HC Deb 24 July 1967 vol 751 cc67-8W
Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Minister of Power to what extent, during the past two years, his Department have taken action to implement Her Majesty's Government's policy of reducing Great Britain's dependence on overseas sources of fuel and energy; by how much overseas imports of fuel and energy have been reduced during this period; to what extent the reduction of imports have been offset by increases in the development of new coal pits and increased production in existing coal pits; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Marsh

As the 1965 White Paper on Fuel Policy explained, oil is irreplaceable in some uses and undue restriction of its use for other purposes will hinder technological advance and increase costs; the Government therefore accepted that a continued growth in oil consumption was in the national interest, but it is our policy to mitigate the security disadvantages of oil imports by diversifying sources of supply, by stockpiling and other measures, including the encouragement of oil and natural gas exploration in the North Sea. With the discoveries of natural gas, the future growth of oil is likely to slacken.

The White Paper also foresaw a fall in coal production and consumption. The growth of oil and the decline of coal would have been faster but for the Government's policy of protection for coal, the duty on oil and the discrimination against oil at power stations.

Further measures of assistance to coal were announced in my speech on the Coal (Borrowing Powers) Order on 18th July, when I gave some of the conclusions emerging from the present Fuel Policy Review, in which security of supply is, of course, being taken into account.

Following are the relevant movements over the preceding two years:

(million tons coal equivalent)
1964 1965 1966
Oil consumption 93.3 102.8 111.7
Imported natural gas 0.1 0.9 0.9
Coal production 193.6 187.5 174.6