Oral Answers to Questions — North Sea Oil (Production)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd May 1976.

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Photo of Hon. Peter Morrison Hon. Peter Morrison , City of Chester 12:00 am, 3rd May 1976

asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he remains satisfied with the proposed output of oil from the North Sea during the next four years.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

I am satisfied with the progress made, and the prospects remain good.

Photo of Hon. Peter Morrison Hon. Peter Morrison , City of Chester

If the right hon. Gentleman remains satisfied and if we are to become an oil-exporting nation, why does he not consider it necessary to become a member of OPEC?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

I have dealt with that matter in answer to an earlier Question. [HON. MEMBERS: "No".] I did not speak about the future, I said that we had not applied to be considered for membership. However, if the House feels that this matter merits special consideration I feel sure that the Government will listen to all proposals which are made. That had not been our intention, but we shall be the tenth largest oil producer and a very important oil exporter as well.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Glasgow Cathcart

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that output depends a great deal upon price? Does he really think that it will be possible for the OPEC price ring to maintain the present high price level for oil at a time when there is a world glut of oil, as there will be for a long time to come?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

The world price of oil and the forecasts are a matter of great concern to all oil-consuming countries as well as oil-producing countries. Like any Minister in my position, I try to find out what the prospects are. There are many factors, some of which are being discussed at the CIEC conference which is taking place between oil producers and oil consumers, and there are other factors bearing on the strength of recovery of the world economy. I should not like to give a forecast, but I should like to reassure the House that this is a matter which we are keeping carefully under review.

Photo of Mr Edwin Wainwright Mr Edwin Wainwright , Dearne Valley

Will my right hon. Friend take into account that it is essential that we should maintain greater contact with the OPEC countries, not only for the purpose of discussing oil but because in those countries, especially Kuwait, there is a demand for equipment and technical know-how? Will my right hon. Friend, together with the Secretaries of State for Trade and for Industry, bear in mind that in combination they can work for the benefit of trade between the OPEC countries and this country?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

I agree strongly with what my hon. Friend has said. In fact, one of the first things I did when I was appointed to my present position was to invite the OPEC ambassadors to come and see me in my Department to discuss this and other matters. The Department of Trade has pursued these possibilities. The Offshore Supplies Office is very much concerned. I referred in my first supplementary answer to the importance of developing the opportunities for exports of oil-related equipment, and I share the view which my hon. Friend has expressed.