HC Deb 06 April 1965 vol 710 cc237-9
Q5. Mr. Murton

asked the Prime Minister what are the responsibilities of the Minister of Land and Natural Resources for oil prospecting in the United Kingdom and what is the division of responsibility between him, the Minister of Power, the First Secretary of State and the local planning authorities in this matter.

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Power has statutory authority for licensing prospecting for petroleum (which includes both oil and natural gas) on land in Great Britain and in its territorial waters, and in the United Kingdom's share of the Continental Shelf. My right hon. Friends the First Secretary of State and the Minister of Land and Natural Resources have no responsibilities for oil prospecting. Prospecting operations on land in Great Britain may involve development requiring planning permission which has to be obtained from the local planning authorities. Oil prospecting in Northern Ireland and its territorial waters is a matter for the Northern Ireland Government.

Mr. Murton

Would not the Prime Minister agree that his statement is welcome because it does much to dispel certain conflicting statements made previously by his right hon. Friends the Minister for Land and Natural Resources and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster?

The Prime Minister

No, I have not heard any such conflicting statements and so I do not think there is any need to dispel any confusion which may have arisen from them.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend ensure, in considering which licences should be given for the exploitation of this gas, that the national interest is not neglected as it was in the case of the exploitation of oil and natural resources in the North Sea?

The Prime Minister

Fortunately, I do not have to issue the licences in this case, so the question does not arise. It is done by my right hon. Friend.