HC Deb 30 March 1979 vol 965 cc381-2W
Mr. Campbell

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement about the recent meeting of the EEC Energy Council.

Mr. Benn

The European Community's Council of Ministers (Energy) met on 27 March. There was an extensive discussion of the Community's approach to energy policy and on the oil situation. The Council endorsed proposals by the French Presidency for a new approach which recognises that the main contribution to the achievement of common objectives in the energy sector must come from the national programmes of member States but that there may be areas where those programmes can advan- tageously be brought more into line with each other or where Community action would be useful to fill gaps between them. This is the approach which the Government have long been urging.

The Council instructed an existing working group of officials to undertake an urgent study of the policy implications of the current world oil situation and agreed to meet again at an early date to consider the results of this work. The Commission was asked to prepare proposals for improving the Community's information on oil prices. I stressed that while statistical exercises were useful, the main need was for action to check speculation in oil prices. I had sought assurances from the chairmen of all the main oil companies operating in the United Kingdom that they would not divert supplies from the United Kingdom to the spot market.

The Council agreed that it was for member States to decide the detailed measures needed to achieve the objective of reducing Community oil consumption in 1979 to 500 million tonnes. The Commission will, however, report what is being done and the next meeting of the Council will consider whether this is adequate.

Further work was commissioned on the development of a Community policy for coal. Directives on energy labelling and schemes for Community finance totalling 150 million units of account over four to five years on demonstration projects in energy saving and alternative energies were approved. First selections of projects under these schemes were also approved. The Commission undertook in the next selection of projects to consider favourably a major British Gas Corporation project for a composite coal gasifier.

There was no agreement on a proposal for Community support for hydrocarbon exploration off Greenland and for the arrangements for oil export licensing in an emergency because of the reservations of other member States.