North Sea Bed (Oil and Natural Gas)

Oral Answers to Questions — Ministry of Power – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st December 1964.

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Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds 12:00 am, 1st December 1964

asked the Minister of Power what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards the public ownership of those areas of the North Sea bed now being prospected for oil and natural gas.

Photo of Mr John Peyton Mr John Peyton , Yeovil

asked the Minister of Power what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards the terms and conditions of the licences so far issued in relation to the Continental Shelf.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lloyd Mr Geoffrey Lloyd , Sutton Coldfield

asked the Minister of Power what decision he has reached on the future of the licences granted on 17th September for prospecting for oil and gas in the North Sea.

Photo of Mr Frederick Lee Mr Frederick Lee , Newton

As these licences have already been issued the Government have concluded that it would not be in the public interest to disturb them.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that this is one more example of the Labour Party saying one thing during the election campaign and doing another? Will he give the House and these international companies engaged in prospecting for oil in the North Sea an assurance that the threat of nationalising their operations no longer exists?

Photo of Mr Frederick Lee Mr Frederick Lee , Newton

The statement made during the election by my right hon. Friend was provoked by the action of the then Government, an action which I thought to be quite unseemly and untimely, in that they did not leave such an important decision to the incoming Government. So far as the future is concerned, we must wait and see.

Photo of Mr John Peyton Mr John Peyton , Yeovil

I welcome the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has just made and which clears up the uncertainty. Is not the knowledge which he now has available sufficient to convince him that his predecessor was absolutely right in going straight ahead and not wasting valuable time in this important matter?

Photo of Mr Frederick Lee Mr Frederick Lee , Newton

No. I think that I have already replied to that. I do not think so. It would have been far better had the incoming Government had the right to issue these licences.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lloyd Mr Geoffrey Lloyd , Sutton Coldfield

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect—

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

On a point of order. Is it customary to call three hon. Members on the same side of the House in succession to ask supplementary questions?

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

I think that it will accord with the right hon. Gentleman's not too short recollection that it is usual to offer an opportunity to ask a supplementary question to those hon. Members who have Questions on the Order Paper.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lloyd Mr Geoffrey Lloyd , Sutton Coldfield

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs said in reference to these licences that it was a case of the last Government giving licences to their private enterprise friends? Will the right hon. Gentleman now ask his right hon. Friend to withdraw that statement?

Photo of Mr Frederick Lee Mr Frederick Lee , Newton

I have already said that I thought that the statements made by both my right hon. Friends at that time were entirely justified. It would have been far better had the incoming Government had the right to distribute these licences themselves.

Photo of Mr Arthur Woodburn Mr Arthur Woodburn , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

Would my right hon. Friend agree that this operation was possible only because the previous Government nationalised nearly half the bed of the North Sea?

Photo of Mr Hector Hughes Mr Hector Hughes , Aberdeen North

Does that policy include steps to protect the fertility and breeding of fish in these fishing grounds, which may otherwise be seriously damaged, with great loss to the North Sea fishing industry and to fish consumers?

Photo of Mr Frederick Lee Mr Frederick Lee , Newton

I do not think that that question should be directed to me.