Oil and Gas Industry — [Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:50 am on 9 October 2018.

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Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence) 11:50, 9 October 2018

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. As time is pressing, I will try to keep my contribution relatively brief. I want to make two points. First, I want to remind Members of the historical context as it applies to oil and gas and the north of Scotland.

When I was at Tain Royal Academy in the north of Scotland, many of the brightest and best in my class left to go south—perhaps a rather sad facet of life in the highlands. Despite the best efforts, people left and sought employment further south; indeed, my own father said to me, “Go south, young man. That’s where your future lies.” However, in the 1970s, as we all know, the music changed completely and utterly, and the oil came.

Where I come from, the arrival of the Nigg oil fabrication yard was a crucial turning point, seeing the building, first of all, of the two giant BP rigs. Suddenly there was really high-quality employment available locally. Welders were trained, and other skills were trained up. The point is that the depopulation trend was halted and actually reversed, so we cannot underestimate the social importance of Nigg’s contribution to the highland economy. I would not have married and brought up children locally if I had not been employed in the Nigg yard. The fact that my children were born locally and went to the local school is entirely down to the fact that that was where I was employed and had the income to live and to grow my family. In succeeding generations, we saw increasing evidence of a reversal of the population decline, as top-quality jobs supported local infrastructure and the local economy, so we should not forget how important that contribution was for the highland economy and how, structurally, it was very much to the good.

My second point brings us to today. Very good contributions have already been made, and the potential of offshore wind was mentioned. In my constituency, we have the Beatrice wind farm nearing completion—an example of technology that is cutting edge for the future, but that is in many ways based on technology that went before, in terms of fabrication and working in very inclement conditions in the North sea. As I see that technology approach completion, I take considerable pride in the fact that, not long from now, it will be making a major national contribution to our grid and will literally keep the lights on.

West of Shetland, as I am sure Members will also mention, we still have great potential for the future. Discoveries continue to be made. It is deep water with incredibly inclement conditions, but the technology has moved forward. There is much more subsea work, but there is the new oil.

My point is this: I wish I knew what was going to happen with Brexit. I do not know, and I am sure many Members will tease me and say, “Would a Lib Dem know anyway?” However, I am damn sure that the contribution that the oil industry has made in the past, makes today and can make in the future to my constituency, to the constituency of my right hon. Friend Mr Carmichael and to the remotest parts of Scotland is absolutely huge. So my final point is a plea to the Minister, Her Majesty’s Government and future Governments. I want them to remember the goose that laid the golden egg: the oil and gas industry. Please preserve it, enhance it and protect it for the generations to come.