Question again proposed,
That the salary of the Secretary of State for Energy should be reduced by the sum of £1,000.
I seem to detect from the length of speeches so far that the impression is that not many Members wish to speak. There are, in fact, quite a lot who want to catch my eye.
I shall adhere to your advice, Mr. Speaker, and keep my eye on the clock. I understand that the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Rost) is suggesting the creation of another National Enterprise Board. The new Leader of the Opposition would be turning cartwheels if she thought that one of her back benchers was an advocate of yet another NEB.Much of what the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East said is right. It reminds me of the old question: where do all the flies go in winter? Equally we may ask: where do the Tory backbenchers who spend the whole of their lives in Opposition rejecting the pressures and ideas to which the hon. Member has just referred go during periods of Tory Government? Of course the hon. Member is right, and he ought to stand up and be counted and tell his Front Bench what he thinks of it. It has had a miserable record over the years. Many hon. Members have consistently argued for thermal efficiency and other such factors in the development of an energy strategy. This debate is about an effective energy strategy and how we can induce industries to take on more muscle and to convert more horse-power into raising living standards. That is what energy is about. We have an appalling record. Our economic debates and the miserable investment performance of the Treasury over the years have dominated investment policy. We are now paying the price. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East is right when he says that our performance is far below that of our European competitors. It all comes down to an investment programme. Unless we get our energy strategy right we cannot expect growth in the economy. We are not only talking about electricity generation. We are talking about steel, plastics and chemicals, and all derivatives. To get that right we must get our priorities in power generation right. At the moment our industry is starved of horsepower and muscle which we desperately need. In view of the shortness of time I shall make one or two brief comments about the three lines along which the debate has progressed. I am astounded to discover that the Coal Board is now searching for a way to devise a contractual arrangement next year so that we can import 5 million tons of coal. This nation is built on coal. We have the most magnificent coal. There are thousands of miners willing to dig it out. Yet we have to import 5 million tons. That is one issue over which the TUC ought to play hell. Its protest should be directed against the imposition of such an import. Likewise, the National Union of Mineworkers should concern itself about the import of such a large amount of coal next year. I hope that it will take issue on that matter. If we are to create the confidence in the industry that I believe is necessary, perhaps it comes better than from myself as a non-miner—somebody outside the coal industry—to tell the Government that they should now be giving assurance to the mining industry by guaranteeing it a contract over, say, 20 years. I suggest that the two Front Benches should get together and agree that whichever party is in government will jointly guarantee the British mining industry a contract of 20 or more years at an output per year which will safeguard living standards. We should be generous to the limit with the miners, because so much depends upon them. We have not been generous so far. Despite the criticisms about the recent wage settlement in the industry, there is nothing generous about it. We should give this confidence to the industry by giving it not a social contract but a coal contract covering many years. The miners will then be able to enjoy higher living standards for contracting to produce for industry the energy resources that we need from under the ground. Coal is our chief source of energy and we should recognise it and commit ourselves to a contract of that kind. If the right hon. Member for Wan-stead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) had any stature, he would welcome the opportunity of getting together with the Government and other parties in the House and formulating an arrangement to guarantee the miners a future in which they can have the fullest confidence.
If the hon. Gentleman will read the speech that I made in the debate on European energy policy, he will see that I put forward such a proposal. The Kissinger initiative for some kind of floor price or guaranteed return for high-cost energy sources seems to offer considerable hope for the coal industry, and it was welcomed by the Government.
Indeed, but it was open to misunderstanding in the context in which those remarks were made. The right hon. Gentleman ought to clarify the aspects which apply to British miners. I suggest that he should tell the Minister that the Opposition have sought and obtained the co-operation of all other parties, including the Nationalists, to agree that, whichever party is in government the miners can be assured of the kind of future to which I now recall the right hon. Gentleman referred in his remarks about which he has reminded me.I pass now to the oil situation. Here again we have a rather curious position. We find that many large contracts for central heating installation are still going ahead based on oil. Municipalities throughout the country, Government Departments, and some large sections of industry are still installing oil-fired central heating. That seems quite idiotic in the present situation. It is shortsighted, to say the least. Whatever our potential may be beyond 1980, we should be reorganising that part of our industry which is responsible for the installation of oil-fired central heating. To be going ahead with the wasteful use of oil in that way is most revealing. Turning to the Government's policy on oil-fired generating stations, I should like to quote from a letter which I have received from the Minister. It states:
The final paragraph, which is very important, states that:"In addition to the three stations already under construction totalling 6,300 MW installed capacity (Isle of Grain, Ince B and Littlebrook D) the Board have received Section 2 consent and deemed planning permission for two more oil-fired steam stations totalling 5,320 MW installed capacity (Killingholme, Lincs, and Inswork Point near Plymouth), but capital investment approval has not yet been granted. The Board have also sought consent for oil-fired stations at four other sites totalling 6,900 MW installed capacity, and these applications are being considered."
Within the qualifications in that final paragraph there is a great deal of worry about an energy strategy based on an oil programme of that kind in electricity generation. There is there an enormous installed capacity of 18,520 MW over a not very long period, but that seems contradictory in itself and the Cabinet must seriously review the question of where we are going with such a programme. Again, with the qualification in that letter, even if only half of that installed capacity gets the go-ahead, it is still a defeat for the advocates of nuclear power in getting anything like a balanced strategy. Therefore, serious questions arise on the use and the future of oil in both electricity generation and the provision of heat throughout industry and in some of our commercial developments. Finally, I turn to the question of nuclear power on which, tragically, if we look at the matter arithmetically, we are going backwards. It will be within the recollection of many hon. Members that Minister after Minister stood at the Dispatch Box and thrilled the House with talk of grandiose schemes and the great ambitions which were to be achieved within our lifetime. We were to have maginficent schemes beyond 1984. Nuclear power would take over, and give us the millenium. Our living standards were to reach towards the clouds as a result of the great investment programme which was to bring the great miracle of nuclear power to the people of Britain. Despite all the promises of not so long ago, of 20,000 MW by 1975, we just tottered on to something less than 5,000 MW with the Magnox programme, which was of a limited kind. We all recognise why that was so. We are still living with the AGR 5,000 MW, which is another area in which we had great ambitions for broadly-based developments of one kind and another. But here we are with Hinckley B and the problems about which we have often talked. I am informed that we are likely to get the first fuel charge at Hinckley B before very long. I am assured by physicists that from the first fuel charge we should get sufficient monitored information coming back within five or six months to take a fundamental decision on the AGR programme, so there is no need to go on to the projected two-year monitoring period that seems to be suggested by many people before coming to a decision on it. If that is the case, we shall again get this dreadful vacuum between the decision being taken about the heavy water design and the AGR programme coming forward. We shall again get one of the suspended non-decision periods. We ought to be pressurising the Department to start telling the engineers that they should come up with advice about the AGR programme within the period of the first charge, which is less than six months. What has happened to our heavy water programme? We are now cut to 4,000 MW, and this is a mere chicken, or even less than a chicken, of what was originally envisaged. What was envisaged has nearly disappeared off the paper. We had great hopes, and we must ask ourselves who is responsible for all this. Who is sabotaging Britain's nuclear programme? It does not take a great deal of vision to see that not far removed from the decision making are two old buddies who are enemies not only of the heavy water programme but of many more ideas that have been discussed in connection with the energy strategy. I refer to Arthur Hawkins, the Chairman of the CEGB, and Lord Aldington, who, as many older Members will recollect, was known as Toby Low."Whether any or all of these stations go ahead depends on a number of factors, including forecasts of electricity demand and fuel policy considerations, as well as planning issues where consents have not already been granted."
It is not my intention to defend Arthur Hawkins, but what he asked for by way of nuclear stations was divided by three by the Government.
Yes, but we have to start now and probe a little deeper into the question of who is responsible. This is the age-old difficulty of the relationship between the chairman of a board and the Government, and particularly the Minister. What is that relationship? Who is responsible for taking decisions? What degree of intervention is expected from the Government, whether it be in the actions of Monty Finniston in steel or of somebody in the National Coal Board? What is the situation with regard to other public boards? What is our relationship with the CEGB? Who is taking the decisions? Why is there all this delay?Conservative Members point to the Government and say that the responsibility lies with them. If that is their view, we should not place too much credence on some of the things that are said about policy decisions remaining with the board. If the Government are to be responsible, there must be a different type of board structure from what we have at present. The criticism made by the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford has a hollow ring when one realises that he has accused the Government of neglecting some of the areas and pre-empting decisions previously taken by the board. We know that there is the difficult issue of who is responsible for the programme, but we know, too, that it has almost come to a stop. The Government have taken a decision on the heavy water programme. Lord Aldington, who is Chairman of the National Nuclear Corporation, and Arthur Hawkins, the Chairman of the CEGB, were opposed to that decision, and the board has shown no enthusiasm for it. Nothing has been taken to the drawing board. No initiatives have been taken, other than two formal applications for planning purposes, not for design purposes. That is the only action that has been taken, and one reason for the lack of enthusiasm is that the two people whom I have mentioned are hoping that the whole business will be delayed for so long that they will be back in business with their light water reactor programme. That is my conclusion. Who is responsible for that state of affairs? If the Chairman of the CEGB and the Chairman of the NNC are deliberately dragging their feet in order to change the nuclear strategy, they ought to be sacked. Therefore, we are in order in saying to Arthur Hawkins, particularly, "Come clean. Tell us exactly where you, as chairman of the board, stand. What is your intention in all this? What initiatives are you taking? What are you prepared to do to implement the programme which you announced in December 1973?". On 20th December, my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Palmer) quoted the evidence given by Arthur Hawkins, who said:
It may be looking a long way ahead, but what has happened to the ideas that were being nurtured in the board at that time? This is a massive part of our energy strategy, but because the Minister took the decision that he did about heavy water reactors and utilising British design capacity these two people have become peeved and do not want to know."we are saying at the moment that we would like to order in 1974 two stations, and that we would like to order in 1975 one station, another in 1976, another in 1977, two in 1978 and two in 1979—nine new stations—and nine more from 1980 to 1983, which is looking a long way ahead."—[Official Report, 20th December 1973; Vol. 883, c. 2017.]
Is it not a fact that once the decision was taken by the Government the Chairman of the CEGB involved himself totally in accepting that decision and set up an investigation into the safety and design of the SGHWR, which so far has operated as a small prototype? Before he can go ahead with a major programme a great deal of research has to be carried out, and it would be unfair to attribute the delay to some reticence on the part of Sir Arthur Hawkins to accept the decision which has been taken.
There is sufficient knowledge among our eminent physicists and engineers to be assured that they have the ability to extend the development of heavy water reactors. The prototype is comparatively small, but this is the case with many engineering designs. By comparing a model of that size with the ultimate development it is possible to be assured that we are doing the right thing in the design construction. This is not an unknown phenomenon in this sort of situation, and there is sufficient assurance to enable us to feel that we should get on with the heavy water design and produce something far in excess of 4,000 MW. If it is safe to go for 4,000 MW, it is safe to go for 12,000 MW, because 4,000 MW going wrong can do a lot of damage. Would the hon. Member not accept the logic that it is the size of programme relative to safety that is important. The fundamental decision taken was to go ahead whatever the size of the original model—because the safety project is the same whatever the size in this sense.Our criticism is, therefore, that we should have seen something more coming out of that decision. But we find that the blockage is not with the Minister. From all I have heard, he is exonerated. It is he who has been trying to pressurise the industry into thinking far bigger than 4,000 MW. It is the Minister who is trying to push the thing on but cannot get it on the drawing board. That is the great criticism, and that is the situation as it now stands. I am sorry to have rambled on, Mr. Speaker, but I shall finish on a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Whitehaven (Dr. Cunningham) in talking of the disposal of radioactive waste. I believe that that subject is creating fears and anxieties about our nuclear development that are unnecessary when they get out of proportion. It may be that some members of the Liberal Party are responsible for presenting that deliberately, as some kind of conservationist lobby. They are concerned, as we are all deeply concerned, about the protection of people, but they are using this one issue of the disposal of radioactive waste. Here, again, engineers have agreed that no technological difficulties are involved. The physicists have said that there is nothing unknown about the methods to be used, including the liquefaction of waste. But there may be a fear about taking short cuts and trying to save money. As long as the Treasury keeps its nose out and allows the engineers to deal with the problem the nation can be assured that no problems are likely to arise. The message from this debate to the Minister should be that we should concentrate all our efforts on making sure that we utilise to the full our engineering resources, and to tell the heavy electrical engineering industry that it can have all the credits it requires. Let us get some of these stations under way now, because the generation plant, the turbines and the rest, make up the kind of equipment about which we know a great deal. Let us get on with the manufacture of that equipment and place big orders with the heavy electrical engineering industry.
Does my hon. Friend think that that is really possible, having regard to the fact that the Chairman of the CEGB made it very clear before the Select Committee that he had no intention of embarking on this kind of programme? Until we get rid of him we are not likely to do much.
I have already referred to the performance of Mr. Arthur Hawkins and Lord Aldington. Let it be known very clearly in this House from now on that many of us will work together to bring about the dismissal of this man if he is standing between ourselves and the creation of a nuclear policy. So, to the Minister the message should be, "Yes, we are in favour of allocating a far greater part of our national resources to the development of our nuclear ideas, and let us hope that from now on we can get on with it".
