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Organisation Of Petroleum Exporting Countries

Volume 972: debated on Monday 29 October 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he will seek to attend the next Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries meeting.

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House why the United Kingdom is not eligible, if it is not, to become a full member of OPEC? If the United Kingdom could become a member, would not that be helpful, bearing in mind that we are now exporting certain grades of oil? Is my right hon. Friend aware that OPEC membership would enable us to take part in discussing future pricing policies with other OPEC countries?

The rules of OPEC are that applicants must not only be substantial net exporters of crude petroleum—which we are not—but have fundamentally similar interests to those of existing members. We do not satisfy either of those criteria. I recognise the argument that my hon. Friend is advancing, which is that we must have constructive discussions with OPEC members. As both a major producer of oil and a consumer, we are in a position to do that. I have attended a number of functions at which OPEC members have been present. I have had constructive and useful discussions with them. I intend to do more of that.