HC Deb 15 July 1991 vol 195 cc3-4
2. Mr. Rost

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he is satisfied with progress towards the development of a competitive gas market by independent suppliers.

The Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. John Wakeham)

I shall announce shortly the results of my Department's monitoring of gas contracted over the past two years. I am encouraged by the progress made so far, although there is still some way to go to achieve a fully competitive gas market.

Mr. Rost

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Director General of Gas Supply has expressed the view that there will be no meaningful competition in gas until at least 30 per cent. of the industrial market is offered by the new independent suppliers? Will my right hon. Friend do everything that he can to encourage those efforts?

Mr. Wakeham

The review is into the first two years of the new system and I hope shortly to be able to publish that and to report on it. We want there to be as fully competitive a market as possible. The advice given to us by Ofgas is important in formulating that opinion.

Mr. Hardy

Does the Minister accept that history is likely to find cause for deep regret in the unseemly haste with which British Gas reserves are being exploited? Does he realise that the unseemly haste is emphasised by the fact that that premium fuel is largely being used for steam-raising purposes? The Government will stand charged with gross irresponsibility when a wiser generation is in charge of this country's energy affairs.

Mr. Wakeham

I do not accept that at all. Gas has an important part to play in power generation, not least because of the good environmental effects of using gas.

Mr. Hannam

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the difficulties over the supply of gas to some independent private power project companies. Can he give an update on the latest stage of the negotiations between British Gas and the companies concerned?

Mr. Wakeham

British Gas is soon to introduce a new price schedule for all power generation customers. I hope that the new schedule will help to resolve the current difficulties not only between British Gas, Coryton and Thames Power, but for other operators.

Mr. Doran

The Secretary of State will be aware that one of the main tools in aiding competition onshore is the regulation of the gas transmission system. There is growing concern about the Government's failure to use their powers to regulate the transmission system offshore. That is leading to an inhibition of development of some of our vital gas supplies. Does he have any proposals to use the powers contained in the Petroleum and Submarine Pipelines Act 1975 to encourage development offshore?

Mr. Wakeham

I have no such proposals at present, but we are especially studying the development of some satellite fields. There may be a possibility of improving some of them.