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Offshore Oil Supplies

Volume 892: debated on Monday 12 May 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is his present estimate of the amount of oil to be brought ashore from the North Sea in the years 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979 and 1980, respectively.


asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is his present estimate of the amount of oil to be brought ashore from the North Sea and the Celtic Sea in the years 1976 to 1980, respectively.

As my right hon. Friend's report to Parliament shows, we expect production to build up rapidly from commencement this year to reach a level of 100 million to 130 million tons per annum in 1980. The report indicates the way in which we expect this build-up to occur. Even if discoveries are made in the near future in the Celtic Sea, it is unlikely that development could take place quickly enough to enable these discoveries to contribute significantly to total 1980 production.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that present estimates are well down on those of about a year ago? Will he agree, further, that part of the reason for the decline is due to the fact that the oil industry in the North Sea has been subjected to doctrinaire Socialist policies?

The estimate made by the previous Government of 25 million tons this year was on any view a wild overestimate. The estimate made by my right hon. Friend when he took over responsibility was much more moderate, although there have been slippages. The slippages have occurred basically because of difficulty with platform sites and unforeseeable accidents to, for example, the Argyll Field. If the hon. Gentleman is trying to maintain that the petroleum revenue tax is not fair as between the nation and the companies and that we should make further concessions to the companies, I shall be interested to see whether the Opposition Front Bench takes up the matter.

Will my hon. Friend make sure that our oil resources are developed in the interests of the British people as a whole? What threats are there of interference from the Brussels Commission in the development of the oil? Will my hon. Friend ensure that this precious asset is used for the welfare of the British people? Can the pipes that are used for bringing the oil ashore be produced by the British steel industry and not imported?

We regret that the British Steel Corporation was not in a position, because of a decision taken some time ago, to compete for undersea pipeline contracts. On my hon. Friend's wider question, I agree that we must control our energy resources in the interests of the British people. The EEC Commission has made it clear that the control of natural resources such as oil within member States is a matter entirely for the member States.

Does it remain Government policy to ensure that the British taxpayer and public take the maximum share in any financial losses on this oil?

I am not clear what the right hon. Gentleman has in mind, whether he is referring to the participation proposals or to others. It is the Government's intention that the British public should participate by way of investment and otherwise in the North Sea developments, which we believe will be a profitable investment for the country.