May I say at once how very much I enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson)? I had the impression that he was delivering two speeches. During the part of the first I was out of the Chamber but I believe I heard him advocate an increased use of coal on a substantial scale, on which I cannot go along with him. On the second part of his speech, on the nuclear programme, I believe he was first rate.May I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his first efforts? In so far as I am critical, most of my criticism falls not upon him but upon the last five, 10 or even 15 years although it might be said that during the last year he could have speeded things up more than he has. Before moving to the major issues confronting the House I would say a word on energy conservation in one particular context, that of rural transport. I am glad that some civil servants are among those listening to me because in two spheres I shall mention I am desperate about the ability of this country to govern itself, about the sheer incompetence in government. I do not mean purely the Labour Party, the Conservative Party or the Civil Service, but the lot put together. On sheer incompetence there is a good deal to be said this afternoon. I turn first to transport. It must be some four years since I first wrote about and raised in this House the possibility of villages having their own bus services and of arranging, as has been long arranged in India, for postal buses and transport to amalgamate into mini-bus passenger transport in the villages, with four or five other similar suggestions. Feeling that four years was a reasonable period to have elapsed, I wrote again to the present Minister and got a letter which was almost a rubber stamp of that which I had had four years before, saying that these ideas were very good, had been investigated and were being examined, and that, no doubt, in time action might be taken. I have no very high opinion of myself, but I honestly believe that if I were put into a room to examine these things I could in eight days produce a result. Why cannot Government do so? Do we seriously maintain, does anyone maintain, that it takes four years to say whether we can or cannot do these things? Meanwhile villages suffer. The price of petrol has become exorbitant. It will soon interfere gravely with the work of persons living distant from their employment. After four years the Government might have done something about it, but nothing has been done. Admittedly, within the major context of energy conservation this may seem a small point, but if we are to debate energy and its conservation I hope that that is not typical of the approach of Government. That is my lesser point. I turn now to my bigger one. To simplify what I have to say and to shorten my remarks—as I know will appeal to you, Mr. Speaker—I will deal only with three major methods of producing electricity. I often wish his godfathers and godmothers had not given the Minister the name which he has in office. At the weekend one of my constituents asked me whether I would speak in the House this week and I said I would if I could. I was asked on what subject I would speak and I said on energy. A glaze came over the eyes of my constituent who had not the least idea of what it was. I then said "I am going to talk about the cost of electricity and your cooking." The glaze fell from her eyes. I went on to say—and I believe it to be true—"If your electricity bills are rising, as they are, and are to rise still more over the next two years, it is due to incompetence and nothing else." We produce electricity by three major means—coal, oil and nuclear power. At this moment they are the only three that matter. One would suppose that someone would sit down, look at all three and decide objectively which is the most efficient. Were anyone to do so, he would come up with these results. At the moment 25 per cent. of our electricity consumption derives from oil. The cost per unit of oil-produced electricity is 55p. It has gone up by 38 per cent. in a year and is certainly going up still more; and it is a most dangerous method of production upon which to depend. Passing on to coal, he would note that it provides 63 per cent. of our current production and costs 53p per unit, a cost which is rising rapidly and is likely soon to overtake that of oil. He would surely note that coal production is hideously at risk every year of ceasing altogether. The Minister was proud that this had not happened this year and I am delighted, too, but he would know that the risk is ever present. He would note that in a humane context there is no argument at all for increased coal production. I was brought up in the atmosphere of the 1926 General Strike and was taught that the job of coal mining was harsh and uncomfortable, that scientific advance in a civilised society meant that there was every chance of coal production ceasing in our lifetime, and that that would be the best thing in the world.
Would my hon. Friend take into account the technology of the coal industry, which, if it evolved as it could, would mean that there would be no reason why we should not automate mining with robot machines? It is not beyond our technology, if we only allocated a little more capital development to research into it.
I gave way before I had finished this point. I accept that that is true to some extent, but I was talking of the humane context rather than the economic. In that context the argument for any other means of power than coal wins the day every time. Forgetting the humane context and turning to the economic, it is true that some coal production is necessary for coking and other purposes, but the fact remains that the cost of coal-generated electricity is 53p per unit. The cost of nuclear power is 52p per unit. It produces 10 per cent. of our electricity, less than any other method.This relatively intelligent body of men whom I envisage trying to take an objective decision would note that we are putting most of our money into the most expensive, most uncomfortable and least reliable method. To the nuclear method, which is dependable, has practically no labour troubles and has civilised methods of work, offering opportunity to skill and inventive genius, we offer practically nothing. If anyone doubts that, I would ask him to compare what happens in the United States with what happens here. In seven years, if we are lucky, we shall build three nuclear stations which will produce a little under 4,000 megawatts. In the United States, where the problems are much greater than ours, they intend to build 200 stations. Does not that fact alone imply that we are making the most ghastly misjudgment?
I wish they would listen.
I am not placing the blame on the Minister. Some of his decisions in the last few months and those he likely to take in the next few may not be valid, but the major responsibility rests on his predecessors—and not just his political predecessors. But that does not absolve him from putting more energy behind the nuclear drive than I see any sign of his doing.Although I have no financial interest in this subject, Winfrith is in my constituency. I am proud of the fact that the reactor which the Secretary of State has chosen as the right one was developed there. Many of my constituents are scientists and engineers who take great pride in what they have created and in the contribution that they can make to the major problems of our time. They also think that they are being neglected. My last word is perhaps the least pleasant, but it should be said. I hope that these decisions are being taken upon their merits. If it were to be thought that the £1,400 million to be invested in coal and the attendant lack of interest in nuclear power had been decided not objectively but because of political pressure by the National Union of Mineworkers, this would be deeply resented, not only here but throughout the country. I have long had a great admiration for coal miners—greater than for some of their leaders. I beg the right hon. Gentleman in all his decisions to bear in mind what I have thought it right to say.
I want to avoid as much as possible repeating comments which have already been made. That will be my major contribution to brevity.When we debate energy we spend far too much time making short, sharp, irrelevant political points. This is not what the country wants. Those who are concerned about this subject want the House of Commons to reflect the magnitude of the problem. They want to be able to feel that the House is determined not simply on an interesting debate but on some action to meet the serious crisis which is practically upon us. Unless we have a positive policy and attitude and a clear frame of mind in the next five years at least, the magnitude of this problem, which will be crystal clear by the 1990s, will mean that many solutions available to us will be taken out of our hands, with consequent dire problems for the whole economy. The first step towards that aim, producing, perhaps imperceptibly, a mark of public concern, has already been taken in the appointment of the Secretary of State. It would be too much in the short time that he has been in office to expect the kind of results that I have described, but I hope that all parties will co-operate in achieving that clear direction to which I have referred. First, therefore, we must have a national energy policy. Once we have said that, we must describe in general terms what we mean by it. The first objective is to get rid of the competition between the sources of fuel—coal, gas, oil and electricity. This has been a factor which has brought about part of the present crisis. We must get rid of the duplication of services. If we do not, we shall be wasting energy, anyway. And must decide the best possible uses for the fuels available to us. Our national energy policy can, therefore, start with that prime objective—how best to clear the decks in order that our fuel can be put to proper uses. Second, it is important that the Secretary of State adds to the valuable work that he has already done by examining very closely the waste of time and energy in the inter-departmental committees, of which there are far too many. Men of considerable ability sit on committee after committee. When we ask for their conclusions or to see what they have achieved, the answer is often very vague, leaving us to assume that there must be no conclusions or that nothing has been achieved. There must be a look at the abundance of various other committees which advise industry, local authorities and the Government. There are so many of them that it would take a whole speech to list them, let alone to find out exactly what they are doing. I would hope that such a national energy policy would carry with it some form of streamlined process of advice, to see what should be the advice and to determine what investment programmes are needed, so that we could see at once whether the course of action, such an energy policy is bent upon, is meeting the changing tides of the times. I should like to give some indication of some of the precise things which can be done. There is a need for a massive programme to be undertaken in relation to electricity aimed at the utilisation of low-grade waste heat from power stations. There is no dissent on either side of the House about that kind of objective. Certainly we need to introduce techniques and processes which will facilitate the efficient use of power plants' waste heat when those plants are remote from areas of high consumption. That could not he doubted. It should be something on which to start working now. In electricity, among the many things which can be done—I am picking merely a few—because of the high transmission losses and the cost of electricity distribution through the grid, alternative methods and schemes for transporting energy are possible, in particular in pipelines. That kind of possibility should be investigated and reported upon. On the question of space heating and domestic uses, it is quite clear that at present we have a situation in which there should be a policy of financial incentives, investigatory and investment programmes set afoot in order to deal with inefficient systems which have to be replaced. We need to produce building construction systems which incorporate features aimed at maximising the use of solar energy for internal temperature control. District heating is a must, and it must be enlarged upon—there have been considerable successes in this respect—in particular in order to deal with the waste heat where district heating programmes do not exist. Nothing has been said about agriculture in the debate. It seems clear that modern agricultural methods are demanding—it is logical that they should demand—considerable use of energy for machines, fertilisers and chemicals. In the most advanced operations, increases in energy use can be disproportionate to crop production increases. There is an analogy of a cash flow problem. When someone in business presumes that he has a large order book he works very hard, but if he does not understand his cash flow problem he may nevertheless well be on the way to bankruptcy. A use of energy disproportionate to the return on the crop production is a consideration which must be borne in mind. I want to draw abruptly to a close. On the subject of transport and communica- tion, we should examine the use of electronic communication techniques and develop efficient and reliable urban public transport systems in order that we can deal with the problems of private motoring in our city centres. Certainly we should consider the use of railway, waterway and pipeline transportation for long-distance goods movements. These objectives should be encouraged. Diesel engines, too, should be encouraged. There is a place for them, particularly in commercial vehicles. I have not touched on the industrial uses of energy because the House is quite clear on that matter. We have repeated time and again today that in industry there is considerable scope for the conservation of energy. Energy savings of up to 20 per cent. can be achieved if notice is taken of the recommendations which have been made available by the Government and other sources. In this debate on energy it has not been possible to give particular clear-cut guidelines of action, but the direction and shape of things must come from this debate. I hope that from the concluding moments of this debate the country will be able to feel tomorrow that at least there is some unanimity in the House about what is needed for the country's economic prosperity.
No doubt the Minister will be rather pleased to know that in terms of a nuclear energy policy I shall be a great deal less critical than has every other speaker so far. The hon. Member for Dorset, South (Mr. King), who was a former Member for my parliamentary constituency—although I am sorry that I do not recollect it, because I was about one year old when you gained the seat and about six when you lost it—
The hon. Gentleman should refer to "the hon. Member."
I had nothing to do with it.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.The request made by the hon. Member for Dorset, South was that we should look at this matter with cool logic. Certainly that is to be desired. From listening to the Opposition Front Bench at the start of the debate, I was afraid that once again we had an undercurrent of a sort of hysteria of hate that I have heard expressed on Conservative platforms against the coal miners. It seemed to me that this sort of historical, politically-biased opinion was affecting the Opposition's view. We had a debate a fortnight ago when the basic point before us from the EEC was the suggestion that in the year 1985. Europe will manufacture 46 per cent. of its electricity by means of nuclear power. I said then that I believed that there was no need for Europe to panic itself into producing its electricity by nuclear power. I stand by that position. Although I think that the British Government must continue its research and, indeed, set up some power stations to ascertain the basic difficulties which do or do not exist, the day has not yet arrived when a massive programme to commit ourselves to the production of 46 per cent. of our electricity by nuclear power by 1985 is in the least realistic. Frankly, I doubt whether Europe will manage it. Having some regard for the technical problems, I do not believe that even with the determination expressed European countries will get anywhere near that figure by that year. The hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) said that the Liberals had been guilty of stirring the conservation and safety issue. I hope that we are not accused of doing so for ulterior motives. It seems that the risks are real. I have had some technical experience and I have read about some suggested methods of disposal. Liquefaction was mentioned. I have heard that we should store nuclear waste at the bottom of the sea. I have also heard it suggested that we should put it in rockets and launch the rockets towards the sun. In fact, that is the only way in which we can definitely destroy the waste, given our present level of technology. I am not opposing that suggestion, but there is a real possibility that such a launch might in some way be a disaster and that the rocket might never get to its destination. That is a real problem, which some hon. Members have decided to ignore. The documents that I have read that have been published in the United States suggest that the problem will be a great deal in the public's mind in the next 10 or 15 years. It is without doubt that somewhere in the world there will be an accident involving nuclear power. I ask the Government to make progress slowly—I believe that they are adopting that approach—and to ensure that the accident does not occur in this country. There is no doubt that by the turn of the century a great deal of our electricity will be produced by nuclear power. There is a danger of going ahead too quickly before we have carried out the necessary experiments to determine the risk.
The hon. Gentleman carries a tremendous responsibility in creating anxieties of this sort. Does he not realise that the tendency nowadays is to bring nuclear power stations much nearer to the centres of population? What he should now be doing is placing his confidence in the industry and giving some reassurance to the people who are living near nuclear installations so that they do not have the sort of fears that he has expressed.
