asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he proposes to make any change to the Government's licensing policy for landward areas.
I have considered the arrangements for landward petroleum licensing and have decided that production licences for such areas should continue to be granted broadly in accordance with the arrangements published in the Official Gazettes on 2 June 1978.However, in line with policies already announced in the context of offshore licensing, the Secretary of State's reserved right to require applicants to extend to the British National Oil Corporation, or one of its subsidiaries, an option to join in applications as a 51 per cent. equity partner will be replaced by an arrangement under which BNOC will, if the Secretary of State so requires, have an option to take at market price, up to 51 per cent. of the petroleum produced under all new licences. This change in the licensing arrangements will not affect BNOC's right to apply for licences on the same basis as private sector companies.I have also decided that the consideration payable for landward production and exploration licences granted in pursuance of applications made on and after 6 August should be increased.Applicants for future production licences will continue to be judged against specified criteria including technical and financial competence, past performance, and future plans on a range of matters.The Government take very seriously the need to ensure that the impact of landward petroleum exploration on the environment is kept to an absolute minimum. The grant of licences does not absolve licensees from the need to consult all parties who may be affected by their operations and to obtain the prior consent of the owners and occupiers of land they may need to enter. In addition licence operations are subject to the requirements of planning legislation, and the planning authorities have power to attach to any planning permission which may be given, such conditions as they consider necessary to protect the environment.I have today placed in the House Libraries copies of the text of a Gazette Notice which incorporates details of the above changes to the licensing arrangements which are designed primarily to keep the Government's onshore licensing policies in step with those offshore. Although small by comparison with its offshore counterpart, onshore oil production nevertheless makes a valuable contribution to the national economy; and it is in the national interest that the recent increase in the search for petroleum onshore should continue.