HC Deb 23 November 1965 vol 721 cc222-4
13. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Minister of Power if he will state the nature, kind, extent and result of his investigations into the effect of the discovery of oil in the North Sea for which he has given licences on the fish shoals and on the number and fertility of fish in the North Sea.

Mr. John Morris

Offshore drilling and oil production in other parts of the world appears to have had no adverse effect on fish. I have no evidence to suggest that the effects will be different in the North Sea.

Mr. Hughes

My Question does not deal with other parts of the world. Does my hon. Friend realise that the fishing industry of the North Sea is of particular interest to the trade, industry and employment of Aberdeen as well as to the fish consumers of this country? Will he abandon this secrecy and publish the facts?

Mr. Morris

My hon. and learned Friend invites me to abandon secrecy and publish the facts. I should, perhaps, inform him, first, that the operations in the North Sea will affect only a fraction of the sea area while, secondly, I understand that landings of fish from the North Sea last year were better than in the previous year.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Would the Parliamentary Secretary make available the information he has about the effect on fish in the area around the oil drills off the American Continent?

Mr. Morris

I will certainly look into that matter, but perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will put down a Question.

14. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Minister of Power if he will make it a condition of future licences issued by him to companies to drill for oil in the North Sea that they should keep him fully informed of their progress and the quantities of oil discovered, with a view to his publishing this information.

Mr. Frederick Lee

Under the regulations approved by Parliament, the full information which I receive from licensees is given me on a confidential basis.

Mr. Hughes

Does not my right hon. Friend realise that the North Sea is not private property but public property and that the public is entitled to the fullest information about the North Sea? Will my right hon. Friend see that all the information is published?

Mr. Lee

My hon. and learned Friend should be graceful enough to acknowledge that the Opposition nationalised the North Sea and that it is, in fact, public property. Frankly, if this information were divulged it would mean that a number of people who now hold licences would merely wait for other people to fail, and then not drill.

22. Mr. Eldon Griffiths

asked the Minister of Power whether, in granting licences for exploration of the North Sea bed, he takes into account the availability of drilling rigs and ancillary equipment.

Mr. Frederick Lee

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Griffiths

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is widespread concern at the reported delay in delivery, which I understand to be four months and in some cases even five months? Can he tell the House whether delays in this vital installation programme are the result of industrial disputes in the shipyards, or where is the responsibility?

Mr. Lee

No. I do not think so. I understand that there are some delays, but at the moment I think there are five rigs drilling and we expect that this number will be raised to at least 13 by the second half of next year.