Will my right hon. Friend confirm that there is still a very high level of interest in North sea exploration which is a vindication of the Government's policies for the development of the North sea and has led to the massive extension of the proven reserves in our part of the North sea?
I can confirm to my hon. Friend that there is a very high level of interest in the North sea. I hope that when we are able to announce the 11th round it will prove very successful. That means that we can look forward with more than hope to North sea oil and gas for longer than people had orginally thought.
The Minister paints a very rosy picture, and I share some of his optimism, but there is a cloud on the horizon—the serious skill shortage in the North sea which threatens future development and possibly current production. What steps does the Minister propose to take to encourage the oil industry to improve its lamentable training record?
The hon. Gentleman will perhaps be pleased to hear that the matter was discussed at the most recent meeting that I had with Oilco—the oil industry liaison committee—attended by the employers and the trade unions and further discussions will take place. I agree that the manpower in the North sea is vital for its further development. Its success has been achieved because of that manpower.