Depletion Policy (North Sea)

Oral Answers to Questions — Energy – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th May 1983.

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Photo of Mr Alfred Dubs Mr Alfred Dubs , Wandsworth Battersea South 12:00 am, 9th May 1983

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will review North Sea oil depletion policy in the light of the world oil surplus.

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

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.

Photo of Mr Alfred Dubs Mr Alfred Dubs , Wandsworth Battersea South

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?

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

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.

Photo of Mr Dick Douglas Mr Dick Douglas , Dunfermline

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?

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

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.