Oil Supplies

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th October 1973.

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Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester 12:00 am, 24th October 1973

During recent months we have increased our stocks of oil. We now have stocks of 79 days on forward consumption basis and there are in addition some 30 days supply on the ocean. We are now in a position to meet requirements for some months ahead if there were an emergency.

As to future supplies, there have been some losses through the pipelines to the Mediterranean; and the Arab States announced last week their intention to make cumulative cuts in their oil production. It would appear that there will be some variations between countries as to the extent and the manner in which such cuts will be applied and the future impact is uncertain. The effect of these various restrictions on United Kingdom oil supplies is so far slight.

On prices the OPEC countries have announced a steep and immediate increase in oil costs equivalent to 2p a gallon in breach of agreements. The Government are discussing these increases with other consumer nations.

Given the uncertainties overall, the Government consider that it would be prudent that certain measures should be taken. It is naturally a time when we must ask the public to do everything in their power to avoid any wastage not only of oil but also of our total energy resources. I would ask that motorists should endeavour to cut down on petrol consumption and to use public transport to a greater extent where that is available. I would also hope that industrial and commercial users of energy would carefully examine any areas where they can make useful savings.

I would ask domestic users to make all the savings that are possible in their homes, particularly with regard to heating appliances.

In urging economy at home we clearly cannot permit exports to be uncontrolled. The Government will therefore take such powers as appropriate to control the export of oil and oil products beyond the Community.

The Government do not consider it necessary to introduce a rationing scheme. In case we do ever need such a scheme, contingency plans have been brought to a state of readiness. There will of course be full prior consultations with industry, the oil companies and the motoring organisations should the Government decide that the implementation of these schemes is necessary. We shall, if required, bring before the House an enabling Bill that will grant us the powers to introduce these controls.

Long before the recent announcements on the cost and supply of Middle East oil, the Government have been pursuing policies to develop our alternative energy supplies swiftly.

We shall continue to do everything possible to speed up the development of our oil and gas resources in the North Sea and we have asked the oil companies concerned to inform us of any delays that occur in developing their projects, and any matters that hamper them from proceeding as fast as possible with new schemes.

The Coal Industry Act has had an important impact in arresting the decline in our coal production that had been allowed to take place in previous years, and we are in the course of discussing with the National Coal Board its long-range plans for further development of the industry.

We have reorganised the nuclear power industry and we shall be making important decisions as to the development of nuclear power stations during the next few months.

I will keep the House informed of further developments.