Unfortunately, dangers do not disappear by not talking about them. I totally accept the hon. Gentleman's point that the movement of nuclear power stations towards our centres of population will take place. If we are to have district heating schemes, that movement must be encouraged. I do not make this point for party political reasons, but I wonder whether our technology of safety has reached a level at which it can be said that no dangers exist.The fact is that in the world today there are hydrocarbon fuels readily available for producing electricity in plenty. We have coal and North Sea oil. We also have gas, some nuclear power capacity and some hydro-electric capacity. Those resources add up to a potential abundance of energy for producing electricity. We have mentioned North Sea oil at some length. I am not an expert on the financial implications of North Sea oil. Basically we all want the oil as quickly as possible. I have no wish to enter into the argument about the way in which it should be taxed. I once heard a Labour Member say that he was prepared to have the coming on shore of North Sea oil put off for a year or 18 months, provided that the public participation was right. I am glad that that is not the Government's policy. If that were the position I would oppose it with some enthusiasm. We can always get a larger stake at any stage in the production of North Sea oil if we choose to do so. We could nationalise it at a later date if we thought that was the right course to take. At present, the desperate need is to get the oil on shore as quickly as possible. I draw the attention of the House to an article that appeared in yesterday's copy of The Times. It pointed out that a large amount of oil had been found off the Brazilian coast. It read:
The article says that it is believed that similar complexes could exist down the entire south coast of Brazil. I am left in doubt when I hear some hon. Members saying that the great millenium is here merely because we are about to bring in the oil from the North Sea. I do not want to delay North Sea oil development. Indeed, I have specifically encouraged it. I merely point out that similar work is going on around the world and that coastal waters off Brazil are a great deal more pleasant to drill in and to explore in than our North Sea waters. The same comparison applies to the waters off the South-West. A risk exists so it is necessary to get the oil ashore and to use it as quickly as possible to overcome our present economic difficulties. Let us not be too worried at this moment about taxation and what will or will not be paid in six years' time, for example, on what may prove to be no great profit at all. Another matter that must be considered during an energy debate is transport. Some weeks ago I asked which constituencies in Britain, according to the 1971 census, have populations in which less than 10 per cent. of the work force goes to work by public transport. It seems that there are 41 such constituencies. Some weeks before that I asked which constituencies in Britain have populations in which more than 45 per cent. of the work force use cars to go to work. The lists of constituencies were almost the same in both answers. In my constituency of Truro, according to the 1971 census, 7·7 per cent. of the population travel to work by public transport and 48 per cent. travel by car. That figure is not arrived at because of the great wealth of the people in my locality. If we consider the disposable income of the people of Cornwall we may well find that the figure, per capita, is the lowest of any of the counties in England. The reason that they travel by car and not by public transport is that very often public transport does not exist. Some weeks ago I entered into correspondence with the chairman of my local county council. I suggested that some of the money now spent on the road-building programme in my county—this argument can be applied to virtually any rural part of the country—should be transferred and used to help the Western National Bus Company to revitalise some of its services or to make it unnecessary for the company to close any more of its services. The chairman of the council replied:"A field able to produce 200,000 barrels a day is being developed … about 200 miles north of Rio de Janeiro. Seismologists say that there are 13 areas which are of comparable richness adjacent to this strike. They expect that the whole complex will produce 2ô6 million barrels a day. This makes it perhaps the greatest offshore group of fields in the world."
The Government issued their circular because they thought that some of the money being spent on providing cheap fares was not justified in the present economic climate. From their point of view that might be totally right, but the battle going on in my county is to maintain the services that now exist. I ask the Minister to look into that particular circle of nonsense and to try to point out to whoever is responsible for Circular 177 that in many rural areas it strikes the people who are trying to do something for public transport as total nonsense. I have letters in my file on this matter—one, in particular, from a constituent who wishes not to be named. He goes into some detail about his financial problems. He outlines what he earns and what it costs him to live. Without doubt he would be better off today by at least £1 a week if he decided to stop working and go on the dole. Transport costs and the price of petrol are such that in some rural areas a man in a low-paid job is better off on the dole than he is working. I was horrified to read in the Press about the suggested two-tier petrol price scheme. The basic premise seemed to be that for the whole country there would be so many gallons at a lower price and that extra gallons would be priced at any level that the Government happened to choose. Any such scheme must be biased towards areas where there is no public transport. For some time I have favoured a scheme by which tax allowances would be granted for costs involved in getting to work when no public transport was available. If a variable road fund licence system is to be introduced—I see no basic objection to it—it should be based on brake horsepower and not on cubic capacity. A chart of the two will show that they are not by any means so connected as they are thought to be. I have rather plagued the Minister with questions. I sought to discover what percentage of imported oil is used by the private motorist. It is difficult to get a straight answer to this question. One interpretation of the figures suggests that the private motorist who cannot claim back his VAT uses less than 7 per cent. of the oil we import. If he could be persuaded to reduce his mileage by 10 per cent., it would amount to a saving of 0·7 per cent. of imported oil. The Minister says with great pride that this winter there has been no shut-down and no switching off of lights. The switching off in my area is being carried out by people who are affected by rising transport costs. Much misery has been caused. What is so magical about not turning off lights if we are talking of an energy saving by the private motorist of 0…7 per cent.? Why not turn some lights off? There is no motorway within about 200 miles of my home, so in that sense I declare an inverse interest. On motorways we burn enough electricity to keep a town of about 15,000 people going. I do not suggest that all the motorway lights should be switched off for all the time, but what would be the harm, from a psychological point of view, in turning them off for some hours of the day? The Government's approach to district heating has been little short of pathetic. I also asked the Minister to plot on a graph, and publish in the Official Report, the electricity demanded during a typical November day. Apparently the plotting of a graph is beyond the technicality of a Government. I asked to be told the number of hours a day when the amount of electricity demanded exceeded the capacity that could be generated by all fuels other than oil. The Minister said that they do not plot graphs and that he would get somebody to write a letter telling me."The recent Government Circular on Rates Expenditure has put the County Council and the bus operators in the County in a very difficult situation. … The position whereby the Government will neither assist the bus companies themselves nor allow Local Authorities to do so, nor allow fare increases sufficient to recover all the additional costs (because of the Price Code) is very invidious from the bus companies' points of view."
They plot other things.
Eventually I received a graph by the back door. I learned that there are only six hours a day during which the amount of electricity demanded exceeds that which can be generated by fuels other than oil. I spent some time on the graph trying to work out, as a percentage of the total power generated in the day, that which was generated during those six hours and what percentage was generated at a level above that which could be generated by fuels other than oil. The answer is certainly less than 10 per cent.I also asked what the Minister had done to pressurise the National Coal Board into quarrying more coal. The jackpot reply I received was that it was not the Minister's responsibility. I learn from figures in Energy Trends that for at least five years we have been hovering at a figure of between 9·1 million and 10 million tons a year. There is room for great expansion. In view of the tremendous recession which is taking place in the building industry a great deal of equipment is available which could be used for the opencast quarrying of coal, and some would say that that equipment was going cheap. The evidence that I have succeeded in acquiring does not add up to a policy. For all that, I am glad that we have not gone in for the mad policy of building nuclear power stations like mushrooms. The most obvious aspect of the Government's energy policy is the "Save It" campaign. The great question must be why this campaign was not started months ago, when the public were in the right mood for saving energy. It was, perhaps, for political reasons, namely, that the Government did not want to be seen to be going in for the nonsense that we went in for just about a year ago. If the "Save It" campaign will save money on imports, the question is: how much money have we wasted over the last nine months by not operating such a scheme? There is nothing very exotic about any of the methods of saving proposed. Better thermal insulation is mentioned. That is a longer-term project. I read in my local paper this week that my local council has decided that anybody who wants to foam-fill the walls of his bungalow must make an individual application for change of structure. Cannot we have an admission that the foam-filling of cavities is a satisfactory method and thereby allow it, or that the method is unsatisfactory and ban it? Surely local authorities need not consider every application for the foam-filling of cavity walls. Better ventilation has been mentioned. When people talk about better ventilation they think about more ventilation. What is required is the control of air flow. One does not use the ventilation to control the temperature, which is what has been known to happen in this building. It appears that when it gets too hot here the required correction to the temperature—by edict of the Minister—is carried out not by turning down the heating but by opening windows slightly wider. What is required is far better control over the ventilation of buildings. Great saving could thus be effected. The advertisements for the "Save It" campaign say that there should be better burners, and that they should be serviced. Why were not the public told that some months ago? The public are also told that cars will go further to the gallon if the ignition and carburation are checked regularly. Why could not the public have been told that some months ago? Will the Minister examine the possibility of including such a check in the annual MOT test? It is not difficult to carry out a carbon monoxide analysis of the exhaust to see whether a car is running correctly. The Minister must seek to encourage a gradual transfer to diesel engines. He might be able to do so by having a differential rate for the road fund licence. There is much to be said for diesel engines. They are rather noisier, but that does not detract from their efficiency in transporting people by road. Mention has been made of the recycling of waste. We must carry out this exercise more efficiently in regard to paper, minerals or any side product of the system. There are great savings to be made by making cars that last longer and by better recovery of waste material. It is not often realised how large a contribution such methods can make. It is a tragedy to see the present collapse of the waste paper market after all the efforts which, have been made by so many people. I shall listen with interest to the Government reply on this and other matters. If the matter comes to a vote, on the long-term consideration I shall support the Government, but on the short-term problem as it affects the policies for rural areas I shall vote with the Opposition.
It is interesting to note that once again hon. Members on the Liberal bench want the best of both worlds. In other words, they will support the motion if certain things happen. I believe that history will record that the present Secretary of State for Energy is a courageous man who has taken decisions which will have a profound effect on our country's future.It is essential at the outset of my remarks that I declare a major constituency interest in this debate. In the Newton division I have two collieries and a large National Coal Board area office, and in total the NCB employs about 5,000 people. Also in my constituency at Risley is the headquarters of the Atomic Energy Authority Reactor Division; the headquarters of British Nuclear Fuels Limited; and the headquarters of the Nuclear Power Group which at present is designing the British SGHWR. In all about 5,000 of my constituents work in this important establishment. Therefore, it will be appreciated that many of my constituents have a great desire to see this country adopt an energy strategy which is meaningful for the future and which safeguards the interests of the British people. However, on this occasion I do not want to talk about energy policies in relaion to coal. I believe that at long last the prosperity of the coal industry is assured. I believe that for the first time miners and their families can look ahead to a prosperous future, provided that fatal accidents in the industry do not cut down the family breadwinner. I want to turn the attention of the House to the nuclear power aspects of our energy policy. I wish to make it clear that all is not well within our nuclear power industry. Only last week on Thursday I received a delegation of three branch officers of the Nuclear Power Branch of the IPCS who presented a petition to the Secretary of State for Energy calling on him not to give the management contract of the new company to GEC. We made it clear to the Secretary of State that we saw no reason for a management contract having to be awarded to anybody. That petition was signed by 756 staff members of the Nuclear Power Group, over 80 per cent. of the total staff. I received the impression that the Secretary of State had decided to award that contract to the GEC. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend to issue a paper justifying to the House why the Government consider it essential to have a third party, complete with a management contract, interposed somewhere between two new organisations, the National Nuclear Corporation and the Nuclear Power Company which is supposed to have the job of running Britain's nuclear power station design and building industry, presumably for the next decade. Are we not in danger of getting into a who-is-supposed-to-be-doing-what situation, and is there not a great danger that while the various organisations spend months arguing about who is supposed to be doing what the production of Britain's SGHWRs will fall behind schedule? We shall have the same old story of late deliveries, we shall be told what a hopeless nuclear industry Britain has and that we should buy American because their products are more efficient, and all the rest of it. Will the Secretary of State publish the management contract once the details have been agreed between the parties? In that way the House, the industry, its workers and the nation can see exactly what the terms are and how much it is costing the people of this country. I wish to make it clear that the stall and workers in the industry were delighted when the Secretary of State gave the go-ahead for the building of two SGHWRs, but they are still very concerned about the situation. I share the concern at the lack of progress in forming the new Nuclear Power Company. It is nearly two years since the original decision to form the new structure was announced, and no matter how hard the trade unions representing the various groups of workers have tried to obtain information about what is to happen, they meeet a brick wall of silence and evasion. As the Secretary of State is aware, highly qualified staff of the Nuclear Power Group and the BNDC continue to leave their companies. I remind the House that one cannot build anything, let alone highly complex nuclear power stations, witthout highly skilled designers. Therefore, I wish to impress upon my right hon. Friend the urgent necessity of settling the composition of the boards and managers of the NNC as quickly as possible to prevent further loss of staff who are irreplaceable. It is also essential that a decision be taken quickly about the siting of the Nuclear Power Company. May I suggest that my right hon. Friend handles this matter delicately or he will arouse a hornets' nest. May I suggest that he should announce now that the headquarters of the Nuclear Power Company is to be situated in the North-West of England in the Risley area? It makes sound sense in terms of regional economic policy. I hope that the transfer of other staff will take place over an extended period in order to allow these men and women to adjust their lives more evenly to what, after all, is a major upheaval in their life-style and that of their families. I wish to refer to the constant reports in the Press that a clearance certificate is imminent from the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate for the American PWR and consequent fears among many of my con- stituents that powerful men, with vested interests, will attempt to reinstall the PWR as part of the British programme of nuclear power stations. Will my right hon. Friend say how much work has been done by the NII on the study of the generic safety issues involved in the PWR? In July my right hon. Friend made clear that studies were being conducted by the NII into the PWR.
I think I can help my hon. Friend by saying that very little work has been done on the generic study of the LWR. The main work of the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate is being undertaken on the AGR working through to the SGHWR.
I am grateful for that intervention. I assure my right hon. Friend that that news will be warmly welcomed by thousands of people in my constituency who work in the nuclear industry.Successive Governments have desired and sought a unified and successful nuclear industry but have been very slow to find out and then implement their policies, with consequent demoralisation of the personnel who work in the industry. Those personnel are the lifeblood of the industry and we neglect them at our peril. It is worth remembering that many of these men have the finest brains in the world in this field. If Britain is to have a successful nuclear power capacity, the programme as laid down by the Secretary of State must be implemented with urgency and support from everybody—but especially from those people at the very top. I know that the programme has the overwhelming support of the vast majority of the staff at Risley. However, I do not believe that Lord Aldington, Sir Arnold Weinstock and Mr. Hawkins are the right people to be in charge of Britain's nuclear power industry, given their known and publicly stated attitudes. It may be that I shall be taken to task for this, but I believe that they have a vested interest in proving that the Secretary of State has made the wrong decision. It is essential that the NNC and the NPC be set up with all possible speed and preferably be Government-controlled. It is essential that the construction policies of the NNC be defined as a matter of the utmost urgency. I ask for urgent consideration to be given to the siting of further stations. We have the go-ahead for two stations, but it is essential that we start considering now what further parts of the country are to have further SGHWRs. Urgent discussions should be started with those sections of British industry that would provide the components for the SGHWR programme. As my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) has said quite clearly, this is of tremendous importance to British industry. It could have a profound effect on the regional strategies and policies of the Labour Government. It is essential that industry should know what is required of it, because we can hardly expect it to produce components now, hoping that someone will order them from the shelf. Decisions must be taken, and industry must be brought into the discussions. Most important of all, a supremo who believes in the SGHWR and British technology should be appointed to run the corporation, someone who is not burdened by past views on nuclear reactors. I hope that my right hon. Friend will give serious consideration to appointing such a man.
