Oil Companies (Government Participation Proposals)

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prices and Consumer Protection – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd February 1976.

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Photo of Mr Harold Lever Mr Harold Lever , Manchester Central 12:00 am, 2nd February 1976

The hon. Gentleman referred, first, to the recent prospectuses. That experience proves—or I hope that it will prove—that private money can be forthcoming in the ordinary way to finance useful development in the North Sea. It should also prove that public participation is not an impediment to the progress of these efforts, contrary to the gloomy predictions of Opposition Members.

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman referred to my rôle as a Santa Claus. It is reassuring to know that I am regarded in such a benign fashion by the oil companies, but nothing I have done on behalf of the Government justifies any belief, even in those impoverished quarters in the oil industry, that they will get any public money for nothing-because it would be wrong to give it to them on such terms. Whatever money is provided, we get value and return for it.

Finally, the hon. Gentleman asked how much it will cost the pulic. The answer is that it will cost the public nothing. The public will gain by reason of the participation negotiations, on the one hand, while the achievements in the North Sea will, on the other hand, be advanced by such measures of intervention as we make, without prejudice to the reasonable and proper commercial interests of the oil companies concerned.