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Oil and Gas Fields

Volume 492: debated on Wednesday 6 May 2009

4. Whether he has had recent discussions with the First Minister on the development of small and technically challenging oil and gas fields; and if he will make a statement. (271864)

I thank my right hon. Friend for that extensive answer. The financial support promised in the Budget for the oil and gas people and the work that my right hon. Friend is doing with the Scottish Executive deserve congratulations. Will he assure me that the work that he is doing within Cabinet to secure money for Scotland will not be put in danger because of the separatist Administration north of the border?

I will continue to do all I can to support the oil and gas industry in the North sea. I believe that the North sea has a big future not only with its continuing oil and gas industry, but as a world centre for carbon capture and storage. That is why the new investment is so essential. The field allowance has ensured that companies can continue to invest by removing the supplementary charge from up to £75 million of their profits so that they qualify for the small field allowance. That is an important announcement, which will be welcome on both sides of the House.

I thank the Secretary of State for his answers so far, but does he recognise that the impact of that field allowance is limited to only very specific marginal fields? The crisis facing the North sea is much bigger now, given the credit crunch and the banking crisis. Will he work with the Chancellor to see whether more can be done to bring forward tax reliefs that will allow new entrants to explore up front during this credit crisis and so that the Government ease the industry’s cash flow?

Of course I have those conversations with the Chancellor and I have spoken to the hon. Gentleman about some of these issues in the past. As he knows, the fuel allowance has been carefully targeted to ensure that, as far as possible, it supports those projects that would not otherwise go ahead. That is the purpose of the targeted way in which it is being introduced. We continue to look for additional ways to support the industry in Scotland and throughout the United Kingdom and I look forward to discussing them with the hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor and the industry in the future.