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United Kingdom Offshore Operators Association

Volume 164: debated on Monday 18 December 1989

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5.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy when he last met the representative of the United Kingdom Offshore Operators Association; and what matters were discussed.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State last met representatives of the United Kingdom Offshore Operators Associations on 8 November, when a number of North sea issues were raised.

Before the Minister next meets the United Kingdom Offshore Operators Association, will he take time to study the evidence given by the Manufacturing Science and Finance union to Lord Cullen's inquiry on Thursday? That evidence identified that at least one offshore operator—Philips in the Hewett field—had agreed with the union to apply offshore the health and safety regulations that apply onshore. Because of the operators' determination to apply those conditions offshore, employees' confidence in the system has increased. When the Minister next meets representatives of UKOOA, will he press the example of Philips on other United Kingdom offshore operators?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I listen carefully to any evidence relating to safety in the North sea, and MSF and put forward many recommendations. As he will be aware, Lord Cullen is still carefully considering much of he evidence and we await his report, which will be produced some time next year. We shall then look closely at the recommendations.

In his discussions with the United Kingdom Offshore Operators Association, has the matter of steel supplies for gas pipelines arisen? Is the Minister aware that because British Steel's refusal to invest in the plant necessary to produce the quality steel required by the industry, millions of pounds worth of orders are going abroad? Japan is the only country that makes the quality of steel necessary. Will the Minister discuss with UKOOA efforts to encourage British Steel and others? It is not within his ministerial responsibilities, but I know the efforts that his office has made to encourage investment and expenditure in the United Kingdom. Will he take responsibility for this problem and see what can be done about it?

The hon. Gentleman is right; conversations certainly take place between the operators and British Steel about the possibility of obtaining more steel from British Steel. As he is probably aware, Sir Robert Scholey, the chairman of British Steel, is a member of the oil industry advisory board which discusses such matters and was present at the most recent meeting.