Skip to main content


Volume 887: debated on Monday 24 February 1975

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.



asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he will make a further statement about Government policy to conserve energy.

An energy conservation campaign is of necessity a long, hard slog but there are already encouraging signs of worthwhile achievement.

Will the Secretary of State say what progress he has been able to make to ensure that the cost of energy represents the true cost of producing that energy? Will he also say what discussions he has had with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services to ensure that any increased costs do not bear unfairly on the weakest section of the community?

The hon. Gentleman will have noticed that in the last 11 months my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I have made it plain that energy pricing must be undertaken on a much more realistic basis. I am sure he will also have noticed that there has been a record increase in social security benefits. There is to be an uprating in April this year and a further uprating later in the year.

Is it not a fact that Conservative Members persist in demanding that my right hon. Friend should take stern action to conserve energy and then criticise every step he takes?

That is true of some hon. Gentlemen, but there can be a massive reduction in energy use only by strict allocation, rationing and electricity rota cuts. I think that this is well understood.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what progress is being made towards a European conservation programme? What contribution are the Government making to it, and what view do they take about Dr. Kissinger's proposals for a floor price for oil?

On the last point, we are examining the proposals which have been made about downside risk and are considering them seriously. As for the EEC, I remind the hon. Gentleman that our measures are probably in advance of anything that is being done in the Community.

Petrol (Prices)


asked the Secretary of State for Energy what representations he has received concerning proposals for a two-tier system of petroleum pricing; and what replies he has sent.

My right hon. Friend has received representations from a number of quarters, including hon. Members, motoring and other organisations. He has explained that two-tier pricing is only one of a number of energy saving ideas currently being looked at.

Do I take it from that reply that no decision has yet been taken about a two-tier pricing system? Is anybody examining the administrative costs of operating such a system?

There has been a great deal of speculation in the Press and elsewhere about this matter, but no decisions has been taken by the Government. The costs of fuel rationing would be very considerable, but the cost of a two-tier system would be less. We calculate that it would be about £5 million. However, I emphasise that no decision has been taken.

Will the Minister accept that many of us feel that the two-tier system is the most fatuous suggestion that has ever been made, and that it would be far more sensible if help could be given to those in rural areas by allowing them to offset a certain portion of the expenditure against tax, but that subsidies should not be accepted?

In the initial stages most of the representations about a two-tier pricing system came from Conservative Members who represent rural constituencies. Obviously, they changed their tune when they realised what the likely allocation would be.

Perhaps not the hon. Gentleman, but some of his hon. Friends took that view. There is a real problem in rural communities, which the Govern- ment accept, but it is difficult to pick out people in the rural areas as distinct from those in other parts of the community. It is difficult to see what can be done to assist them. The question of taxation is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the problem in rural areas exists because of the inadequacy of public transport there, that many of my constituents have to use their cars to travel to work, and that great embarrassment and difficulty is caused to them because of the high and increasing cost of petrol? Will he take that factor into account when the scheme is being worked out?

We have the problems of rural areas very much in mind. My right hon. Friend will appreciate that if a certain type of two-tier pricing system were introduced people in rural areas might be worse off rather than better off, in terms of the allocation of petrol. We are aware of the difficulties which face people because of insufficient public transport. That is why my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment is currently carrying out a review of public transport services.


asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he will make a further statement on petrol pricing policy, in the light of the latest indications of crude oil prices for the rest of 1975.

There are no indications of a major change in crude oil prices this year and I do not think, therefore, that a further statement is called for.

Is it not a fact that users of petrol, including many who have to travel to work in my constituency from outlying country districts, are bearing a disproportionate share of the total level of oil taxation? Will the hon. Gentleman urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he is considering the relative oil product tax levels before the next Budget, to introduce some alleviation within the total for petrol?

Many people suffer from the increases which have had to be imposed in the price of petrol. The hon. Gentleman referred to people in rural areas. We understand their problems, but it would be a mistake to think that the difficulty is confined to them. Many shift workers in urban areas have to pay substantial extra costs to get to work. It would be difficult to work out a scheme to help people without creating even greater problems. No doubt the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have noted the suggestions made by the hon. Gentleman.

National Nuclear Corporation


asked the Secretary of State for Energy if the integration of the nuclear design and construction industries into the National Nuclear Corporation has now been completed.

