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Written Answers

Volume 489: debated on Wednesday 28 October 1987

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Written Answers

International Energy Agency

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they participate fully in the work of the International Energy Agency, whether they were consulted in advance of the publication of the agency's last annual report, and whether they accept its conclusions.

the Government participate fully in the work of the International Energy Agency; it was consulted on the report of the UK contained in the 1987 review, Energy Policies and Programmes of IEA Countries. The Government respect the general views and conclusions of the IEA, whose policies of promoting free and open markets for energy, increased energy efficiency, and diversification of supply are in line with their own.

Energy Policy: Aims And Priorities

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will now accede to the request made both in debate on 8th July and in the last annual report of the International Energy Agency, to provide a clear definition of the Government's aims and priorities in energy policy.

Since 1979 the objective of energy policy has been to ensure that the UK has adequate efficient, secure and diverse supplies of energy available at the lowest possible cost. To achieve that, the Government have a well-known policy of reliance on market forces and they bring these to bear where practicable through privatisation, encouraging competition and efficiency, and applying financial disciplines to those nationalised industries that for the time being cannot be privatised.

Cegb Coal Purchase Agreement

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they at any time expressed approval of the commercial agreement between the CEGB and British Coal governing the volumes and prices of coal bought by the former from the latter.

Yes. I refer to my noble friend to the answer given by my right honourable friend the then Secretary of State for Energy, Peter Walker, MP, of 5th June 1986 at col. 606 of the Official Report, in which he endorsed the agreement for the first two years for which it is firm.

Heavy Fuel Oil Import Prices

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they are aware of charts recording heavy fuel oil import prices (including duty) prepared by Oil Prices Assessments Ltd., London, and quoted in the CBI document

European Industrial Energy Prices September/October 1986, showing the United Kingdom prices between 5 and 10 per cent. higher than those in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands over a two-year period; whether they accept the accuracy of these charts; and whether there has been any significant change since September 1986.

The Government are aware of the work carried out by Oil Price Assessments Ltd. There have been no major changes in relative prices of fuel oil since September 1986; in fact the UK remains competitive with the other countries and it is French industry which experiences the highest prices, although there are limitations on the value of comparisons, as the CBI report itself pointed out. Duty on heavy fuel oil has not been increased since 1980.

Natural Gas Import Proposals

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they were approached formally or informally by British Gas for consent to contract for the long-term purchase of natural gas from the Sleipner field, and, if so, whether consent was given or refused.

Last year British Gas undertook to consult the Government on plans to import gas as these develop. Since privatisation, British Gas has not come forward with any plan to import gas from Sleipner or any other Norwegian field.

Gas And Electricity Industries: Purchasing And Pricing Policies

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the (i) weighted average gas price charged by British Gas places United Kingdom industrial consumers at a 50 per cent. cost disadvantage against those in Western Europe; and (ii) whether the CEGB buys most of its coal at prices more than £10 per tonne above those ruling in Rotterdam, and, if so whether this is in the interest of obtaining energy supplies for industry at prices competitive with those obtaining in France, West Germany, the Netherlands and Italy.

The detailed purchasing and pricing policies of the industries are a commercial matter for them, within the constraints of the Government's financial or regulatory framework as appropriate.

British Gas sells into the industrial market in competition with other fuels. British Gas publishes its maximum contract price, but industrial consumers who negotiate effectively may achieve substantially lower prices. The figures for UK gas prices published by the Department of Energy in the September issue of Energy Trends do not appear to support my noble friend's suggestion of an average 50 per cent. cost disadvantage against Western Europe.

The CEGB's coal purchasing takes into account such factors as international coal prices, the cost of transporting coal, the prevailing sterling exchange rate and long-term stability of supply. Spot prices, such as those quoted in Rotterdam, do not usually reflect the price of long-term supplies nor apply to the large volumes required by the CEGB.

Gas Prices

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether Ofgas are yet satisfied with information provided by British Gas on exactly how they set gas prices.

This is a matter for the Director General of Gas Supply. I have asked the director general to write to my noble friend.

Gas: Uk Trading Policy

asked Her Majesty's Government:What action they propose to take to respond to the views expressed by the International Energy Agency, of which the United Kingdom is a member, that "the international gas trade should be liberalised, for exports as well as imports" and that Her Majesty's Government "should recognise the benefits of integration into the wider European market".

Following privatisation of British Gas, the Government introduced a more open policy on gas exports and imports, which offers increased opportunity for interaction with the wider European market. Under the new policy the Government will give positive consideration to export and import proposals, while paying due regard to security of gas supply and the pace of UKCS activity.

Energy: Competitive Pricing Policy

asked Her Majesty's Government:What steps they propose to take to ensure that energy costs to British industry match those available to its European and world competitors respectively.

The Government recognises the importance which industry attaches to a competitive energy market. To this end, they will continue to promote competition and efficiency in the supply and use of energy.

Fco Papers: Publication

asked Her Majesty's Government:Which Foreign and Commonwealth Office papers have been made available to the public since October 1986.

