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Scotland (Secretary Of State's Visit)

Volume 897: debated on Monday 4 August 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on his official visit to Scotland.

I had a series of meetings with regional authorities, oil companies and unions, including the STUC, and with the Offshore Supplies Office staff. I also had the opportunity to see at first hand some of the activities on one of the offshore oil production platforms in the Forties field.

I was most impressed with the scale of the operations and stressed the need for a greater share of equipment orders to come to home suppliers, and the desirability of facilitating the work of the trade unions.

Did my right hon. Friend learn anything about the need for greater safety in North Sea diving?

Yes, Sir. Efforts are being made to deal with the hazardous problem facing divers, and I am sure that trade union involvement will be beneficial on the safety side.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we are not prepared to tolerate the number of deaths and accidents which occurred last winter? Will he take steps to bring in an order under the safety health legislation to remove the exemption of North Sea industry and to ensure that we have legislation to cover safety committees and trade organisations on rigs?

I had the opportunity when in Aberdeen of meeting the inter-union off-shore committee. That committee raised with me the problems of access to rigs by trade union officials and also other matters, because it was felt that the trade union representatives were not as involved as they should have been. I echo my hon. Friend's concern about safety matters. I have asked whether those concerned will prepare for consideration a charter in this respect which I intend to discuss with the four major unions, the T&GWU, the AUEW, the Boilermakers and my hon. Friend's union, the National Union of Seamen. I shall be in touch with the oil companies on this matter because I regard safety and trade union representation as going side by side in this respect.