It is a matter of great concern, when fuel costs are rising so sharply, that the nuclear programme is being delayed in this way. Is it not a matter of great urgency that the matter should be resolved at the earliest possible moment?

Yes, it is most important that the matter be resolved as quickly as possible. I know the hon. Gentleman will accept that the decision about the choice of reactor was put off for three and a half years. That decision was taken by this Government within five months. Steps have been taken to get the programme under way.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the Opposition cannot afford to be critical about his reactor policy or about decisions generally in that area, as they did absolutely nothing during the whole of their period of office? Further, does he recognise that a decision on the National Nuclear Corporation is crucial to the future of our nuclear energy programme?

Yes, it is crucial. I hope to make a statement shortly about the NNC and the Nuclear Power Company.

Does the Secretary of State accept that, contrary to the purport of the past two questions, there is now considerable anxiety about the policy of nuclear energy? Is he aware that people are becoming disturbed about the problems which we might be laying up for the next and future generations? Before the policy is expanded, will the right hon. Gentleman consider having a thorough investigation of where we are going on nuclear policy?

I recognise the anxiety that exists in all parts of the United Kingdom about the build up of nuclear power. I think that the hon. Gentleman will be reassured when I tell him that the independent Nuclear Inspectorate is careful about issuing site licences for nuclear stations.

Is my right hon. Friend's statement likely to include a reference to an increase in the extent of the State shareholding, as recommended by the all-party Select Committee on Science and Technology?

I would rather ask my hon. Friend to await the statement that I hope to make shortly. I think that it is likely that an increased Government stake will be acceptable.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the co-operation arrangement with the State authority in Canada over CANDU cannot be implemented until the NNC is set up? Does he realise that he has wasted far too many months already, and that we cannot go ahead with the SGHWR system?

I do not accept that criticism. Already preparatory work and discussions have taken place with the Canadian authorities.



asked the Secretary of State for Energy what plans he has for amending the pneumonconiosis compensatory scheme to include commuted cases certified before 1948 by increasing the grant for the scheme; and if he will make a statement.

The Pneumoconiosis Compensation Scheme is a coal industry scheme which has been negotiated between the mining unions and the National Coal Board. It is not for the Government to amend it. As I and my right hon. Friend emphasised in the debate on the Second Reading of the Coal Industry Bill last week, what the Government are doing is to provide a grant of up to £100 million towards the costs of the scheme.

Will my hon. Friend tell the House what extra grant will be required to meet the needs of the 8,000 or 10,000 people in this category? Does he agree that if a grant were allocated specifically for this purpose—I recognise that this is a National Coal Board matter—the National Union of Mineworkers would be only too willing to have the money allocated?

I regret that I cannot tell my hon. Friend the precise cost, but it certainly would amount to several million pounds. As I have explained to my hon. Friend, the scheme was drawn up between the National Coal Board and the union. The Government have made a £100 million grant towards the scheme. Any amendment to the scheme is a matter for the National Coal Board and the unions concerned.

I accept my hon. Friend's answer, and I think that he will accept that we give full credit to the Labour Government for finally redressing injustices that have existed in this respect over the years. Nevertheless, if representations are made by the National Union of Mineworkers, in consultation with the National Coal Board, that extra funding is required for the commuted cases and for the widows, will the Government be prepared to consider that matter seriously in Committee and to provide the necessary funds to implement the wishes of the Labour movement?

I am grateful for the comments made by my hon. Friend on the Government's generosity. As he knows, the pneumoconiosis scheme was born out of the tripartite inquiry into the industry that was set up by my right hon. Friend when he gained office last year, the tripartite team being the National Coal Board, the union and the Government. I must tell my hon. Friend that this matter has already been discussed with the appropriate authorities. Therefore, it would be unfair if I were to suggest to him that the Government would be capable of increasing the £100 million. This has already been discussed. By any standard and by any measure the £100 million is a most generous donation towards the scheme.

Offshore Oil Industry (Government Participation)


asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on the negotiations being conducted about Government participation in the oil industry operating on the United Kingdom continental shelf.

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) on 19th February—[Vol. 886, c. 1338].

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the negotiations are being conducted on a different basis for the large operators in the North Sea as distinct from the smaller companies? Will he confirm or deny that it is the Government's policy to squeeze the smaller companies out of the North Sea into the hands of the proposed British National Oil Corporation? That is a step which may please Labour Members, but it will drastically delay the day when Britain can achieve self-sufficiency in oil.

