Skip to main content

Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill

Volume 745: debated on Tuesday 20 February 2024

Considered in Committee

Clause 1

Duty to invite applications for offshore licences

I beg to move amendment 12, page 1, line 3, at end insert—

“(1ZA) The OGA must not invite any new seaward area production application licences until the Secretary of State has by regulations brought into effect a ban on flaring and venting relating to new offshore installations other than that required in an emergency.

(1ZB) The Secretary of State must by regulation make such provision so that the OGA is only permitted to invite seaward area production application licences after 2030 once a prohibition is in place on routine flaring and venting for all offshore installations operating in UK waters.

(1ZC) A statutory instrument containing regulations under subsections (1ZA) and (1ZB) is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(1ZD) In subsection (1ZA) and (1ZB)—

‘flaring’ means the burning of hydrocarbons produced during oil and gas extraction;

‘venting’ means the release of un-combusted hydrocarbons directly into the atmosphere.”

This amendment prevents the invitation of new seaward area production application licences until the Secretary of State has introduced a ban on flaring and venting by new offshore installations. It also requires the Secretary of State to prevent licensing rounds from 2030 if a wider ban is not in place.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 15, page 1, line 3, at end insert—

“(1ZA) The OGA must not invite any new seaward area production application licences until the Secretary of State has by regulations brought into effect a requirement that—

(a) all new seaward area production application licences require a specific field commitment of a net zero carbon footprint reached through developing the Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage network or such other means as deemed appropriate; and

(b) a percentage, to be specified in regulations but not less than 30 per cent, of all new seaward area production application licences specifically align petroleum extraction with the refining of petroleum at the Grangemouth oil refinery.

(1ZB) A statutory instrument containing regulations under subsections (1ZA) is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.”

Amendment 7, page 1, line 4, leave out “in each relevant year” and insert “on a case-by-case basis”.

Amendment 2, page 1, line 6, at end insert—

“(aa) the climate test (see section 4ZD)”

This paving amendment, together with amendment 3, sets out the climate test to be applied by the Oil and Gas Authority before inviting applications for seaward new production licences.

Amendment 8, page 1, line 6, at end insert—

“(aa) the energy and job security test (see section 4ZD)”

This paving amendment, together with Amendment 9, introduces a new test to be applied by the OGA before inviting applications for seaward new production licences.

Amendment 10, page 1, line 6, at end insert—

“(aa) the just transition test (see section 4ZD)”

This paving amendment, together with Amendment 11, introduces a new test to be applied by the OGA before inviting applications for seaward new production licences.

Amendment 13, page 1, line 6, at end insert—

“(aa) the just transition plans test (see section 4ZD)”

This paving amendment, together with Amendment 14, introduces a new test to be applied by the OGA before inviting applications for seaward new production licences.

Amendment 17, page 1, line 6, at end insert—

“(aa) the climate change test (see section 4ZD)”

This paving amendment, together with Amendment 18, sets out the climate change test to be applied by the Oil and Gas Authority before inviting applications for seaward new production licences.

Amendment 22, page 1, line 6, at end insert —

“(aa) the home energy efficiency test (see section 4ZD).”

This paving amendment, together with Amendment 24, introduces a home energy efficiency test to be applied by the OGA before inviting applications for seaward area production licences.

Amendment 23, page 1, line 6, at end insert—

“(aa) the Energy Charter test (see section 4ZD).”

This paving amendment, together with Amendment 25, introduces an Energy Charter test to be applied by the OGA before inviting applications for seaward area production licences.

Amendment 19, page 2, line 1, after “of” leave out “liquefied”.

This amendment, together with Amendment 20, would require the carbon intensity of domestic natural gas to be assessed against the carbon intensity of all natural gas imported into the UK.

Amendment 20, page 2, line 7, leave out “liquefied”.

This amendment, together with Amendment 19, would require the carbon intensity of domestic natural gas to be assessed against the carbon intensity of all natural gas imported into the UK.

Amendment 21, page 2, line 24, at end insert—

“(4A) Within six months of the commencement of this Act, the Secretary of State must produce and lay before Parliament a report on the effect of amending the definition of “carbon intensity” as set out in subsection (4) according to section 93 of the Climate Change Act 2008.”

This amendment requires the Secretary of State to report how the carbon intensity test is affected if the definition of carbon intensity were amended to include emissions of gases other than carbon dioxide in line with the carbon dioxide equivalent measure in section 93 of the 2008 Climate Change Act.

Amendment 3, page 3, line 23, at end insert—

“4ZD The climate test mentioned in s 4ZA

The climate test is met in relation to a relevant year if the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finds that current global fossil infrastructure will not emit more greenhouse gases than is compatible with limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

Amendment 9, page 3, line 23, at end insert—

“4ZD The energy and job security test mentioned in s 4ZA

The energy and job security test is met in relation to a relevant year if the OGA assesses that new licences will—

(a) lower energy bills for households;

(b) deliver energy security and reduce reliance on imported fuel sources for domestic consumption;

(c) enhance sustained job security for the oil and gas workforce in areas of the UK economically reliant on the oil and gas sector;

(d) guarantee funding for domestic refineries to increase capacity to process sustainable fuel sources; and

(e) help the oil and gas sector meet commitments set out in the North Sea Transition Deal.”

This amendment sets out a new test to be applied by the OGA before inviting applications for seaward new production licences.

Amendment 11, page 3, line 23, at end insert—

“4ZD The just transition test mentioned in s 4ZA

The just transition test is met in relation to a relevant year if the OGA assesses that—

(a) new licences will support the delivery of the North Sea Transition Deal’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets of 10% by 2025, 25% by 2027 and 50% by 2030 against a 2018 baseline, to meet the sector’s aim of a net zero basin by 2050; and

(b) the Secretary of State has provided funding to support the development of the renewable energy sector, in areas of the UK economically dependent on the oil and gas sector, equivalent to tax revenues collected from UK oil and gas production.”

This amendment sets out a new test to be applied by the OGA before inviting applications for seaward new production licences.

Amendment 14, page 3, line 23, at end insert—

“4ZD The just transition plans test mentioned in s 4ZA

(1) The just transition plans test is met in relation to a relevant year if the OGA assesses that all existing seaward area production licence holders have published just transition plans for their workforce that are compatible with limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

(2) For the purposes of this section—

“just transition plans” refer to plans agreed through formalised collective agreements with unions in the workplace for consultation on policy;

“workforce” includes workers, directly and indirectly (sub-contracted or agency) employed, or engaged through day-rate or self-employed contract models.”

Amendment 18, page 3, line 23, insert—

“4ZD The climate change test mentioned in 4ZA

The climate change test is met in relation to a relevant year if the latest reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the mitigation of climate change find that the granting of additional seaward area production licences is consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C.”

This amendment sets out a new test to be applied by the OGA before inviting applications for seaward new production licences.

Amendment 24, page 3, line 23, at end insert—

“4ZD The home energy efficiency test mentioned in s 4ZA

The home energy efficiency test is met if the median rating in current Energy Performance Certificates in the United Kingdom falls within or above Band B.”

This amendment sets out the home energy efficiency test to be applied by the OGA before inviting applications for seaward area production licences.

Amendment 25, page 3, line 23, at end insert—

“4ZD The Energy Charter test mentioned in s 4ZA

The Energy Charter Treaty test is met if the United Kingdom has made arrangements to withdraw from the Energy Charter Treaty.”

This amendment sets out the Energy Charter test to be applied by the OGA before inviting applications for seaward area production licences.

Clause stand part.

Clause 2 stand part.

New clause 2—Duty to introduce spatial prioritisation policy

“After section 4 of the Petroleum Act 1998 insert—

4ZAA Duty to introduce spatial prioritisation policy

(1) Before the OGA invites applications for seaward area production licences under this Act the Secretary of State must publish a marine spatial prioritisation policy.

(2) The marine spatial prioritisation policy must establish a process for prioritising offshore renewables, marine protection, fishing activities, oil and gas licensing, and the achievement of relevant targets under the Climate Change Act 2008 and the Environment Act 2021 in any relevant decisions relating to the marine environment made by a body undertaking public functions.

(3) The OGA must comply with the marine spatial prioritisation policy set out in subsection (1) when deciding applications relating to new seaward area production licences.’”

This new clause requires the Secretary of State to publish a marine spatial prioritisation policy, taking into account relevant targets under the Climate Change Act 2008 and the Environment Act 2021.

I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

On Second Reading, I said that this Bill was something of a distraction and not necessary on the basis that the North Sea Transition Authority can already grant licences annually or, indeed, whenever it considers it necessary. That will not change with the Bill. I also noted at the time that the two statutory tests in the Bill have been designed in such a way that the computer always says yes to new oil and gas licences, but I also said that I would work with other like-minded colleagues to improve the Bill and bring in further tests that need to be met before any new oil and gas production licences are granted. That is what I and other Members have sought to do.

Amendment 12 seeks to do two things. First, it would stop the invitation of new production application licences until the Secretary of State has introduced a ban on the flaring and venting of methane by new offshore installations. Secondly, it would require the Secretary of State to prevent licensing rounds from 2030 if a wider ban on flaring and venting is not in place. Along with other Members who have signed up to the amendment, I argue that this is an entirely reasonable ask that the Government and all Members should be able to get behind, given that all it modestly seeks to do is put into statute existing guidance on flaring and venting that was issued by the North Sea Transition Authority.

Let me set out the precise wording of the principles that the NSTA expects industry to follow in relation to flaring and venting across all UK continental shelf areas. First,

“flaring and venting and associated emissions should be at the lowest possible levels in the circumstances”.

Secondly, there should be

“zero routine flaring and venting for all by 2030”.


“all new developments should be planned and developed on the basis of zero routine flaring and venting.”

That is a set of NSTA principles with which amendment 12 in entirely consistent.

Can my right hon. Friend explain why it would be better to import liquefied natural gas, with four times the amount of CO2 produced, rather than have our own gas? His regulations would not apply to the foreign-produced gas we import.

My right hon. Friend makes an important point: LNG has a higher carbon-intensity footprint. But the majority of the gas that we import comes by pipeline from Norway, and the production intensity of Norwegian gas is around half that of the UK’s.

If I may, I will continue. In their response last year to the Environmental Audit Committee’s report on accelerating the transition from fossil fuels and securing energy supplies, the Government doubled down on the NSTA position. Responding to the EAC recommendation, which called for the banning of flaring from UK installations, the Government noted that they had already signed up to

“make every effort to ensure that routine flaring from existing oil fields ends as soon as possible, and no later than 2030.”

The Government response went on to highlight the NSTA guidance that new developments are approved on the basis of zero routine flaring and venting.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) raised the issue of imported gas. I will just point out to him that, unfortunately, flaring is still a common practice in the UK. By contrast, Norway banned routine flaring in 1971, and the carbon intensity of Norwegian gas production is around half that of UK domestic production.

The marginal gas we would import would come from Qatar or the United States of America. There is not an infinite supply of Norwegian gas, so my right hon. Friend is missing the main point.

With respect, I do not think I am missing the main point. The point that the Government are pursuing is to ensure that we have less use of fossil fuels overall and that we expand our renewable capacity, including nuclear, which I know my right hon. Friend supports. That is where we should be going with this strategy. The ban on flaring in Norway is one of the key reasons that Norway has become a leader in the cleaner production of oil and gas, which this Government have clearly indicated that they also want for UK production.

I am looking forward to hearing the Minister’s response to amendment 12. I hope he will say that, given that it is consistent with Government policy and guidance, the Government will introduce a similar amendment in the other place. If they choose not to do that, I am pretty sure that a similar amendment will be tabled in the other place anyway, and that it is likely to be supported. I would just humbly observe that if the Government whip against this or any similar amendment, either in this House or in the other place, they will put colleagues in the absurd position of effectively having to vote against existing Government policy. I am really looking forward to listening to what the Minister has to say.

Order. We are in Committee, so I remind Members that the Chair should be addressed by name or as “Chair” or “Madam Chair”, as Sir Alok Sharma did, and not as “Mr Deputy Speaker” or “Madam Deputy Speaker”.

Before I call the shadow Minister, I want to make it clear that I will be calling those who have amendments down first and I will then move on to others, going from side to side.

I would like to speak to our amendments 17, 18, 19 and 20, to comment on other amendments before us today and then to place all this into the context of the Bill as a whole by way of what will effectively be a stand-part contribution. This Bill remains an ill-advised, pointless piece of political posturing—

That was the mild version.

As the right hon. Member for Reading West (Sir Alok Sharma) has informed us, the Bill legislates for something that happens anyway. It will make no difference to bills, according to the Secretary of State. It will make no difference to our energy security, according to the former chair of BP. It will undermine the independence of the North Sea Transition Authority, according to the NSTA’s own board, and it and will reinforce the perception around the world that the UK is rowing back from climate action, according to the former COP President, the right hon. Member for Reading West. We regret that this insubstantial and damaging Bill has proceeded this far, and we will vote against it on Third Reading.

We do not need this one-clause Bill. We need instead a strategy for managing the North sea that supports our energy security, meets our climate commitments and secures the economic and jobs benefits of the transition to a low-carbon economy. We would have liked to debate a new clause setting out a new principal objective for the North Sea Transition Authority that would have put such a strategy into effect. However, because the Bill is so short and tightly drawn around the narrow issue of mandatory licensing rounds, amendments to put a more sensible strategy into place are regrettably not in order. We must therefore take the Bill on its own terms, even if that means treating it with significantly more respect than the drafters have treated this House with in presenting such a trivial and nakedly political proposal.

We have in the Bill at present two tests that should be passed if the Oil and Gas Authority is to proceed with mandatory licence issuance, and we know that the two tests cannot be failed. It is a fact that if properly drafted—we might come to that in a moment—liquefied natural gas will always be more greenhouse gas-intensive in production than UK natural gas and we will always be in a position where gas and oil produced in the UK and in a declining North sea field will not meet our total demand for gas and oil.

I learned in my first year at university—as I think the Minister did, because he did a similar degree to me—that a proposition that cannot be falsified cannot stand as a valid proposition. Here we have two completely non-valid propositions in the Bill. They are bogus and cynically contrived to give the appearance that something has to be achieved before mandatory licencing takes place. At the very least we need a test or tests that can be failed and that produce a proper level of judgment into the advisability of proceeding with such mandatory licences. The best test surely has to be whether such action is compatible with our climate change goals. The Government had previously introduced climate change compatibility tests into production generally. It is strange that these appear nowhere in the Bill.

The shadow Minister has said that getting more of our own gas out of the North sea would help our security of supply and reduce CO2 because it would displace imported LNG, so why does he not support that proposition?

The proposition before us today is for mandatory licence rounds in a declining North sea field, which would make no difference in the long term to the total amount of gas that we get out of the North sea, as everybody knows. It would instead put us firmly on the back foot as far as international climate change discussions are concerned. That is the key issue that we need to address this afternoon.

Following on from the question from my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood), is it therefore Labour’s position not to allow any new oil and gas licences in the future, if Labour were to come into power?

It is Labour’s position that we do not wish to see new energy exploration licences issued for the future, but that does not mean that the North sea will not continue in production over a long period of time and provide a substantial amount of oil and gas for our domestic market.

Our first amendments, 17 and 18, would introduce a new test that would safeguard the legally binding commitments that the UK and all other nations made in the Paris agreement and have reaffirmed ever since. Every credible independent analysis—the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the International Energy Agency, the Climate Change Committee—shows that new exploration licences are not compatible with limiting warming and avoiding the worst of the devastating impact that climate change will have, and is having, around the world and here in the UK.

The test that we have put in amendments 17 and 18 is possible if we have achieved or are achieving our climate change goals internationally. Amendment 18 states:

“The climate change test is met in relation to a relevant year if the latest reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the mitigation of climate change find that the granting of additional seaward area production licences is consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C.”

No one who is serious about this can take that to mean that existing fields will not continue to produce for years to come—of course they will—but anyone who argues that business as usual and a few new licenses are the route to good, long-term jobs and energy security is frankly peddling a myth.

We must accelerate the transition to new opportunities for North sea workers in the low-carbon economy, including through carbon capture, usage and storage, through hydrogen and through floating offshore wind. We do not believe that tests are the best route to achieving that goal. We need a holistic strategy, but within the framework set out in this Bill, the climate change test we propose is the only way to achieve a policy that is consistent with being a responsible and leading actor on the world stage in the fight against climate change, with managing our existing North sea assets carefully and for the long-term, and with maximising the low-carbon economic potential of the North sea.

