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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.