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North Sea (Oil Licences)

Volume 977: debated on Monday 28 January 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government on the proposal for auctioning North Sea oil licences, as set out in the paper entitled "North Sea Giveaway" sent to him on 21 January by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West

The fundamental message of the paper to which the hon. Member refers is that the Government should allocate petroleum licences to the highest cash bidder. Although this would in principle be a valid alternative to the United Kingdom's normal method of award, I have not found all the arguments used in the paper to be soundly based or persuasive. As my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) pointed out on 14 January, there could be unwelcome results if the allocation of licences was determined solely by the highest cash bid. I shall, however, continue to keep the matter under review.