No, it is not the objective to squeeze anybody out of the North Sea. We recognise that there will be continuing and profitable rôles for those who have taken risks in the most hazardous waters in the world. At the same time, there is a Government political commitment that must be met, namely, the intention behind the negotiations to achieve participation.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a tremendous campaign being waged by the oil companies to get, as a result of what could be almost termed a capital strike, the greatest possible amount of profit that can be obtained? Does he agree that it is his job, as the representative of the Labour movement, and in line with the Labour manifesto, in concert with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to ensure that we get the maximum amount of money out of the North Sea, even if that means a slight delay in terms of the poker match or bluffing match presently being engaged in by the oil barons in this country and outside?

I can assure my hon. Friend that the manifesto commitment will be maintained. Further, we have taken steps to fulfil that commitment. I am sure that my hon. Friend will be reassured when the Petroleum Bill is published, I hope, next month.


asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is his estimate of the cost of acquiring majority participation in the North Sea oil industry; and what is the estimated cost of providing 51 per cent. of the development capital.

These costs will depend upon the outcome of the negotiations with the oil companies.

If the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster claims to have reassured the American oil companies that nationalisation is to be a voluntary book-keeping exercise to appease the left wing of the Labour Party, how did the right hon. Gentleman reassure the American oil companies that he was speaking on behalf of the Government?

Of course my right hon. Friend was speaking on behalf of the Government. As he made absolutely plain, the major take will come from the tax, but we need a British stake in the oil and an entitlement to it. That is the objective of the participation negotiations.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the view being conveyed by some oil company executives that a significant reduction in the price of Middle East oil would make the British medium-and small-size fields economically unviable? What is his opinion on that view?

It would depend how far oil prices came down. I hope that oil prices do come down in traditional oil supplying countries, but I do not see a great deal of evidence that that is likely to happen within the near future. That is one of the imponderables. All the statistics available to the Government show that North Sea oil is still a profitable undertaking.

British Petroleum


asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he has any proposals to acquire a majority shareholding in British Petroleum; and if he will make a statement.

As I told the House on 15th January, the question of the BP shareholding is a matter for consideration, and further thought needs to be given to this complex issue. In reaching a decision we shall have to take into account the needs of Government policies and the interests of BP.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that an assurance has been given to the Chairman of British Petroleum that whilst 20 per cent. of the BP shares formerly owned by Burmah Oil are held by the Bank of England the Government will not attempt to exercise any extra control of BP that a 70 per cent. holding would give them? Does my right hon. Friend accept that it is a fundamental principle of this Government's industrial policy that the investment of public money should carry with it public control and public accountability, and that we are being prevented from exercising such control until the shares are transferred from the Bank of England to my right hon. Friend's Department? Further, will he accept that it is highly desirable that the Government should reassert their majority holding in BP?

I do not think that I have much to add to the reply that I have already given and to the statement I made on 15th January. I can assure my hon. Friend that the disposal of BP shares that the Bank of England now holds is still under consideration, and that no decisions have been taken.

Will the right hon. Gentleman now assure the House that the Government will adhere to the undertaking which they gave to the takeover panel about the exercise of the Government's voting power in BP?

Certainly we shall adhere to that undertaking. The disposal of the shares is still under consideration. We have by no means ruled out the possibility of moving to a majority stake in BP.

Electricity (Ripple Control)


asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will issue a general direction to area electricity boards to install ripple control in order to save fuel.

No, Sir. Both my Department and the Electricity Council are actively studying the potential advantages of ripple control. The possible benefits would lie mainly in capital savings rather than in fuel savings.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that ripple control is widely used on the Continent and that recent cost-benefit analysis has shown that a return of more than 50 per cent. would be achieved if this country adopted the same control because of the reduction that would be possible in investment in distribution and generation equipment?

Yes, we are aware that it is being used in other countries, but it would be naïve to assume that techniques used overseas could be transplanted untouched into this country. We are studying the matter with various organisations, and no doubt the hon. Gentleman will be made aware of the results of those studies when the reports have been sufficiently assessed.

Does not my hon. Friend agree that as a result of recent developments there is likely to be a substantial increase in the price of electricity, which will automatically result in a substantial reduction in demand for it? Has he had any estimates from the electricity authorities of the effect of that likely increase in prices?