I like to think that this Government, and indeed all Governments, are capable of learning from their own experience and mistakes, and from the mistakes of other countries in formulating energy policy. We should see some signs of this. Today we have seen just a little sign that the Government are becoming aware of the facts of life, with the announcement of the rate of petroleum revenue tax. After the banshee howling from the Government benches for months, there is now a considerable touch of realism, as Ministers in the Department of Energy and the Treasury appreciate that the companies operating in the North Sea must receive a fair and reasonable return on their investment and the money they are putting at risk there.The Government are beginning to understand the need to provide incentives to operators in the exploration for, and production of, North Sea oil, and to realise that a fair return on capital must be a prime incentive to the companies operating there. I hope that the Government are moving away from the idea that they are doing the oil industry a favour by allowing it to invest its resources in the North Sea, especially when the North Sea is compared to those other parts of the world where all the oil companies are perfectly free to place their investment and to indulge in the exploration for, and production of, oil. The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) mentioned some of the places where development and exploration opportunities are available to the oil companies. These include Brazil, the outer continental shelf of the United States, which is a vast area, China, Mexico and many countries in the Pacific and elsewhere. I hope that Ministers are learning, when they look at what is happening in countries overseas, about the change in attitudes that has taken place in other Governments. Norway is an outstanding example. In the oil debate in this country Labour Members and Members of the Scottish National Party have constantly pointed to Norway as the example of how to extract the maximum amount of taxation from oil companies and to minimise production levels. At one time Norway was talking about a 90 per cent. rate of taxation, but this has come down considerably during the past few months. The amount of production that Norway has decided to exploit in the North Sea has risen substantially, by almost 50 per cent., from approximately 50 million tons to over 70 million tons a year. This is a touch of realism which I welcome. I hope that the Government will continue to show a more realistic attitude to the companies, and to the levels of production and taxation that are necessary for the North Sea. I hope that this realism will extend to some practical points. Other hon. Members have been talking at some length about the nuclear programme and other aspects of energy policy, but I would like to question the extent of the co-ordination between the Department of Energy and other Government Departments, especially in relation to onshore developments in Scotland. For example, has the Secretary of State for Energy interested himself in the need to improve facilities at Dyce airport? Has he approached the Department of Trade or the Civil Aviation Authority to express the urgent need of upgrading the airport to meet the demands of industry? The Secretary of State could reply that that is entirely the responsibility of other Departments, but if we have anything approaching a comprehensive Government policy on oil, I hope that the Department of Energy will take a serious interest in problems of this kind. If there were some evidence that the Department of Energy was looking at practical problems of this kind, we should be able to take more seriously the Minister's claims that Britain will achieve self-sufficiency by 1980. Another practical problem is the question of the supply ships in the North Sea and the flags that they carry. An article in the Sunday Times on 2nd February pointed out:
I know that the matter is not a specific responsibility of the Department of Energy, but it is part of our energy problem. I would like the Department to consider the discrimination that American shipping law applies in the United States, and to see to what extent we may give some protection and priority to supply boats in the North Sea flying the British flag. These are some of the areas where the Secretary of State could show a more energetic approach to some of the important day-to-day problems facing industry on shore, even though they are not part of his normal departmental duties."Most North Sea contractors are American and they deal with the people they know. Out of the 100 or so boats U.S. companies have chartered for the 1975 season, only 10 will probably be British."
Is the hon. Gentleman proposing that the Government should introduce legislation to prohibit the use of supply vessels which do not fly the British flag?
No. What I am trying to say is that where there is a discrimination, as in the United States, we should adopt a similar attitude. If that means what the Minister has just said, I agree with him that we would be applying the same attitude towards American flag-carriers in the North Sea as the Americans would apply to British flag-carriers on the other side of the Atlantic.
Would that discrimination apply simply to American vessels or to all other foreign vessels in the North Sea? Is the hon. Gentleman speaking as an individual, or does he carry some authority for the proposition?
I am speaking entirely as an individual with all the authority I can muster as an individual. I am using the American example as the most obvious one that applies in the North Sea. If any other country operates a similar type of discrimination, the Department of Energy and its brother Departments should examine the question. If the Minister is interested, as I am sure he is, I refer him to the article in the Sunday Times of 2nd February.Sticking to these practical points and the problems that have to be overcome if we are to meet our target of self-sufficiency by 1980, I wonder whether the Department of Energy is satisfied with the housing programme in the North-East of Scotland, and whether it feels that the Scottish Office is pulling its full weight in providing houses for key workers and others involved in the oil industry and in trying to help the country to meet its targets. I hope that the Secretary of State will not shrug these important practical points aside simply as the responsibility of other Departments. By looking at some of these onshore problems and producing a broader strategy the Government might build up confidence in their ability to encourage industry to bring about self-sufficiency in oil by 1980. I will say a word or two about conservation. Oil consumption has fallen considerably during the past year or so. It dropped by 10 per cent. last year and, according to current estimates, is likely to fall more during 1975. Perhaps consumption could be as low as between 80 million tons and 82 million tons during 1975. That is conservation, but it is conservation by price and by the downturn in the economic activity of the United Kingdom. I will confine my remarks about conservation to that aspect. Whatever detailed conservation programmes and policies are in the pipeline or are likely to be introduced, I hope that they will not be over-bureaucratic and that they will not become a straitjacket for industrial and domestic consumers. I like to think that we can look forward in the not-too-distant future to an upturn in the economy. If we saddle people with bureaucratic controls based on existing levels of consumption, it might not be so easy to cast these off when demand increases, as it may. For a long time Ministers have been obsessed with the problems of extracting from the North Sea revenue in the form of taxation rather than oil, and they have been completely bogged down on their proposals for participation, which have yet to see the light of day in the House. As an Opposition, the main criticism we make is that the Government have failed to give top priority to the job of getting the oil ashore and flowing. That is why I have drawn to the attention of the House one or two practical matters attention to which would pay immediate dividends to the country in the form of balance of payments benefits. A little less Socialist dogma and a lot more attention to British national interests would earn the Secretary of State not a deduction in his salary but a considerable increase, if he could prove to the House that his Department is working on a broad basis with a broad strategy, putting aside the dogma to which I have referred and working in the interests of the people of this country.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher) suggested that chickens were coming home to roost. Given that the Government have not yet been in office for one year, it should be borne in mind that if chickens are coming home to roost now, the Government is not responsible for laying the eggs from which they come. The hon. Gentleman spoke of the ships in the North Sea which bore American and other flags. The charters for those vessels were probably signed when the previous Conservative Government were in office. The hon. Gentleman said that Norway had lowered its "take" from offshore revenue. Even at the lower level, the Norwegians will be taking a much higher level of benefit for their country than that which would have been found acceptable by the Conservative administration.The debate has been a surprising one. I expected more heat to be generated in a censure debate on this most important subject. Perhaps if we had been suffering from a few weeks of snowy weather that would have been so. The lack of enthusiasm for this censure debate on an important subject is astonishing. In many ways it is an improvement to have a thoughtful rather than a heated debate. There has been a transformation. A year or so ago we should have had a swashbuckling speech from the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Rost) advocating the denationalisation of the pits. Instead, we had a thoughtful contribution on insulation. What the hon. Gentleman said about encouraging insulation is important, but it would be foolish for the Government to seek to change rating arrangements while the Layfield Committee is sitting, particularly as the hon. Gentleman supports the careful examination of a system that at least needs adjustment. I welcome that thoughtfulness. There has been a temptation for hon. Members to engage in the sort of superficial consideration which was evidenced by the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon), who suggested that there was a lot of fossil fuel in the world which we should use massively to avoid the risk of a nuclear holocaust. That is a remarkably shortsighted view. If the world were to embark on massive use of fossil fuels without undertaking adequate research and development for nuclear power stations, we should be doing future generations a terrible disservice. We have to build up adequate technology to ensure that the future shall not be an era of barren waste and lack of opportunity. The hon. Gentleman spoke of a need for massive increases in opencast mining. That, too, could be a dangerous proposition. My constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) have suffered severely from opencast mining. It is right that the current safeguards of planning permission and proper consultation should continue. It would be extremely disadvantageous for areas such as ours if opencast mining were to be encouraged on too large a scale. The hon. Gentleman also suggested that street lighting should be curtailed. Experience in 1973 suggests that the serious risk of increased road casualties has to be considered, and the Government are right to be cautious. There is a great deal of merit in the argument put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) for the expansion of nuclear capacity. I am pleased that my right hon. Friend is creating the climate and establishing foundations which will allow sensible nuclear capacity to be developed. If it is to be developed on a proper scale we need to go steadily forward on the steam generating heavy water reactor course. It would be highly dangerous and lead to the risk of duplicating previous errors if we allowed that development to proceed on too large a scale. Nevertheless, I hope that we shall place orders for at least two more steam generating heavy water reactors within a short time. My hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham also spoke of guarantees for the mining industry. The right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) reminded him that he had suggested in the recent energy debate that there should be a price floor to underpin the coal industry in the long term. That would provide the necessary guarantee. As my right hon. Friend suggested, that would be welcome. Two or three years ago I suggested that at least the central coalfield areas of Britain should be able to offer miners employment guarantees in order to restore confidence. That would be useful but would have only a marginal effect. The real benefit lies in the sort of policies which my right hon. Friend has pursued since the General Election. We are not giving miners bits of paper to say that there will be jobs for them in 20 years' time. We are offering, by the capital investment which is being put into the long-life pits such as Thurcroft, Dinnington, Kiveton Park and Maltby, the guarantee that they will continue to be producing the coal that Britain needs. We shall get that coal only if we are prepared to pay the miners. Their pay has to be looked at in the long term against the background of growing confidence in the industry. Once the miners realise that the Government intend to continue the splendid work they have done in re-establishing confidence and promoting once again the sensible and moderate relationships which existed in the pits before the last Conservative administration exercised its disturbing and disruptive effect, they will realise that there is a future for them. The hon. Member for Dorset, South (Mr. King) suggested that we should not embark on an expansion of coal production but that we should turn away from coal and massively increase our development of nuclear generation. I said in the debate a fortnight ago that if Europe is serious in demanding that we have £85 billion of nuclear development at 1973 prices, we must question now the implications of such a policy for public expenditure. I believe that we must increase our nuclear capacity, but I do not know whether the country can afford to increase it on the scale the hon. Member for Dorset, South was suggesting. Nuclear power stations are very expensive to provide and they must be provided, but it is questionable whether we could provide them on the scale that the hon. Member wants. It seems therefore that we have to maintain a strong coal industry. The hon. Member seems to think that the coal industry is as it was when he was a young man, in the days when my father was a collier. He spoke about the need to encourage technological inventiveness. But there have been massive amounts of that in the coal industry since it was nationalised. The pits in my constituency are very different from the pits they were 20 or 30 years ago and the National Coal Board is to be congratulated not merely on producing coal but on leading the technological field in many ways. The hon. Member for Dorset, South is right to encourage an increased use of nuclear power, but it would be foolish to do that by turning away completely from coal.
My hon. Friend is advancing an interesting argument. He is correct in saying that the coal industry enjoys modern technology. I have traversed the coal fields from Wales to Kent, Nottingham, Yorkshire and Durham and I have met the miners. I can assure my hon. Friend that they have confidence in their industry and that it is a modern technologicial industry.
It certainly is, and I hope that that point will be appreciated in my constituency. I may not be popular for saying this, because old attitudes die hard, but attitudes must change. When I was a young man my father would have been horrified if I had expressed any desire to go into the pits. My experience of teaching in South Yorkshire was that parents often preferred their sons to take dead-end jobs rather than to go down the pits, such was their historical detestation of the industry.Today, however, the Coal Board in South Yorkshire can offer young men an attractive career with every possible prospect for the development of their education and skills. It could be that this ever-developing technology in the mining industry will provide the career structure which will eventually lead parents to change their minds and which will justify careers masters in South Yorkshire in persuading parents to allow their sons to go to the pits, a decision which would not have been tolerated 20 or 30 years ago. If we are to maintain coal production in Britain such shifts of attitude will have to be made. Nuclear power will have to be developed, and if it is, I hope that my right hon. Friend will bear in mind the comments of my hon. Friends the Members for Whitehaven (Dr. Cunningham) and Newton (Mr. Evans). My hon. Friend the Member for Newton made some very strong comments, but, given past history, I think that they were entirely justified. I hope that when the Under-Secretary winds up the debate he will not merely comment on the passionate advocacy of the constituency case advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Newton but will also deal with the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for White-haven, who has a considerable expertise in these matters. I have not yet had an answer to a point which I have raised in the past about the EEC proposition that nuclear power station policy should be based increasingly on standardisation. If the EEC embarks upon that policy, it seems inevitable that standardisation will be based upon American nuclear technology. That would be doing Britain and Europe a disservice. I hope that the Department of Energy and any other Government Department involved will present a case for the maintenance of an adequate level of British nuclear technology and an adequate presence for that technology in Europe. My hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham raised the question of the policy of future oil-fired power stations. Is this based on the fact that North Sea oil is of a very high grade and should not be used for base purposes so that lower grade oil will be imported for power station generation? Some hon. Members have advanced the argument that we should export a good deal of our own high quality oil and import, at loss cost and to the nation's profit, the lower grade oil required for power stations. If we are proposing to build power stations to consume high-grade North Sea oil, future generations might look back on our action as being unwise. Finally, I believe that the tripartite discussions which my right hon. Friend embarked upon with the National Coal Board and the trade unions served an extremely useful purpose. It might be a good idea if once a quarter that tripartite gathering were reconvened in order that there could be an examination of progress made in the previous quarter. Such a meeting repeated at regular intervals, could exercise the same beneficial effects within the mining communities as it has exercised since the Government took office. If the Conservatives wish to complain about energy development they should look a little further back than the period which has elapsed since 4th March. The mistakes which were made between June 1970 and the end of 1973 were some of the most severe in British history. It is taking a great deal of time and perhaps a great deal of ingenuity but the Government is re-establishing common sense in energy matters.
