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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?