Corporation tax treatment of the oil and gas industry

Part of Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:18 pm on 5th September 2016.

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Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Lords) 7:18 pm, 5th September 2016

Indeed. Brexit compounds the issues that we have seen in the oil and gas industry, particularly in the North sea, and affects investment. This year we are expecting less than £1 billion worth of new capital projects to be agreed. In each of the past five years we have seen an average spend of £8 billion. There has been a massive drop-off. Much of that is linked to the global oil price, but the Government have not done enough to increase investor confidence, especially in the light of Brexit. New projects are not being sanctioned because of companies’ negative cash flow. Jobs are consequently being lost all the way along the supply chain. We are losing contracts, expertise and people working in the industry in and around Aberdeen, Scotland and the UK.

Exploration and development activity is at an all-time low. Oil and Gas UK produced a report in February this year which predicted that if the current trajectory of low investment and new projects not being approved continues, we will see a fall in production in 2020. We are not ready for that. Our strategy has been to maximise income and recovery, and the Oil and Gas Authority’s main aim is to ensure that we get as much out of the North sea as we can. Because of the lack of investor confidence and the inability to sanction new capital projects, that is becoming increasingly difficult.

I have asked various Ministers about the Government’s intentions. We are not seeing investor confidence. We are seeing a major drop-off in investment, as the figures show. I welcome some of the changes that the Oil and Gas Authority has made. It is working on making it easier to transfer assets that have reached the end of their life. We do not want decommissioning to take place now. I understand entirely that if there is sufficient UK spend, there will be a financial benefit to UK companies from decommissioning, as long as we can ensure that the supply chain for decommissioning is based in the UK.

However, some of the assets that have been in the North sea for 30 years are at the end of their useful life and need to be decommissioned. I welcome the OGA’s push to ensure that as much of that spend as possible is in the UK, and I welcome its efforts to ensure that assets can be transferred so that as much oil as possible can be recovered from each of those fields. The OGA has been focusing on enhanced oil recovery, but the Government have not done enough in that respect. Changes are necessary to the tax regime to encourage companies to undertake enhanced oil recovery.