I followed with great interest the arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy). I was interested in the three questions he put to the Minister, and I join the hon. Gentleman in hoping for replies to them later.When the hon. Gentleman alluded to the responsibility of the Conservative administration for the deficiencies to which he referred, I thought that he strayed from reality. I associate myself with the Opposition motion, though I do so in a formal sense. I have a feeling of solidarity with the Secretary of State, knowing that at any moment in time it is virtually impossible to evolve an adequate and all-embracing energy policy covering all our domestic needs which will hold water for more than six months. As soon as we try to set out in a cohesive way a total energy policy, it is almost automatically upset by an external and unpremeditated event. Therefore, my association with the motion is formal, for reasons which I hope to develop. The single greatest jolt that the world economy has experienced during this century occurred during the last months of 1973, with regard to energy. The world economy has had to put up with a good deal, but it has never before experienced in one fatal major movement such an impact on oil prices. It threw suddenly into a state of upheaval a situation to which people had become accustomed, whereby energy was always available and always cheap. People suddenly found that energy was neither always available nor always cheap. That vitally changed not only the energy economy but the economy of the world. It is difficult to see any advantages which may have arisen from that troublesome period, but there may be some. As a result of the situation, there have been some major reappraisals of the totality of economic and energy policies in practically every country of the world, each of which has had to reassess its position and consider how best to face the future. That is as true of those which became suddenly rich as those which became suddenly poor. In so far as it affects countries such as ours, that new thinking has opened up new areas of thought. We think anew about future sources of energy. We think anew about the true importance of the hydrocarbon sources. We see the problem in a new light because it suddenly adopts a new value. We see anew the balance of world resources as it affects the developing countries, because we suddenly witness a state of affairs in the underdeveloped countries, in a different degree, as serious as that from which we suffer. We see anew our future requirements for primary resources other than energy. We find ourselves considering very seriously the rate of exhaustion of primary resources, world-wide, and we think of new methods of dealing with them. The events at the end of 1973 fundamentally changed our attitude of mind and gave rise to a burst of thought and new ideas. That was their great advantage. These were the necessary consequences of what happened. The underlying factor which has emerged is that economies in the use of energy are a world-wide consideration. It is no longer a national consideration; it is an international consideration. That was always true of the oil industry. Until recently we had become accustomed to the thought that the coal industry was an industry with which we were concerned from a domestic point of view. We even considered the nuclear energy industry as a domestic enclave with which we were dealing in our own way and according to our own abilities. We did not consider that it was essentially framed within an international context. Suddenly, all those matters changed their appearance. As a result, because the world is inventive and because people have innovative thoughts, we see a burst of new ideas and suggestions. We see procedures devised for safeguarding against the disruption of oil supplies, for instance, with international measures taken to try to overcome the dangers inherent in such disruption. We see the question of economising on energy, which had hardly entered our minds in the past 50 or 100 years, suddenly becoming a world-wide consideration, with an international requirement to approach a problem in an international way. We see allied problems—for instance, the upturn of the economic functions concerned with oil supply. Those also require international consideration. We see a vast accumulation of monetary resources flowing into the oil-producing areas of the world. We see a need to deal with that situation. We have new ideas and see international initiatives taken to try to change the pattern of that movement. The stimulation of alternative sources of energy creates a new flavour in our minds, and it brings in its train the inevitable consideration of how the pricing system affecting energy can support the development of such new sources. We see the international energy agency taking steps in this direction, especially those concerning safeguards against market disruption and the propagation of more effective international economies of energy use. There is a tendency to imagine that because this is a prestigious organisation, embracing many of the major countries concerned with the problems, it is the only institution necessary to deal with the international characteristic of energy problems. However, that is incorrect. There is a real need for an active energy policy within the framework of the EEC. We had the opportunity of debating this matter the other day, and it is not my intention now to rehearse the issues concerned in that debate. But I stress that the need to develop an effective energy policy within the framework of the Community does not duplicate or neutralise the activities of the international energy agency. On the contrary, the need is for the Community's policy not to conflict. It must fit in. But there is already an advantage, in that to the extent that nine countries—or eight plus one at the present time—can speak as one within the framework of the international energy agency, they will be more likely to secure the common purposes which they see as being necessary to meet their peculiar problems. For the United Kingdom, I consider the biggest single problem to be trying to find means of developing our own resources. The hon. Member for Rother Valley spoke of the enormous cost of installations for the generation of electricity from nuclear power. The very development of the systems and the methods in themselves are so costly that it is impossible to imagine that we can at the same time handle the vast expenditure involved in developing oil resources in the North Sea and perhaps other coastal waters, that we can do an equivalent task in gas production, that we can make an effort in added coal production and that we can at the same time develop and put in place not just one system of nuclear generation but stay in the hunt with a multitude of systems —not just the steam-generated heavy-water systems but also to keep our hands in on high-temperature reactors and the fast breeder as it comes along. Together, they place such a weight on resource demand that we cannot reasonably expect to do it alone. Here, the force of the Community plays an immense part. Anyone who imagines that that kind of task can be undertaken by such a widespread organisation as the international energy agency is suffering from a certain delusion. That organisation can control; it can contribute to order; perhaps it can promote economy. But it cannot constitute a plan for the reformulation of a whole continent's energy needs and put in place the required developments and installations to ensure that they are met. That is the kind of operation that a Community energy policy can do. The degree to which I consent to the motion put forward by my right hon. and hon. Friends resides in my resentment of the Government's failure actively to pursue a Community energy policy. I sense that the Government are being lackadaisical about this, which is totally at variance with the requirements of the problem. I associate myself in some measure with criticism of the Secretary of State's action because I believe that he has proved less than dynamic in pushing forward an essential programme on our future energy needs within the framework of a Community energy policy.
I listened intently to the right lion. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies). He spoke about the difficulty of planning the energy needs of this country and was taking it for granted that there would be rigid planning. I hope that that will never happen because time and again Governments have tried to estimate the energy requirements of the nation, taking into account the various views and they have always made a grave mistake because requirements change. The right hon. Gentleman referred to what happened in November 1973. The mining group in the Labour Party has continually warned Government after Government of the dangers of relying too heavily on oil.I agree that we did not expect a rapid upsurge in the price. We thought that some other method would be adopted. The outcome has been the same. The impact of changes in the supply of oil on the Western world has been great. We are still suffering from inflation to which we cannot see an end. Worst hit are the developing nations which have no oil. They have suffered far more than ourselves. Not only is there malnutrition in those countries but people are dying from it. There is a great deal of wealth in the world and it is tragic that we should allow this sort of thing to happen. A Government are foolish unless they plan their energy needs taking into account all the resources that can be utilised. There are 2,000 million tons of coal in this country which will last us for two centuries or more. It has been wasted away. We have ignored it completely. Coal has to be mined and here manpower is important. It is difficult to compete with oil. If we do not cut down our energy needs, we shall not be fair and just to those who follow us. Coal ought to have greater expectations. I hope that the Government will continue their present policy, with one important exception. The coal-mining industry will always have to compete with other energy sources which are not extractive in nature. The coal industry must be helped and planned. We must make certain that there is sufficient manpower in the mining industry. At present the inflow of manpower consists of men who left the industry and who have decided to return because wages have been improved. There is always the great danger that they will move out again if we do not maintain good standards. We want an inflow of young people. Therefore, my right hon. Friend and the Government should consider how to attract them into the industry. I suggest that we should take note of what happens in Communist countries where men are paid a sum of money after being in the industry for a certain time. I am throwing this suggestion into the pool without any definite conviction. However, when a young man who comes into the mining industry at 16 or 18 years of age reaches, say, 28 years of age, I suggest that he should be paid a sum of money, perhaps to help him to start a home, and 20 years later another sum of money to encourage him to stay in the industry. Coal will be vital to our needs for at least the next two generations. Therefore, I hope that something on those lines will be considered. Training and education are important. We should train people so that, if they have serious accidents or find their health impaired, they can go out of the industry into specialised jobs. That is an important consideration. We do not seem to attach sufficient importance to the education and training of our work force. I turn to consider natural gas. There is a grave danger, because it is there, to use it too rapidly. Some people talk of gas-fired power stations. It would be an injustice to future generations not to ensure the conservation of natural gas sources. It is used in great quantities, but we know that its sources are far more limited than are coal supplies. I turn to North Sea oil. Oil is important apart from its use for combustion in power stations and for heating. What will happen to the petrol engine if we simply run out of oil? There is no other motive power yet to take its place. Eventually we shall no doubt have an electrically-powered motor generator, but the moving parts will still need oil. I hope that within the next 10 years the Government will ensure that we get as much oil as possible from the North Sea to cushion the effect of what is happening in the Middle East. We can then consider whether, in view of the progressive rate at which oil will be required, we need to take so much and how to make it last as long as possible. The Middle East oil-producing countries are using their resources as a kind of bank. They know that once their supplies have been dissipated their wealth will disappear. I turn to nuclear power. Undoubtedly it is the future source of energy that we shall require. But I believe that we are moving too quickly in that direction. We are not giving enough thought to what can happen in future. I understand that nuclear waste can be dangerous for about 20,000 years. If we do not make certain that nuclear waste does not pollute our seas and land we shall pass on to future generations something that will have a great effect upon them. I hope that we shall treat the matter thoughtfully to ensure that that does not happen. I do not think that enough research is being done on how to nullify the effects of nuclear waste. It is always said that nuclear power will be a source of energy for many centuries to come and will safeguard the needs of mankind until we find some other source. I want to make certain that the Government realise that within our shores we have supplies of oil, gas and coal, together with a nuclear energy industry. Coal is found in the greatest abundance, but it is the most difficult to bring to the surface to be used by man. I do not say this with any bias because I happen to be an ex-miner. Coal will be with us for many years to meet our needs, but we cannot get it unless we have the necessary manpower. For goodness sake let us consider the problem and make certain that men go down the mines to produce sufficient coal to help other sources of energy so that our needs are met to the full.
If this is an example of the new-style Conservative Party censure motion, I shudder to think what will happen when we get to our normal, quiet, peaceful and thoughtful debates. It would appear that this is a filler-in and it is apparent that the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) is not here to watch over the hatchlings in her new brood.
The hon. Gentleman's bench is empty.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Gray) on his appointment. I hope he hold it for longer than his predecessor did.We are debating a censure motion to deduct £1,000 from the salary of the Secretary of State for Energy, yet to judge from the amount of fire that has been displayed in the debate one would think that what was at stake was £5. So far we have had a small Scottish dimension, but I am glad to note that the concluding speeches will be by Scottish Members in both the Government and Opposition teams. Despite the rude remarks of the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty, I welcome him to the Opposition Front Bench. I am not sure whether Opposition Whips lose any money on giving up their position as Whips. I know they must lose a lot of power and influence, but nevertheless the hon. Gentleman is to be congratulated on his elevation to his new job. In Scotland we are very fortunate in the many forms of energy that are open to us. We are rich in oil and gas. We are relatively well off in coal, though not so well off as are some other parts of the United Kingdom. Hydro-electric power gives us a useful advantage in the north of Scotland, where it provides 30 per cent. of our needs. In addition, Scotland has a fairly substantial share of nuclear generation. When policies which are applicable to the United Kingdom are applied to Scotland, this is not necessarily to our advantage, because we have a different make-up in our energy composition and such policies may give rise to odd results. One can talk about the need for energy conservation, but one effect of it is a deliberate increase in petrol charges. For a country which has many remote rural areas this can be a disadvantage, and a policy which should not be adopted, considering that within a very short period Scotland will become an oil-exporting country. In this debate those of us who do not belong to the major parties are given the choice of deciding whether or not the Secretary of State for Energy should be penalised to quite a considerable extent in his salary through his failure to discharge his duties, on the initiative of an Opposition who themselves, when in office, unfortunately gave many opportunities for criticism over the development—or non-development—of their own energy policy. From the Conservative Party, which has not yet achieved the anniversary of its decline of office, reluctantly at the time, there remains the legacy it left behind, particularly in relation to oil matters; for example, the tax delays and the fumbling over that issue until they were prodded by the report of the Select Committee into closing one of the loop-holes. They did not even get around to framing more positive forms of taxation, although shortly after the election they claimed that they had had a taxation policy in the pigeonhole, ready to take out. On tenders, there was a very successful scheme under which auctions of a number of licences brought in useful sums, but in the fourth round they proceeded on the basis of allocating licences without considering the benefits of the auction system. On participation, for which most oil-producing countries have gone on a very substantial scale, the Government of the day deliberately played shy, and although in Oslo, as we have heard, the Opposition flirted with the idea temporarily, they did not, when in office, do anything to secure any governmental share in the oil and natural gas industry except through the casual intervention in the market of the National Coal Board. They allowed business opportunities to pass them by. For instance, the very speed of development placed difficulties in the way of Scotland's industry in terms of picking up some of the new business opportunities that existed. There was a willingness to override the quasi-judicial inquiry at Drambuie. This is what we have to choose from on this side. One could say that the proposed reduction of £1,000 could more properly be attributed to the salary of the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin), but he enjoys only an MP's salary, and it would be unfair to deal with him in that way. But his own party have quite a legacy, which it cannot shrug off, and its attempt to do so in this debate is premature.
As the hon. Gentleman is constantly telling us that this oil is Scottish, will he give credit to the then Government for having devised the licence method by which the oil was found and is now being developed?