The other two amendments I will speak to highlight the extent to which the Bill fails even on the narrow terms it has set out. Amendments 19 and 20 would address the glaring deficiencies in the bogus carbon intensity test set out by the Government. Currently, the test compares UK gas production carbon emissions only against an aggregate of liquefied natural gas production emissions, ignoring pipeline-delivered gas, which makes up most of our imports, as the right hon. Member for Reading West reminded us. This amendment would correct that. As it stands, the test is designed to be impossible to fail, so it is barely worthy of the name. Including only LNG is a serious logical flaw. Before the Minister jumps to his feet, it is not true to say that every marginal unit of imported gas must be LNG. Indeed, we support substantial amounts of natural gas coming into the UK via the pipeline from Norway. The production of that gas is substantially cleaner than that of UK natural gas.

Apart from anything else, the Bill takes no account of the UK’s likely future gas demand profile. Demand for gas will decline as we rapidly decarbonise our power sector and electrify more and more of our economy. Indeed, this decline in demand, not just supply, is at the heart of a successful net zero transition.

Approving new exploration licences for fields that will take years to come online, on the assumption that the alternative must otherwise be LNG, without taking any account of future demand, is absurd. A fairer test would consider gas imports in the round.

I take on board the hon. Gentleman’s comment that, overall, 30% of our gas comes from Norway. Yes, that is the majority of our imports, but it is still 30% overall. Nobody in this House has authority over Norway’s future oil and gas prospects, but would he be in favour of the Norwegian Government exploring for new oil and gas to supply to us?

No, in line with the IEA and the IPCC, I am not in favour of new exploration licences. The point is that, in a declining market, Norwegian supply will continue to be very substantial, even if no new exploration licences are granted in Norway.

The figure cited by the hon. Gentleman is almost right —the actual figure is 34%. The United Kingdom supplies 38% of its own gas, with the United States supplying 14%, Qatar supplying 9% and other countries supplying smaller amounts. Norway already occupies a very substantial position in our present gas supplies, and I am sure it will continue to do so.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it might be useful to remind Conservative Members that, according to the UN production gap report, Governments are already planning for their existing developments to produce more than double the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than is consistent with keeping global heating to 1.5°C or below? The idea that anyone can have vast new developments is not compatible with keeping below our climate target.

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. New licences are an international issue. If we had new exploration licences around the world, we would simply produce far more oil and gas than is compatible with the 1.5° climate target. We should just keep it in the ground.

Finally, amendment 21 would go some way towards correcting another element of the carbon intensity test. As currently drafted—the Minister will want to listen to this bit—the test will not take account of methane emissions, which is a serious flaw. The whole case for comparing UK-based natural gas with LNG is based only on production emissions. The emission of methane at various stages of the production and transportation of LNG is, in aggregate, worse than the emissions of UK-produced and piped natural gas, but they are not carbon dioxide emissions, which is what the Bill says should be measured.

LNG’s potential carbon dioxide emissions upon burning are roughly the same as, or perhaps slightly greater than, the carbon dioxide emissions from UK natural gas. As the right hon. Member for Reading West said, that is elevated by the current UK practice of flaring surplus gas, which can be measured in carbon dioxide emissions.

Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over 20-year and 100-year timeframes. Its lifetime in the atmosphere is shorter than the lifetime of CO2, but its impact is far more significant. The Climate Change Act 2008 is quite specific on how this should be measured. Section 93, which the Bill mentions but does not act on, states that

“greenhouse gas emissions…and removals of greenhouse gas from the atmosphere shall be measured or calculated in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.”

Proposed new section 4ZB(1) of the Petroleum Act 1998 mentions the carbon intensity of natural gas, but proposed new subsection (3) defines “carbon intensity” as

“the carbon dioxide emissions attributable to its production”.

But carbon dioxide emissions in production are not the principal concern here, as the gas has not been burned at that point. Indeed, I can conceive of smart climate lawyers challenging the test’s validity on precisely that point. The Minister might therefore see amendment 21 as providing a vital lifeline to the integrity of his Bill. To that extent, the amendment might be seen as helpful, but I somehow doubt that he will take it up. To coin a phrase, “It’s the methane, stupid.” The Bill should say so.

Proposed new section 4ZB(4) already gives the Secretary of State the power to amend the carbon intensity test to include emissions other than carbon dioxide. Perhaps the Secretary of State or the Minister will shortly take that up to save the test. We can anticipate a fairly amusing statutory instrument debate when he tries to do that.

Amendment 21 would simply require the Government to produce a report analysing what the impact of that change will be. In the spirit of trying to improve a Bill that, by design, is fairly resistant to improvement, we welcome the amendments tabled by the right hon. Member for Reading West and the hon. Member for North Devon (Selaine Saxby).

The Climate Change Committee and the Environmental Audit Committee have called for a ban on routine flaring and venting, and such a ban is long overdue. A marine spatial prioritisation policy would help to organise and plan an optimal long-term, low-carbon economic strategy for the North sea.

There is clearly significant strength of feeling across the Committee that this is an inadequate Bill, and some of the proposed tests could undoubtedly make a bad Bill a little better, although some of those tests have internal problems. We would not want to vote against those tests, but the only comprehensive climate change and net zero compatible test is the one that we and, in principle, the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) have set out. It is the best available route, within a severely constrained process, to align this deeply flawed Bill with our essential energy security and climate change priorities.

I rise to speak to new clause 2 on spatial prioritisation. The competing pressures on sea space mean there is essentially a spatial squeeze. I fully understand the Bill’s importance, as we all know that the oil and gas industry will have a key role as the UK transitions towards cleaner energy. The Bill will provide reassurance to the industry.

I am grateful that the Government have stated that each annual licensing round will take place only if key emissions tests are met, to support the transition to net zero. I thank the Minister and his team for their ongoing engagement on this issue but, as we seek to turn to renewables and clean energy, we need to ensure that we have the space and infrastructure to carry this forward, otherwise the energy transition will never come to fruition.

I brought up this issue directly with the Minister for Food, Farming and Fisheries, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mark Spencer), at the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, as my concerns extend beyond just oil and gas. I am also concerned about how floating offshore wind and fishing can cohabit the same ocean space, and I am also concerned about marine protected areas. There is clearly a balance to strike.

It was good to hear the Fisheries Minister’s response about cross-departmental work to ensure that our fishermen have a future in the light of our need to expand our renewable energy sources, but there is an opportunity in this Bill to ensure that we do not repeat these conversations as other energy sources compete for space in the precious waters around our coast. This will help not only the UK’s energy security but our push towards renewable energy, which will support our fishing fleets and retain a simultaneous focus on biodiversity and improving the condition of marine protected areas.

As a coastal MP, all these points are especially important to me. Being an eternal optimist, I think we can do all these things simultaneously if we can plan strategically where we have the opportunity.

My hon. Friend is making some very good points, particularly on the spatial squeeze. She says that this is not a choice between one thing and another. Opposition Members tend to see this debate as black and white, and that we have to go in either one direction or the other. Does she agree that, whether from the perspective of fishing, offshore wind or offshore oil and gas, it is very important that we come together so that everyone has a say?

As always, I agree with the points my hon. Friend makes. Prioritising space is critical, as the Government have committed to delivering 50GW of offshore wind, which this represents approximately £93.3 billion-worth of investment and requires nearly 8,500 sq km of new marine space. I need to declare an interest, as the chair of the all-party group on the Celtic sea. As such, my particular concern is about the deployment of floating offshore wind, as it will open up areas such as the Celtic sea so that we can generate energy no matter which way the wind blows. As it can be deployed in waters deeper than 60 metres, that technology opens up 80% of our offshore wind resources.

The Celtic sea is an environment where strategic planning at this early point in the development of FLOW—not just for spatial prioritisation on the seabed but for clear planning of cable routes to optimise how power transitions to the grid—minimises blue carbon disruption from our ocean floors and onshore environmental damage from multiple plug-in points. Indeed, given the long-term commitment to energy generation in the Celtic sea, as well as the North sea, the chance to plan strategically and include all future leases within a national framework comes now. More renewable energy and greater energy efficiency contribute more to energy security than new oil and gas. This integrated spatial planning will require new licences to ensure that enough sea space is allocated for nature recovery and climate change mitigation. Otherwise, there is a risk that industrial activities could crowd out those important environmental purposes, which, with the right strategic planning early enough in the evolution of these vital new technologies, can coexist alongside those that are now waning.

Currently, the Bill has no provisions to require spatial prioritisation testing of the geographical blocks that become available for oil and gas search and production. That means that the North Sea Transition Authority will be able to grant new licences in areas of the sea where the cumulative impact of activities is incompatible with the achievement of Government targets in the Climate Change Act 2008 and the Environment Act 2021.

Does my hon. Friend accept that in several cases potentially useful oil and gas deposits in the North sea are adjacent to existing pipes and existing development production platforms, so one great advantage would be that the infrastructure is already in place and it has spare capacity because of the decline of traditional fields? That would be far less intrusive, would it not?

My right hon. Friend makes a valid point. However, for me, this is about opening up that conversation and making sure that these things are considered in the round. If we are going to put an extra pipe in, we should consider what we are offsetting somewhere else.

Polling found that 80% of the UK public believe our ocean protection laws must be strengthened, and I know how important our waters are to the residents of North Devon and the wider UK. We must ensure that we do all we can on this, while understanding the vital role that oil and gas plays and will play in our energy security. Spatial prioritisation is important to ensure that continuing to drive forward our new green energies is not done at the expense of our traditional industries, such as fishing, and gives due consideration to the marine environment, which we on land owe so much to and are still finding out more about. Balance and optimisation are the objective of this amendment, and I hope the Minister will consider this opportunity, so that we really can have it all and decarbonise our energy, improve our biodiversity, support our fishermen and improve our energy security.

I rise to speak to amendments 7, 8 and 10, which have been tabled by the SNP. I note that no substantive changes have been made to the Bill’s provisions since we discussed it some weeks ago in this place; it is no more responsive to the needs of the climate, the energy sector in Scotland or bill payers who are haemorrhaging money on their energy bills. We know, from the appropriation of Scotland’s energy wealth by Thatcher in the 1980s, Cameron’s “Cut the green crap” at the beginning of this Conservative regime, and the weak-minded and politically naive rolling back of the green transition measures by the current Prime Minister, that time and time again, the Tories will never look after ordinary workers, Scotland or the environment.

My hon. Friend is making an excellent start to his speech. Does he agree that it is outrageous that the Prime Minister has masqueraded this legislation as a way of reducing energy bills for consumers, given that even the Secretary of State could not defend those claims? Does he also agree that this Government’s only intention is to unlock as much tax revenue from the North sea oil and gas sector as possible and that no consideration has been given to reducing domestic energy bills, to energy security or to reaching our climate commitments?

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. She touches on some of the key elements that I will address in this speech.

In order to salvage some semblance of responsibility and/or equity from this Bill, I urge Members to support the SNP’s amendments. They seek to amend the provisions to facilitate licence issuance on a case-by-case basis, rather than it being done annually and by prescription. That is a reasonable improvement to the Bill by any measure. We would also like to incorporate a real test for new issuance that would require the North Sea Transition Authority to assess whether new licences will: lower energy bills for bill payers; deliver energy security and reduce reliance on imported fuel sources for domestic consumption; enhance sustained job security for the oil and gas workforce in areas of the UK that are economically reliant on the oil and gas sector; guarantee funding for domestic refineries to increase capacity to process sustainable fuel sources; and stimulate the North sea oil and gas sector to meet commitments set out in the North sea transition deal.

The SNP also wishes to ensure that, henceforth, 100% of tax revenues from oil and gas are invested in the just transition. A “just transition” test would have to be met for any given relevant year, under which the NSTA would issue new licences only if it assesses that: they will support the delivery of the North sea transition deal’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets of 10% by 2025, 25% by 2027 and 50% by 2030 against a 2018 baseline, in order to meet the sector’s aim of a net zero basin by 2050; and the Secretary of State has provided funding to support the development of the renewable energy sector in areas of the UK that are economically dependent on the oil and gas sector, equivalent to tax revenues collected from UK oil and gas production. That amendment means that new licences cannot be issued unless it can be shown that the licence will meet the North sea transition deal’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, and unless the UK Government are funding the renewables sector in oil and gas dependent areas to at least the value of oil and gas revenues.

The hon. Gentleman is speaking about conditions for granting new licences, but the SNP’s draft energy strategy includes a presumption against any new licences—is that his position? Is the SNP’s position that there should be no new licences for oil and gas exploration?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that. It is lovely to see him in his place; we know that he is a busy man with his other two jobs. I am sure that Hansard will correct me if my memory does not serve me correctly, but I believe that we rehearsed this issue on Second Reading. Let me point out to the hon. Gentleman, who I am certain is an ardent Unionist, that the position of the devolved Government, and whoever they are, is irrelevant in debating what we do with oil and gas licences in the UK because, sadly, Scotland’s oil and gas endowment, as he well knows—he makes excuses for this regularly—is controlled remotely by a dysfunctional UK Government, whoever they are. So the point is moot.

No, I will not.

The last SNP amendment will prevent this Government and the soon-to-be-installed Labour Government from simply using Scotland’s North sea oil and gas revenues to fund tax cuts in the UK, a state that is demonstrably not paying its way in the world. Both Labour and Tory —two cheeks of the same face, where Scotland is concerned —will sacrifice Scotland’s economic, industrial and material welfare, and those working in the energy sector, if it will win them a few more seats in this place. They have done it before and they will do it again while we remain in this broken and discredited Union. The prosperity that comes from oil and gas in Scotland is finite.

I was not sure if the hon. Gentleman had moved on from his glowing appraisal of the North sea transition deal, but can I take it from his reference to that deal that the SNP’s position is to support and welcome it in its entirety?

I am not going to meet the hon. Gentleman’s ambition to nail those colours to the mast, but I will tell him that through the Bill, the UK Government are turning a blind eye to the implications of a free-for-all when it comes to emissions and who benefits from revenue receipts. I am sorry if he finds that difficult, but he will to have to deal with it.

The prosperity that comes from oil and gas in Scotland is finite, as we know all too well. We have seen what deindustrialisation with no transition plan looks like—we witnessed it at first hand in the 1980s, when coal, steel and heavy industries were all torn asunder on the altar of monetarism and share prices in the City of London. That is set to happen again for oil and gas, under Thatcher’s willing disciples, the Leader of the Labour party and the Prime Minister. We cannot allow that to happen again. It is therefore essential that north-east Scotland and other areas reliant on oil and gas are afforded the investment required. That is what our amendment speaks to; it is about creating new jobs and transitioning in a managed, strategic fashion to accelerate our post-carbon future.


That is a just ambition for a just transition. The billions of pounds still to be yielded from oil and gas revenue must not be wasted on doomed capital infrastructure projects, such as HS2, or used to fund exorbitant false economies, such as nuclear power stations in England. It is a moral and economic imperative that revenue be used to accelerate a genuine just transition, to protect jobs.

In response to my previous intervention, the hon. Gentleman said that the Scottish National party position on this issue was “irrelevant”, but of course it is not; it is vitally important. The SNP’s draft energy strategy says there is a presumption against new exploration for oil and gas. Does he support that?

That question speaks to a mis-representation. There is no point in giving way to the hon. Gentleman if he is going to misrepresent me in that way. What I actually said was that it does not matter who is in government in a devolved Assembly where energy policy is decided by remote control from a dysfunctional Westminster Government. That is the beginning and the end of it. If the hon. Gentleman does not like it, then he is welcome to join the SNP—well, perhaps not.

We know the facts on the ground: the oil and gas sector is in decline because of finite reserves, and because it is to be considered an industry with a limited future, whereas the green transition has an unlimited future. Jobs have already decreased in the sector. Government Members are giving the impression that with unlimited licensing there will be unlimited jobs, but that is not the case. Jobs have decreased by 228,000 since 2013, despite 400 new drilling licences in five separate auction rounds. Production of gas in the North sea has already fallen by two thirds since 2000 and will fall a further 95% with new licences, as opposed to 97% without.

The issuance of new licences in and of itself will not shift the dial, especially if the revenues from Scottish oil and gas continue to disappear into the black hole that is the Treasury. What is needed is a wholesale redistribution of fiscal receipts from Scottish oil and gas to the renewable transition, ringfenced and guaranteed by statute. In Scotland, we are apt to wonder what we got for the £300 billion in tax receipts from Scotland’s oil—a question now being mirrored for our renewable endowment.

I note that Members on the Government Benches have desisted from repeating the nonsense that energy bills will be lowered if we grant unlimited licences—and not before time. What will lower bills is ensuring that the renewable energy we generate can find its way to consumers without needing to be turned off because the grid cannot cope after 14 years of non-investment by the Tories. New grid infrastructure will lower bills by dialling gas out of the system. Government Members talk about the relentless need for more and more gas, as if that does not speak to a flaky ambition on a just transition; it exposes it and lays it bare. We will dial gas out of the system by having a network that can connect Scotland’s renewable energy to the market where that is required, and we will do so with proper investment in sub-sea lines, rather than by scarring Scotland with 80-metre pylons. It is a pity that the UK Government would not invest the billions that they are ploughing into nuclear into environmentally optimal grid improvements, instead of defaulting to pylons and overhead lines.

