Alternative Sources

Oral Answers to Questions — Energy – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th June 1979.

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Photo of Mr David Knox Mr David Knox , Leek 12:00 am, 11th June 1979

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what discussions he has had with the European Commission regarding alternative sources of energy.

Photo of Mr Norman Lamont Mr Norman Lamont , Kingston upon Thames

Neither my right hon. Friend nor I have yet discussed this specific topic within the Community forum. A Council of Research Ministers is planned for 27 June, where a Commission proposal for a second four-year energy research and development programme, mainly on alternative energies and energy conservation, is likely to be considered.

Photo of Mr David Knox Mr David Knox , Leek

Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be much better for the member countries of the EEC to pool their resources in this research rather than have individual countries pursuing it, with the inevitable duplication that that involves?

Photo of Mr Norman Lamont Mr Norman Lamont , Kingston upon Thames

I agree with my hon. Friend. Given the scale of money involved and the distance of the likely returns from these projects, this is an area where it makes sense for individual countries to pool their resources.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook , Edinburgh Central

Can the Minister give the current figures for the proportion of the research and development budget of his Department which is being spent on research into alternative sources and conservation, and say how it compares with the proportion being spent on research into nuclear power?

Photo of Mr Norman Lamont Mr Norman Lamont , Kingston upon Thames

There is a substantial difference. In the EEC context, we have provisionally allocated £15·7 million over three or four years to research and development. These amounts will be increased as progress justifies. The current energy research and development programme of the Community itself amounts to 59 million European units of account for the four years ending 30 June 1979.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

Will my hon. Friend give priority to research into the development of the electric motor car?

Photo of Mr Norman Lamont Mr Norman Lamont , Kingston upon Thames

That subject falls within the Department, although not specifically within the matters which it is at present intended to discuss at the Council of Research Ministers. But I can assure my right hon. and learned Friend that it is a subject into which a lot of research is being done by the industry.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

Will the hon. Gentleman not get too obsessive about putting all our energy into these programmes through the European Economic Community? Is he aware that there are many forms of alternative energy which are especially applicable in Britain, and that the research for them in many ways is better done here, where we know our needs, than in Europe, where they may not focus on our real needs?

Photo of Mr Norman Lamont Mr Norman Lamont , Kingston upon Thames

My hon. Friend explained earlier that there is a national programme of research into alternative sources of energy. In this question, we are discussing a few specific areas where we have decided to pool resources. Obviously, care is taken to see that these research programmes are complementary to national programmes and do not merely duplicate them.

Photo of Mr Nigel Forman Mr Nigel Forman , Sutton Carshalton

Will my hon. Friend ensure that the interests of energy storage are not lost sight of in this work with our EEC partners, since they form a vital part of the future success of alternative sources of energy?

Photo of Mr Norman Lamont Mr Norman Lamont , Kingston upon Thames

This is a matter which is being reviewed in our national programme. I shall see whether it is one which can also be considered in the Community collaboration.