No. I do not give that credit to the hon. Gentleman. I would criticise the licensing arrangements which were evolved by successive British Governments, and certainly it was an earlier Labour Government which set in motion some licensing arrangements. Probably they would now have severe criticisms to make of their own plans in the 1960s. If one looks at the example of Norway, which was quoted earlier, one finds that that country started working on licences in about 1965, and certainly in the earlier stages they were far bettter prepared than was the United Kingdom. The Opposition—thankfully, say many—are no longer in office.As for the present Government, what can we choose from them? [An HON. MEMBER: "Nothing."] Perhaps that is a fair statement, because they, too, have faults, as many of us would wish to suggest. We can look at the delay in presenting their taxation proposals and particularly at the rate of PRT, which was announced only today, at the uncertainty which this has caused, and at the doubts sown by one of the Government's Ministers over the terms on which participation may be obtained. Indeed, their policies in relation to participation are still veiled. We shall have to wait until the Petroleum Bill is published to find out what benefit they think the State can get from it. I am a protagonist of participation, but the Government are remarkably quiet in outlining the benefits they think can come from it. Some inquiry into the Offshore Supplies Office was made recently, through the medium of Parliamentary Questions. One small piece of information which emerged was that the audit engineers, whose job it is to find opportunities for British industry, are located mainly in London, while the monitoring engineers, who have a secondary function, are located in the Offshore Supplies Office, in Scotland. A recent parliamentary answer to a Question of mine showed that 33 supply ships had been produced in England and only five in Scotland. That is a sign that in many ways Scotland has not benefited from the policies of this Government or the previous one. What sort of terrors do the Government now have in store for us? One recent suggestion is that of oil swaps with Iran and Venezuela. My party is opposed to any exchange of oil with those countries without any particular advantages for Scotland being spelled out by the Government. The Scottish Daily Express today said:
It is significant that many people in Scotland would like our oil reserves conserved much more productively and positively."The Government is planning a series of barter deals to secure supplies of Middle East oil now in return for British oil later. These would greatly reduce the balance of payments deficit. The Shah of Persia and other suppliers are interested in such deals as a means of conserving their own oil reserves in the future."
How can they be conserved productively?
I did say "positively".Reference has been made to the share of taxation which the United Kingdom hopes to get from North Sea oil. An article appeared in the Economist on 15th February rather attractively titled "Sharing the North Sea gravy". The article suggested some criticism of the Government, who, it said, had shown an astounding modesty over the propaganda campaigns which the oil companies have been waging over the last few weeks and months—successfully, judging by the Paymaster-General's statement today The Economist took the view that the Government had conceded the case of the oil companies without doing much to contest it.
I, too, saw that article and took the trouble to analyse some of its figures. I would only advise the hon. Gentleman not to put too much faith in it, because its figures were highly suspect.
Perhaps they are highly suspect from the point of view of the oil companies. It is their viewpoint that the right hon. Gentleman has been arguing in Committee on the Oil Taxation Bill. But I take his point. If he will send me his analysis, of course I shall study it, but it is significant that these reports have been appearing. In recent weeks, the climate of opinion has been changing as the Press has studied some of the statements by the oil companies.Our problem in Scotland is that oil off our shores is being used for purposes and on a scale of which we do not approve. We make it clear now to the Government and the Opposition that we would adopt an entirely different energy strategy in Scotland over development of our own resources and reserves. But in this debate we are being asked, in a sense, to join in the pot calling the kettle black. It is quite clear that there is room for criticism, and fault on both sides. If the Government are considering any such oil swap, as has been indicated, I ask them to take that proposal back to the drafting board, because I assure the Minister that it would meet with considerable resistance in Scotland. However, because this is an internal battle about British energy policy, which is quite irrelevant to the Scottish situation, it is my intention to advise my hon. Friends that they should give their support neither to the Government nor to the Opposition, but should abstain.
I shall address my remarks principally to the question of oil within the energy debate. The House will know of my interest in this matter. Before doing so, however, I should like to touch on two very important matters which have been raised, and to press the Government about them.The first is the question of the inversion of tariffs for electricity and gas. As a method of encouraging fuel saving and as a method of preventing a very heavy burden from falling upon members of the public least able to bear it, an inversion of tariffs would be a very suitable weapon in the hands of the Government. I should like also to draw the Minister's attention to the problems of pneumoconiosis suffers who did not work for the National Coal Board. The new measure proposed—the £30 million which is being made available by the NCB—for pneumoconiosis sufferers in lieu of claims that they might make against the board is, I understand, to be extended in some cases to coalminers who worked in the private sector. In my constituency there were a large number of small private mines which continued long after the NCB took over most of the mines in this country. Because of this, there are many ex-miners who suffer from pneumoconiosis and who would have had a claim against companies which are in many cases long since defunct. I have written to the Minister on this subject, but it would be helpful if the Government could make clear what exactly are the rights of miners from the private industry, the old private mines, with respect to compensation claims. I turn my attention to the statement which we heard earlier today. It would be churlish not at least to congratulate the Paymaster-General upon his statement. Hon. Members will be aware that I was not exactly enamoured of the form of the Bill when it first appeared. It struck me as a cumbersome and complex piece of legislation. What we had today was, perhaps, a cumbersome and complex solution to the problem—but I am bound to say that it is a solution. In this respect, the sour grapes of the Opposition spokesman are very much misplaced. I should like to take up a little time in explaining why I think that it is a sensible solution, because I do not believe that the form of this solution has been fully understood, perhaps, by some of my hon. Friends. The problem of marginal fields is one that the country must face for its own purposes and not merely for those of the oil companies. The amount of oil which is likely to be produced in the North Sea from fields of 300 million barrels recoverable reserves and less will possibly rise to as much as 50 per cent. of the total recoverable oil. Many of these fields are very marginal indeed, but as far as this country is concerned they are vital. For us to get half of our oil from such fields it is essential that they are produced. This is a decision which the nation will take. The nation will decide that the oil will be produced. If it means that in some cases there will be almost no tax advantage to the country, this may be a decision that, in the best interest of our balance of payments and other matters, the Government ought to take. The announcement that was made today allows of that possibility. At the same time it ensures that the major fields, such as Forties and Brent, will bear considerable taxation. The total tax take will not be 45 per cent. The tax take of some of the smaller marginal fields may be zero. The average tax take, as suggested by my right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General, is likely to be 70 per cent. of all revenue from oil from all the fields. I cannot pretend to have worked out the matter precisely, but from taking a thumbnail sketch of the figures for some of the larger fields it seems that for fields of the size of Brent or of Forties would involve a total tax take of as much as 80 per cent. or 81 per cent. That compares favourably with any take which any country in the world is currently levying upon production within its borders. We are looking not at a fixed 70 per cent. but at a situation in which, if it were in the interests of the country to exploit a field, it could be exploited. If the field were a particularly good one, the total Government take could be as high as 80 per cent. I believe that in practice we should welcome the Bill. It may prove rather difficult to administer, but at least as a basic structure it is what we require. Having welcomed it, I am bound to make one or two comments on aspects which I should like the Government to continue to consider. First, I turn to the sub-marginal fields which it may be in the national interest to exploit. I should like the Government to consider, particularly through the media of the British National Oil Company, whether it should not have some discretionary powers for purchasing marginal fields if it seemed to be in the national interest to do so, irrespective of the economics in a normal commercial term. I also believe that we should give further consideration to the problems faced by some of the smaller, independent and non-integrated British companies. The House will know of my special interest in this area. In particular I refer to the problems which are raised by the existence of the ring fence. If an independent British company engaged mainly in exploration wishes to make exploration outside the United Kingdom, it can have no recourse to its own funds generated inside the United Kingdom from discoveries that it might make within the ring fence. If we wish an independent British oil industry to prosper, the Government should look at special methods that could be applied to small independent British companies in that situation. There is also the difficulty of the expensing of the overriding royalties. One of the problems for many of the smaller companies is that if their borrowing is of a non-recourse kind they are often not able to provide the kind of guarantees from their other assets that the banks are demanding—that is, if the banks are to lend them money. Many of the banks are asking for overriding royalties as a form of equity participation in the loans that they are making. If they cannot be expensed, many of the smaller companies will be in a position in which they will have great difficulty in borrowing any kind of funds for oil field development. I hope that the Government, even within what I believe to be a sound Bill as we now have it, will once again reconsider the points that I have mentioned. My last point is on participation. That is currently under negotiation. In essence, being stuck with the figure of 51 per cent. is unfortunate. I hope that the British National Oil Company will be vested with all future licences and that companies seeking those licences in participation with the BNOC will seek them and bid for them in terms of participation. We might then have the circumstances in which a large structure in a block could attract a bid in terms of a participation agreement in excess of 51 per cent. It might even attract 70 per cent. A marginal block might attract only 20 per cent. The advantage of BNOC is that it would have a larger share of the bigger possibilities and a smaller share of the smaller possibilities. This would be a clear advantage, with the greater reward that it would take in the larger prospects being set against the greater risk it might take on some of the more marginal prospects. If we believe this, the corollary is to say that in the existing fields we should have much higher percentages of the very large fields and much smaller percentages of the smaller fields. Unfortunately, we are stuck with a manifesto which says that we must go for 51 per cent. in all cases. I hope that the Government, in going for their 51 per cent., will not take the view that if they take over, for example, the National Coal Board interests, they will then count the National Coal Board's percentage as part of their 51 per cent., because that would mean that companies that had been sufficiently fortunate to be associated with nationalised industries would be in the position of not having to give up anything like as great an interest as would companies which were not associated with nationalised industries. This would be extremely unfair. I believe also that if we take over Burmah's interest—I do not know whether we are going to do so—and if that is included as part of the 51 per cent., companies which are in partnership with Burmah will naturally be better off than companies which are not. I recommend that in our discussions on the question of 51 per cent. participation we seek to take the interest across the board. If we say that we will take 30 per cent. of one interest but will make that up by taking 70 per cent. of somebody else's interest, this is liable to be very unfair to the companies from which a large share is taken. Finally, I believe that we should be much better off taking our interest in existing discoveries if we took it in terms of oil, instead of paying large sums of cash. If we were to say to the oil companies, "We will take our 51 per cent. and we will pay for it out of the production that will belong to us", that would save us money and it would allow the oil companies to have the oil. I will merely say this about that very interesting idea, to which my right hon. is nodding assent: if the companies involved are integrated, that is fine, but if they are non-integrated companies, as are many of the smaller British companies, it could be very difficult because they all have very complex exploration and operation agreements. If we are to use some form of preferential buy-back arrangements with the companies to obtain our 51 per cent., the position of small independent companies which are non-integrated should be looked at carefully so that they do not suffer in a deal which is largely with the majors.
In addition to saying that this has been a long-awaited debate, I can also say that I have had to wait a very long wait to take part in it. As I have only two minutes in which to make my speech, I wonder whether it is worth while.The hon. Member for Dudley, West (Dr. Phipps), who is an expert on the oil industry, referred to the solution announced today by the Paymaster-General as a mixed up kind of solution to the problem of the tax. It will also prove to be a very sticky solution for the oil industry. The Oil Taxation Bill has been a complete shambles from beginning to end. I served on the Standing Committee which considered the Bill. Unfortunately, the hon. Member was not able to serve on that Standing Committee. The Bill was started half-way through at Clause 9. The Committee was then invited to proceed to deal with the Bill from the beginning. We now await a Report stage which will probably last several days. The Bill should be recommitted once it has been reported to the House. I am absolutely convinced that the small SGHWR programme upon which we have embarked will prove to be totally inadequate. I therefore hope that the Government will consider embarking upon a greatly expanded programme. I believe that by 1980 a decision will have been made to go in for a mixed programme of nuclear development using the SGHWR and the PWR. I believe that the future of this country will depend on our producing cheaper nuclear power and in generating that power rather than the more expensive indigenous fuel power generation into which we shall be led without the development of nuclear stations. If it had not been for the pressure of time, I would have dealt with the important question of conservation. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Rost), in an excellent speech, outlined many proposals on this topic and others which I hope the Minister will carefully consider. However, I stress the need for us to concentrate on the savings which can he achieved in the industrial sector. If the full research and development programme can be carried out and many ideas put forward by British inventors can be given governmental assistance in saving industrial costs, I am certain that we shall achieve the reductions that we need. At this stage, one year after the Government took office, I believe that we should censure them for inadequate answers to the problems which face us.
I wish to acknowledge one speech in this debate which went very much wider than many other speeches. I refer to the excellent speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies). He brought to the debate a completely new dimension, an international dimension which was very important in our considerations. Many of the speeches today have dealt with the narrow and parochial matters which affect this country, whereas we all know that activities of the oil industry know no boundaries. I believe that unless we approach this matter on an international as well as on a national basis, our chance of reaching a solution to many of our problems will be much diminished.I recommend this view to the Scottish National Party. I believe that unless we take account of the international dimensions of oil in the North Sea we shall ignore one of the major factors in the industry.
I thank the Minister for mentioning my party in his earlier remarks—
I am not a Minister. We are not yet the Government.
I meant to refer to the hon. Gentleman as the shadow minister. At any rate, may I take it from what he said that we are very high on his list of priorities? I should like to ask him an important question. If the interests of his country were in conflict with those of a wider international character in regard to energy matters, on whose side would he be?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for coming out from under her thistledown. I thought that my remark might have that effect. I assure her that I shall deal with the detailed aspects of the SNP's policy in a moment, if I have time. I assure her, as I am sure she already knows, that I put the interests of Scotland first and foremost in my mind but, unlike the hon. Lady, I believe in Scotland playing a national rôle in the United Kingdom as well as an international rôle amid the wider family of nations.
But not in the United Nations.
What disappointed me in the Secretary of State's speech was his air of unreality and, indeed, of complacency on the very important matters which affect the energy requirements of this country.I should like to deal with three aspects of the subject of energy. I hope that in the Minister's reply we shall see more concern for the real fundamentals of the problem which faces us. I refer first to the conservation of energy. I should first like to say a word to the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Dr. Cunningham), who suggested that we could save the use of private cars by using more public transport. Surely what we must do in many areas is to provide public transport. My constituents would throw up their arms in horror if they were to hear the hon. Member's suggestion, and I would not blame them.