The Bill is part of an ill-fated Tory miscalculation on making a just transition a wedge issue. We know that, because the Bill is a non-existent solution to a non-existent problem. Some 27 new licences were granted in 2023, and a licensing round has been held by the North Sea Transition Authority every year and a half since 2016. If the Bill is the answer, then I am not certain what the question is. It undermines the independence of the NSTA by forcing it to hold new oil licensing rounds every year, whereas currently the NSTA undertakes licensing rounds when it deems that they are required. It is a challenge so unwelcome that the NSTA board unanimously agreed that this legislation and the annual licensing rounds were unnecessary. This is what happens when the energy sector, so vital to a broad-based, developed economy like Scotland’s, is subject to remote control.

Renewables already account for the equivalent of 113% of Scotland’s gross electricity consumption, yet we still pay sky-high energy bills because of the amount of gas required for generation in England, due in no small part to the Tories small-minded hysteria surrounding onshore wind, and their 10-year-old ban on development of onshore. Investing further in the green hydrogen sector in Scotland could support up to 300,000 jobs—it is a pity that Members on the Government Benches will not focus on that opportunity—and it would add up to £25 billion to Scotland’s gross value added by 2045. Further development of our renewable sector represents an extraordinary export opportunity for Scotland—one that we must grab much more, instead of looking back; we should look to the enterprises of the future.

The hon. Gentleman rightly mentions the sky-high energy prices that people in Scotland face, even though Scotland generates so much energy. What role does he think zonal and modal energy market modelling, rather than a one-size-fits-all, UK-wide approach, would play in substantially reducing energy costs in the likes of Sutherland in Scotland, and also in England, in places like Surrey? Everybody would be a winner if we moved away from the UK-wide model and towards the zonal and modal method.

The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting question. There has been a lack of investment, and the network that delivers energy around GB was designed for a small number of very large generators. It is ill-equipped to deal with many smaller systems of generation. That is why we find ourselves switching off wind turbines and, where the demand still exits, replacing them with gas, much to all our constituents’ cost and misery. The failure to transition in the electricity distribution network across GB is exactly the same failure we see in our dependency and desire to keep looking backwards. We should transition from hydrocarbons to renewables in a way that respects communities.

In closing, we should grasp Scotland’s bright future with both hands. In so doing, we will rid ourselves of the mismanagement of successive UK Governments in Westminster.

Before I bring in some of those who may not have tabled amendments, I remind Members that we are at Committee stage, so discussion is of the amendments. However, as we are also discussing clauses 1 and 2 stand part, there is perhaps a little more scope.

As I mentioned on Second Reading, the Bill is of particular interest to me because the oil and gas industry has played a significant role as a major employer in the Waveney and Lowestoft area for nearly 60 years. Moreover, the offshore wind industry and other low-carbon energy technologies, such as nuclear and hydrogen, will provide exciting local job-creating opportunities for generations to come. Dame Rosie, I also chair the British offshore oil and gas industry all-party parliamentary group.

As I mentioned in the debate on 22 January, there are sound reasons to support the Bill in its current form, as a great deal has happened geopolitically in the past two to three years. However, as we have heard today, some say that the Bill is unnecessary because licensing rounds have in any case been held on a broadly annual basis, up to the 32nd licensing round that opened in 2019. I am also mindful that, given the enormous amount of private sector investment that we need to leverage in so as to secure the transition and deliver our net zero targets, there is a need for both consistency of message and the avoidance of political meddling.

In the previous debate, I highlighted that one of the Conservative Government’s most notable achievements in recent years was the creation in 2016 of the Oil and Gas Authority, which now operates as the North Sea Transition Authority and which has correctly acknowledged that the delivery of net zero is its core mission. I also expressed the worry that the Bill undermines the independence of the NSTA. It is through this prism, Dame Rosie, that I consider these amendments, many of which are well reasoned and well intentioned.

The NSTA’s work on delivering net zero derives, as we have heard, from the North sea transition deal, which was an agreement between the UK Government and the oil and gas industry facilitated by the NSTA. This should be the forum through which the amendments before us today are negotiated. By pursuing this partnership approach, we shall retain the confidence of an industry, which, as I have mentioned previously, is globally footloose and which we need to deliver net zero and to secure the enormous job opportunities that are potentially available.

Last month, the East of England Energy Group published its five core principles for energy in the east of England. It also set out what is needed from Government so that it can deliver its vision. Its requirements included a stable fiscal policy, so as to boost investor confidence and project progression, and stable and predictable regulations and policy mechanisms that foster investor confidence and support energy security and the UK’s progress on meeting its decarbonisation targets. It is against those parameters that we should judge the amendments. I would add that the Opposition’s green prosperity plan has alarmed industry and places at risk the inward investment that is so badly needed. However, that is a debate for another day.

On Second Reading, I suggested that we should consider a more ambitious climate compatibility checkpoint and bring forward a ban on routine venting and flaring. Those are sensible ambitions, as I have said, but they do need to be worked up in conjunction and partnership with the NSTA and industry, and not imposed on them. On amendment 12 and new clause 2, it should be added that the NSTA has a good track record with regard to both venting and flaring and marine spatial planning.

My hon. Friend mentioned the role of the NSTA in the facilitation and delivery of the North sea transition deal, which, as he said, was negotiated between industry and the UK Government. Does he agree that what he is advocating is precisely the purpose of the North sea transition deal—to facilitate the delivery of energy transition to net zero?

My hon. Friend is quite right: the North sea transition deal is the foundation stone on which we should be building, involving industry, involving the NSTA and giving industry the confidence to make the significant investment that we need.

The North sea transition deal includes the target to cut greenhouse gases and emissions by 10% by 2025 and by 25% by 2027. The NSTA wants to halve emissions by 2030. It is also committed to all new developments having no routine flaring and venting, with zero routine flaring across all North sea platforms, whether new or existing, by 2030 at the latest. Good progress is being made. Although figures are not yet available for 2023, emissions were reduced by 23% between 2018 and 2022, while flaring has been reduced by 50% over the same period. In addition to tracking, monitoring and reporting performance, the NSTA closely scrutinises operators’ applications for flaring consents, pushes back against requests to increase flaring, and has ordered operators to restrict production to stay within agreed limits. It has, where necessary, issued fines for breaches.

On marine spatial planning, the NSTA follows a precautionary approach and is acutely aware of the need for co-ordination and collaboration in what are increasingly crowded and sometimes very sensitive and precious waters. It is thus working closely with such organisations as the Crown Estate and the Marine Management Organisation in delivering the marine spatial prioritisation programme of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

In conclusion, the Bill and the amendments raise very important matters, but to tackle them properly, we need to adopt a long-term approach that transcends the four-to-five-year political cycle and that fully involves business.

I rise to support amendments 17 and 19, and to speak to my amendments 22 and 24 on energy efficiency tests and amendments 23 and 25 on the energy charter treaty.

Let me start with amendment 25. At the moment, the energy charter treaty, of which we are a member, is a failed international treaty. It binds us to any contract that we sign for oil, gas or any energy. Once it is signed, we cannot get out of it without paying the hope value of that contract. What I mean by the hope value is that a member does not pay the actual material value if it wants to stop that contract now; it has to pay all the potential value of that contract if the oilfield, for example, were fully exploited.

The treaty has cost other European countries billions and billions of pounds when they have tried to implement climate mitigation policies. It is dangerous, because the decisions are made not by British courts or by international courts with a British judge, but by secretive tribunals where the corporations get to appoint the people who make the deliberations. It is so outrageous that European Union members have agreed to withdraw en masse—they are currently negotiating on how to do so in a co-ordinated way—and to do side letters with each other to ensure they are not bound by the 25-year clause under which any extant licences that have been signed must continue to be honoured, even after withdrawal.

Because if we sign more licences while we are still part of the energy charter treaty, the Minister is binding the hands of future generations. If we withdrew from the energy charter treaty, as our allies and partners are trying to do, and then decided to award new licences, future Governments and generations could, without penalty, withdraw or reduce those licences. That very much relates to the Bill, because I am saying: “If you want to do this for short-term gain”—I do not believe the Government’s premise to start with—“at least allow future generations and Governments to come and fix your mess; do not bind their hands under international treaties.” I think that that is relevant to the awarding of new licences.

The fact that so many countries are fleeing the energy charter treaty means that this is the moment to negotiate with our partners to work out a new way forward. The British Government themselves accept that the energy charter treaty has failed. They have tried to make significant amendments to it to allow flexibility on climate change goals. It has not been possible to amend it, which is why European partners are trying to withdraw. This test would do two things. Not only would it avoid binding future generations, but it would put a rocket up the derrière of our Ministers and Departments to ensure that they fulfil the pledge of reform or withdrawal, which is a pledge that we have already made.

Let me address amendments 22 and 24 on the energy efficiency test for home heating. In reality, the biggest proportion of domestic energy is spent on home heating. Huge domestic bills will not be solved one iota by the Bill, as the Minister has admitted, because the product will be sold on the international market and the marginal price at which we buy it back will still be inflated. Our electricity market, which is linked to that marginal price, will continue to be inflated. The best and most efficient way to reduce energy bills and the demand and need for gas—the way that we all know needs to happen—is to ensure that our homes meet decent energy efficiency standards.

The amendments set out that the Government need to redouble their efforts to ensure energy efficiency before we commit to and invest in new licences for offshore drilling, and that we need a median rating of band B in energy performance. At the moment, C is seen as standard and D is common in private rentals. Privately let homes are the worst in the sector, and greater help is needed. We cannot continue to rely on Government programmes that do not touch the sides. We need a proper approach in which we go street by street with councils and local government, fully funded by central Government, with clawbacks in future years.

However, we cannot expect our citizens to pay a penny out of their pockets up front. Homeowners are already overstretched, with huge additional bills, in a mortgage market that has been destroyed by the Government. They cannot afford an extra cent, an extra penny, for home improvements. That all needs to be covered by the Government. My amendments would incentivise the Government to do that and to ensure that we have made every effort to reduce gas demand before we go ahead with the foolish endeavour of drilling more oil and gas, which will not reduce prices, will not stop fuel poverty in this country and will not deal with any of our long-lasting problems. It would be a sticking plaster that does not even stick.

I worked with the Opposition Front Benchers on amendment 17, which sets out the climate change test, so I am delighted that they have tabled it. A similar amendment has been tabled by my constituency neighbour, the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas). It is important to say that we cannot meet our climate targets if we do not honour and respect the IPCC’s work and reports. We are on a hiding to nothing if we think that we can keep drilling and extracting more while meeting our energy targets.

I remember phrases from the anti-war movement, such as, “You can’t bomb for peace,” and another about not being able to do something for virginity. It feels to me that this is a very similar thing: we are trying to do something that is the very opposite of what we want to achieve. If the Government want to be committed to their climate targets, and if they think that more licences are needed, they need to ensure that those licences actively achieve our net zero targets. I am afraid that the Bill will not do that. It will make things worse, energy bills will continue to be high, and it will ensure that we are bound for a generation. That is why all my amendments should be supported. I am sure that we will push the Opposition Front-Bench amendments to a vote.

I rise to speak in support of the Bill and of all the employees of companies right across the country, including in my Banff and Buchan constituency, that will play a critical and successful role in the UK’s ongoing energy transition to net zero by 2050.

I remind the Committee that, for 25 years prior to being elected in 2017, I worked in the energy sector—in the oil and gas sector specifically—in a wide range of roles for several different companies and in various places around the world. I also declare that I have a close family member with a financial interest in one of those companies, which is below the threshold required for registering interests. I can also assure the Committee that that financial interest has never had, and will never have, any bearing on my contributions in this or any other debate.

On Second Reading, I spoke about the potential for increased confidence and certainty that the Bill brings to the energy industry. For many people watching, including a few hon. and right hon. Members in this place, there would appear to be a perfectly polarised distinction between maximising oil and gas on one hand and promoting renewables on the other. The truth exists on a continuum between those two extremes, however. We have in fact been on a transition away from the most polluting of fossil fuels towards cleaner, lower-carbon, renewable sources of energy for a number of decades now. That transition is happening at various rates in different parts of the world, but it is fair to say that the United Kingdom is at the forefront, as the first major economy not only to legislate for net zero but to set the most stringent decarbonisation targets.

The Conservative Government have presided over the UK’s becoming the first major economy to have reduced carbon emissions by 50% from 1990 levels. That compares to only 7% that had been achieved by the time the Conservatives came to power in 2010. We have effectively transitioned away completely from coal power, and continue to reduce our demand for oil and gas and increase our renewable and low-carbon capacity, but not as fast as our domestic supplies will continue to decline, even with new production.

A critical point that needs to be reinforced in considering this legislation is that new oil and gas does not mean more oil and gas—a mistake that I heard in the speech of the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Lloyd Russell-Moyle). Even with new production, the North Sea Transition Authority predicts that UK oil and gas production will decline, not by the 3% to 4% suggested by the International Energy Authority to stay within the global 1.5°C target, but by twice that rate of decline, at around 7%. We are today 75% dependent on oil and gas for our energy needs, and not just for electricity generation, but for heat and transportation as well. Of that 75%, about 50% is produced domestically with the rest having to be imported.

The arguments for producing our own oil and gas closer to home have been well rehearsed. There is the obvious benefit of having that source of energy under our control, not that of other states and countries that are not always friendly. We have also heard how liquefying natural gas for transportation and shipping that LNG halfway around the world to then be de-liquefied back into gas when it arrives in the UK can produce up to four times the carbon emissions of domestically produced gas. We know from the Climate Change Committee that we are likely still to be up to 25% dependent on oil and gas by 2050. It therefore follows that carbon capture, utilisation and storage will be required for the UK to reach net zero by 2050. That includes, of course, the Acorn CCS and hydrogen project at St Fergus in my constituency, and in particular the role it will play in decarbonising gas-fired power generation at Peterhead.

What will also be required to get to net zero are precisely those skills, technologies and supply chains that currently exist and will, no doubt, continue to be developed within the oil and gas industry. However, those critical elements would sadly no longer be available to us if we shut down our domestic oil and gas industry prematurely, which is what would happen if the Opposition parties had their way, whether it is the SNP’s “presumption of no new exploration” for oil and gas—a direct quote of the SNP’s draft energy strategy—or Labour’s “just stop oil” approach.

I am seeing some nods of agreement from across the Floor, but there has recently been something of a war of words between the two main parties—I am referring to Labour and the SNP—in Scotland following Labour’s screeching U-turn on its £28 billion a year green investment plan. Of course, we on the Conservative Benches always saw that plan as undeliverable without massive tax increases. Labour announced that it would not only increase the energy profits levy and make it last longer, but remove the investment allowance.

Before I give way, I will gently point out to Opposition Front Benchers—I am not sure whether they are aware of this—that the 78% tax rate they are so keen to copy from Norway comes with an equivalent 78% investment allowance in that country. Labour’s plans would remove the investment allowance, putting future investment across the energy sector even further at risk.

Of course, as we heard earlier, Labour still maintains its position of banning all new oil and gas licences, which has inevitably led to an outcry from the sector in recent weeks. Among others, Offshore Energies UK’s chief executive David Whitehouse has said:

“We remain deeply concerned about what Labour’s proposals could do to our people. If we can’t get companies to invest here, there are no jobs. It’s that simple.”

He went on to describe Labour’s proposals as

“a hammer blow to the energy we need today and to the homegrown transition to cleaner energies that everyone in the UK wants to see.”

That is the key point, which often goes over the heads of so many on the Opposition Benches: the skills and technologies to deliver net zero are not going to appear magically over the horizon, and the talent and expertise in what would become a defunct oil and gas industry will not automatically and immediately transfer across to the renewables sector. More likely, companies and their employees who will find themselves squeezed out of oil and gas in the UK will simply move overseas to deliver someone else’s energy security and someone else’s energy transition—and, no doubt, deliver oil and gas that we would end up having to import.

Of course, the SNP has come out of the woodwork to jump on the bandwagon, criticising Labour’s approach while completely contradicting its previous stance and—more than likely—that of its Scottish Green coalition partners in Holyrood. SNP leader Humza Yousaf said last September that he did not want Scotland to be Europe’s oil and gas capital, presumably wishing to pass that mantle to our North sea neighbours in Norway. A little over a year ago in its draft energy strategy, the SNP stated—I quote again—that there should be a “presumption” against new exploration for oil and gas. I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Angus (Dave Doogan) is still looking to intervene, but I wonder whether he would take this opportunity to answer that question.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for taking my intervention, even though it was about five minutes ago on a different subject. He made a really interesting point in his speech: that new licences do not mean more oil and gas. Conversely, having a more circumspect and rational approach to licence issuance—taking it out of the political arena and putting it into the bureaucratic space—does not mean less oil and gas. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will accept that if that is true for one, it is true for the other. Does he not agree with my position, and that of my party, that as the oil and gas industry continues on its journey to its natural conclusion of a much reduced industry, for whatever reason—the transition to renewables, or depleted resources—it is much more important, and in fact elegant, to make sure that those tax receipts are invested in the energy of the future, not squandered by His Majesty’s Treasury?

