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National Energy Policy

Volume 76: debated on Monday 1 April 1985

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2.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will now initiate discussions on the formulation of a national energy policy.

I shall continue to discuss all aspects of national energy policy as appropriate.

As there is now the possibility of an expedited pit closure programme, will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that the £10 million currently assigned for the economic and social consequences of such a programme will be almost immediately vastly increased? That money could be spent in Fife alone, let alone in coalfields throughout the United Kingdom.

I repeat that I am anxious for NCB (Enterprise) Limited to have considerable success. I realise that if it is successful it will need considerably more finance that has been made available so far. I have always made it clear that it is absurd to allocate to that organisation money that it has not yet spent. However, I am pleased to say that 10 allocations of funds have, I think, already been approved. There are many more applicants, and I certainly wish to see that body adequately financed.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the last attempt to have a national energy policy was in 1978? Does he agree that flexibility is the most important thing, and that it would therefore be unwise to lay down clear objectives now?

I think that there is something more positive than that. This country is fortunate enough to have considerable offshore oil and gas industries. We also have a considerable ability in mining machinery, coal mining and nuclear power.

All of those factors have a substantial international application. I am anxious to ensure that in all those areas the options are kept open and active, and that they are applied internationally to the maximum.

Cannot those options be kept open and the uncertainty faced while still publishing some objectives and priorities? Do not most well organised big businesses have corporate plans which run for, say, a five-year period and which can be revised every year or so, taking into account the differing circumstances?

I can only unfairly and unreasonably remind the hon. Gentleman that the Labour party, which he used to support, had such a corporate plan and that every one of its projections proved to be wrong.

Before we go for a new policy, we need to clarify the present situation. The Secretary of State did not answer my question. Mr. McNestry went to the High Court—

Order. I should be obliged if the right hon. Gentleman would stick to the subject of question No. 2 and not return to question No. 1.

Order. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the same rule must apply to both Front Benchers and Back Benchers. Will he please relate his question to question No. 2?

The point is that in order to obtain the sort of new energy policy that the question mentions, we must clarify the present position. The Secretary of State did not answer the question about the modified review procedure or about what Mr. McNestry told me concerning the present procedure not being carried out. When will the Government carry it out?

I repeat that the NCB wishes to get down to negotiating and talking about the modified procedure, if possible, next week. Earlier, there was a lot of shouting and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman did not hear me. However, I repeat that, with regard to the Bedwas pit, an interim arrangement has been made at the request of the NUM. If, as a result of its continuing assessment, the board judges that the pit must remain closed, the procedures and agreements relating to closures will be fully operative.