I should point out at the outset that I am the chairman of the all-party group on offshore oil and gas, and that the industry is a significant employer in my Waveney constituency, with Lowestoft and its port being an important service centre. I am also a partner in a family farm that has a solar farm, but I will not comment specifically on such technology this evening.
Most of the Bill focuses on the Oil and Gas Authority, so I will concentrate my comments on the offshore oil and gas industry on the UK continental shelf. The Bill also contains provisions on onshore wind farms, about which I will say a few words. It is right that all such planning applications should be determined locally, regardless of their size. Local communities and local planning authorities know their areas best, and planning decisions should rest with them.
The Government should remove support for onshore wind and, indeed, other renewable technologies openly and transparently. Investors need to see a clear and smooth pathway to a point in time when there will be no subsidy. That best attracts investment, creates secure long-term jobs and reduces costs to the consumer in the long term.
The oil and gas industry on the UKCS faces very serious challenges. It is fighting for its very existence. The livelihoods of tens of thousands of people are on the line. Some 75,000 jobs have gone in the past 15 months. That is primarily due to the dramatic collapse in oil prices. An example of the problems facing the industry is that, at the beginning of the year, the combined market value of 112 publicly traded oil companies—the entirety of Britain’s listed oil and gas industry, excluding Shell, BP and BG—was, at £7 billion, the same as that of Marks & Spencer. Two years ago, one of those companies, Tullow Oil, was worth more than M&S on its own.
The UK offshore oil and gas industry still has a vital role to play over the next 30 years. First, as the Secretary of State has stated, energy security is the No. 1 priority. Maximising the production of oil and gas at home will reduce our dependence on imports. Secondly, while 42 billion barrels of oil equivalent have been produced from the UKCS, there are known reserves of 20 billion barrels of oil and gas to be recovered from our offshore waters. As she set out in her resetting speech, gas has a key role to play in powering our future economy.