asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement on the Government's policy towards promoting the expansion of the petrochemical industry.
§ Mr. Varley
After careful study the Industrial Strategy Sector Working Party has reached conclusions on the possible growth for the United Kingdom petrochemical industry and especially a realistic and attainable expansion in exports. The Government endorse the report of the sector working party, which foresees the construction by 1985 of four new ethylene crackers in the United Kingdom in addition to the cracker at present under construction. This would meet the expected United Kingdom growth of consumption and make a major contribution to our balance of payments through exports. We would like to see substantial further developments thereafter.
This is a great opportunity for our industry and the Government intend to encourage this increased investment and the related downstream developments to provide greater added value in exports and more jobs. It will be in the national interest that the right industrial projects take place at the right sites, on time and on a commercially viable basis. My 195W Department is already discussing a number of projects with companies and I invite the industry to come forward with further specific proposals as soon as possible.
A key factor will be the availability of ethane and other associated heavy natural gases from the North Sea oil fields. We see ethane as a premium feedstock for ethylene manufacture which could lead to further petrochemical expansion. Much will depend on the systems that are installed in the North Sea. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy intends to make a further statement shortly about the next stage of work on a possible gas gathering line.