I find myself looking for a point that I might agree with in the hon. Gentleman’s intervention, and sadly failing. However, his point about the decline of oil and gas in the UK has been made time and time again. Ever since 2004 we have been a net importer of oil and gas, so my point about new oil and gas not being more oil and gas is about managing that decline to make up for the fact that we are not replacing that oil and gas generation with renewables as fast as we would like. I will address that point in more detail in a moment.

Those comments from the SNP leader just go to show the staggering hypocrisy and inconsistency of the SNP, but neither the industry nor the electorate are so easily fooled, particularly in the north-east of Scotland. If asked whether they support new oil and gas licences, as we have seen today, some SNP Members—and, I dare say, some Labour Members as well—may find it difficult to commit to a position, particularly when facing their constituents in the north-east of Scotland. However, this Conservative Government and, in particular, the Scottish Conservatives have maintained consistent support for the oil and gas industry—the companies, and the tens of thousands employed from right across the UK. We recognise, as this Bill does, the potential for the people in this industry not just to keep our lights on and keep the economy moving in the near term, but to lead the world in showing how a successful energy transition from oil and gas to renewables can be done. Sadly, as has been confirmed a couple of times today, all His Majesty’s Opposition seem able to offer is to lead the world in virtue signalling.

In following the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid), I have to say that his speech was one of startling complacency, which still seems to be based on the misunderstanding that just because we exploit oil and gas in the North sea, that somehow means that it is ours—that it gets used here, rather than being sold on global markets at international prices. So many of us have said that so many times in this Chamber, but it still does not seem to have penetrated.

I rise to speak in support of my amendments that have been selected for debate: amendments 2, 3, 13 and 14. Before I begin in earnest, I want to emphasise that seeking to amend this sham of a Bill in no way legitimises what is nothing more than a political stunt. It is not a serious piece of legislation; rather, it is a desperate and dangerous attempt to create yet another culture war. It will make no practical difference at all, given that there have been annual licensing rounds for most of the past decade, with even the board of the North Sea Transition Authority expressing the unanimous view that this legislation is not needed. The amendments I have tabled are designed to expose the falsehoods that have been told by the Government in attempting to justify new fossil fuel extraction in the midst of a climate emergency. The first is that new oil and gas licences can in any way be compatible with delivering our climate targets, and the second is that propping up oil and gas can possibly be in the interests of workers, rather than genuinely engaging with the need for a just transition and the practicalities of how it is delivered.

I will first address my amendments 2 and 3. Taken together, those amendments would insert a new climate test into the Bill alongside the Government’s carbon intensity test and the net importer test, which as we know are not so much robust assessments as they are free passes to pollute. The climate test is very simple: it would be met in a given year only if the IPCC finds that current global fossil fuel infrastructure will not emit more greenhouse gas emissions than is compatible with limiting global heating to 1.5°. According to the climate Minister, the right hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart), that critical threshold is supposedly the Government’s “north star”—a threshold that, as we all know, was passed for the first time across the entirety of last year. I therefore hope that the Minister will support my amendments, which would ensure that proposed licensing rounds do not undermine global efforts to secure a safe and liveable planet for the future and keep that north star shining.

Indeed, as I mentioned earlier, the UN production gap report has warned that Governments already plan to produce more than double the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting heating to 1.5°. If we look at what the IPCC itself has said, its sixth assessment report was clear:

“Projected CO2 emissions from existing fossil fuel infrastructure without additional abatement would exceed the remaining carbon budget for 1.5°C”.

Closer to home, the Climate Change Committee observed in its latest progress report:

“Expansion of fossil fuel production is not in line with Net Zero.”

Regardless of the claims from Conservative Members that the UK will continue to need some oil and gas up to 2050, this, and I again use the words of the Climate Change Committee,

“does not in itself justify the development of new North Sea fields.”

Indeed, last month its interim chair, Professor Piers Forster, was forced to correct the Chancellor on this front, reiterating:

“UK oil and gas consumption needs to fall by over 80% to meet UK targets.”

This is especially critical because, as I reiterated on Second Reading, the UK does not operate in a vacuum, and issuing more licences in the wake of COP28, which saw agreement to transition away from fossil fuels, will encourage other Governments to go against the spirit of that commitment. This is doubly the case given the UK’s historical responsibility for the climate crisis, which requires us to show leadership now in modelling the transition away from fossil fuels, not doubling down on the very thing that is driving planetary breakdown. More UK production will not displace extraction elsewhere; it will fuel it and support a larger global market. However much Ministers seek to distort the truth, planetary boundaries cannot be appeased by warm words. As the UN Secretary-General said at the opening of COP28:

“The 1.5-degree limit is only possible if we ultimately stop burning all fossil fuels. Not reduce. Not abate. Phaseout”.

I now move on to my second test, the just transition plans test, as set out in amendments 13 and 14. Frankly, I am sick and tired of the Government using oil and gas workers as an excuse to issue new licences, pretending that no transition is the same as a just transition, and ignoring the fact that failing to act now actually leaves those workers and communities worse off and in the lurch later on. The choice we are facing is between a managed and fair worker-led transition now, or chaos later on when the reality of the climate crisis bites more fiercely and projects in the North sea are no more than stranded assets, leaving communities once again left behind and hollowed out.

Offshore Energies UK has itself observed in its 2023 workforce insight report that

“the time to act is now: there is a crucial window of opportunity for the workforce between 2024 and 2028”.

It goes on to say that this is when the UK supply chain capacity can be sustained and that

“the transferability of the offshore energy workforce can be optimised”.

I am very familiar with the report the hon. Member has just quoted. Does she recognise that what Offshore Energies UK is referring to—the Goldilocks zone, as I have heard it described—is the point at which we need to make maximum benefit of the skills, supply chains and technologies that currently exist in the oil and gas industry, so that we can make the best use of those skills to deliver net zero?

The best way to make use of those skills is by making sure that we put resources behind those workers so that they can make the transition, which so many of them want to do, into renewables. Right now, those workers are actually having to pay to make that transition themselves. They have to pay for the training. [Interruption.] They do. I tabled an amendment to a previous piece of legislation on education and training to try to make it much less onerous for oil and gas workers to shift into, say, the renewables sector. We need to have those plans, and we need the resources behind them to make that a lot easier than it is today.

The result and the reality is that the number of jobs in the oil and gas sector has already dropped by more than half over the past decade, despite hundreds of drilling licences being issued. The just transition plans test would be met in a year if the Oil and Gas Authority assessed that all existing seaward area production licence holders have published just transition plans for their workforce that are compatible with limiting global heating to 1.5°. Amendment 14 specifies that those plans must be agreed through formalised collective agreements with unions, and that they apply to all workers whether they are directly or indirectly employed—or, self employed, which is vital with the heavy casualisation in the oil and gas workforce.

Indeed, a report in 2020 revealed a high level of concern about job security and working conditions in the oil and gas industry, and that 80% of surveyed workers would consider moving to a job outside that particular sector. Furthermore, given the opportunity to retrain to work elsewhere in the energy sector, more than half would be interested in renewables and offshore wind. Workers are ready to lead a just transition, yet a more recent report has revealed that

“companies are increasingly announcing net zero targets—but there is no example in the UK oil and gas sector of worker involvement in decision-making on decarbonisation.”

That must change.

This amendment would be a step towards delivering a just transition that would see workers at the centre of transition planning, with a clear and accessible pathway out of high-carbon jobs. Rather than propping up jobs that we know are not going to exist in the future, the Government should be actively supporting workers to transition out of the oil and gas sector now, while also addressing their very real concerns, such as the cost of retraining, which is often borne by workers themselves, or the inferior employment protections offshore, which can lead to wage under-cutting. There are even some cases of seafarers working in the offshore wind sector being paid below the minimum wage. That is a scandal, and the Government should urgently establish a wage floor to apply to all offshore energy workers, regardless of nationality, who are carrying out any work on the UK continental shelf. The failure to deliver a just transition is not an inevitability, but a political choice. If the Government are serious about listening to workers and protecting jobs, they should have no problem supporting this amendment, which puts job security at the heart of the transition.

I note that the hon. Member for Angus (Dave Doogan) has tabled amendments 10 and 11 on a just transition, but I have to say that I do have two serious concerns. First, according to the drafting of amendment 11, the SNP test will be met

“if the OGA assesses that…new licences will support the delivery of the North Sea Transition Deal’s…emission reduction targets”.

Yet, as we know, the 50% reduction by 2030 which is in the NSTD proposal, against a 2018 baseline, is far weaker than the 68% reduction recommended by the Climate Change Committee, which it says is achievable. It is also important to note that this only includes scope 1 and 2 emissions, so it fails to take account of emissions produced when oil and gas is burned. Secondly, there is no provision to consult workers as part of this test. Therefore, given that it would fail to deliver a worker-led transition and it also exceeds the advice of the CCC, I sadly cannot vote for that.

Before concluding, I offer my support to a number of other amendments. First, I support amendment 12, on banning flaring and venting, tabled by the right hon. Member for Reading West (Sir Alok Sharma). As others have mentioned, Norway banned routine flaring back in 1971, giving the lie to the Government’s claim that UK gas has lower emissions.

Secondly, I support amendments 19 and 20, tabled by the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), to amend the carbon intensity test and to include all gas, not just LNG. Given that we import most of our gas through a pipeline, it is utterly ridiculous to compare UK production with LNG that is vastly more polluting.

There has been much debate today about the alternative of LNG from Qatar, but there has been a failure to take into account whether our being more dependent on LNG from Qatar would in any way change what Qatar does about its own production. It has been recorded that Qatar will increase its production by 67% by 2027, which means that that energy will be produced and will have certain emissions. At the end of the process, we might have produced something with fewer carbon emissions, but it would be better not to produce them at all.

The hon. Member makes a characteristically wise and useful point. That figure of 67% is startling and deeply worrying.

Thirdly, I support amendments 22 and 24, tabled by the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Lloyd Russell-Moyle)—I hope I can call him an hon. Friend—setting out a home energy efficiency test. As we all know by now, that is the most effective way of delivering real energy security for households that are struggling so much to pay their bills.

Fourthly, I support amendments 23 and 25, again tabled by the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown, requiring the UK to have made arrangements to withdraw from the energy charter treaty before new licences can be awarded. It is totally unacceptable that the Government are mandating annual licensing rounds without having withdrawn from a treaty that allows companies to sue for lost profits. The Government previously committed to reviewing the UK’s membership of the ECT, including consideration of withdrawal from the treaty if proposed modernisation reforms were not agreed at November’s energy charter conference. As I understand it, those proposals were not even discussed at the conference, so may I ask the Minister, when he sums up, to say what is holding up their withdrawing from that treaty, given that they acknowledge that

“there is now no clear route for modernisation to progress.”

Finally, last week it was reported that British Gas profits soared tenfold last year following the changes Ofgem had made to the price cap. In the same week Government figures showed that almost 9 million households—well over a third—spent more than 10% of their income after housing costs on domestic energy bills, and it was also revealed that not a single new proposal for public onshore wind was made in England last year despite the Government’s policy changes. Those three examples are all from just one single week; this week and next week there will be more, and together they demonstrate the utter failure of this Government to make decisions that would benefit people and planet and to unleash our abundant renewables, massively upscale energy efficiency installations and work to get us off expensive and volatile gas altogether. Instead, each week we see yet more evidence that this tired and divisive Government are prioritising increasingly desperate attempts to save their own skin over measures that would improve all our lives by ensuring that everyone has a warm and comfortable home to live in, communities have been supported to make the most of the green transition and our one precious and infinitely fragile planet is finally restored.

I rise to speak to amendment 15 tabled on behalf of the Alba party.

The choice we face is not between shutting down North sea oil and gas and carrying on regardless but how to make its continued exploitation compatible with the environmental challenges and to acknowledge the role that oil can and will play in a sustainable future for the planet. I do not disagree with the four broad objectives of the UK Government proposals, and amendment 15 would strengthen those ambitions on energy independence, safeguarding domestic energy supplies, energy security, reducing higher emission imports, protecting domestic oil and gas industry jobs and working towards our net zero target in a pragmatic, proportionate and realistic way. But I am not convinced that the Bill—and certainly Government policy as it is currently being delivered—will meet those ambitions.

If the provisions are to be truly applied to all parts of the UK as the Government state, then Scotland, the source of oil and gas and whose waters contain the lion’s share of carbon storage sites, cannot be left out of the action. Depleting Scotland’s industrial capacity has increasingly been the direction of travel from this Government in recent years and this strategy will not strengthen the Union as they claim they wish to do. They should be aware that eroding our industry and jobs will further drive up support for independence. They should also be aware that 74% of the Scottish population support domestic oil and gas exploitation and 54% of the Scottish public support new licences being granted for that purpose. Our amendment is without question helpful to all those ambitions, and indeed others, and should be supported by all sides. Its proposals are pragmatic, realistic, responsible and, most importantly, fair.

The infrastructure in Scotland is already in place to meet these objectives. In the north-east we have St Fergus and the Acorn project, in my Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency we have at Mossmoran one of Europe’s four cracker plants alongside an LNG plant operated by Exxon and Shell, and at Grangemouth we have one of the UK’s current oil refineries. I reference the points made by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid) with regard to the environmental impact of exporting oil and gas abroad, which should dissuade the Government from even considering closing the refinery at Grangemouth. All those operations have interconnecting pipelines that are bi-directional, so the infrastructure is all there and it is completely feasible to transport carbon from Grangemouth and Mossmorran north to St Fergus for offshore storage.

From my discussions with the operators in my constituency, I know their carbon reduction teams have been willing and ready to look at the opportunities since I was elected. Exxon has recently made a multi-million-pound investment in Mossmorran, securing its future. That is particularly relevant to some earlier comments on amendment 12 with regard to flaring. That was a persistent problem at Mossmorran where we had an elevated flare that caused light, noise, vibration and pollution, not to mention the environmental impact of the flaring. That investment has reduced flaring significantly, and all plants should seriously consider that to reduce the impact on the communities and the environment around them. That investment from Exxon is well in excess of the modest amount that is required to keep Grangemouth going; it is a multimillion-pound investment and significantly more than what is required to keep the refinery operating at Grangemouth.

So engagement with industry is essential if we really want to build confidence, as the Government claim they want to do, but the UK and the Scottish Government have moved with glacial speed on carbon capture, and have in particular been hampered by the Scottish Green party’s resistance and calls for the wholesale closure of Mossmorran. That has limited progress.

The capacity for carbon capture and storage in Scottish waters is enormous. The UK Carbon Capture and Storage Research Community estimates that the UK has between 16 and 20 gigatonnes in abandoned hydrocarbon fields and an enormous 19 to 716 gigatonnes-worth of storage capacity in saline aquifers, most of which are in Scotland’s territorial waters. This is enough to store carbon worth 500 years of the UK annual emissions, and of course we expect those emissions to go down year on year.

Carbon capture and storage is vital to the UK reaching its net-zero ambitions by 2050, but the carbon must be separated or captured from the flue gas before it can be geologically stored. Currently there are three main methods of capture—post-combustion, pre-combustion and oxyfuel combustion. These technologies have great opportunity to advance responsible environmental exploration of North sea oil and gas, but that requires ongoing in-field research and development through universities and industrial partnerships, and the development of world-class engineering expertise.

Scotland—and I would extend this to the UK—should be in the vanguard of global development, but we are not. My hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Kenny MacAskill) will make further points on the economic, industrial and environmental case in support of the modest investment in retaining the Grangemouth plant, and he has done so in the past, not least with regard to the carbon footprint of offshoring refinery activity, as referenced by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan.

Over £300 billion in today’s money has flowed from the North sea into the UK Treasury since the oil taps were turned on, and over the coming years billions more will be raised. Successive UK Governments have betrayed North sea workers since 2005 by dragging their feet on carbon capture, and even though we now have the welcome green light for the St Fergus Acorn project, it is merely an invitation for finance, not a firm commitment to invest. Yet the potential success of large-scale carbon capture is greater in the North sea geology than in any other oil province, as Equinor has already demonstrated with the Sleipner field.

Carbon capture can be at the heart of an energy revolution in Scotland, but political will and investment are required to make it happen, and it is wholly at the mercy of Westminster.

I am reluctant to intervene, because the hon. Gentleman is making some interesting points, many of which I agree with, but I have a burning question. He makes a point about the amount of storage we have around the UK, which is equivalent to more than we have produced out of the North sea, and we must take advantage of that. In his amendment, he refers to licensing conditions for specific fields been tied to having a net zero effect through carbon capture and storage. He has already explained that carbon capture and storage is typically taken from flue gas from the likes of Mossmorran in his constituency, or Peterhead power station in mine, so how does he make that link between offshore exploration licences and the resultant carbon capture, which will be way down the production line?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Many of the operators are serious about exploiting the resource not just in Scottish or UK waters but in other countries, and other countries can leverage those types of concessions when they grant licences. The UK Government can therefore make no serious argument that they cannot do that.

