§ Mr. Irving
asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement about gas imports and exports and the development of the gas resources of the United Kingdom continental shelf, following the privatisation of the British Gas Corporation.
§ Mr. Peter Walker
Gas imports and exports can have a major effect on the rate and pattern of the development of UKCS resources, and hence on wider national interest. The Government intend to ensure that this interest is adequately protected and that continuing gas supplies are available to customers in this country. Substantial gas resources are available, or potentially available, both from the UKCS and from overseas sources to enable the new company to meet the needs of its customers for many years ahead. The company will be able to import gas subject to the normal consent requirement for the laying of pipelines across the UKCS and, in appropriate cases, the conclusion of intergovernmental treaties. In addition, Sir Denis Rooke has assured me that the new gas company will consult the Government regarding its import plans as these develop.
There are at present only limited opportunities to sell new gas into Continental markets and access to these markets may add little in the short term to the boost which the Government's policies have already given to UKCS exploration and development. The Government are prepared, nonetheless, to consider applications for waivers on the landing requirement on a case-by-case basis. In 212W doing this, it will take into account considerations relating to the security of the UK's gas supplies without any presumption that exports should not take place in present circumstances.
The Government remain firmly committed to maintaining the pace of UKCS development and intend to ensure, as they have since 1979, that adequate market incentives exist for the exploration, appraisal and development of new gas. There will be no question of the new company discriminating against indigenous gas supplies; or of UKCS gas producers putting at risk this country's security of supply. The Government will keep close watch on terms of trade between suppliers and the new company and will stand ready to act as necessary.