Phasing Out of Aprt

Part of Orders of the Day — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:45 pm on 28th April 1983.

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Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Maldon 7:45 pm, 28th April 1983

This has been a short but good debate—good for the Government because everybody has basically welcomed what we are seeking to do, and good for the Opposition because the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) did not reveal too much of what the Opposition might do were they to take office. When the Opposition amendment was first tabled I considered it carefully to discover their strategy. Perhaps I should not have been surprised when I could not find it. The hon. Gentleman admitted that the amendment's purpose was to obtain a debate and to that extent he has succeeded.

In the course of his speech — some of which was reminiscent of his speech last year, about certain changes in the tax arrangements for the oil industry, irrespective of whether they were what the industry wanted — the hon. Gentleman chided the Government for a volte face but admitted that we were in a difficult area in which it was difficult to get the balance right. I hope in the course of my remarks to be able to deal with the charge that there has been a complete volte face, because that is not so. APRT and its predecessor SPD were specifically designed to reduce the too generous front-end loading in the then oil tax regime as against the Government's need to reduce their borrowing generally following the substantial increase in oil prices in 1978–79.

However, the position has changed. The priority must now be to provide the right fiscal environment for the development of a new generation of smaller fields against the considerable uncertainty of future oil prices. APRT will continue to play its part for a period, but the time has now come to start phasing it out for existing fields. It will have disappeared by the time future fields come on stream.