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Common Energy Policy

Volume 21: debated on Monday 5 April 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy what progress was made at the last meeting of the European Energy Council in agreeing a common energy policy.

The Council of Energy Ministers on 16 March renewed its commitment to reduce dependence on imported oil and to the more efficient use of energy. Commission papers on coal, nuclear power, gas and investment in the efficient use of energy were considered, but were not ready for decisions by this Council.

Will my hon. Friend ensure that we, as the leading energy producer in Europe, lead any discussions on a common energy policy and not opt out, as would the Labour Party?

While I recognise the necessity of working towards a common energy policy within the EEC, I should point out to my hon. Friend that priorities are not always the same for every member country. Considerable progress has been made on such things as energy pricing and conservation and the reduced dependence on oil, as well as the fusion programmes. Progress is being made, if not perhaps as quickly as my hon. Friend would wish.

Will the Minister assure the House that no common energy policy will mean the loss of national control over all our energy resources?

That would be the wish of every hon. Member and the objective of the Government.

Will the Energy Ministers in Europe make sure that the reserves of oil are not reduced below the levels recommended by the International Energy Agency just because there happens to be a surplus and lower prices now? Would this not be a dangerous development in view of the possible strategic advantages that can accrue from the maintenance of those reserves at a reasonable level?

My hon. Friend will be aware that the maintenance of adequate reserves need not necessarily conflict with the economic use of oil, which is the objective of the Community.

Can the Minister of State give us any good reason why he believes that there should be a common energy policy in Europe?

I am sure that the majority of hon. Members would agree that there are vast areas in energy where a common energy policy is advantageous. However, I pointed out at the outset that the priorities of countries are different, and therefore, across-the-board energy policies may be much more difficult to achieve than seems likely now.

When the Minister says that there are vast areas in energy where a common energy policy is advantageous, could he give us just one example to help us?

There is little doubt that, as I suggested at the outset, a common form of energy pricing would be advantageous for energy conservation. Realistic energy pricing is essential.