asked the Secretary of State for Energy what was the total United Kingdom crude oil production and consumption for the last quarter for which figures are available; and how these figures compare with the same quarter a year before.
Provisional figures for total United Kingdom petroleum production and consumption in the three months January to March 1982 are 23·5 million tonnes and 19·8 million tonnes respectively. Corresponding figures for the same period in 1981 are 21·9 million tonnes and 19·9 million tonnes.
In view of those encouraging figures—which again underline the fact that we are now self-sufficient in oil—does my hon. Friend believe that the recent increase in the number of onshore exploration licences which have been granted is justified, particularly in view of the adverse environmental consequences of some of them?
Yes, I would certainly say that the increase is fully justified. My hon. Friend will appreciate that it is essential that we determine the exact extent of our resources for the future.With regard to the environment, I reiterate that the award of a licence does not exclude the licensee from the normal planning requirements.
Does the Minister agree that our North Sea oil and gas resources are finite? That being so, will he accept that our consumption and production should be level? Is it not a betrayal of future generations of Britons to extract oil so quickly in order to pay for the 3 million unemployed?
I find it very difficult to equate what the hon. Gentleman has just said with the utterances from his own Front Bench a little earlier. He will appreciate that if we were to cut back production substantially, far from increasing the opportunities for our offshore supply industry, we would be removing them.
Does my hon. Friend agree that lower oil prices are bound to lead to reduced activity in the North Sea? Is not the temporary hiccup more than balanced by the enormous advantages, particularly to heavy manufacturing industry, of having lower fuel prices?
My hon. Friend is correct. Lower oil prices offer us many benefits.