That is a different question. However, no doubt my hon. Friend read in the Press during the weekend the various assessments that have been made in this respect. No doubt my right hon. Friend will be making a statement when the time comes.

Fuel Industries (Co-Operation)


asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he is satisfied that there is sufficient co-operation and co-ordination between the competing fuel industries in the United Kingdom.

The industries certainly co-operate well with me and have demonstrated their willingness to work together when this is appropriate, for example, in the current energy-saving publicity campaign. But I shall be glad to consider any particular point my hon. Friend has in mind.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that sometimes in the past there has not been much co-ordination, and that that has probably encouraged various Governments to undertake pit closures? When he is giving guidance to the chairmen of the nationalised fuel industries will he bear in mind that the abundance of coal in this country far outweighs the value of what we shall receive from the North Sea in oil and gas? Because of that will he ensure that the chairmen of the fuel industries get together to formulate a national fuel plan, so that we can develop our coal mining as we should? Further, cannot something be done to encourage young people to go into the mines?

It is certainly our intention to encourage the development of coal mining. My hon. Friend will be aware of the tripartite examination and the additional £600 million expenditure to be incurred by the industry over the next 10 years. Certainly he will have seen that the recruitment figures have improved over the last few months.

What co-operation can there be among the electricity, coal and gas industries when the retail prices of all those commodities are going up? What competitive pricing policies can there be when the industries are not allowed to compete?

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is complaining about the pricing policy. It is our intention that there should be more realistic pricing policies for these industries, and we have said so over and over again in the past 11 months.

Electricity Supplies (Free Allowances)


asked the Secretary of State for Energy what studies his Department has made of the practicality and cost of introducing a free allowance of electricity for retirement pensioners, the chronically sick and disabled and those in regular receipt of supplementary benefit or family income supplement.

I estimate that at current electricity prices, including current fuel costs, a scheme for free allowances on the lines indicated in my hon. Friend's previous Questions, on 31st January, would cost about £150 million for pensioner households; £22 million for chronically sick or disabled persons; and £22 million for persons receiving supplementary allowances and family income supplement. The cost could be expected to rise substantially as electricity prices increase. The operation of such a scheme would cause considerable practical difficulties, and those in need are already helped through the social security system.

Will my hon. Friend accept my congratulations that his Department has now been able to make these calculations, and my sorrow that it was not able to do so earlier? Is he aware of the impact that price increases will have on the poor and on the other groups that I have mentioned—massive increases already and a further 40 per cent. to come? Does he know how important fuel is in the budget of the poor? Does he know the extent to which the high price of fuel contributes to deaths and illnesses, particularly among old-age pensioners?

If my hon. Friend cannot introduce a simple humane free allowance scheme, such as that which operates in the Republic of Ireland, will he at least consider two-tier pricing, so that these groups in the community may consume a limited amount of electricity at a reasonable rate before having to pay high prices?

I am sure that on reflection my hon. Friend will agree that the Department of Energy has always tried to be as helpful as possible in providing him with information on this subject. I hope that he will accept that in the Department as it is run by my right hon. Friend there is no lack of compassion or concern for pensioners, and so on.

I am glad that my hon. Friend accepts that.

My hon. Friend has submitted his proposals to the Department and we have tried to cost them out. We are con- sidering what we can do to help to alleviate the burden. My hon. Friend must agree that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has tried to assist by increased heating allowances, and some of my hon. Friend's suggestions are matters for her rather than for my right hon. Friend.

When the Department was making these calculations, did it take the actual consumption of a sample of pensioner families, or what they ought to have consumed—if that is possible?

We took an estimate covering 5·2 million pensioner households, comprising 7·5 million of the total of 8 million pensioners. If 7·5 million pensoners—that excludes those in institutions—each received such an allowance, the cost would be an additional £67 million. I hope that that is the information that the hon. Lady is seeking.

Ninian Oilfield


asked the Secretary of State for Energy why he agreed to Chevron Oil taking over the Burmah stake in the Ninian oilfield development.


asked the Secretary of State for Energy why he agreed to Standard Oil taking over the management of the Ninian oilfield development.

The licensees of the Ninian field proposed in January that from 1st March Chevron Petroleum (UK) Ltd., a subsidiary of Standard Oil of California, should become operator for the field, and that BP should chair the Ninian Management Committee. The change makes no difference to the shares held in the field by individual licensees, including Burmah Oil. I welcomed the news because it means that the resources for the development of this major United Kingdom oilfield will be reinforced.

