asked the Secretary of State for Energy, what unwelcome results could arise if the allocation of future offshore licences by auction were determined solely by the highest cash bid.
As the right hon. Member will know, licences have generally been awarded on the basis of several factors including applicants' capabilities and past record and performance. A system relying entitrely on cash bids would by definition exclude such matters and, in the absence of safeguards the orderly and effective development of UKCS resources could be adversely affected. As I mentioned in my reply of 28 January to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis), I shall continue to keep the matter under review.