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Energy Policy

Volume 972: debated on Monday 29 October 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will publish a White Paper setting out the energy policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Our energy strategy has been set out in a number of statements and speeches. I shall continue to expound the Government's thinking on the necessary policies to meet our energy problems. We shall keep under review the best way in which these can be presented most effectively to Parliament and the public.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it has been suggested in some quarters that the energy policy of the present Administration is not to have one? Is that comment accurate or otherwise?

I sometimes think that there is a tendency to confuse energy policy with merely writing down in hope a great many targets and figures for the future and imagining that one thereby has a strategy to meet them. That is not so. Our energy strategy consists of tackling vigorously, by a number of means, all the problems relating to energy matters, in a way that does not seem to have been done with much vigour in recent years.

Although it may not be necessary to have another White Paper at this stage, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is necessary to push forward with conservation measures to the greatest possible extent? Will he assure both sides of the House that the watchwords are still "Save it" rather than "Shelve it"?

I agree that conservation has a central part in our strategy. It is not the Government alone who can bring about the necessary conservation. As a nation we shall have to learn to make the most of energy and to maintain, and possibly to improve, our high living standards with a smaller growth in the supply of oil. That is the reality, to which all minds, including those of the Government and industry, must be directed.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a good deal of confusion in industry about his energy policy, especially the supply of gas to industry? Is he further aware that industry in my constituency and in others is being delayed because of the refusal by the British Gas Corporation to supply gas? That, in turn, is preventing jobs from being created.

As a result of doubts about oil there has been a considerable growth of interest in and demands for gas connections. I am aware that the hon. Gentleman has a problem in his constituency, involving an industrial estate. I understand that the developer gave undertakings that there would be gas connections and then found that the gas could not be supplied at short notice. That is inevitable. It is a problem for the developer, which in the instance to which I refer was the local authority.