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European Community (Energy Policy)

Volume 974: debated on Monday 26 November 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he is satisfied with progress towards the development of an EEC energy policy.

The main thrust on energy developments comes from member States' national energy programmes, supplemented by action at community level on matters of shared concern. Acting together, we can also all make an important and effective contribution to the discussion of international energy issues.

In view of the seriousness of the world energy position and the consequent urgency that an EEC energy policy should be determined, does my hon. Friend agree that, so far, progress has been pathetically slow? What initiatives do the Government intend to take that might lead to the development of a common energy policy in the EEC?

One of the most important things that needs to be done is to get solidarity in the Community on the consumption of energy and energy imports into the Community. Progress has been made on that. Import targets have been agreed up to the year 1985. The United Kingdom Government play a constructive part in the Energy Council. One proposal that we put forward recently was that for coal. We are anxious that a European coal policy should be developed, which would be of great advantage to this country.

While welcoming the effort to secure a sensible coal policy may I ask the Minister to make it very clear to Europe that it cannot expect to benefit from British oil reserves throughout the 1980s?

We make it quite clear to our Community partners what we expect the profile of production of oil from the North Sea to be. However, these are matters within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom Government.

Will the Minister confirm that his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will reject the German claim that North Sea oil should be sold to the EEC at lower than market prices?

Yes. That would be to nobody's benefit. The North Sea oil price is determined by world market forces. If we made an effort to suppress it below those levels it would merely mean that other people would buy that oil and on-sell it at higher prices. That would not be to anybody's advantage.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that, subject to satisfactory feasibility studies, the Government will look favourably upon the construction of a cross-Channel gas pipeline link?