Orders of the Day — Energy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th February 1975.

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Photo of Mr Eric Varley Mr Eric Varley , Chesterfield 12:00 am, 25th February 1975

There is a political commitment that we have to fulfil. The hon. Gentleman should know this. It was a policy set out clearly without any apologies in the February and October manifestos. That political commitment must be honoured.

Far from the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that the efforts would come to a grinding halt being correct, at present there are 29 exploration rigs operating in the British sector compared with 21 at this time last year. Yet the right hon. Gentleman said on 13th February of last year that the whole of our offshore oil effort would come to a erinding halt. Far from coming to a halt, that effort is going ahead well and providing jobs for Britain as well. During 1974, 100 exploration and appraisal wells were begun or drilled compared with only 61 during 1973.

Contrary to all the scare stories which the right hon. Gentleman has been putting about, present indications are that this high level of activity is likely to continue this year. The Forties and Auk production platforms are now being installed and development drilling is expected to commence shortly. Of 18 platforms under construction or on order for the United Kingdom sector of the North Sea, 11 are being built in the United Kingdom. In the second half of 1972 only two modules were being built in the United Kingdom. By 1974 this had increased to 152.

I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman should be so upset by good news, for I am well aware that he thrives on bad news. In fact, good news for Britain is had news for the Tory Party. It is only a matter of three months ago that the right hon. Gentleman, addressing an appreciative audience of Conservative women in Somerset on 22nd November, declared: The Government maintain their bland confidence that we can get through the winter without power cuts, but this assumes a mild winter, no industrial action, no interruption in oil supplies, no power station breakdowns. A scarcely credible combination. I am a cautious man and the winter is not over yet, but so far at any rate we have had that "scarcely credible combination". We have had a mild winter. Industrial action—there has not been any. Oil supplies—they are flowing freely. Power station breakdowns—touch wood, there has been none so far.

The only "scarcely credible combination" is the combination of right hon. Ladies and Gentlemen who so deservedly occupy the Opposition Front Bench. They cannot believe in government without power cuts, since during every single winter when they held office there were power cuts and black-outs brought about by their deliberate policies of industrial confrontation. This is the first winter since 1969 which we have so far managed to get through while avoiding dimmed lights, sudden cuts or fuel restrictions.

The right hon. Gentleman sneered at our energy conservation policies as inadequate. I have never said that our proposals on energy conservation are the last word. I am not proud. If there are those who can make politically realistic and credible energy conservation proposals, we shall consider them sincerely and carefully. We have a long way to go on energy conservation, but at least our energy conservation policies are voluntary policies. Those of the Tories were forced on them in an unnecessary crisis brought about by the massive failure of their industrial and energy policies.

It is the Tory Party which has the brass neck to move a vote of censure on the Government who are at last taking action that makes sense on coal, gas, nuclear policy, and oil. The House will reject the Tories' words and their motion.