HC Deb 27 October 2003 vol 412 c11WS
Mr. Laurence Robertson

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions she has had with other governments, with particular reference to those of(a) Russia and (b) Algeria, on the supply of gas to the UK; and if she will make a statement. [134327]

Mr. Timms

One of the goals of the Energy White Paper, published in February this year, is that people and businesses can rely on secure supplies of energy at predictable prices delivered through the market. Part of this is about promoting diverse energy sources, suppliers and supply routes.

We are currently working with industry to maximise the economic potential of our North Sea supplies. But it is still likely that the UK will become a net importer of gas on an annual basis by around 2006.

Against this background, we are making good progress on a Treaty with Norway to underpin future cross-boundary oil and gas developments. I recently agreed the key principles of the Treaty with my counterpart in Norway. This will facilitate direct delivery of around 20 per cent. of UK gas demand from 2006.

Looking more widely, we are continuing our discussions with Russia. We jointly hosted a major conference "Russia/UK Energy: Long Term Partners", during President Putin's State Visit in June, when my Russian counterpart and I signed a Memorandum of Co-operation on the North European Gas Pipeline. This pipeline will encourage suppliers from diverse sources into the EU including the UK. It involves no direct link to the UK, but we hope that some of this gas will come into the UK in the future.

My predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson), visited Algeria on a Trade Mission in February and my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Investment, visited in May 2003. Discussions with Algeria also take place through the European Mediterranean Partnership. Seniors officials will attend a Euro Med ministerial in December to discuss energy infrastructure and co-ordinate policies on security of energy supply.

There have also been discussions about a Treaty Framework between the UK Government and Dutch Government for the proposed new interconnector from the Netherlands to the UK. It is expected that this interconnector will import 8 bcm of gas by 2005–06.