Why was Chevron allowed to take over when BP was already responsible for the pipeline contract? It appears to me that it would have been better to use BP, which would also have kept it British, and that would have been far easier if a decision had been reached on the shares and we had a majority shareholding, so that we could have forced BP to take over responsibility.

I must make it clear that the stake of the various companies in the oilfield is not affected by the change of operator. The proposals for a change of operator were put forward by the licensees themselves, which included BP. It does not affect their shares, and there is no change in the amount of oil owned by British or American licensees.

Will the hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that he will have nothing whatever to do with his hon. Friend's suggestion that the Government's shareholding should entitle them to force BP to do things that it regards as being against its commercial interest?

As my right hon. Friend has made clear, no decision has yet been reached about the disposal of the shares. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Hoyle) demonstrates an appropriate concern that British interests should be safeguarded in the North Sea—a concern that was not always evidenced when Conservative Members were in office.

Electricity Supply Industry (Subsidy)


asked the Secretary of State for Energy what he now expects to be the total subsidy, including interest due but forgone, to the electricity supply industry for 1975.

The amount of compensation for price restraint in the next financial year will depend mainly on the amount of the next electricity price increases, which are now under consideration.

Why will not the hon. Gentleman answer the Question on the Order Paper in terms of figures? How many hundreds of millions of pounds is it? Will he please come properly briefed to this House?—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman has not made any attempt to answer the Question.

Will the Under-Secretary explain the justification for paying heavy subsidies in respect of the use and consumption of the fuel oil part of a barrel of crude at the same time as he is imposing swingeing taxation on the lighter fraction of petrol? What is the point of that?

The hon. Gentleman, rather characteristically, is assuming certain things. He should not do so. The deficit is expected to be about £300 million, but the amount of compensation has not yet been determined. The hon. Gentleman must be aware that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer mentioned pricing policies in his last Budget speech. It is not unknown to the House. If the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question on the other matters to which he referred, I shall be happy to answer it.

Does my hon. Friend agree that these so-called subsidies—in fact, price stabilisation payments—were not asked for by the electricity supply industry, were not wanted by the trade unions in the industry, and were introduced by the previous administration?

My hon. Friend is correct. The unions bitterly resented the policy pursued by the last administration. It is a bit hard now to have complaints by hon. Gentlemen opposite because this Government operate pricing policies in this matter.

It has been widely assumed in the Press that there will be an electricity price rise of 37½ per cent. Will the Minister now answer the Question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) as to where that will leave the electricity industry in the next financial year?

The right hon. Gentleman is aware that the increase was referred to the Prime Commission. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer mentioned getting back to proper pricing policies, but said that we could not get back to them because of the legacy and the inheritance, for which the right hon. Gentleman had some departmental responsibility. We cannot do everything at one time. We have made a policy decision and we are implementing it.



asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether it is the Government's intention to retain parliamentary control over policy questions concerning North Sea oil and other energy resources.

Yes, Sir. I fully recognise the national importance of these policy questions and the need to remain answerable to Parliament for them.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is a difference between parliamentary control over these important matters and the mere promise that the veto will be exercised, which is all that we have been offered at the moment? What remedy does he suggest for the situation which will one day arise when he or his successors will return from Brussels and say that on some important matter, such as the pricing or taxation of North Sea oil, they felt unable to use the veto because they were under pressure by their negotiating partners in Brussels? What parliamentary control will there then be to undo what the Minister has agreed to?

None of the decisions or actions taken so far by the Council of Ministers in any way pre-empts the decision that this House and the country will take on the referendum which will probably be in a few months' time.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that, as announced in the Press, the rate of petroleum revenue tax will be given to us this week? May I ask whether it will come in the form of a ministerial statement or in answer to a Written Question?

That question does not arise from the Question on the Order Paper. It is a matter for my right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Paymaster-General, and not one which it is appropriate for me to answer.

Council Of Energy Ministers


asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on the meeting of the Council of Energy Ministers on 13th February 1975.


asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on the meeting of the Council of Energy Ministers on 13th February 1975.