One of the refrains we heard during the Brexit debate was about the reclaiming of national sovereignty. It was one of the reasons for Brexit. One of the most limiting factors for job creation in renewables was that contracts for difference and European rules prevented conditionality from being applied to the granting of oil, renewables and other licences. If the UK now has that sovereignty, why not use it to ensure that the communities that are part of the supply line get some form of benefit out of the process? One of the most obvious benefits is to reduce at source, through a levy on any licence, the carbon footprint of the exploitation of that resource. That would seem a reasonable expectation, and certainly we feel it is essential in granting any future licences.

Amendment 15 would create a requirement for a specific field commitment of a net zero carbon footprint, as we have just discussed. That would be achieved mainly through connection to the carbon capture network. The prize is to be a world leader in research and development, with an economy built on renewable energy, of which Scotland has an absolute abundance. The UK Government’s dither and delay on Acorn has gone on for far too long. It is time for Scots Members on the Government Benches and their Government colleagues to back a secure future for Scotland’s North sea oil and gas sector and to back this amendment.

This February is on course to break an unprecedented number of heat records, and the dangers of failing to reach net zero are staring us in the face. This Bill flies in the face of our climate change commitments, and it will do nothing to secure energy security and nothing to lower energy bills, and we Liberal Democrats continue to oppose it.

I will mention two amendments that we strongly support, as they are on areas where we Liberal Democrats have tabled amendments in the past. The Bill is silent about methane and needs amending. We therefore strongly support new clause 12 to prevent methane flaring. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with 80 times the warming effect of CO2. It accounts for 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. It has often been seen as a quick win. Methane stays for much less time in the atmosphere, but it is still there. Reducing methane emissions is such an obvious thing to do.

The UK has signed a global pledge to cut methane levels by 30%, and a ban on oil and gas flaring and venting in the North sea would dramatically reduce methane emissions. The International Energy Agency has said that UK oil and gas operators could reduce methane emissions by more than 70% by tackling venting, flaring and leaking. That is supported by the Environmental Audit Committee and the Government-commissioned independent review of net zero. However, the Government’s track record is not good enough. In his last few days in office, the former Energy Secretary, the right hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps), unconditionally approved the new Affleck oil and gas field, whose operators will be able to burn methane until 2037.

We must also mandate monthly leak detection and repair activity. As we have said in the past, it is incomprehensible why the Government are on the one hand saying one thing, but on the other not acting. We must do something about methane. It is a complete dereliction of duty if we do not support that new clause.

The other amendment I want to speak to new clause 23, which would insert a new energy charter test. Many of my constituents have voiced strong concerns about our continuing to be part of the energy charter treaty. That energy charter test would be met if we withdrew from the treaty. As it stands, remaining part of the treaty leaves the UK vulnerable to compensation claims from investors for the early closure of coal, oil and gas plants. Attempts to modernise the ECT to protect countries from libel and to drive investment in renewables have failed. Denmark, France, Germany, Poland, Slovenia, Spain and the Netherlands have all announced their intention to withdraw. Italy withdrew back in 2016. Why should we not join them? The new clause provides a vehicle to do that. It is incomprehensible that we have to discuss this Bill. It is a bad Bill, but the amendments I have just mentioned would make it a little better.

I wish to speak primarily to amendments 13 and 14, but I also support the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for North Devon (Selaine Saxby), the right hon. Member for Reading West (Sir Alok Sharma), my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Lloyd Russell-Moyle) and the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas). May I begin by paying tribute to the newly elected Member, my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Damien Egan)? His electoral victory shows that parties with ambitious climate policies win elections, and those that choose to pursue culture wars are punished at the ballot box. I hope the Government can learn that lesson in relation to this Bill, which is a textbook example of performative politics.

This Bill will not secure British energy independence or help to meet UK or global climate targets. We know, because the Energy Secretary told us so herself, that this Bill will not lower energy bills, yet here we are debating this Bill instead of focusing our minds and time on real solutions that will accelerate the energy transition that is already happening all around us. That energy transition is not only underpinned by a strong scientific consensus to address climate change, but founded in a mission to make energy affordable and to unleash new economic opportunities across Britain, particularly in the regions left behind by previous energy transitions.

I pay tribute to all the workers in oil and gas, who help to keep Britain’s lights on. Their hard work over many years powers our country, and their skills will be essential in making Britain a clean energy superpower. That is why we must respect those workers, and why we should be truthful with them. They deserve no less than that, and we in the labour movement remember only too well what happens when communities are faced with the sudden loss of jobs. We remember the closure of the pits and the communities that were left with nothing, because Government failed to put in place genuine alternatives and a just transition.

I know that British exceptionalism is almost an article of faith or mantra with this Government, but being the first country that sells the last drop of oil is not a feasible strategy. That is not just because the world signed up to transition away from fossil fuels at COP 28, but because the North sea is a declining basin that is nearly empty. New licences between now and 2050 will only provide 103 days of gas. That is just four days of gas every year. Saying that we will expand oil and gas licences in a declining basin and pretending that that will make any real difference to jobs in the North sea is nothing short of dishonest. It may provide campaigning material to pretend otherwise, but people’s livelihoods are more important than political game playing, and we ought to stick to the facts.

It is a fact that, for the past 14 years, the Government have sustained support for new North sea drilling, and in the past decade they have handed out 400 new drilling licences across five separate licensing rounds. Yet it is also a fact that more than 200,000 jobs in and around the wider oil and gas industry have been lost in that same period.

No matter where we look, whether it is to the UK Climate Change Committee, the North sea transition deal, EY, Transition Economics or elsewhere, the projections are the same: there will be further decline in oil and gas employment. In fact, research by the University of Aberdeen has found that the decline of oil and gas is already visible in places such as Aberdeen and cannot be reversed, regardless of new licensing or other attempts to bolster the oil and gas industry. An honest Bill would set out the facts clearly and seek to manage that transition, not to ignore it.

I feel almost obliged to intervene, if only to agree totally with what the hon. Member just said. The Aberdeen University study relates specifically to the decline over previous decades. We have lost a lot of workers in the industry, not just because of the decline in production, but because of new technology and the desire to remotely operate offshore platforms in the interest of safety. There has been decline. What he seems to be missing is that we are talking not about a return to the glory days of peak production in the late ’90s, but managing that decline with reference to how much energy we need. As was mentioned, we need to promote a Goldilocks period in which we make the most of the skills and technologies in that industry for the renewables-based future.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that we must manage the decline, but we must manage the decline in the community’s livelihood, which is not necessarily the same thing. If we make sure that we have a just transition, and introducing support for retraining and gaining skills, as outlined in the amendments that I am supporting, he will find that his constituents and many others around the country will much better weather that decline and prepare for the sort of future that we want.

The Bill, unfortunately, does the opposite. It ignores the 30,000 hard-working people directly employed in today’s oil and gas industry, and the further 100,000 individuals supported by the supply chain. It provides false hope. It sends confusing signals to energy companies, to investors, to the global community, and indeed to unions and the workers they represent. It pretends that nothing needs to change—that business can continue as usual, and that jobs in oil and gas are safe. The Government are acting as if maxing out the North sea can happen indefinitely, or at least until they are no longer in office and therefore do not have to pick up the pieces.

Amendment 14 sets out the need for formalised collective agreements with unions and the workforce to create just transition plans. In Spain, we have seen what can be achieved when Governments, businesses, workers and unions come together. The just transition agreement that the Spanish Government have negotiated with affected workers, unions and businesses is popular, economically responsible and environmentally sound. It is a settlement for all involved. That is the approach that ought to be taken in the North sea. The region needs a new settlement, in which: there is an increase in domestic manufacturing; a new generation of renewables, such as green hydrogen, turbocharges employment in energy-intensive industries; the technology of carbon capture, usage and storage and the UK’s unique storage capacity for sequestering carbon can provide a new service that is exportable to the world; the benefits of the energy system are shared fairly; jobs are truly safe and secure; and, above all, those communities who were once the proud purveyors of our fossil fuel energy become our proud sequesterers of the world’s emissions and the champions of the renewable powerhouse of the future.

Before I conclude, I want to mention one further spurious reason that the Government have put forward to justify the Bill: that it stops us from being dependent on oil and gas from dictatorial regimes such as Russia. Yesterday in the House, my right hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge) pointed out that a loophole in our sanctions regime means that countries such as China and India import Russian crude oil, process it and then sell it to the UK as refined oil. In 2023, we imported 5.2 million barrels of that oil. That means we sent something like £141 million in tax revenue to the Kremlin’s war chest. Britain is also the biggest insurer of Russian oil moved by sea, most of which is sold at prices well above the price cap, again violating sanctions. If the Government really wanted to stop such dependence, they could tighten the sanctions regime—they know how to do so, but they do not.

I will not vote for this piece of 20th-century legislation that instructs the House to look backwards and not forwards. I will not vote to make Britain colder and poorer. I will not vote to increase flooding. I will not vote to leave communities and workers behind. I will not vote to lock volatile fossil fuels into our already broken energy system. Sadly, we must wait for a future Parliament—and, I trust, a future Government. I look forward to working with Members from across the House in pursuit of those goals.

I rise to support amendment 15 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Neale Hanvey), and in particular subsection (b) to proposed new section (1ZA), which relates to Grangemouth. There is something perverse and absurd about using Scottish oil if Scotland’s refinery is to close.

We have to transition. It has to be a just transition, which cannot just be a glib phrase. It must also be paced, because we cannot get there overnight. In my constituency of East Lothian, we can see the turbines on the Lammermuirs, and we can see them growing in number daily, and the growth in the number of columns, as offshore wind capacity comes. But we require fossil fuels to deliver that renewable capacity. We require diesel for the trucks, and marine diesel for the ships, out setting the columns and turbines. We also require the plastics that go with much of that. So we need to continue using and exploiting oil to get to a renewable future. We have to do so at a pace that is appropriate, but also ensure that our country benefits. That is why subsection (b) is so important.

There is something perverse in the fact that Scotland is energy-rich, yet people face fuel poverty. In my constituency, we are not seeing the benefits in employment that should come from being in a county that is so energy-rich. The county faces the same problem as Scotland: it is energy-rich, yet people can only look wistfully at the turbines offshore, while they are unable to pay their bills. We must ensure that we get jobs and work here. The refinery at Grangemouth is pivotal to that.

I grew up not in East Lothian but in West Lothian. The Grangemouth refinery has been there for a century—since 1924—not for North sea oil but for its precursor: the shale industry, which was centred in West Lothian, from which came BP, Paraffin Young and others. BP was the centrepiece, along with Imperial Chemical Industries in its various iterations; it is now Petroineos. The refinery initially dealt with the shale industry, but, once North sea oil was discovered, we used it for that oil.

The Forties pipeline comes ashore from the North sea at Cruden Bay, and oil is piped down to Grangemouth because it was meant to be refined there. Grangemouth is also capable of refining oil from elsewhere: a pipeline runs from Finnart in Argyll through to Grangemouth, which allows oil imported from abroad to be refined in Scotland. Yet we face a situation where unless we support the amendment, Grangemouth refinery will likely close. Although a spat has been going on between the SNP, Labour and the Tories about the North sea and its oil, little has been said about what is happening at Grangemouth. The threat has been growing, and action from the Government both here and in Scotland has been in inverse proportion to that.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have heard me reference Grangemouth and its future in my contribution. I support his ambition to maintain our hydrocarbon future at Grangemouth, as long as it can be sustained economically and environmentally. Does he agree that if we are to prevent the jeopardy that workers at Grangemouth face from ever re-emerging, we need to make sure that sustainable aviation fuel, biofuels and hydrogen are an integral part of Grangemouth’s output? We need to ensure that they overlap with hydrocarbons and leave them behind.

I have had discussions with the shop stewards and unions, whom the Scottish Government may wish to follow and not brush off with cursory meetings. We want a biofuel strategy for Grangemouth, but that is for some significant time in the future. Unless we act now, the refinery could close in 2025. Biofuels will not be refined in Grangemouth or anywhere else in 2025. The shop stewards and the unions wish us to get to biofuels, and Grangemouth must be declared a hub for that, but if it is to survive until then, we must ensure that it is a refinery, not simply a terminal, and that we maintain those skills.

It is absurd that we will continue to exploit Scotland’s oil, yet its refinery will close. There is something perverse about that. Scotland will be the only major oil-producing nation in the world—we are ranked No. 21 along with the UK in the top 25 oil producers—that does not have a refinery capacity. That will put us with large developing countries that produce less oil. We will join a club hosted by the likes of the Republic of Congo and Trinidad and Tobago. I am sure that they are lovely countries—I have never visited—but they are not developed nations with an industrial economy. The danger is that we will become a developing nation, in terms of our industrial base.

It is not simply about the refinery—the jobs there are important. Five hundred could go, and thousands of contractors. It is a cluster. That is why I talked about BP and Imperial Chemical Industries—because ICI clustered where BP refined. Petroineos and others now do it, and we have to maintain that.

First, it is fundamentally wrong that Scotland should, as a nation, lose its refinery capacity. Secondly, it is absurd that, in this world in which we see rocket attacks on maritime vessels, we risk our energy security. The oil that goes in and out of the Clyde or the River Forth will not necessarily be subject to attack by Houthis, but our energy security is lessened if we do not have and produce our own oil. Let us remember that 70% of Scotland’s filling stations are provided by Grangemouth. The entirety of Scotland’s aviation would be threatened, and not just international flights, because in Scotland, domestic flights to Ireland and remote communities are vital. We would have no control over that and no impact on it. Energy security dictates it, and so does the economy.

The loss of skills has happened in previous industrial closures, such as the coal mines or Ravenscraig. We must remember that it is not just the current generation who lose those jobs. I grew up, many years ago now, not far from Grangemouth. When people left school, if they did not go to the pits, a lot of them went to BP and ICI. Petroineos and its predecessors trained a lot of people who have skills in industries that we require, even if they only worked there for a few months after their apprenticeship. This is a loss of skills not simply for one generation but for future generations. It is a loss to a country that badly requires skilled labour because we have a shortage of it. The young workforce there know that there will not be alternative employment by nipping along the M9 or the M8. Many will have to go south or go abroad. Our nation will lose as a result.

There are arguments about the extent of the economic devastation. The 4% put forward by Petroineos was too high, but it is certainly approaching 1% of Scottish GDP that would be lost by the refinery becoming a terminal. That is simply unacceptable. There is the economic argument, but there is also the environmental argument. Those who oppose the continued use of refining have to bear that in mind. People say, “The emissions at Grangemouth are dreadful.” Having grown up there, I know that there are emissions, and the plant has taken action, but the footprint will be worse. I did some research, and the House of Commons Library was very supportive. The emissions that come from the refinery at Grangemouth would be replaced and superseded gargantuanly by bringing supertankers in and out. Oil will go out, coming ashore at Grangemouth from the Forties pipeline, to be brought back in by another supertanker and sold in Scotland.

We will face the ignominy of losing the skilled jobs, then having to pay a premium for the oil we import and having significant emissions. People have seen the quotations for the emissions that come from a cruise liner in comparison with a private car—thousands, if not tens of thousands, of private cars. It is exactly the same for a supertanker. The average supertanker uses 20,000 gallons of marine diesel every day. We will increase the number of ships going out and coming in. It is not just in the firth of Forth; we will be importing into Finnart in Argyll, because that is part of the plan, having lost the refinery capacity. The bonny banks of the Clyde will not be so bonny when supertankers are coming in.

What about the consideration of the risk? I asked a parliamentary question about that, and there seems to be no risk. What about the environmental risk of increased traffic on the Forth and the Clyde? If there is spillage or an accident with a vessel, we do not want to be another Alaska. Ships have to come in and out. At the end of the day, if we have a refinery capacity, we should use it and we should maximise it because it guarantees economic security and retains the economic base of an industrial and developed country. It is environmentally more sensible to refine it there with reduced emissions than to spew out a carbon footprint in supertankers going hither and thither out of the Forth and the Clyde around the UK, and indeed around the whole of northern Europe, if not beyond.

On that basis, it is about time that we committed into statute that Scotland’s oil will be refined in Scotland’s refinery. Our workers and our country should expect no less. It is not a great deal of money that is being sought—we are talking about tens of millions to provide the hydrocracker that will increase profitability threefold, which the hon. Member for Angus (Dave Doogan) should take into account. If we do not get that hydrocracker going, we will not have a plant by the time biofuels are brought into consideration. It is for that reason that of the £6.1 billion that the UK Government will get in receipts from the North sea, a modicum or a fraction must be put into ensuring that Petroineos or its successor remains in Grangemouth.

