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Volume 974: debated on Monday 26 November 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he now expects that the United Kingdom will be a net exporter of oil.

On present prospects, the future rate of the build-up of North Sea oil production is expected to result in net self-sufficiency some time during 1980.

Surely the Minister could be more precise as to exactly when next year we are likely to be self-sufficient? Can he at least assure the House that when we are self-sufficient we shall keep enough oil for our own use and needs before we start exporting it elsewhere?

On the first point, it is extremely difficult to forecast exactly when we shall be self-sufficient, but it is expected to be during the second half of 1980. It is difficult to give the over-the-year position. On the second point, I confirm to the hon. and learned Gentleman that we shall do as he suggests.

While welcoming the coming increase in oil supplies, may I ask my hon. Friend nevertheless to look at the serious loss of exchange from which we are suffering because too much oil is being refined in Rotterdam while our refinery industry is working below capacity, with oil then being reimported into this country at the spot market prices?

My hon. Friend will appreciate that we have frequent consultations with the oil companies on the subject. We do our utmost to ensure that the assurances given by our predecessor are adhered to in this way.