§ 30. Mr. Eldon Griffiths
asked the Minister of Power what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards the public ownership of those areas of the North Sea bed now being prospected for oil and natural gas.
§ 33. Mr. Peyton
asked the Minister of Power what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards the terms and conditions of the licences so far issued in relation to the Continental Shelf.
§ 41. Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd
asked the Minister of Power what decision he has reached on the future of the licences granted on 17th September for prospecting for oil and gas in the North Sea.
§ The Minister of Power (Mr. Frederick Lee)
As these licences have already been issued the Government have concluded that it would not be in the public interest to disturb them.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that this is one more example of the Labour Party saying one thing during the election campaign and doing another? Will he give the House and these international companies engaged in prospecting for oil in the North Sea an assurance that the threat of nationalising their operations no longer exists?
§ Mr. Lee
The statement made during the election by my right hon. Friend was provoked by the action of the then Government, an action which I thought to be quite unseemly and untimely, in that they did not leave such an important decision to the incoming Government. So far as the future is concerned, we must wait and see.
§ Mr. Peyton
I welcome the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has just made and which clears up the uncertainty. Is not the knowledge which he now has available sufficient to convince him that his predecessor was absolutely right in going straight ahead and not wasting valuable time in this important matter?
§ Mr. Woodburn
On a point of order. Is it customary to call three hon. Members on the same side of the House in succession to ask supplementary questions?
§ Mr. Speaker
I think that it will accord with the right hon. Gentleman's not too short recollection that it is usual to offer an opportunity to ask a supplementary question to those hon. Members who have Questions on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd
Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs said in reference to these licences that it was a case of the last Government giving licences to their private enterprise friends? Will the right hon. Gentleman now ask his right hon. Friend to withdraw that statement?
§ Mr. Woodburn
Would my right hon. Friend agree that this operation was possible only because the previous Government nationalised nearly half the bed of the North Sea?
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
Does that policy include steps to protect the fertility and breeding of fish in these fishing grounds, which may otherwise be seriously damaged, with great loss to the North Sea fishing industry and to fish consumers?