It is a pleasure to take part in the debate this afternoon, which has been wide-ranging, well informed and genuinely interesting. I thank Members from across the Committee for their participation and for playing an important role in scrutinising this important piece of legislation.

Before I move on to specific amendments I will, if you allow me, Dame Rosie, briefly outline the importance of this Bill. The UK leads the world on tackling climate change, and is the first major economy to halve emissions. The Bill will protect jobs, tax receipts and sovereign capability, so that we can continue that world leadership. As one of the world’s most decarbonised major economies, the UK remains dependent on oil and gas and will continue to be, albeit in reducing amounts, according to the Climate Change Committee. Even when we are at net zero in 2050, we will require oil and gas. However, we are a net importer and, as has been discussed, UK production is falling fast.

The ambition of the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) to destroy UK supply ignores industry, the unions and his own Back Benchers, and would simply replace UK oil and gas with higher-emission imports. That is at the heart of this; that is why we want to pass this legislation—it is because of the policies of the parties opposite. The hon. Member for Angus (Dave Doogan) looks a little confused. The parties opposite are very clear that they want to end new licensing, and we would thus have to import more from abroad. It is as simple as that. That would mean more LNG, which has four times the embedded emissions of domestically produced gas. That is the reality. That is at the heart of the Bill; that is why it is so important that we legislate today to send a signal to industry that continued fast-declining production in the North sea is the right thing to do environmentally, economically, in terms of tax—on every front. If it was not, we should not and would not do it.

I will make a little more progress.

Annual licensing will improve our energy security and that of our neighbours. It will support 200,000 jobs and safeguard billions in tax revenue and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid) set out so well, it will safeguard the skills needed for successful energy transition. Hon. Members can listen to everyone from Offshore Energies UK to Robert Gordon University for evidence of the need for that. These things are not in tension; they mutually complement each other and need to be supported.

I promise to come to the hon. Gentleman before I finish.

Turning to the amendments selected today, I first thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Sir Alok Sharma) for amendment 12 on flaring and venting. As has been discussed, the guidance from the North Sea Transition Authority is clear that all new developments should be planned on the basis of zero routine flaring and venting. The Government have already committed to ending routine flaring and venting by 2030, going further than the World Bank’s zero routine flaring initiative. That voluntary North sea transition deal is reaping rewards. Based on the latest data, North sea flaring is down 50% since 2018, and the sector is on track to deliver the 2030 target.

I fear that the amendment would risk replacing voluntary momentum with a slower, compliance-based, more resistant approach from industry. However, I will continue to engage with my right hon. Friend as the Bill moves to the other place, with a view to delivering the end of flaring and venting by 2030 at the latest, which is an ambition he and I share, as do the Government.

With that, if the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) has not lost his mojo and his moment, I shall give way to him.

I am very grateful to the Minister for giving way, and no—I would not lose my mojo on this. We all know that there is 110% more oil and gas already in the world than we can use if we are to remain within the 1.5°C threshold. Does the Minister think the climate really cares where that oil and gas are used? His argument about imports implies that he does believe that the atmosphere cares. The damage will be done; the only way we can reduce its impact is by ensuring that the proposed additional exploration licences are not achieved.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. He has taken a long and deep interest in this issue, for which I pay him respect. It is the burning of oil and gas that is the primary issue. He mentions 110%—we probably have 200%, 300% or 400%. There are countries setting out to massively increase their production. That is all driven by demand. If we—as a species, as a globe—are to get to net zero, we will have to cap wells all over the world. We will have to leave it in the ground. The most important thing is to ensure that the demand curve is going in the right direction. Despite all the issues, challenges and difficulties of maintaining our role as the leading major economy in cutting emissions, the UK’s biggest challenge in dealing with climate change is not domestic, despite the difficulty of that; it is to get others to join us on a net zero pathway. The idea of producing our own emissions to ever-lower standards and replacing them with higher-emission products from abroad is for the birds. It makes no sense.

I am going to press on. [Interruption.] I do not mean to be rude, but I think I am unlikely, given his previous performance, to be terribly afeared of hearing from the hon. Member for Angus.

I turn to a series of amendments that seek to place conditions on when oil and gas licensing rounds are run. Amendment 15 relates to carbon capture, usage and storage, and the Grangemouth refinery. The oil and gas sector provides a significant portion of the investment that the UK needs to go into wind, CCUS and hydrogen, and I fear that the amendment would drive that investment elsewhere. It would also tie UK production of oil and natural gas to the refining activities of one refinery—Grangemouth—which I am sure Members across the House would agree is neither practical nor desirable.

Amendments 22 and 24 would result in an inconsistent approach between oil and gas licensing and our ambition for domestic energy efficiency. The Government already have a clear aim for as many homes as possible to reach energy performance certificate band C by 2035 where cost-effective, affordable and practical. That is the minimum standard required to replace fossil fuel boilers with low-carbon heating such as heat pumps.

On amendments 23 and 25, we are already reviewing our energy charter treaty membership. As far as we are concerned, there is no longer a clear route for modernisation. We will update the House in due course.

New clause 2 was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Selaine Saxby), who was right to highlight the importance of achieving strategic co-existence between different uses while maintaining environmental protection. Work is under way to ensure that we strike the right balance between our different marine priorities. The soon-to-be-commissioned strategic spatial energy plan and cross-Government marine spatial prioritisation programme will ensure, as she rightly outlines, that we take a strategic approach to identifying future sites for marine developments and energy infrastructure, and that these can co-exist with our environmental and wider marine priorities. I appreciate what my hon. Friend seeks to achieve and assure her that the Government share her desire to protect the marine environment—not least, of course, in the Celtic sea.

Amendments 2, 3, 13 and 18 seek to add an additional climate test to the Bill. The UK produces far less oil and gas than we need, and even with new licences, production is expected to decline faster than the average that is required globally to align with the UN’s 1.5°C pathways. All that this test would do is stop licensing and increase dependence on imported products like LNG, which has production emissions that are four times higher than those of domestically produced gas. The right hon. Member for Doncaster North knows this—he must—so what, other than ideology and a desire to please his Just Stop Oil backers, could lead him to table an amendment that could raise emissions, lose British jobs and hammer our economy? Truly, it is a mystery.

My right hon. Friend is making a powerful speech. Is the reality not that reducing producer emissions in this country only to increase reliance on imported consumer emissions is entirely counterproductive for the environment and very damaging in terms of public support for the direction of travel?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is the absurdity: ending licences will simply increase our imports. It will not change our consumption. If imports such as liquefied natural gas have higher emissions embedded in them, they are counter to our net zero aims.

I now turn to amendments 8 and 9, which together add a new energy and job security test to the Bill. The test, with its complex set of criteria, would damage investor confidence and cause confusion for industry, risking our energy security, jobs, and the skills and investment needed for the green transition we all want to see. It would make our system of administration of this area as opaque as the answers the hon. Member for Angus gave to straightforward questions earlier.

Amendments 10, 11, 13 and 14 introduce additional just transition tests to the Bill. We are absolutely clear on the importance of achieving a net zero basin by 2050 and are on track to deliver that. We need the skills, expertise and resources of the oil and gas industry to support our transition to cleaner technologies, maintaining oil and gas jobs so that they are not lost before renewables and other clean technologies grow to take up those skills.

Amendments 19 and 20 would alter the proposed carbon intensity test to include an assessment of all imported natural gas. Providing the buffer source of supply last winter, liquefied natural gas is critical to meeting supply and demand fluctuations. Despite the expected fall in gas demand and continued North sea production in both the UK and Norway, we are going to become more reliant on LNG imports, which are, as I have said, four times more polluting than producing our own gas. If we produce less domestically, we import more LNG. It is very simple and why a comparison with LNG is the right one to make.

Amendment 21 would require the Secretary of State to report on how the carbon intensity test would be affected by including gases other than carbon dioxide. International initiatives are under way to expand the scope of emissions monitoring data, so if and when those efforts bear fruit, we can use the power in section 4 of the Petroleum Act 1998 to amend the test and bring in other greenhouse gases, as colleagues across the Committee have mentioned. Until then, it will not assist Parliament or the public to produce a report about something that is not realistically possible due to a lack of international emissions monitoring data for gases beyond CO2. It is just worth saying that, overwhelmingly, the greenhouse gas footprint of our North sea production is CO2 and not those other gases.

The Bill provides certainty for industry to keep investing in ever cleaner, though always declining, UK oil and gas production as we transition to reach net zero. Failing to support the Bill could forfeit tens of billions in tax revenues, which the Opposition have no plan to replace any more than they had any idea how to fund their “Here today, gone tomorrow, maybe it is back again” apparently vital £28 billion plan which is no more. It would betray the 200,000 British workers who depend on a healthy oil and gas sector to make a living, and it would mean more reliance on imported LNG with four times higher production emissions than domestically produced gas. I am grateful to hon. Members for the interest they have taken in the Bill and the valuable scrutiny they have brought to it. I hope they are reassured by what I have outlined, and that they feel able to withdraw their amendments. On that basis, I call on all Members to support the Bill.

I have listened intently to the Minister and I welcome his willingness to work together on the issue of flaring and venting. What I did not hear from him was the clarity that I wanted on whether Government would look to introducing an amendment similar to amendment 12 in the other place. Perhaps that is something we can discuss before the Bill returns to this House.

I am delighted to see the Minister nodding. I would just point out that even if the Government do not support a similar amendment in the other place, I am fairly confident that a similar amendment will be moved and I expect supported in the other place. This place will then have the opportunity to opine on that particular amendment, so I will not divide the Committee on this occasion. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: 10, page 1, line 6, at end insert—

“(aa) the just transition test (see section 4ZD)”.—(Dave Doogan.)

This paving amendment, together with Amendment 11, introduces a new test to be applied by the OGA before inviting applications for seaward new production licences.

Amendment proposed: 17, page 1, line 6, at end insert—

“(aa) the climate change test (see section 4ZD)”.—(Dr Whitehead.)

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Third Reading

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

It is my great pleasure to thank everyone who has supported the progress of the Bill. I recognise the excellent contributions of Members from across the House who have engaged closely with this important piece of legislation. I thank those on the Government Benches who spoke for their engagement with the Bill. In particular, I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Sir Alok Sharma), and my hon. Friends the Members for North Devon (Selaine Saxby), for Waveney (Peter Aldous), and for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid), for their contributions and the excellent points that they have raised in Committee.

I also welcome the robust scrutiny from the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead), the hon. Member for Angus (Dave Doogan), who spoke for the Scottish nationalists, the hon. Members for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Neale Hanvey), and for East Lothian (Kenny MacAskill), who represent the Alba party, and others. I thank them all for their participation. I also pay tribute to my officials for their work over these past months, as well to Parliamentary Counsel for their commendable work, the House authorities, parliamentary staff, Clerks and Doorkeepers.

The Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill will give industry the certainty that it needs to continue to invest in the North sea, to strengthen our energy security and to support the transition to net zero. The UK is leading the world on our journey to net zero emissions. We have the fastest reduction in emissions of any major economy —of any member of the G20 on the planet. In fact, we recently celebrated not only fulfilling and even exceeding the targets of the sixth carbon budget coming out of the landmark Climate Change Act 2008, but officially halving our emissions since 1990; we are the first major economy on the planet to do so.

Even when we have reached net zero in 2050, oil and gas will still play an important part in meeting our energy needs, as data from the Climate Change Committee shows. As the most decarbonised major economy in the world, 75% of our primary energy comes from oil and gas. Those who work in the North sea producing oil and gas—there are 200,000 jobs supported by the industry—should not be ashamed of what they do. It is the demand end—our cars, our homes and our factories—that we need to change. We need to meet that challenge; like Don Quixote, we will be tilting at windmills if we, a net importer, try to make our production the problem, rather than demand. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss), who could not be with us earlier, but is very welcome now, asks me for the evidence of that. The evidence is that we have cut our emissions more than any other major economy.

That was not what I was asking. The Minister says that we need to look at demand; where is the national insulation programme, so that we can insulate all our homes and reduce demand in that way? There isn’t one.

The hon. Lady may not have been present for the previous stage of this Bill, but as she has been present for other debates in this House, I cannot claim that she is an absentee Member, so it is extraordinary that she is unaware of the amazing transformation in insulation in this country since 2010. Is she not aware that, in 2010, just 14% of homes were decently insulated? Today, the figure is well over 50%. We are spending £6.5 billion in this Parliament, and will commit another £6 billion between 2025 and 2028, precisely to deliver the transformation that she calls for. On top of that, we have the eco schemes, and obligations on industry. That is how we have taken ourselves from the parlous, shameful situation left behind by the Labour party in 2010 to one where, although there is still much more to do, 50% of homes are decently insulated.

The Minister was very kind to come to my constituency in Northern Ireland to look at the potential schemes for sea turbines and the contract for difference arrangements. At the time, he indicated that, whenever the Assembly was up and running, the contract for difference scheme would be the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Assembly. He was very keen and eager to assist the Assembly. Is it his intention to contact the Northern Ireland Assembly to ensure that the CfD scheme can be promoted? His input into that will make a big difference.

I thank the hon. Gentleman, who is a consistent champion not only for his constituents but for the clean transition. I look forward to meeting and working with the new Minister for the Economy, who I believe has the energy portfolio in Northern Ireland.

The Bill will give industry the certainty that it needs to continue investing in the North sea, to strengthen our energy security, and to support the transition to net zero. The Government’s position is clear: we should, as far as possible, seek to meet continued UK demand for oil and gas from the UK’s own sources. That means continuing to use the North sea—a UK success story that has contributed billions of pounds in tax revenue and supports an industry of around 200,000 workers. The oil and gas industry, with its strong supply chains, expertise and skills, is vital to driving forward the net zero transition and the investment in clean technologies that we need to meet our net zero targets.

We all want the energy transition delivered in an orderly way that does not risk thousands of those jobs. Artificially reducing our production from the North sea or banning new licensing would do just that and jeopardise the energy transition, our progress towards net zero and our climate leadership, not to mention the billions of pounds in lost tax revenue. The Bill is about ensuring a smooth and orderly transition. New licences awarded under the Bill will manage the decline in domestic oil and gas production, rather than increase production above current levels, and they will give industry certainty by sending a strong signal of support for continued investment in the sector—investment that is necessary both for our energy security and to help deliver the energy transition. I commend the Bill to the House.

It is customary on Third Reading to start with thanks, and I would like to thank two groups of people. First, I thank the civil servants who held their noses to write this pile of rubbish for the House’s consideration. Secondly, I thank the Government for introducing the Bill, because as a number of people will know, it has led directly to the election of a new Labour Member of Parliament for Kingswood, following the resignation of the former Government climate tsar, who wrote the net zero report and had this to say about the Bill:

“This bill would in effect allow more frequent new oil and gas licences and the increased production of new fossil fuels in the North Sea… I can also no longer condone nor continue to support a government that is committed to a course of action that I know is wrong and will cause future harm.”

He then resigned, and the rest is history. Thank you, Minister, for increasing Labour’s representation in this Chamber by one seat. Although we hope to have a lot more seats in the very near future, that is progress.

The Minister has form on this. He was the Minister in the Adjournment debate on fracking some while ago—

Sorry; the Opposition day debate on fracking, which effectively brought down the Truss Government as a result of the various prevarications at the time. I thank the Minister for that.

What I do not thank the Minister for is the completely misleading and almost erroneous way in which he has characterised the future under the Bill. On licences, the Bill will do things that are already done, and it will not make any change. It will not suddenly increase confidence across the sector, because the sector knows that the Bill is just a piece of performative theatre; and it will do nothing—contrary to what the Minister and others have claimed—to cut energy bills, tackle the cost of living or improve our energy security.

At a time when people across this country have suffered two years of crushing energy costs and an inflationary crisis driven in large part by our significant exposure to gas prices—which, as we all know by now, are set internationally—the Bill offers no solutions. The Secretary of State herself admitted that it would not cut bills, and Lord Browne, the former chief executive officer of British Petroleum, said that it was

“not going to not make any difference”

to energy security. The board of the North Sea Transition Authority, which is responsible for giving out licences, unanimously agreed that the Bill is unnecessary and would challenge its independence. However, even though the Bill will achieve none of its stated aims, it is far from consequence-free.

Offshore Energies UK has said that if Labour’s policy was implemented, it could cost this country 42,000 jobs and £26 billion of economic value. Perhaps the shadow Minister will respond to that consequence.

We are talking about what the Government are doing through this policy—that is what we are concentrating on today. I hope we will have another much wider debate about the effect that a comprehensive transition policy for the whole North sea field would have, with associated arrangements for the transition of investment, energy security and worker and job security, in the context of future jobs and future energy security. Many people in the industry have already said that that is exactly what we need to secure the future of the North sea. It is a declining basin; its output will not change greatly as a result of the measures that the Government are proposing. On the other hand, unless urgent action is taken to secure a holistic transition for the North sea, it certainly will not have the investment and the future that so many of us want to see. We need to put that overall consideration alongside some people’s shorter-term concerns about what will happen to the oil and gas industry right this minute.

