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Methane (Imports From Algeria)

Volume 720: debated on Thursday 18 November 1965

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27.

asked the President of the Board of Trade which of the considerations which led to the present tariff classification of methane imported from Algeria have since changed.

I would refer the right hon. Member to the White Paper on Fuel Policy, which sets out the changes which have occurred in the position of the gas industry since imported methane was made free of duty.

Is the Minister aware that but for this imported methane the recent gas crisis in the Midlands would have been very much worse, and that this methane was imported under a 15-year contract by the Gas Boards on the basis that it would not be taxed on importation, and that the threat contained in the fuel policy White Paper, to which the Minister referred, that it may be taxed, obviously for political reasons, has thrown a wholly undesirable uncertainty into the future plans of the Gas Boards?

I do not agree with the conclusions which the right hon. Member is drawing from this matter, but I would say to him that if there were any consideration of changing the duty, such matters as he has raised would be taken into consideration.

Would the Minister give a categorical assurance that there would be no intention whatever of imposing tax on any methane which may be discovered in the North Sea?

It is quite impossibe to give that assurance, and in any case the question should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power.