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North Sea Oil and Gas

Volume 605: debated on Wednesday 10 February 2016

3. What discussions he has had with representatives of the North sea oil and gas industry on Government support for that sector. (903487)

On 28 January, the Prime Minister and I held discussions with industry representatives in Aberdeen on further support for the North sea. As a member of the joint ministerial group on oil and gas, I also engage with key stakeholders, such as the Oil and Gas Authority, on a regular basis.

Calor Gas has its largest operational UK site in my constituency in South Leicestershire. A number of residents in the Scottish highlands and other rural areas rely on Calor Gas, which receives a large part of its Scottish gas supply from the North sea. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as a result of the support that the UK Government are able to provide, we are much better placed to absorb the fall in oil prices than would have been the case had Scotland been an independent country?

I acknowledge the importance of Calor Gas and all those who supply off-the-network energy to people living in rural Scotland. On my hon. Friend’s wider question, he makes an important point about the ability of the United Kingdom as a whole to absorb the change in the oil price.

What discussions has the Secretary of State had with the Chancellor about continued funding for seismic surveys on the UK continental shelf?

I am sure that the hon. Lady welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement when he was in Aberdeen of a £20 million contribution to a second round of new seismic surveys.

The severity of the collapse in global oil prices carries with it the danger that a number of fields in the North sea will suspend production and perhaps never resume it. Given that this would represent a serious loss of national assets and national infrastructure, may I invite the Secretary of State to have further discussions with the Chancellor in advance of the Budget to try to ensure that these fields are not lost forever and that they remain an important part of our national economy?

It will not surprise my right hon. Friend to know that that issue was part of the discussion with the Prime Minister, Fergus Ewing from the Scottish Government and representatives of the oil and gas industry at the recent meeting in Aberdeen. The Prime Minister made it very clear that he would look at any specific request or proposal in relation to supporting the industry in the forthcoming Budget.