They were sanctioned last autumn. Oil prices moved in the opposite direction to that which the Government expected. They cannot be blamed for that. That is one of the extraordinary occurrences today in the oil market. The 1981 Act was based on high oil prices. That was the basis of the Government's thinking and their taxation policy. High prices were the basis on which oil fields in the North sea were being developed. The basis was one of continuing high prices. These fields are now coming on stream and some will be coming on stream in the near future, but instead of a price of $39 the price today is $29·50. I argue that such fields and fields under development but not in production should benefit from the doubling of the oil allowance—for which I am grateful —and the abolition of royalties. For some reason they are excluded under clause 74.
If the economic justification is to align current fiscal structure with the present perspective in oil prices, surely the benefits—the reliefs— should be extended to fields about to come into production. Those fields will suffer the effect of depressed oil prices.
Great complexity is involved in these topics. It is not easy to understand the tax regime for North sea oil. The Minister and the Chancellor have shown that they understand the arguments of the industry and of the Department of Energy. Prices have gone a long way, from the $39 at which they started to $29·50 today.
The phasing out of APRT and the other reliefs are welcome. The Government must avoid the risk of the oil companies phasing out their North sea operations. If we are not careful, they might consider doing just that.
Will the Minister bear in mind those simple thoughts, and consider the possibility of extending the reliefs backwards?