Offshore Oil (Licences)

Oral Answers to Questions — Energy – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd May 1976.

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Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Stirlingshire West 12:00 am, 3rd May 1976

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement about consultation with the oil companies on the next round of offshore drilling licences.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

I intend to obtain the views of the oil companies and other interested bodies on the general terms and conditions that I am proposing for the next offshore licensing round.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Stirlingshire West

Will my right hon. Friend take a much tougher line with the oil companies than the Tories did? They practically gave away the licences for nothing. In particular, will he insist on the placing of orders to provide jobs for workers here? Will he insist on trade union recognition and ensure that full facts are given about any political donations provided by the oil companies?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

My hon. Friend will have noticed from my first answer that it is my intention to consult on these matters in order to provide an opportunity for comment from those who are concerned and interested before the Government reach a final view.

Photo of Mr Trevor Skeet Mr Trevor Skeet , Bedford

Would it not be fairer for oil companies if the right hon. Gentleman did not give BNOC and the British Gas Corporation a right to have whichever licences they want?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

I do not regard the defence of the national interest as being controversial.

Photo of Mr Gordon Wilson Mr Gordon Wilson , Dundee East

In the course of his discussions with the oil companies, will the Secretary of State take up with them the fact that twice as many modules are built in England as in Scotland? This discrepancy in proportion is not particularly welcomed in Scotland, in the light of present employment prospects.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

I am aware of the problem that concerns the hon. Gentleman, and I should tell the House that I, together with all my colleagues in the Department, take the view that we should try as hard as we can to get orders placed in the United Kingdom, although we should not seek to discriminate between orders going to different places in the United Kingdom.

Photo of Mr Hamish Gray Mr Hamish Gray , Ross and Cromarty

Does the Secretary of State appreciate that there is considerable uncertaintly in the industry over the Government's delay in announcing when future licensing will take place? In view of the unemployment situation in the oil-related industries, will he now make a positive statement as to when he is likely to offer those licences?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

That point has not been made to me by the companies themselves. The argument the Opposition have used throughout, about uncertainty associated with the British Government's oil policy, has not turned out to be the case. There is concern about unemployment and, as the hon. Member knows well, when I made my statement in September about the 1976 round this was one of the factors I had in mind. He will appreciate that we do not wish to repeat the errors made over the last round of licensing.