No. Present depletion policies have served us well by giving the oil industry the freedom and confidence to develop the resources of the North sea to the economic benefit of the nation. The tax and royalty concessions announced in the Budget will further encourage the new development that we need.
Is not the sad truth that at a time of world glut and falling prices it would be in this country's interest to conserve North sea oil stocks, and the only reason the Government are not following this policy is the need for revenue to finance the dole queues?
The hon. Gentleman is wrong. There is absolutely no case for delaying development when Britain's main activity must, be to stimulate new developments to come on stream once production from the present fields begins to decline.
Will the Minister come clean about this issue? Are we not in reality overproducing oil from the big fields when, a long time ago, a programme to accelerate and develop the marginals should have taken place? I know that the Minister, in the safety of Houston, made exaggerated statements about development. When will the developments take place, as they are absolutely necessary if production is to be ensured?
Jealousy will get the hon. Gentleman nowhere. The Opposition are afraid of good news. The North sea has an abundance of good news. I have said outside the House—[Interruption.] If hon. Gentlemen will keep quiet for a moment, I shall tell them that the future of the North sea is in safe hands and is very bright. The prosperity of the North sea could only be inhibited by the policies of the Opposition. Seventeen fields have applied for development and are coming on stream. That is entirely due to the Government's policies, despite the inhibitions which have been raised.