Gas (Supply and Demand)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:51 pm on 14th March 2006.

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson Secretary of State for Trade and Industry 3:51 pm, 14th March 2006

I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his new position—and immediately disagree with him. He says that this is the first time in the whole history of our fabulous nation that we have had a gas balancing alert. Yes, that is true—because gas balancing alerts were introduced for the first time this winter. That is the simple fact. The system worked, and it was right to introduce it. When my hon. Friend the Minister for Energy spoke last November, the situation was completely different; we had not lost the Rough facility. A cold snap in December led to companies taking gas out of storage early in the winter, which was expensive and put up prices. The issue was not about gas supplies; there was plenty of gas around in December.

The hon. Gentleman raised another issue that was completely wrong, too. He put a bizarre question: could I confirm that in Germany and France there is lots of storage, whereas in the UK, without Rough, we do not have so much storage? Yes, I can confirm that. As Rough holds 80 per cent. of our storage capacity, I can confirm to Opposition Members that when Rough is out of action our storage capacity is reduced. I hope that that helps them.