The Council of Energy Ministers, which was attended by my noble Friend the Minister of State, approved a resolution on the means to be put in hand to achieve the Community energy policy objectives for 1985 which were adopted by the Council on 17th December 1974. The resolution entails no legal commitment and, in particular, my noble Friend made it clear that in the Government's interpretation there is no conflict with our oil depletion policy. The Council also adopted a directive restricting the use of petroleum products in power stations. A number of other proposals were discussed, which the Council referred to officials for further examination.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that reply. Does he agree that it is rather bizarre that, since he has just confirmed that our North Sea oil sovereignty will be intact and that, none the less, we shall get the strength of the Community's energy policy around us, a lot of anti-Marketeers in this country should go on about the loss of sovereignty in the EEC, including sovereignty over energy policy, and yet be content with our assignation of powers to the IEA, which is a much greater loss of our independent decision-making?

It is also fair to point out that if we were to accept some of the Community's proposals without critical examination, some of our national interests would come into conflict. We are not prepared to take any action which means that our national interests are not properly safeguarded.

While it would be unreasonable to expect any definitive answer today, may we be assured that at the next meeting the whole question of our nuclear relationship with the Russians, negotiated by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, in Moscow, will be considered in a European context—especially the question of enriched uranium?

I think that some of these matters will be discussed at the next Council meeting, but no date has yet been fixed for a further meeting. Whether the specific discussions which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had with the Russians will be on the agenda is a matter that I cannot answer or anticipate at this stage.

Is the Minister prepared to enlarge on or to give some further indication on two subjects which were discussed at that meeting on 13th February, relating to financial support measures which will be introduced to enable the development of energy sources other than oil, and are the Government fully behind the proposal at that meeting that member States maintain a minimum level of fuel stocks at thermal power stations?

We already hold stocks at power stations. Our policy would in no way conflict with the European policy, but we want to determine where we have our stocks and at what power stations. It is better that we should do so rather than have constant reference to the Commission.

Did the meeting consider the standardisation of nuclear reactors? Does my right hon. Friend believe that that would add to or reduce the commercial opportunities which may be presented to British reactors in the next few years?

I do not think that that specific proposal was raised at the Council. Although there have been discussions about the amount of nuclear capacity that the Community will have by 1985, we think that it is on the high side.

Electricity Fuel Surcharges


asked the Secretary of State for Energy what proportion of the electricity fuel surcharges is attributable to increased coal and oil costs, respectively.

About 45 per cent. and 55 per cent. of the present fuel cost adjustment on quarterly tariffs is due to coal and oil price increases, respectively.

In view of the Secretary of State's earlier comments about the need for economic realism in looking at these costs, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he agrees that the latest increases coming through because of the £3,000-a-year coalminer scheme will have a dramatic impact which may price coal and, indeed, electricity out of a number of markets?

I think the hon. Gentleman is correct in saying that the latest settlement will lead to increased prices, but I hope he will agree that the Government have never tried to hide that. I am sure he will agree also that it is proper to have realistic pricing policies for energy supplies.

The hon. Gentleman may be happy to know that the position will not be as bad as he indicates in relation to pricing coal and electricity out of markets, but the increase in price will be severe. The Government have never tried to hide that fact.

Has the hon. Gentleman seen the report suggesting that Mr. Arthur Hawkins has informed Sir Derek Ezra that he thinks electricity consumption could fall by up to 3½ per cent. during 1975–76? In view of the significance of that forecast for the power generation programme itself, will the hon. Gentleman arrange to give the House at the earliest possible moment some indication of the Government's own forecast and what they believe this will mean in terms of the proposed programme for power station construction?

I saw the matter to which the hon. Gentleman has drawn attention referred to in the weekend Press. All I can say is that my right hon. Friend is sitting beside me, and if he deems it necessary to make a statement to the House to amend construction and target figures I am sure he will be happy to do so.

Nationalised Fuel Industries (Directives)


asked the Secretary of State for Energy how many directives he has issued to chairmen of nationalised industries since October 1974.

Two to the chairman of the British Gas Corporation and three to the chairman of the Electricity Council on routine matters relating to the repayment of NLF advances.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many people in the coal industry are unhappy that the National Coal Board has membership of the CBI? Does he agree that it is strange for the board to contribute to a body which is so opposed to public ownership? Will he issue a general directive to the board to get out of the CBI?

I know that the nationalised fuel industries regard membership of the CBI as being to their advantage. I should like chairmen of nationalised industries who attend CBI meetings to take every opportunity to press for and speak about the advantages of public ownership.

