New Forest East



Dr Julian Lewis: I shall be extremely brief, Mr Amess. I congratulate the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (John Hayes), on taking on his new responsibility. I also want to express my appreciation of his predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Charles Hendry), who made himself remarkably accessible and reached out to hon. Members like me who have constituencies with significant energy-producing resources and establishments.

I want to mention two such establishments today. One is the largest oil refinery in the country, at Fawley, and the other – also at Fawley – is the power station, whose future is under extreme threat: it is doubtful almost to the point of extinction. Fawley power station is a reserve station. It was set up in the shadow of the great oil refinery next door. Its future is doubtful because of European legislation. Unless an alternative power generation role is found for the site, compatible with European legislation in the future, it will cease to make even a reserve contribution. I will flag up today the point that I used to make to the Minister’s predecessor: sometimes emergencies happen to a country – situations of extreme peril – when restrictions must be set aside.

I still feel that it is worth the Government’s examining the possibility of keeping the Fawley power station in a reserved condition. If an extreme situation of national danger arose where we needed emergency extra supplies of electricity, inevitably it would involve a temporary setting aside of such things as European and environmental restrictions on what could be allowed in power generation. There could be a strategic role for Fawley power station in an emergency – something that I hope the Minister will consider.

Finally, in the time available, may I say that we are greatly concerned – by “we” I mean local oil refinery people and, nationally, the UK Petroleum Industry Association – that oil refining in this country does not compete on a level playing field with oil refining abroad? Unless the Government adopt a somewhat reduced, laissez-faire attitude – they keep saying that they believe in an open and competitive market – the sadly diminished number of oil refineries in the UK could go below a critical mass, to the strategic disadvantage and, indeed, endangerment of this country.