HC Deb 07 April 1964 vol 692 cc876-9
The Minister of Power (Mr. F. J. Erroll)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 3, at the end to insert: (4) Model clauses prescribed under section 6 of the Petroleum (Production) Act 1934 as applied by the preceding subsection shall include provision for the safety, health and welfare of persons employed on operations undertaken under the authority of any licence granted under that Act as so applied. During the Committee stage hon. Members on both sides expressed the hope that provision would be made in the Bill for the health, safety and welfare of the workers employed on the installations offshore.

I undertook to see if a suitable subsection could be drafted, and I submit to the House a subsection which goes a little further than that requested by hon. Members by including the word "welfare" in addition to the words "safety and health".

Mr. Norman Pentland (Chester-le-Street)

We on this side of the House welcome the right hon. Gentleman's decision to include this provision in the regulations in the Bill. We argued this most forcibly, both on Second Reading and in Committee, and therefore it would not be proper for me at this stage to cover those arguments again. We were anxious about the employees who would have to work on the installations on the continental shelf.

This will be a very important provision. It concerns not only the protection of the workers involved, but also removes a good deal of uncertainty for the employer.

It may be that as time goes by we shall have experience of the hazards that may occur. Many duties will have to be performed on these installations on the continental shelf, and they may come before us most vividly after we have had experience of their operation. We may then have to come back to Parliament to amend the Bill or to seek to bring in new regulations covering this aspect of the safety, health and welfare of the workers.

I hope that the House will accept the Amendment, because I feel that the right hon. Gentleman has listened very carefully to us and has an understanding of this matter. He has at least attempted to alleviate and eliminate the anxieties which we felt in regard to the safety, health and welfare of the workers.

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Pentland). If the prospecting companies had by this time discovered deposits of natural gas or oil and were proceeding to their exploitation, it is possible that we should want to go a little further than we are going in providing for the safety, health and welfare of the workers. I agree with my hon. Friend that if and when we strike is rich in the North Sea it is exceedingly likely that we shall want to deal with this matter more fully in another piece of legislation.

I was surprised when the right hon. Gentleman said that he had gone a little further in the Amendment than he had been asked to do when we discussed the matter in Committee. I think he is in error. I quickly turned over the pages of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Committee's proceedings. The right hon. Gentleman will recall that when my hon. Friend moved the new Clause that was resisted, some of us kept the discussion going a little while, and after the right hon. Gentleman had made his speech resisting our proposal, I made one which I concluded with the words: Let him agree to put in words on Report to ensure that the power given to him under the appropriate Section of the Petroleum (Production) Act of 1934 includes the power to draft a model Clause dealing with the safety, health and welfare of the people employed on these installations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Stand Committee A, 4th March, 1964; c. 163.] I had thought that the right hon. Gentleman had looked very closely at those words when drafting his Amendment, because what I then asked for is precisely what he has been able to do. In fact, immediately I sat down after uttering those words, the right hon. Gentleman said that he had been convinced and would do his best to put an appropriate form of words into the Bill on Report Like my hon. Friend, I am delighted that he has been successful.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Peyton

I beg to move, in page 2, line 3, at the end to insert: (5) The Minister of Power shall for each financial year prepare and lay before Parliament a report stating—

  1. (a) the sciences under the said Act of 1934 granted in that year in respect of areas beyond low-water mark and the persons to whom and the areas in respect of which they were granted, and the like information as respects such licences held at the end of that year;
  2. 879
  3. (b) the total amount of natural gas and of other petroleum gotten in that year in pursuance of licences held in respect of such areas; and
  4. (c) the method used for arriving at the amounts payable by way of consideration for such licences.
During the Committee stage my right hon. Friend accepted in principle a demand which, I think, was voiced from both sides, for some form of annual report. I very much hope that the Amendment meets the demand. Despite what the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) said about the last Amendment, once again I express the hope that this Amendment goes a little further than we were asked to go. Not only is a report of the preceding financial year provided for, but so is a statement of the up-to-date position giving the details of all licences issued up to the end of the preceding financial year.

Also, the report will be required to state how much oil and gas has been produced during that year, and it is also stipulated that the financial terms should be set out in the report. It is intended that the financial terms shall be standard and common to all licences which have been issued at the same time. Other terms will be set out in the regulations.

It is, therefore, the Government's view that it would be unnecessary to repeat them in the annual report.

Mr. Pentland

I welcome the Minister's decision to recommend that these regulations should be embodied in the Bill. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides welcome the Amendment, although in Committee the Opposition moved an Amendment that the twelve-monthly report should come before Parliament so that we might have full understanding of the powers vested in the Minister and how he used them. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment will have the full support of the House.

Amendment agreed to.