The hon. Gentleman is right about public transport in rural areas but the Conservative Government persistently cut the subsidies for public transport in those areas.
That is not true, because we gave a considerable amount of help in that respect. I still believe that a great deal more could be done in respect of rural transport, and I hope that steps are taken on the lines of those suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Mr. King).I hope that the Under-Secretary will be more forthcoming and more positive about effective measures for conservation, on the lines mentioned by my hon. Friends the Members for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Rost) and Exeter (Mr. Hannam). If the Secretary of State is now to take credit for the efforts he is making to conserve energy, can he explain why no action was taken between his announcement of the 13th March, when he ended the previous Government's measures to conserve energy, and the statement of 9th November? We went through a period when measures could have been taken to conserve energy but the right hon. Gentleman's Government did nothing. They took away existing measures to conserve energy just after they came into office. Secondly, my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) spoke about the coal industry. The Secretary of State ignored two important matters in relation to that industry. He was conveniently blind towards the effects of the miners' settlement on the social contract. In an energy debate, to ignore the wider implications and the effects on the economy as a whole is to ignore an important factor. The Secretary of State is particularly short sighted in regard to the effects of the recent settlement in the mining industry on the competiveness of the coal industry in relation to other forms of energy. I am sure that the Secretary of State will justify what has happened in the coal industry. Indeed, he has sought to do so. But what the Secretary of State has ignored is the longer-term effect on the overall energy picture and the balance between the different forms of energy. The coal industry has moved rapidly from a good competitive position to one where it is back in the old position of bumping up against the other industries, with much less room to manoeuvre in the future. This could be serious for the future of the coal industry. The third source of energy is nuclear power. I reiterate what my right hon. Friend the Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) said in opening the debate. Is the programme being pushed ahead with the urgency that it demands? After visiting Toronto, Frank Frazer, the energy correspondent of the Scotsman, wrote on 11th February:
What my right hon. Friend said is not something hatched up by the Opposition, but is felt much wider. The Under-Secretary knows that nuclear energy is of particular importance to Scotland, because of the interest of the South of Scotland Electricity Board and its Chairman, Mr. Tombs, and because of the proposed power station for Torness. I hope that the hon. Gentleman can deny suggestions that the Scottish plans have been held up because of the lack of urgency over general plans for the United Kingdom. I ask the hon. Gentleman for an assurance that the proposals of the SSEB have been pushed forward with the urgency which the situation demands. The oil industry has occupied most time in the debate. The Government must realise the degree of uncertainty they have created throughout the oil industry in recent months by their lack of decision over taxation and other matters. Anyone who is in touch with the industry knows of this uncertainty. Mr. Young, the general manager of the Bank of Scotland in the Oil Register published in the Scotsman of 28th January says this:"There is, however, a decided sense of frustration among some of the people in the Canadian nuclear industry to whom I have spoken in the last few days about the apparent lack of momentum in the British plans."
Mr. James Milne, the assistant secretary of the Scottish Trade Union Congress, at a conference on employment in the yards which produce steel platforms, as reported in the Scotsman of 23rd January, identified one of the causes of the steel order position as the hiatus of North Sea development due to political and financial uncertainty. Although the number of rigs in operation in the North Sea is greater than it was a year ago, the increase has not been as great as was expected. At the same time, the rigs which are operating are exploiting existing finds rather than pushing out the frontiers of exploration in other areas. I know that the Under-Secretary of State in Edinburgh at the weekend did his best to lay to rest uncertainty about platform orders, but The Press and Journal last Saturday again reported uncertainty about orders. Perhaps the most significant uncertainty is that which is referred to in the report in the Scotsman today that the Offshore Supplies Office has commissioned a technical study of the Government-financed oil platform construction site at Portavadie, to assess alternative uses of that site. A few months ago the Government, rightly, tried to make sure that adequate production sites were available. Now that that production site is available, within a matter of months research has been commissioned to find an alternative use for it. That is another indication of the uncertainty that exists throughout the oil industry. If all this uncertainty is allowed to continue, great difficulties will be created in the future development of the industry. Apart from the balance of payments position and the need to get oil on stream as quickly as we can, Scotland has the serious problem of getting the spin-off in jobs and in terms of a stake in the new technology. My right hon. and hon. Friends have examined the causes of the uncertainty. The most important of these is the question of taxation. We are grateful for the clarification given by the Paymaster-General in his statement. What the Government cannot duck and what the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Energy sought to duck in his speech, is his and his right hon. Friend's responsibility for the uncertainty. That uncertainty has undoubtedly led to a slowdown in offshore development. A great deal of responsibility for this rests in the right hon. Gentleman's hands. The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson), speaking on behalf of the Scottish National Party, made an ambivalent speech. Members of the SNP take to themselves a superior knowledge in oil matters. The hon. Gentleman showed total ambivalence in his speech, endorsing neither one policy nor another and being unclear as to the precise nature of his own party's policy. But of course, we know what is the policy of his party. It was the same policy that the Government embarked upon at the start of their consultations on the oil taxation proposals. It was quite simply to ensure, by taking a high level of money from the oil companies, that oil exploration was quite uneconomic. That in its turn would have slowed down development in Scotland."A major impediment to the development of North Sea oil production is uncertainty about Government policy."
I will not give way again to the hon. Member. I remind her of a leader article which appeared in The Press and Journal which, for those who are not familiar with it, is the largest circulation daily newspaper in the North-East of Scotland, the area where these developments are taking place. That article said:
It concluded:"If the xenophobes this side of the Border would forget their Little Scotlander attitudes and tone down their megalomania, they might be in a better position to help obtain for the Scots their rightful share of oil wealth."
That comment describes the policy of the Scottish National Party. Its members are trying in every way to have their cake and to eat it, too. If their policy was allowed to run its course, it would be disastrous for Scotland from the point of view of creating new jobs and speeding development of our stake in oil technology for the future. The Government need not think that they can get off the hook simply because they have clarified the question of oil taxation. There is still an enormous question mark hanging over the proposals for State participation. The Secretary of State let the cat out of the bag today when he said that the Government were embarking upon their participation policy as a political commitment. State participation will do nothing to get more money for the people of this country than could have been obtained by normal taxation methods."Greed and go-it-alone arrogance can only meet with a backlash."
My party has made its position perfectly clear in the past. We criticised the Conservatives in the same way as the Public Accounts Committee criticised them, and we have criticised the Government, too. Our policy is simply the slow development of the oil to let the infrastructure and the contracting work catch up. That is a perfectly simple exposition of our policy and the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) has totally misled the House.
I am glad that I gave way to the hon. Lady because it provided her with an opportunity to show how she and her party cannot make up their minds. She criticised both sides of the House, and that is typical of her Party because in different parts of Scotland the members of her party speak out of different sides of their faces. I imagine that if she could, the hon. Lady would go one half into one Lobby and one half into the other.The Secretary of State for Energy must make it plain, as the Chancellor of the Duchy did last week, that participation will not mean one extra penny for the people of Britain. It is an act of political dogma. It is for that, as much as for anything else, that the Labour Party stands condemned tonight. The Government should be showing a great deal more urgency in supporting this great industry in Scotland. It is only when we get the houses, the roads, the sewerage and water schemes and the schools that we in Scotland will be sure that we are getting the development we need. The Minister of State, Scottish Office, has made a great point about the £2½ million devoted through the rate support grant to helping areas where oil-related developments are taking place. Is that sum adequate for what is needed? For instance, the Government have just announced their school building programme. The local education authority in my constituency has been allocated £11,000 for 1976–77 for school buildings. If that is the degree of importance which the Government attach to it, that demonstrates the adequacy of the £2½ million. The Government stand condemned for their oil policy more than for anything else, including the way in which the tax question has been handled, the consequent uncertainties, the continuing threat of nationalisation, which was justified solely on political grounds, and the lack of urgency in providing the supporting services in the oil development areas. That shows that the right hon. Gentleman does not understand industry, which he is supposed to serve. For that reason he deserves a cut in his salary.
Looking back on the debate, it is hard to imagine that it was supposed to be on a motion of censure upon my right hon. Friend. It has been pursued by the Opposition with a mixture of lethargy and indifference which makes one wonder how they happened to alight on the subject of energy for a Supply debate.We started off with a typical contribution from the right hon. Member for Wanstead of Woodford (Mr. Jenkin). No doubt he spent most of last night assembling his newspaper cuttings in the dark. He spent most of his time reading them out, which I notice is a habit also adopted by the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith). It is a pity that the Conservative spokesmen cannot tell us what their thoughts are without repeating, parrot fashion, a series of newspaper cuttings of indifferent quality. The root of the matter is that the Opposition were too lazy even to frame a substantive motion today. They took refuge in the age-old device of attempting to cut the salary of my right hon. Friend. They did not set out clearly and precisely in the motion their criticisms of Government policy. We have listened carefully today to hear the indictment. Let us take some of the subjects in the order in which they arose. There was a great deal of talk about energy conservation from the Opposition. We have listened, each time there has been criticism of the Government's energy conservation programme, for realistic, practical and constructive suggestions, from the Opposition Front Bench. We have heard very few, although we heard some from Opposition back benchers. I listened with care to the contribution of the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Rost). Some of his points are already being carried out. However, he made a helpful and constructive contribution to the debate. I wish that that applied to the Opposition Front Benchers, who were careful never to suggest anything that would land them with political unpopularity. We know that the Government have already announced a very wide programme and have faced up to political unpopularity as a result of their programme of realistic energy pricing. The Secretary of State set out at length the list of measures he has taken. He is continually advised by the Advisory Council on Energy Conservation, which is doing an excellent job in monitoring all the schemes that come forward. The Government have made it clear that the energy conservation campaign cannot be conducted in a gimmick-laden, short-term atmosphere. It is a long-term job. The principal effort will have to be made in industry. The Opposition should heed the advice of one of their back benchers, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher), who counselled them to be careful of bureaucratic interference with the working of industry in trying to save energy. There is a great deal of truth in what he said. A number of hon. Members raised points of detail about energy policy. I hope that they will forgive me if, in the short time available, I am unable to deal with those points in detail. A number of hon. Members showed their concern for the future of the nuclear power industry. I think that they know of the decisions taken by the Government. I assure them that the Government are pursuing with determination the policy which they adopted. The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns raised points concerning Scotland, and referred to the offshore supplies' industry. One of the most important aspect of the oil and gas developments on the Continental Shelf is the opportunity afforded to our industry to enter an important new market. There has been much criticism about British industry for not breaking into this market earlier and with more determination. There is a great deal of force in some of the criticism. But the jibes of the Opposition should not deflect us from giving credit to those firms which are taking up the challenge of the North Sea supply industry. Already in Scotland we have more than 16,000 directly related oil jobs, and there are about 5,000 in the Northern Region of England. There will be much expansion in the next few years. I remind the House that during the last period in office of the Conservative Party we saw many platform orders going abroad. The present position is that of the 18 on order or under construction, 11 are being built in the United Kingdom. That is a significant advance. On another important aspect of the offshore oil requirements—modules and associated structures—only two were being built in the United Kingdom in the second half of 1972. In the second half of 1974, 152 were being constructed. I pay tribute to the companies which put three platforms properly in position in the North Sea. If a British company had towed a platform to the Frigg field, as a French company did, and put it 3 kilometres out of position, there would have been a howl of condemnation in the British Press, to say nothing of what would have been said in this House. All British platforms are in position and ready to start production later this year. The Government have been doing a great deal in this regard. We have expanded the Offshore Supplies Office and moved it to Scotland, where it works as a United Kingdom Department. Under the Conservative administration there were about 60 staff in the office—12 of them in Scotland. The staff has been trebled, and two-thirds of them operate from Glasgow. We have brought order to the problem of sites for platform construction by identifying designs and giving planning permission for sites. In terms of training, the Government are establishing a centre for drilling technology at Livingston and a diving training centre at Fort William, and they recently gave a grant of £300,000 to Heriot Watt University to set up a petroleum engineering centre to provide postgraduate and post-industrial experience courses in petroleum engineering. The Government have been extremely active in promoting our offshore supplies industry. Their activities and achievements make the claim that there is some censure to be placed upon my right hon. Friend look ridiculous, especially when they are compared with the opportunities which were ignored when the Conservatives were in office. That is a matter that we have to have constantly in mind. There have been criticisms of the Government's taxation policy. Perhaps I should apologise to the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General, because my right hon. Friend, by making his announcement today, made matters difficult for the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns, who had not time to rewrite his speech. As a result the hon. Gentleman criticised us for uncertainty, when a decision had been made and announced to the House earlier today. It comes ill from the Conservative Party to talk about uncertainty, since their Government had no taxation policy whatever. We have listened to a series of excuses and evasions from the Opposition. The right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford told us about this in his Second Reading speech on the Oil Taxation Bill. He said that no decision had been taken but that his right hon. Friends were thinking about it and were about to decide. But what was to stop them, before they left office, producing a coherent taxation policy for the North Sea?
I have said before and I say again that my right hon. Friend, now Lord Barber, intended to announce his taxation proposals in the Budget. These are budgetary matters. However, the General Election came before the Budget. That is the answer.
We have the same excuse again. They were about to do this. They were thinking about it. We have heard no details of what they intended to do. It is easy for the right hon. Gentleman to publish now what he had in mind then—
We sent it to the Government.
We were promised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer some realistic policies on energy. They never came, either.We cannot put very much faith in the promises of the Conservative Party. The truth is that it has no taxation policy. The Tory Government were rightly indicted by the Public Accounts Committee—an all-party Committee of the House—for the way in which they handled the fourth round of North Sea licensing. In case the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford is under any misapprehension about the matter, he can read that Committee report and see for himself the criticisms made in its conclusions. Not only did the Committee severely criticise the Tory Government for making no variation in the licensing terms between 1964 and 1971, despite the discoveries of oil in the North Sea and the knowledge of its potential; it also criticised the then Government for not obtaining a degree of Government participation in the 1971 licensing round. That was the unanimous view of the PAC, on which there was a Conservative majority. It does not require us on the Labour side to criticise the then Conservative Government. We have the record of the PAC to do that. In framing our taxation policies we have been concerned to secure the maximum return for the nation while making sure that there is sufficient incentive for continued exploration and development. The Government have judged it just about right.