This has been an extremely crucial issue in the north-east of Scotland, particularly this week. Does the shadow Minister think it is a small, short-term problem that 42,000 highly skilled workers in that area could lose their jobs under Labour’s plans?

They will not. I have tried to make it very clear, against what is, frankly, misinformed scaremongering by Government Members, that under Labour’s plans the North sea will, of course, continue to produce efficiently and effectively over a very long period of time. We know that the North sea is a very mature field and is in decline, and all authorities have said that the Government’s proposals would make no difference to that overall pattern.

We are looking at how to make sure that the North sea continues to produce well and efficiently the oil and gas we will need for the future in declining amounts, while at the same time transforming that economy to produce new forms of energy for the future and maintaining security of production. That will be the big task for the future Labour Government—I am pleased that the hon. Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) is envisaging what the new Labour Government will shortly have to do. The long-term task in the North sea is not to pump every last drop of oil and gas it contains, but to give it a new lease of life. New industries can come into the North sea alongside the infrastructure that already exists, making it a new energy powerhouse for the UK in the future.

I cannot let that go unchallenged. This letter from the Aberdeen and Grampian chamber of commerce to the Leader of the Opposition—the leader of the Labour party in the UK—says that

“if North Sea production is to cease prematurely—a certain outcome of this”


“policy—then our entire energy transition is undermined.”

This has massive consequences, and I have to say that the reaction of the shadow Minister is quite telling.

The hon. Member rather gives himself away by the first sentence he read out:

“if North Sea production is to cease”.

North sea production will not cease—

North sea production will not cease over a long period of time, and Labour is committed to making sure that that production continues at the appropriate level for the maturity of the North sea basin. That is something that all sensible people understand to be the case, although it is unfortunate that certain Conservative Members pretend it is not the case for their own political purposes.

I will make some progress.

The Bill, as I have said, will achieve none of its stated aims, but it is far from consequence-free. The consequence is that it makes a mockery of our country’s commitments to take serious and responsible action on climate change. That is exactly the point the former right hon. Member for Kingswood, Chris Skidmore, made in his resignation letter to the Prime Minister. That point should not be a partisan point. Indeed, it has not been a partisan point, because a number of Members on all sides of the House, including a number of Conservative Members, can see the direction in which this short-sighted Prime Minister and Government are going, and want no part of it.

Some Members are trying to make changes to the Bill. As I have said, one has resigned, and a number are working hard to turn around the direction of this Government in resiling from our country’s climate change commitments—commitments they so recently signed up to, at the recent COP—on moving away from oil and gas. Regrettably, the Prime Minister and the Government, including this Minister, are not having any part of that. I am particularly disappointed that the Minister is not having any part of it, because of his long and honourable commitment to these matters on the international stage over such a long time.

The right hon. Member for Reading West (Sir Alok Sharma), the man who led this country’s climate negotiations at COP26 in Glasgow, has called the Bill “smoke and mirrors”, and a “distraction” that will

“reinforce the unfortunate perception of the UK’s rowing back from climate action”.—[Official Report, 22 January 2024; Vol. 744, c. 52.]

The right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), the former Prime Minister—she signed this country’s net zero commitment into law and understood, as the current Prime Minister sadly does not, the value of cross-party consensus on the science of climate change—has said that she takes a different view from the Government on oil and gas licences, and that they will not provide for our energy security. Away from this Chamber, every credible independent expert has taken a dim view of the Bill. Lord Stern, one of the UK’s foremost experts on climate change, whose work has shaped how the world understands the costs of inaction, has called the Bill a “deeply damaging mistake”.

The reality is that the cost of living crisis we are in is to a large extent caused by our country’s deep exposure to the volatile international price of gas. The International Monetary Fund has said that this exposure meant the UK was harder hit by the crisis than any other western nation. Just today, the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit has found that this country has spent an additional—in addition to normal spending—£75 billion on gas since the energy crisis began. Four extra days of gas supply by 2050 cannot possibly make the slightest bit of difference to this price. As I have highlighted, the Secretary of State herself conceded that point on the very day the Bill was announced.

The supposed arguments on energy security and jobs are similarly flimsy. The reality is that, as we have begun to discuss this afternoon, the North sea is an extremely mature and declining basin. Gas production will fall by 95% by 2050, even with new licences. The notion that this is a firm basis on which to build our energy security or protect jobs is clearly absurd. As I have outlined, we need a fair and balanced transition for North sea oil and gas workers that recognises the essential role they will continue to play in operating existing fields, which no one disputes will remain a vital part of our energy mix, and puts them at the heart of our clean energy future.

To safeguard the jobs, skills and livelihoods of the communities that have been the backbone of our energy system for decades, we need a Government with a proper industrial strategy to maximise the low-carbon economic potential of the North sea. Labour will create a national wealth fund to invest in low-carbon industries, it will launch a British jobs bonus to ensure that the supply chain benefits of renewable investment finally come to our shores, and it will create a new publicly owned energy company, GB Energy, headquartered in Scotland, to invest in home-grown clean energy and give us real energy independence. That is the answer that the country needs and that the communities who have served as the backbone of our energy systems for decades need. Political theatre, whether in Westminster or Holyrood, helps no one and does a disservice to the people looking to us for answers to the very real challenges we all face.

The final argument that the Government have made in favour of the Bill is that it is somehow, as we have begun to unwrap, a climate-positive piece of legislation. This argument rests on a series of partial and deliberately gameable tests, as we discussed in Committee, with skewed conditions that look only at a narrow band of emissions, ignoring methane for example; that look only at production emissions, ignoring the impact of actually burning the fuels we are extracting; and that look only at liquefied natural gas, ignoring the fact that the majority of our imports are pipeline-delivered. It includes no test whatsoever for oil, which makes up the majority of remaining reserves. That is why I have sympathy for the civil servants who wrote the Bill, who had to squeeze various things into it such as ignoring gas that was coming into pipeline, only having tests against liquefied gas and ignoring the methane emissions in the various versions of the arrangements in place for measuring emissions from production. I was very disappointed that the Minister gave no reaction at all this afternoon to that particular point on methane.

The data simply does not exist, as I think I set out. It does not exist and we cannot make a comparison if the data does not exist. We are world-leading in having that data; others do not have it. On the methane comparison, we are already below the internationally set goal; we have very low methane emissions in the North sea. On the comparison with LNG— which is the buffer fuel, which is why it is the true comparator, rather than Norwegian gas, which the hon. Gentleman is failing to admit—methane is emitted as it is shipped, so the methane story would make it even worse for LNG versus domestically produced fuel. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would put that into his argument.

I would not put it into my argument, but I am a little puzzled under those circumstances that the North Sea Transition Authority recently published a factsheet on precisely this point about the relative emissions of various contributors to gas and oil into the UK, which looked at the contribution from various countries and at the various emissions levels of those contributions, and set out how those contributions arise. I do not know whether the Minister is quite up to date with what his own North Sea Transition Authority is doing, but perhaps he ought to have a little look at that because he would see that actually the data is there. It does exist, and we can draw the sort of conclusions I drew this afternoon from it, and indeed from a number of other international data sources that are coming in.

The argument that the marginal unit of gas must always be LNG is simply not correct, because the Bill makes no provision whatsoever for the shape of UK gas demand at the point at which the gas is extracted and used. It effectively assumes that our national demand for gas will remain unchanged in perpetuity. When we are in a crisis caused by our reliance on fossil fuels and committed to a net zero transition, that assumption is patently wrong.

I hesitate to intervene again, but to suggest that this Bill has the assumption that our gas demand remains the same is absolute nonsense. Of course it is coming right down. We are on a net zero pathway. We are leading the world in that and our demand is falling fast; it is just that our production will fall even faster. The hon. Gentleman should not mislead the House, and I am sure he would not want to do so.

I think I have already indicated that gas production is predicted to fall by 95% by 2050. The addition of one or two licences will not make any difference at all to that precipitous fall in practice, as it will be four days more of gas over the period. That is the basis for why we say that the Government’s commitment to net zero transition while producing large amounts of additional gas and oil is patently wrong. We should be sprinting towards clean energy. We should be investing in renewables, rather than banning them, as the Conservatives have done with onshore wind. We should be saving the country billions by moving to decarbonise power systems by 2030 and making far greater efforts to insulate homes and reduce gas demand there.

On climate change, on energy security, on jobs and on bills, this Bill has nothing to offer but false promises that frankly insult the public’s intelligence. To support this Bill, we would need to believe that we can double down on the causes of the cost of living crisis and still solve it; that we can somehow defy geology in the North sea and change the fundamental nature of international energy markets; and that we can ignore all the science and credible experts on climate change and still meet our commitments, including our commitment to transition away from fossil fuels made by the Minister at COP28 a few short months ago. It is clearly nonsense, but it is emblematic of a Government who have run out of ideas and run out of road—a Government who can see the many real challenges our country faces, but have no answer to them beyond confected political drama. In their misguided pursuit of a political dividing line, they have shrunk our country on the international stage, made us hypocrites in the eyes of the world and opened the door in this country to a new divisive politics on climate change that I sincerely believe the Ministers sitting opposite me today are not comfortable with, do not want as their legacy and will come to regret profoundly. This Bill will deliver nothing, but it threatens much. For that reason, I urge the House to vote against it.

It has been interesting following the process of this Bill. I spoke on Second Reading, and I sat through most of the Committee today, and I am pleased to speak on Third Reading to support the proposals brought forward by this UK Conservative Government—the only party supporting our vital oil and gas industry across the United Kingdom, and particularly in the north of Scotland. My constituents in Moray, many of whom work in the oil and gas industry, will be shocked and annoyed by what we have heard today from those on the SNP Benches and by the deeply disappointing remarks we have just heard from the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) on the Labour Front Bench. If he thinks that “misinformed scaremongering” from Offshore Energies UK and from Aberdeen chamber of commerce does not deserve to be raised in this Chamber, he is gravely wrong. I think it is an indication of Labour’s position. It has already turned its back on the oil and gas industry in Scotland, and by the sound of things it will only get worse. [Interruption.] He is looking quizzical, but let us just look at what is happening in Scotland now and at some of the coverage.

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is a regular reader of The Press and Journal, but its front page made clear what people in the north-east of Scotland think about Labour’s proposals. The Scottish Sun said that people in Scotland could wave goodbye to tens of thousands of jobs. That is not the papers or the Opposition just saying that; it is papers reporting what experts in the field are saying. We know that the Labour party changes its policies quickly, and I can only hope this is another of those, because its actions are having a deeply damaging effect. Were these policies ever implemented, they would have a huge impact on the oil and gas sector and the people who work in it and rely on that oil and gas production. Tens of thousands of jobs and livelihoods are at risk.

As we often want to articulate our own views in this Chamber, I think it is only right that we repeat some of the concerns raised by the industry. Offshore Energies UK’s chief executive Dave Whitehouse is someone who must be listened to on this subject. I met him recently on a visit to Aberdeen. He said that Labour’s proposals

“would deliver a hammer blow to the energy we need today and to the homegrown transition”.

He also said:

“These are not faceless numbers but decent, hardworking people working across the UK to provide the energy we will need today and in the future.”

That is an expert view on the Labour proposals.

Aberdeen chamber of commerce has described Labour’s plans as a “betrayal”. Chris Wheaton, an oil and gas analyst, said:

“The uncertainty created by threatening new windfall taxes is as bad as the tax itself.”

Perhaps most powerfully of all, last week, more than 800 individuals, firms and trade groups wrote to the Leader of the Opposition to express their deep concerns about what is being spoken about by the Labour party.

Sadly, in Scotland, we cannot get a cigarette paper between the Labour party and the SNP. It is almost as if they are in a race to decimate our oil and gas industry and want to outmanoeuvre each other. Both support a windfall tax. Both oppose the Rosebank field. Both are speaking about dangerous proposals—[Interruption.] Liberal Democrat Members think that is funny. I am sorry, but I do not think it is funny that tens of thousands of jobs across Scotland are under threat. I take that issue extremely seriously.

Speaking about the SNP, I tried to get this out on Second Reading and in Committee. I am delighted that the hon. Member for Angus (Dave Doogan) is still in his place, because we have to get to the bottom of this. I ask him to intervene on me and explain whether he, as the MP for Angus, representing a north-east constituency, believes further licences should or should not be granted for production of oil and gas in the North sea.

I do not know about you, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I have just about heard enough from the hon. Member today. For the fourth time, Government Members’ association between the number of licences issued and the number of oil and gas jobs protected is specious at best. We have been accused by them—including, I think, the hon. Member—of wanting to put the oil and gas industry in Scotland to the sword. There is no such plan. The leader of the SNP and Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf was in Aberdeen just yesterday talking about how Scottish oil and gas workers must never be left behind.

I am disappointed in the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid)—I thought more of him—misquoting Humza Yousaf, who said that he would rather Aberdeen was not the oil and gas capital of Europe but the renewable energy capital of the world. That promises vastly more economic opportunity for workers in Scotland. Government Members had better start dealing with that.

Order. I remind Members that this is a Third Reading and that we should not be reopening arguments that were heard in Committee or previous stages.

I respect that ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I do not think it is reopening anything, because we have not got any further. I have tried at Second Reading, in Committee, and now at Third Reading. Why is it so difficult for SNP Members who represent communities in the north-east of Scotland to say what is actually in their own draft energy strategy? It says there is a “presumption” against new “exploration” for oil and gas “in the North sea”. The fact that the hon. Member for Angus cannot simply stand up and give his own position tells us exactly how people in the north-east of Scotland feel. The SNP has breathtaking hypocrisy on this issue. It wants to run down the oil and gas sector. It is no friend of the oil and gas sector. Of course, the SNP asked the Green party into government—that tells us everything we need to know.

Was the hon. Member as confused as I was by the answer given by the hon. Member for Angus (Dave Doogan): that somehow or other there is no need for a licence to drill for oil to create and protect oil jobs, and that we can protect oil jobs by not extracting any oil from the ground?

That is just one example of the mixed and confused messaging from the SNP which, sadly, we hear far too much in this Chamber. We have heard it across the north-east this week and it has dominated much of our proceedings.

I will, because this may be our final chance to hear if the hon. Gentleman believes in the SNP’s draft energy strategy, which included a presumption against licences for new oil and gas exploration.

As much as I am enjoying the hon. Member’s crocodile tears about protecting jobs in Scotland, I wonder if he could give confidence to those oil and gas workers in Scotland by highlighting an example from recent history when the Tories have protected anyone’s job anywhere?

It is only this UK Conservative Government and the Scottish Conservatives at Holyrood who are standing up for an industry that supports more than 200,000 people across the United Kingdom and 95,000 people in Scotland. We have heard that 42,000 jobs are at risk under the Labour proposals, which are almost identical to those of the SNP.

How does the hon. Gentleman propose to get to net zero by 2050 and a temperature rise of no more than 1.5C? Our current projections exceed all that. All I hear is that we have to increase oil and gas production in the North sea, but that is the wrong path to net zero. How will we limit temperature rises to 1.5C and ensure that we do not carry on the current trajectory of well over 2C? The Government do not have an answer for that.

The hon. Lady has misinterpreted everything that I have heard during the debate. No one is saying that there will be increased production; we are looking to protect what is happening at the moment, and jobs. As my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid) said in Committee, those jobs will go elsewhere. Let us make no bones about that. They will not stay in Scotland or the United Kingdom. Under the proposals of other parties, they will go to other countries in Europe and around the world. They will drill for oil and gas in those countries, they will pay their tax in other places and they will ensure that we buy that in as a nation at a higher cost and with a greater carbon footprint.

That is why I want us to maximise what we can do in the North sea, supporting tens of thousands of jobs in the north-east and right across Scotland and the United Kingdom, and work towards that just transition, which Offshore Energies UK and everyone else is fully behind. That is why I support this Bill and the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Minister, who has worked constructively across the House. I have had very useful meetings with him, the Secretary of State and others.

The Bill also sends a clear message that there is one party on the side of workers in the north-east and those in the oil and gas sector across the United Kingdom. That is the Conservative party—here in government at UK level, and the Scottish Conservatives at Holyrood and across Scotland. More and more people are starting to see that the Labour party and the SNP are turning their backs on these workers, and only the Scottish Conservatives and this UK Government are supporting them.

The Bill is completely lacking in merit. It seeks to solve a problem that does not exist. The North Sea Transition Authority can issue licences, and it has been doing so. This is a Potemkin argument; a specious debate about the issuance or otherwise of licences. When this Bill passes, which it will given the arithmetic in this House, it will change not one jot the ability to issue licences or otherwise. What it seeks to do is put on a pedestal and create conflict in what was previously broad consensus about the need for a just transition to combat a climate emergency.