Fixed Offshore Installations (Advisory Committee)


asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he intends to announce the membership and terms of reference of his advisory committee to be appointed at the request of the Institute of Structural Engineers.

The membership and terms of reference of the new Advisory Committee on Fixed Offshore Installations, which my right hon. Friend has set up at the request of the Institution of Structural Engineers, will be circulated in the Official Report.

I am much obliged for that reply, and I am glad to hear that this committee is at last being set up. When the advisory committee is at work, will my hon. Friend consider very carefully the need to have a British certifying authority for these concrete platforms being built in the North Sea, bearing in mind the appalling delays which occur when our plans have to be submitted to Norge Veritas and then transmitted back here before the building work can begin?

My right hon. Friend much appreciates the close interest which my hon. Friend takes in this subject. She will be aware that among the certifying authorities is Lloyd's Register of Shipping. Most important of all, my right hon. Friend has asked the committee to investigate the means of encouraging greater participation by British designers and construction firms in the design and construction of fixed offshore structures. In appointing certifying authorities, regard must be had to independence and technical skills, and if British firms can do the job I am sure the committee will make appropriate recommendations to my right hon. Friend.

Following is the information:

Advisory Committee On Fixed Offshore Installations


Sir Kirby Laing, JP, MA, C.Eng, FICE. Immediate Past-President, Institution of Civil Engineers; Chairman, the Laing Group of Companies.


G. L. Hargreaves, BSc, C.Eng, FICE. Consultant to Department of Energy; Chairman Offshore Installations Technical Advisory Committee; Chairman, BSI Code of Practice Committee.


Sir Ralph Freeman, CVO, CBE, MA, C.Eng, FICE. Past-President, Institution of Civil Engineers; Senior Partner, Freeman Fox & Partners; Chairman, Offshore Structures Committee, Association of Consulting Engineers.
L. R. Creasy, CB, OBE, BSc, C.Eng, FIStructE, FICE. Immediate Past-President, Institution of Structural Engineers; Consultant, Alan Marshall & Partners: Former Director of Civil Engineering Development, PSA, DoE.

Construction Industry:

John A. Derrington, BSc, DIC, C.Eng, FIStructE, FICE. Head of Design Group, Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons; Vice President, Institution of Structural Engineers; Past-President, the Concrete Society.
J. C. Chapman, PhD, C.Eng. FIStructE, FICE, FRINA. Technical Director, George Wimpey & Co. Ltd; Former Director, Constructional Steel Reseach & Development Organisation (CONSTRADO); Council member, IStructE; formerly Reader, Imperial College of Science and Technology; Consultant to British Ship Research Assn, and various ship owners.

Research and Development:

A. R. Collins, MBE, DSc, C.Eng, FIStructE, FICE, Past President, Institution of Structural Engineers; Director Construction Industry Research & Information Association; Member, British National Committee for Ocean Eng.; Member, Oceanic Affairs Committee.
R. E. Rowe. MA(Cantab), ScD, C.Eng, FlStructE, FICE, Hon. Officer, Institution of Structural Engineers; Director, Research & Development Division, Cement & Concrete Association; Member of various Concete Society Committees.

Department of Energy:

C. H. Hunt, BSc, FIMechE, MIEE, FlProdE. Offshore Supplies Office.
P. D. Atkinson, BScTech, Petroleum Production Division.

Certifying Authorities:

T. A. Lamlough, BSc, C.Eng, FRINA. Head of Ocean Engineering Department. Lloyd's Register of Shipping.

Oil Companies:

T. E. Pitkethly. General Manager, Engineering Department, BP Ltd.

Terms of Reference:

  • (i) Advise on specific problems referred to the Committee by the Secretary of State, Department of Energy.
  • (ii) Draw attention to other problems known to, or brought to the attention of members of the Committee.
  • (iii) Identify and define tasks beyond the capacity of the Committee, e.g. research projects, and make recommendations for their execution.
  • The Committee in the first place should concentrate on:

  • (a) Making detailed recommendations on how the Offshore Installations (Construction and Survey) Regulations and Departmental guidance notes should be carried out.
  • (b) Considering whether these regulations and/or guidance notes can be further improved.
  • (c) Considering by what further means increased British participation in the design, construction and certification of offshore structures can be promoted.