Does the hon. Gentleman still adhere to the view expressed by him at a Financial Times conference in December, to the effect that one of the reasons for participation was to guarantee Government revenue not simply by taxation but also by a share of the profits earned on investment? How does he tie that up with what was said by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the House last week, to the effect that the Government are not looking for any additional revenue from participation?
I am glad the right hon. Member has raised that point. He has completely failed to take account of the future licensing policy which the Government will follow. In the next round of licensing, oil companies will not be allowed to get away with murder, as they did under a Conservative Government. It will be a condition of the future licensing rounds that there will be at least 51 per cent. State participation.There are many ways in which the State can use that participation profitably, as we know from the experience of many other countries. Nearly every other oil-producing country is involved in participation. I understand that even the Republic of Ireland has brought forward proposals for such participation.
The United States?
Not the United States. I hope that we shall not follow the policy which that country adopts towards the oil companies. It is one which has attracted a lot of criticism within the United States. Let us, instead, follow the policies of such oil-producing countries as Norway and Denmark—particularly the policies of those countries sharing North Sea oil. It will be very much at the heart of the Government's policy to ensure that the nation gets a fair return.Apart from the ineffective challenge made by Conservatives we were favoured with a contribution by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson). I am sorry that he is not present now because I want to criticise what he said. I was astounded that a member of a Scottish National Party should speak about the energy situation in Scotland without saying a word at any point about the coal industry, which is of great importance to Scotland. The hon. Member reiterated the National Party's contribution to this debate, which is that oil found in the United Kingdom Continental Shelf ought to be regarded as purely Scottish. Let me make the Government's policy quite clear. We believe that this is British oil. If we examine the SNP proposition we see that it suggests that oil found 100 miles or so to the east of the Shetland Islands, where I would think few Scotsmen have ever been, must be apportioned only to one part of the United Kingdom. What about the great natural gas resources off the East Anglian coast, currently supplying 95 per cent. of the gas consumption in the United Kingdom? Is that English or East Anglian gas? What about the oil which may exist in considerable quantities in the Irish Sea, the Celtic Sea or the south-western approaches to the English Channel? Is that to be apportioned to England and Wales, or to Cornwall? What about the vast coal reserves in the Selby field in Yorkshire—a find as significant, in its own way, as many of the North Sea oil finds? Does that belong to Yorkshire? When talking about nuclear capacity, let the Scottish National Party remember that the advances in technology taking place at Dounreay are there because of massive British investment in the nuclear power industry. When we examine this matter we can see how ludicrous it is—this artificial nationalist sub-division.
The hon. Gentleman did not favour us with his presence during the debate. I give way to the hon. Lady.
Since the Minister is a distinguished member of the Scottish Bar he will know very well where those reserves fall and under whose jurisdiction they fall. It was not the Scottish National Party that divided up the North Sea and labelled the Scottish sector and the English sector. That was done by international arrangement. The Minister must be aware of that.
The hon. Lady is incorrect. Regarding what is described as a Scottish and an English sector, an arbitrary line was drawn for the application of the civil law. It is in no way a median line, drawn for this purpose or for any international convention.Another aspect of the SNP policy to which I must draw attention is the suggestion that we should cut back oil production to 40 million tons a year. That would be a foolish policy to adopt. I hope that the SNP will explain to the people working in the platform yards, the steel yards, the concrete yards, and to those building modules and working in engineering works, that it wants to kill our offshore oil supply industry before it gets off the ground. I hope that it will explain why these people will be put out of work.
I shall not give way. I have very little time left to complete what I want to say.I hope that the Scottish National Party will make it clear that if we cut back oil production to 40 million tons a year there will be no development of the offshore oil supply industry in Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom, and that there will be considerable unemployment. I hope that the SNP will face the consequences of that situation. In considering the motion we must compare the policies principally of the Conservative Party against those of my right hon. Friend. I remind the House that a year ago the Conservatives left office in the midst of power cuts and shortages which they politely described as an attempt at energy conservation. I think that they must be guilty of a policy of overkill. We do not want to go back to that bleak time—to the rota cuts and the interruption of supplies. The then Government left the coal industry in disarray. Under this Government we have had the tripartite plan and we have got £600 million investment being put into the coal industry, which is set fair for the future.
I turn now to the nuclear power industry. The shifts and indecision—
No. I come now to the nuclear power industry. It is galling that hon. Gentlemen should criticise my right hon. Friend because, after a delay of 44 months, they took no decision on our next stage of reactors, whereas within four months my right hon. Friend took the courageous decision which he is now pursuing. The previous administration's policy on oil is a history of bad bargains and negligence of the nation's interests. It is clear from what the Government have done within a year that we are securing our energy resources by the full development of coal, nuclear power, natural gas and oil.I remind the Opposition parties that North Sea oil exploration and development is still going on. We have 28 or 29 rigs there at the moment. There have been two important discoveries recently, one by Conoco-NCB and the other by Texaco. What puzzles me most is why, of all subjects, the Opposition should start, at the beginning of what appears to be a new régime in their ranks—
No. The hon. Gentleman will not divert me from what I want to say. What puzzles me is why, of all the subjects that the Opposition could have picked, they chose energy which seems to be the one in which they have the least credible record while in Government and the least credible excuse for attacking my right hon. Friend. It is amazing that, given the choice of political weapons, they should be so masochistic as to choose the boomerang. That is what has happened. There has been no attempt to frame a censure motion and no attempt to deal with the matter actively and diligently. The right Hon. Member—
rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
Question put accordingly,
That the salary of the Secretary of State for Energy should be reduced by the sum of £1,000:—
The House divided: Ayes 266, Noes 298.
Division No. 108.]
|Adley, Robert||Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Mawby, Ray|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Alison, Michael||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Glyn Dr Alan||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Goodhart, Philip||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Goodhew, Victor||Mills, Peter|
|Baker, Kenneth||Goodlad, Alastair||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Banks, Robert||Gorst, John||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Beith, A. J.||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Moate, Roger|
|Bell, Ronald||Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Monro, Hector|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Gray, Hamish||Moore, John (Croydon C)|
|Benyon, W.||Grieve, Percy||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Griffiths, Eldon||Morgan, Geraint|
|Biffen, John||Grist, Ian||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Grylls, Michael||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)|
|Blaker, Peter||Hall, Sir John||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Body, Richard||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Mudd, David|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Hampson Dr Keith||Neave, Airey|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Hannam, John||Nelson, Anthony|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)||Neubert, Michael|
|Brittan, Leon||Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Newton, Tony|
|Brotherton, Michael||Hastings, Stephen||Normanton, Tom|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Havers, Sir Michael||Nott, John|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Hawkins, Paul||Onslow, Cranley|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Hayhoe, Barney||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally|
|Buck, Antony||Heseltine, Michael||Osborn, John|
|Budgen, Nick||Hicks, Robert||Page, John (Harrow West)|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Higgins, Terence L.||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Burden, F. A.||Holland, Philip||Pardoe, John|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hooson, Emlyn||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Carr, Rt Hon Robert||Hordern, Peter||Penhaligon, David|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Percival, Ian|
|Channon, Paul||Howell David (Guildford)||Peyton, Rt Hon John|
|Churchill, W. S||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Hunt, John||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Clegg, Walter||Hurd Douglas||Raison, Timothy|
|Cockcroft, John||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Rathbone, Tim|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Cope, John||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Cordle, John H.||James, David||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)|
|Cormack, Patrick||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd)||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)|
|Corrie, John||Jessel, Toby||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Costain, A. P.||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Critchley, Julian||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Crouch, David||Jopling, Michael||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Crowder, F. P.||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Kaberry Sir Donald||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Kershaw, Anthony||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Kimball, Marcus||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Drayson, Burnaby||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Durant, Tony||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Dykes, Hugh||Lamont, Norman||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Lane, David||Scott, Nicholas|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Elliott, Sir William||Latham, Michael (Melton)||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Emery, Peter||Lawrence, Ivan||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Eyre, Reginald||Lawson, Nigel||Shepherd, Colin|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Le Marchant, Spencer||Shersby, Michael|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Silvester, Fred|
|Farr, John||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Sims, Roger|
|Fell, Anthony||Lloyd, Ian||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||Luce, Richard||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Fletcher Alex (Edinburgh N)||McCrindle, Robert||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Macfarlane, Neil||Speed, Keith|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||MacGregor, John||Spence, John|
|Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)|
|Fox, Marcus||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Sproat, Iain|
|Freud Clement||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Stainton, Keith|
|Fry, Peter||Marten, Neil||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Mates, Michael||Stanley, John|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mather, Carol||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Maude, Angus||Steen Anthony (Wavertree)|
|Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)||Tugendhat, Christopher||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Stokes, John||van Straubenzee, W. R.||Wells, John|
|Stradling Thomas, J.||Vaughan, Dr Gerard||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Tapsell, Peter||Viggers, Peter||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)||Wakeham, John||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Tebbit, Norman||Walder, David (Clitheroe)||Younger, Hon George|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)|
|Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)||Wall, Patrick||Mr. Adam Butler and|
|Townsend, Cyril D.||Warren, Kenneth||Mr. Cecil Parkinson.|
|Abse, Leo||Doig, Peter||Johnson, James (Hull West)|
|Allaun, Frank||Dormand, J. D.||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)|
|Anderson, Donald||Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)|
|Archer, Peter||Dunlop, John||Jones, Barry (East Flint)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Dunn, James A.||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Ashley, Jack||Dunnett, Jack||Judd, Frank|
|Ashton, Joe||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Kaufman, Gerald|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Eadie, Alex||Kelley, Richard|
|Atkinson, Norman||Edelman, Maurice||Kerr, Russell|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Edge, Geoff||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Kinnock, Neil|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel||Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Lambie, David|
|Bates, Alf||English, Michael||Lamborn, Harry|
|Bean, R. E.||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Lamond, James|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Evans John (Newton)||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)|
|Bennett, Andrew(Stockport N)||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Faulds, Andrew||Lee, John|
|Bishop, E. S.||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Lever, Rt Hon Harold|
|Boardman, H.||Flannery, Martin||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Booth, Albert||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Lipton, Marcus|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Litterick, Tom|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Bradford, Rev Robert||Ford, Ben||Loyden, Eddie|
|Bradley, Tom||Forrester, John||Luard, Evan|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Lyon, Alexander (York)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Mabon, Dr J. Dickson|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||McCartney, Hugh|
|Buchan, Norman||George, Bruce||McCusker, H.|
|Buchanan, Richard||Gilbert, Dr John||McElhone, Frank|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||Ginsburg, David||MacFarquhar, Roderick|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Golding, John||McGuire, Michael (Ince)|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Gould, Bryan||Mackenzie, Gregor|
|Campbell, Ian||Gourlay, Harry||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Canavan, Dennis||Graham, Ted||Maclennan, Robert|
|Cant, R. B.||Grant, George (Morpeth)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Grocott, Bruce||McNamara, Kevin|
|Carter, Ray||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Madden, Max|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Magee, Bryan|
|Cartwright, John||Hamling, William||Mahon, Simon|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Hardy, Peter||Marks, Kenneth|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Harper, Joseph||Marquand, David|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Coleman, Donald||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Meacher, Michael|
|Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen||Hatton, Frank||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hayman Mrs Helene||Mendelson, John|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Mikardo, Ian|
|Corbett, Robin||Heffer, Eric S.||Millan, Bruce|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Hooley, Frank||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)|
|Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)||Horam, John||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Molloy, William|
|Cronin, John||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Molyneaux, James|
|Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony||Huckfield, Les||Moonman, Eric|
|Cryer, Bob||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Cunningham G. (Islington S)||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Davidson, Arthur||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Hunter, Adam||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Newens, Stanley|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Noble, Mike|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Oakes, Gordon|
|Deakins, Eric||Janner, Greville||Ogden, Eric|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||O'Halloran, Michael|
|de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Jeger, Mrs Lena||O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian|
|Delargy, Hugh||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Orbach, Maurice|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Dempsey, James||John, Brynmor||Ovenden, John|
|Owen, Dr David||Selby, Harry||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Padley, Walter||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Palmer, Arthur||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)||Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)|
|Park, George||Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Parker, John||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Parry, Robert||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)||Ward, Michael|
|Pavitt, Laurie||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)||Watkins, David|
|Pendry, Tom||Sillars, James||Watkinson, John|
|Perry, Ernest||Silverman, Julius||Weetch, Ken|
|Phipps, Dr Colin||Skinner, Dennis||Weitzman, David|
|Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch||Small, William||Wellbeloved, James|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Prescott, John||Snape, Peter||White, James (Pollok)|
|Price C. (Lewisham W)||Spearing, Nigel||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Price, William (Rugby)||Spriggs, Leslie||Whitlock, William|
|Radice, Giles||Stallard, A. W.||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)||Williams, Alan (Swansea W)|
|Richardson, Miss Jo||Stoddart, David||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Stott, Roger||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||Strang, Gavin||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Robertson, John (Paisley)||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.||Wilson, Rt Hon H. (Huyton)|
|Roderick, Caerwyn||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Swain, Thomas||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)||Woodall, Alec|
|Rooker, J. W.||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)||Woof, Robert|
|Roper, John||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Rose, Paul B.||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilm'nock)||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Ross, William (Londonderry)||Tierney, Sydney||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Ryman, John||Tinn, James||Miss Betty Boothroyd and|
|Sandelson, Neville||Tomlinson, John||Mr. Johh Ellis.|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Tomney, Frank|
Question accordingly negatived.