Since 1st October 1986, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (excluding the Overseas Development Administration) has made the following papers available to the public on request:

Africa

  • Namibia: Chronology January-September 1986.
  • Namibia: Chronology October 1986-June 1987.
  • Relations between Libya and Sudan in the Qadhafi and Nimerei Period.
  • Southern African Transport Routes.

Americas

  • Contadora Chronology: August 1985-October 1986.
  • Cuba: Party Congress and Rectification.
  • Fishing Around the Falklands.
  • Haiti A Year After Duvalier: A Chronology.
  • Latin American Regional Organisations.

Asia

  • Afghanistan in 1986.
  • Afghanistan: The Armed Forces.
  • Afghanistan Chronology: July 1985-October 1986.
  • Afghanistan: Human Rights.
  • Afghanistan Report: The Fighting.
  • Afghanistan Report: Regime's Peace Overtures.
  • Afghanistan: Soviet Media Coverage.
  • Afghanistan: UN Involvement.
  • ASEAN: Twenty Years On.
  • Cambodia in 1986.
  • General Information on Japan.
  • General Information on the Republic of Korea.
  • Refugees from Indochina.
  • Royal Visits to Hong Kong.
  • Vietnam: Prospects for Progress.

China

  • China's Energy Prospects.
  • China's External Economic Relations.
  • China's National Minorities.
  • General Information on the People's Republic of China.
  • Women in China.

Europe

  • Britain in Luxembourg.
  • Copenhagen Peace Congress in Retrospect.
  • East European Energy Prospects.
  • Poland: Analysis of the Gains and Losses Arising from the Solidarity Period.
  • The UK Presidency, July-December 1986.
  • Vienna CSCE Follow-up Meeting: Background and Chronology.

Near and Middle East

  • The Abu Nidhal Group and State Terrorism.
  • Arab-Israel Chronology: January 1986-February 1987.
  • The Arab League and Arab Summit Conferences.
  • Chronology of the Iran-Iraq Conflict.
  • General Information on Bahrain.
  • General Information on Oman.
  • General Information on Qatar.
  • General Information on Saudi Arabia.
  • The Hindawi Case: Syrian Connexions.

Soviet Union

  • Soviet Bloc Aid to Special Friends.
  • Soviet Communist Party's Role in External Propaganda.
  • Soviet Energy Prospects.
  • Soviet Fishing Off the Developing Countries.
  • Soviet Foreign Trade.
  • Survival of Islam in the Soviet Union.
  • The USSR and Events in the PDRY.

United Nations

  • Major UN Groups and Major Groupings Relating to the UN System.
  • UN Conference on Disarmament and Development.
  • UN Peace-keeping

Disarmament

  • Arms Control and Disarmament: Quarterly Review No. 3.
  • Arms Control and Disarmament: Quarterly Review No. 4.
  • Arms Control and Disarmament: Quarterly Review No. 5.
  • Arms Control and Disarmament: Quarterly Review No. 6.
  • Twenty Questions on Defence (prepared in conjuction with MoD)

Economic

  • Aid to the Developing World.
  • World Fisheries.
  • World Food Supplies.
  • World Shipping Prospects.

International

  • International Response to Drug Abuse.
  • International Symposium on the Mass Media.
  • Non-Aligned Summit.

General

  • Acid Rain.
  • Is Intervention Ever Justified?
  • Summary of Consular Trends in 1986.

Professional Liability: Inquiry

asked Her Majesty's Government:What representations they have received in the past year on the subject of professional liability; and if they will set up an independent inquiry with a view to legislating in this area.

Representations have been received from noble Lords and from bodies representing a number of professions including accountants, lawyers, surveyors, architects, patent agents, consulting engineers, town planners and consultants. The subject has also been debated in the House.In the light of these representations, we have decided to commission a series of fact-finding studies into selected professions to establish the nature, scope, extent and implications of the liability problems they face. The studies will look at three groups of professions‚ÄĒauditors; architects/ consulting engineers/construction surveyors; and will be undertaken by independent study teams with standard terms of reference, copies of which have been placed in the Library. Membership of the study teams will be announced in due course.

Ni Transportation Strategy Review: Facilities For Elderly And Disabled Persons

asked Her Majesty's Government:What response they have made, or will make, to the criticism that the Transportation Strategy Review contains no detailed recommendations to improve public transport for the elderly and for people with disabilities.

The review of the transportation strategy is an integral part of the Belfast Urban Area Plan, which is strategic in nature and is concerned primarily with land use issues. Interested parties were invited to submit their views at the outset of the plan preparation. No specific representations were received at that stage about improvement of public transport facilities for the elderly and the disabled.The preliminary proposals document which was published for public consultation in May 1987 contained a transportation strategy framework based on the report and recommendations of the consultants appointed to carry out the review. Several organisations have responded to the preliminary proposals by submitting representations relating to the interests of the elderly and the disabled, and these are being considered. There will be further opportunity for comment when the draft Belfast Urban Area Plan is published shortly.