Petroleum Engineering Department

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th June 1992.

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Photo of Mrs Maria Fyfe Mrs Maria Fyfe , Glasgow Maryhill 12:00 am, 10th June 1992

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what plans he has to relocate the petroleum engineering department from London to Aberdeen.

Photo of Mr Timothy Eggar Mr Timothy Eggar , Enfield North

The arguments for and against relocating the Department's petroleum specialists to Aberdeen are being considered in depth by independent consultants. I await their report and conclusions.

Photo of Mrs Maria Fyfe Mrs Maria Fyfe , Glasgow Maryhill

Has not the consultation being going on for a considerable time? If it is not obvious that the PED should be relocated in Aberdeen, will the Minister tell us what factors are persuading him that that may not be a good idea?

Photo of Mr Timothy Eggar Mr Timothy Eggar , Enfield North

The independent consultants' study has begun, and I hope to receive the results in August. We are committed to publishing it, and I shall of course take account of its findings in reaching a final decision.

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

Will my hon. Friend refer the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) to the Scottish Conservative manifesto? It stated unequivocally that, should the independent inquiry say yes to relocation, the Government were committed to relocating the PED, and that in the meantime it would be entirely wrong to pre-empt the inquiry.

Photo of Mr Timothy Eggar Mr Timothy Eggar , Enfield North

I agree, and I pay tribute to the energy with which my hon. Friend has made me aware of his concerns— and those of his constituents—about the relocation of the PED.

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

Will the Minister assure the House that the comments that he made on Monday about the high cost of operating in Aberdeen were not an attempt to soften us up for the decision not to relocate to Aberdeen? Does he accept that the industry would like the jobs to be located in Aberdeen, as that would increase efficiency? The comparison with America, therefore, is hardly relevant. Will he put pressure on the Scottish Office to make the necessary infrastructure investment in north-east Scotland, which would help to reduce operating costs?

Photo of Mr Timothy Eggar Mr Timothy Eggar , Enfield North

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the comments that I made in Aberdeen about the potential long-term problem of moving to Aberdeen's higher-cost base do not show that I have formed any view about the PED. I am deliberately keeping an open mind until I receive the consultants' report.

Mr. Robert Hughes:

On a point of order, Madam Speaker

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. I shall take points of order later.