In the tone and tenor of the debate today, Government Members in particular have shown a desire to weaponise that. We just heard from the hon. Member for Moray (Douglas Ross), who said in his summing up that only the Conservatives are standing up—absolute and utter nonsense, although if I was working in oil and gas, I would not want to rely too heavily on Labour, if its £28 billion plan is anything to go by. It could have included measures to offset the rapacious appetite for more and more licences to drill for every drop of oil and gas within the North sea basin and receipt every available ha’penny of tax into His Majesty’s Treasury. It could have done those things, and chucked a little bit over the wall to say, “But we’re going to put 5%, 10% or 15% of all those revenues directly into the just transition.” That would not have been brilliant, but it would have been something. But no—there is not a thing in this legislation to offset the appetite for further and further investment.

Government Members have spoken at length about the need to ensure that we do not develop a gap between that which we demand and that which we can supply—it has already passed; the UK can no longer sustain its own demand. We have to import oil and gas from elsewhere. But that is a myopic obsession with the supply side. There is not nearly enough being done by the Government after 14 years to mitigate the demand side. Supply is a function of demand; the be supply requirements are such as a result of that which is being demanded. If there had been a truly ambitious programme at any stage over the past 14 years to insulate houses, get people into electric vehicles and introduce further decarbonisation of our economies and lifestyles, we would not have the demand that we have now. The potential gap between that which can supplied domestically and that which has to be imported would inevitably be less in a zero-sum game. However, we do not have any of that.

I will not go over an issue that I am not going to get an answer to. However, the hon. Gentleman’s own party has been in government in Scotland for 17 years now, and the Scottish Government have repeatedly missed their own climate change targets, largely because they have not done what he is accusing the UK Government of not doing. How does he reflect on his own party and Government in Scotland who have not done enough to insulate homes, get more people into electric vehicles and put in the charging points that we need across the country?

Not for the first time, the hon. Gentleman has stood on a political landmine if he thinks he is going to hold me to account on the availability of charge points. What he may not know—although, knowing him, I suspect he probably does—is that someone wanting to find anywhere on these islands with more vehicle charge points than Scotland would need to come to London or the south-east of England. Scotland has many more available charge points for electric vehicles—

Well, we can sort this out later. Scotland has the third highest availability of electric vehicle chargers of all geographical areas in the United Kingdom. I think the Scottish Government’s record is exemplary—having, as we do, one hand tied behind our back due to being a member of this non-Union, with the freedom of movement and zero agency that comes from being a non-sovereign state. Any other normal country could invest into whatever it wants, and could do so using the normal levers that an independent country would have. Scotland, of course, cannot do that because it must wait for its cheque every year from Westminster. If the hon. Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) does not like that, he knows what to do.

I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid) for the work he did in finally grinding out some progress from his partners and colleagues in government on the Acorn project, but that just typifies the slowness—the absolute pedestrian nature—of measures to protect consumers and the environment from the largest possible demand. If we had gone into that with a proper fund and with ambition and pace five, six or seven years ago, we would not be in this situation now.

The SNP’s amendment proposed an elegant solution to invest the additional receipts from oil and gas extraction in the North sea basin directly into the renewable transition, protecting people from higher bills, insulating their homes and getting them out of their petrol and diesel cars and into electric cars. As we saw in the Prime Minister’s rolling back on heat pumps and electric vehicles—a further weaponisation of the climate emergency—that is not on the agenda of this fag end Tory Government. They are trying to scrabble around looking for votes, but that does not work. They have achieved tremendous damage with that approach and judging by recent by-election results they have gained zero political capital. On the mess that is evident before us—[Interruption.]—while I get heckled by the hon. Member for Moray, I and my SNP colleagues urge Members to decline the Bill a Third Reading.

Order. Proceedings must finish at 40 minutes past 5. Four people are standing. Please be considerate to other Members, so that everybody can get in.

It is hard to know what more can be said about this farcical and unnecessary Bill. It feels as if we are running out of adjectives. Taking part in this debate, listening to the ridiculous heckles from the Government Front Bench, almost legitimises this desperate and dangerous attempt to create yet another culture war out of something as serious as the climate emergency, but I put on record my deep disappointment that the Government are playing such dangerous games.

Ever since the Climate Change Act 2008 was first introduced, there has more or less been a consensus of a kind, with a recognition on both sides of the House that the climate crisis was real and that we needed to act fast to address it. Of course, there were differences on some of the detail, but not on that substantial issue. Now, however, it feels as if we have a Government who are putting all that at risk and that the legislation is all of a piece with Ministers rolling back pledges on home insulation, the boiler replacement scheme, electric vehicles and so on—the ludicrous list we had from the Prime Minister about all sorts of things he was going to scrap that were never Government policy in the first place.

I will add one further argument to those we have heard over the past few hours: projects such as Rosebank will not enhance our security, not just because the oil is mainly exported, but because public opposition to such projects and their unlawfulness mean that developments are subject to lengthy legal battles. That is a very real risk. Would it therefore not be better to accelerate the roll-out of cleaner energy, which is much more popular with the public, and not give, in this case, Rosebank’s owner Equinor nearly £3 billion in tax breaks? Lawfulness is particularly topical today, with a law case going on right now about whether the Government are meeting their climate objectives and whether the reports they have produced contain enough policy detail to persuade the population that we are on track to meet our climate targets. That also demonstrates, frankly, that the boosterism we have heard from the Minister is entirely misplaced. Complacency does not address the climate crisis or the fact that while the UK once had a leadership position on climate, it has one no longer.

When I listen to some of the voices on the Conservative Benches, I sometimes feel as if this place is on another planet from the one that is overheating. It is undeniable that we are living through what many are calling the sixth mass extinction. We are living through a risk of earth’s systems collapse. Scientists are running out of words to describe the seriousness and to try to wake up policymakers to exactly what is at stake. We have just heard that there is a risk of a total loss of late summer sea ice in the Arctic. That is now baked in and could happen as early as the 2030s. That, in turn, is likely to trigger even more extreme weather events in the northern hemisphere, through the weakening of the jet stream. In the Antarctic, melting of the sea ice has accelerated dramatically, which could lead to cascading collapses of the fresh water ice shelves, with catastrophic results for rises in global sea levels. New research in the Amazon has found what scientists call precursor signals of an approaching critical transition. Deforestation and climate breakdown could now cut off circulating rainfall in the basin, triggering a rapid flip from rainforest to savannah. This is what we are talking about here. Future generations will look back to this time—they may even look back, who knows, to this debate—and wonder what on earth we were thinking by giving a green light to more oil and gas licences.

When we ask ourselves why that is happening, we might also reflect on the role of the fossil fuel lobbyists. A few weeks ago, when I held an Adjournment debate on the subject of the fossil fuel lobbying that goes on in this place, I noted that Offshore Energies UK and its members, including BP and Shell, had

“met UK Government Ministers more than 210 times in the year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—that is nearly once every working day.”—[Official Report, 30 January 2024; Vol. 744, c. 833.]

The combined profits of Shell and BP alone have reached £75 billion, and I would suggest that that is not unrelated to the direction of the Government’s discussion today.

Let me end by quoting from a letter from more than 700 UK scientists who wrote to the Prime Minister last year urging him to halt the licensing of new oil and gas. They included Chris Rapley, a former head of the Science Museum and a professor at University College London, and Mark Maslin, a world-famous professor of earth system science at UCL, and they all warned against any new development of oil and gas. They wrote:

“if the UK allows any new development of oil and gas fields, it will severely undermine…claims of leadership by contributing to further oversupply of fossil fuels, and making it more difficult for the world to limit warming to 1.5°C. Therefore, the UK should commit to preventing any new oil and gas field development, and the Government should state this commitment clearly… There are those who might claim that stopping new developments of oil and gas fields would raise concerns about the affordability and security of future energy supplies, but there is now overwhelming evidence that the UK is far better served by a rapid transition to domestic clean energy sources, particularly renewables, and decarbonisation of our economy. Doubling down on fossil fuels will not lower energy bills or enhance our energy security… The IPCC report stated: ‘The choices and actions implemented in this decade’”—

now, at a time when we are all in decision-making positions—

“will have impacts now and for thousands of years’.”

The moment for political leadership is here and now, and I beg Ministers to rise to the occasion.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), who has made a powerful case in explaining why the Bill should never have reached the House. This month is on course to break an unprecedented number of heat records, and the dangers of failing to reach net zero are staring us in the face. I say this again and again, and the hon. Lady has made a very powerful point. This Government, in the name of “protecting jobs”, are turning their back on their net zero commitments, and I find that, and the way in which this debate is being run, incredibly dishonest. If the debate were honest, it would reflect the fact that the Government have shown their true face, and are delaying the climate action that is so necessary.

I have heard repeatedly, throughout the debate, “We are responding to demand.” Of course there will be demand for as long as we provide unlimited supply, and of course the oil and gas industry itself will want to drill for every last drop of oil for as long as it can, but it is for a responsible Government to make a responsible decision, and to look the dangers that confront us in the face. The tobacco industry says that there is demand for smoking materials, and the Government have understood their responsibility to stop that demand because smoking is dangerous, but they fail to see or understand the dangers of climate change. We need a Government who will guide the economy into the net zero future, because we need to secure a prosperous future, in the long term, for all people, rather than concentrating on a short-term election issue that may divide Members after such a long period of consensus on the need to reach net zero.

While the Government claim that new licences will improve energy security, the reality is very different. Between now and 2050, new licences are expected to provide an average of only four days of gas per annum. All that the Bill does is send a symbolic signal. It does not even meet the requirement that the Government have set themselves—securing energy for the future of this country. That is why I think the Bill is so dangerous. As I said on Second Reading, it was introduced for political reasons, not because the Government are genuinely intent on any outcome except electoral gain. That is why we should oppose the Bill and make it very clear to our citizens that it does nothing for energy security, nothing to get us to net zero, and nothing to curb energy bills. All Members of the House in their right mind should oppose this Bill.

I call Sammy Wilson. Please be cognisant of the fact that the debate will finish at 5.14 pm, and Mr Foord would like to get in, too.

May I first say that we fully support the Bill and the objectives that have been set? As has been said time and again during the debate, we will require oil and gas for decades—and it may as well be British oil and gas, because that means jobs in Britain, tax revenue, and reducing our imports. If we are to continue to use oil, there are very good reasons why we should give licences for its production.

I find some of the arguments made today very strange. Passionate speeches have been made against this Bill on the basis that—let me paraphrase the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead)—it does not do anything that is not already being done. He went further and said that even though that is the case, civil servants must have “held their noses” when writing the Bill. If it does not do anything that is not already being done, why on earth is there such passionate opposition to it? [Interruption.] A Member asks from a sedentary position about the climate emergency. Apparently, one of the arguments against the Bill is that it will provide only another three days’ worth of oil and gas. We are hardly going to push up world temperatures if another three days’ worth of oil and gas is drilled out of the North sea, but we will ensure years of jobs for people currently working in the gas industry, guarantee years of finance for much-needed public services in this country, and guarantee that we do not have to import from other countries.

Another argument used against the Bill is that it is a confected and contrived piece of legislation, designed simply to be part of the culture wars and to drive a wedge. Indeed, the hon. Member for Angus (Dave Doogan) said it was “specious” and dealt with a problem that does not exist. The easy way of ensuring that the Bill does not become a confected piece of legislation or drive an artificial wedge is for those who think that it is only window dressing to make it quite clear that they would continue to allow licences to be issued. Then it would not be confected; we would know that either there is a real difference or there is no difference. I am not sure where the Labour party stands on this issue, but if, like the hon. Member for Angus, it cannot give a commitment that there would be licences granted under a Labour-controlled Administration, the Bill is not confected or specious. It is real, and people have to make a judgment: will the Bill ensure that our economy and workers can benefit from the oil we have? If so, this legislation is necessary.

Given the stance that has been adopted by the Labour party, my great worry in all this is that although the Government are trying to inject some confidence into the debate, it does not give any long-term confidence, because we will have an election this year and investors will not know whether the arguments we have heard today will lead to licences not being granted in the future.

My second concern, which has been alluded to by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), is that because we have established legally binding targets for net zero in legislation, the benefits that might come from this Bill will not be realised because they will get stuck in the courts. I have said this to the Minster before, and I say it again: legally binding targets leave the Government open to legal challenges on every piece of sensible legislation that they try to bring through this House, whether it be to alleviate the burden placed on people by their heating bills by changing the policy on heat pumps, or to reduce the impact on travel costs by not having mandatory targets for electric vehicles; I could go through a whole list of policies. This is something that we will have to revisit.

We give the Bill our support tonight. We think it is sensible, and that it gives confidence. It also shows that the Government recognise the reality: people will use oil and gas for many decades into the future, and we have to ensure that we benefit from the fact that demand is there.

Most people in this country accept that we need energy security, that we must move away from fossil fuels to more sustainable energy sources, and that we must seek to reduce our carbon emissions to meet the challenges posed by climate change. They see the effects of climate change every day. Recently in my corner of Devon, the communities of Feniton and Cullompton showed me what it was like to experience flash flooding. It has caused terrible damage to constituents’ properties and destroyed some of their most treasured possessions. Flooding will only get worse and more frequent as the UK continues to suffer the effects of climate change.

We in the UK have shown leadership in this area. We should be setting an example to the rest of the world on the need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, but also crucially on the economic benefits that the UK can enjoy as a result. The Government claim that by mandating the North Sea Transition Authority to run regular bids for new oil extraction licences, they will protect the UK’s energy security, but that simply does not add up, because 80% of the oil is exported, so there will be no material difference to people’s energy bills, and we will still be reliant on imported liquefied natural gas. We saw that in the second invasion of Ukraine in 2022; it caused huge spikes in oil and gas prices and left consumers facing spiralling energy bills. They would not have been nearly so badly affected by that if we had continued to invest in onshore wind in the way we were doing in 2015, or if we had continued to insulate buildings in the way we were in the coalition years.

It is not UK-produced oil that would have mitigated those price rises, but UK-based renewable energy and demand avoidance, encouraged by a more progressive Government than this one. For example, Octopus Energy notes that £5 billion could have been saved by consumers if onshore wind had continued to be developed at 2015 rates, but the Conservatives were left to govern alone, and that prospect vanished.

The UK Energy Research Centre said of this Bill:

“A fixation on new licensing…is a distraction. It offers comfort in the possibility of conserving oil and gas production…rather than grasping the challenge of a rapid transition.”

To put it bluntly, this is the approach of a Government who are too scared to embrace the future and make the fundamental changes that we need to build a better future for our children. Many on the Conservative Benches have highlighted the challenges of phasing out oil and gas as we transition to renewable energy, but there are not only challenges. There are also opportunities to support new home-grown, clean energy that will power our homes and create a swathe of well paid jobs. We cannot cling to the past because we are too scared of the future.

There is an analogy here from over a century ago, when Great Britain first embraced oil. Winston Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty in a Liberal Government. He took office in 1911, a key point in the Anglo-German naval race. There was a big decision on his desk when he took on the role. How should Great Britain power its ships? Until that point, coal had been the Royal Navy’s dominant source of fuel. It was produced at home in Britain, and the saying “carrying coals to Newcastle” reminds us that there was an abundance of coal in Britain, but that did not make Churchill determined to exploit the abundant reserves of that fuel, which was powering the world’s largest navy of the day.

Churchill signed an order for the Royal Navy to be powered by the innovative energy source of the 20th century, which happened to be oil. Oil was more efficient and allowed ships to travel faster, further, with less fuel. It also allowed for the innovative design of new ships. By this Government’s logic, Churchill should have put that cutting-edge energy source on the back burner and stuck to coal. The arguments made in favour of coal then were similar to those being deployed in favour of the Bill today. Churchill believed in looking to the future and seizing the opportunities that arose, so he took the fateful decision that all new ships in the surface fleet would switch to the more innovative, more energy-efficient fuel source. As a result, the Royal Navy continued to dominate the seas and hampered Germany’s international trade and, later, its war effort.

Today, China is working on zero-emission shipping. The California-China Climate Institute at Berkeley is looking at 21st-century innovations that will power the leading economies of this century. If China tunes into BBC Parliament and sees us in our 19th-century surroundings, it would think it quaint that we are debating which 20th-century energy source we should cling to.

Churchill’s decision in 1911 put Britain at the forefront of innovation and design, allowing Britain and British talent to reshape the character of the 20th century. Do Conservative Members disagree with Mr Churchill? Are they daunted by the prospect of seizing the opportunity presented by new sources of energy, including renewable energy, to power the UK in the 21st century? Why are they seeking to take these short-term, short-sighted decisions that fly in the face of our climate commitments?

This Conservative Government already offer subsidies to the oil industries, and they are already indifferent to the price of renewable energy being tied to the price of gas. It is time for a rethink. It is time to focus on improving the national grid, boosting home-grown green energy and investing in the technologies of tomorrow.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Bill read the Third time and passed.