azerbaijan has oil and Armenia has none?

Mr. Rammell

We certainly will take account of those issues. When I was in Georgia last week, we examined specifically the matter of the pipeline, which can be a significant component of the diversification of energy supply within that area. That is something that we must take forward, and I am sure that the Foreign Secretary and I will discuss it with President Saakashvili this afternoon.

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