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Oil and Gas Industry

Volume 567: debated on Wednesday 11 September 2013

As the shadow Secretary of State and my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland acknowledged a few moments ago, the whole House will want to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the tragic helicopter incident in the North sea and to the vital work of the rescue services. That is a reminder of the risks that are faced by those who work in the oil and gas industry, and, indeed, of their bravery. The Government remain committed to working with the industry to ensure the highest levels of health and safety for all its workers.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that work force engagement is crucial in restoring the confidence of offshore workers in the light of the recent helicopter crash off the coast of Shetland, which resulted in the deaths of four offshore workers?

My hon. Friend is entirely right. The industry has been quick to engage with all the stakeholders and, most importantly, with the work force. The Government will engage with all partners to ensure that the lessons of this tragic accident are learned properly.

12. I hope that the Secretary of State is aware of the agreement that has been reached between the offshore unions and Oil and Gas UK to ensure that offshore work force representatives have more access to installations. Will he join me in welcoming that example of the progressive and positive way in which the unions are helping to ensure that health and safety measures are enhanced in the North sea? (900194)

Trade unions, employers and everybody else who is involved in the North sea have worked closely over many decades. Recently, as we commemorated the tragedy of Piper Alpha 25 years on, we were reminded of the importance of having the right health and safety regime. The trade unions, along with everybody else, have an important part to play in ensuring that we always have the right regime.

The tragedy with the Super Puma helicopter was a reminder that, for all the heavy engineering and high-tech industry in the North sea, it is, at heart, a people business. The families and friends of the victims and of those who travel offshore every week need to be reassured that all is being done to ensure their safety. To that end, will my right hon. Friend meet the air accidents investigation branch to see what can be done to ensure that the lessons are learned from such tragedies quickly, so that people can be reassured that all is being done to ensure the safety of the operation?

Like many hon. Members on both sides of the House, my hon. Friend has for many years campaigned on North sea safety issues. Like our predecessors, this Government are committed to the highest possible standards. Of course, we want to see what lessons are learned from the tragedy, and ensure that they are shared with the whole industry, across the whole North sea and beyond.