Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th March 1979.

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Photo of Sir Peter Emery Sir Peter Emery , Honiton 12:00 am, 26th March 1979

The Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) have attempted once again to further two myths which are basic tenets in Socialist energy policy. These myths are that only a Socialist Government have attempted to gain for Britain the benefits of North Sea oil and that only that Socialist Government have protected British oil from encroachment by the EEC.

Both myths are untrue. I wish to give my reasons, without harangue. In the period 1970–74, all exploration—licences and all exploitation—the finding and getting of oil—were under Government control. All oil has to be brought to the United Kingdom. I do not accept the comparison made by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Stoddart) between fissile material and oil. He must realise that part of that arrangement is based upon the Euratom structure, the treaty in respect of which we signed and which his Government did not feel the need to renegotiate. We are now talking about a Commission regulation.

"Government take"—the easiest way of explaining to the British taxpayer the benefits of North Sea oil—was fully under the control of the British Government, either by taxation or by an ad valorem tax. Both had been made clear to the oil companies. Those who say that the Conservative Government did not act correctly should remember that not one drop of oil reached the shore when that Government were in power. The Secretary of State may recall that he opened the valve which let in the first oil from the Argyll field. Therefore, the concept that we should have announced the taxation of oil that had not yet come ashore is complete and utter nonsense. Not only was the export of oil under the control of the British Government; its exportation had been stopped and limited by the Heath Government during the fuel crisis.

Lastly, we come to the matter of conservation and depletion. I know personally that the major oil companies had accepted that production targets could be agreed with the Government on an annual basis, reviewed over a revolving five-year forecast, which was the method that the Conservative Government were approaching.