Council of Energy Ministers

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 Tom Arnold Mr Tom Arnold , Hazel Grove 12:00 am, 11th June 1979

asked the secretary of state for Energy when he expects next to meet his colleagues in the EEC.

Photo of Mr Harvey Proctor Mr Harvey Proctor , Basildon

asked the secretary of state for Energy when he expect next to meet his colleagues in the EEC.

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

I shall be meeting my EEC energy colleagues at the next meeting of the Council of Energy Ministers which is presently expected to be on 18 June.

Photo of Mr Tom Arnold Mr Tom Arnold , Hazel Grove

When my right hon. Friend next sees his EEC colleagues, will he press for an across-the-board reduction in oil consumption of about 5 per cent. throughout the Community?

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

An across-the-board 5 per cent. reduction is already an accepted and agreed target with the EEC Ministers, as it is with the International Energy Agency countries as well. Different national programmes, including our own, are directed at achieving demand restraint and a cut in demand of that order in the present year.

Photo of Mr Harvey Proctor Mr Harvey Proctor , Basildon

Will my right hon. Friend give a simple and clear assurance that Britain will retain control over her own oil supplies?

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

Of course, we must see that the needs of British industry and the consumer are met. That is certainly my determination, but we intend to do it in line with our international and EEC obligations. I think that that is the right way forward. I believe that we shall make more progress on that basis than by, as it were, declaring war on the EEC the whole time.

Photo of Dr Jeremy Bray Dr Jeremy Bray , Motherwell and Wishaw

Will the right hon. Gentleman explore with the European energy Ministers how they have managed to prevent the oil companies from putting their customers on to allocation while in Britain the oil companies have put their customers on to allocation?

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

I shall be making a statement on precisely this point later today, if I have your permission, Mr. Speaker, and certainly I shall expand upon it then. But the hon. Member is right. The position which the new Government faced when we came into office on 4 May was very unsatisfactory. It does not meet aims of the kind that I wish to see for British industry and for the British people.

Photo of Mr Peter Hordern Mr Peter Hordern , Horsham and Crawley

What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with his colleagues in the European Community about making the strongest representations to the Government of the United States, who seem to be following a policy of increasing consumption at home while forcing up the price abroad?

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

I share the thought behind my hon. Friend's question. I have had discussions with other energy Ministers in the EEC. On behalf of EEC Ministers collectively, in the role of the presidency, the French energy Minister flew to Washington to make the strongest possible representations and to point out the dangers of unilateral action of this kind.

Photo of Dr Dickson Mabon Dr Dickson Mabon , Greenock and Port Glasgow

May we take it from the Secretary of State that, in view of his chairmanship of the IEA in Paris 19 or 20 days ago on the subject of coal, he will try to make a major initiative on the Council of Ministers, as his predecessors did, to get a European agreement on coal production?

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

I should like to make progress in an EEC context on the production of coal. I believe that we stand a better chance, although I am sure the right hon. Gentleman understands the difficulties, if we start from the proposition that it is in our national interest to work with the EEC rather than against the EEC.