HC Deb 25 April 1972 vol 835 cc1288-9

4.7 p.m.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make further provision regarding the terms and conditions of licences granted to companies engaged in the exploration for and production of oil and gas in the United Kingdom sector of the continental shelf. It is not my intention to cover all the happenings since the passage of the Continental Shelf Act in 1964, but I feel that it is generally conceded that the need to give oil companies and others the incentive to explore for oil and gas on the United Kingdom continental shelf necessitates a flexible approach to legislation. I make no major criticism, therefore, of the way the Act has been used to open up areas for exploration and eventual production. Other nations have used the methods of allocation adopted here as models for their own purposes, but events and discoveries and now the action of other countries, particularly Norway, ought to make us pause and review our own legislation.

The Bill that I place before the House would have as its main purposes five elements.

First, I believe it is correct to seek to strengthen the area of parliamentary accountability under Section 1(5) of the 1964 Act. The present form of reporting is, in my view, inadequate, and Parliament ought to receive information on the total investment being undertaken by companies in exploration and production work on the United Kingdom continental shelf.

Second, we ought to be able to disentangle the consortia which have been put together under a variety of guises in order to see who owns what in relation to the total allocation of blocks.

Third, once the oil has been obtained it should be necessary for the companies to show their reasons if they choose not to have the oil brought ashore and refined in the United Kingdom.

Four, a clear condition ought to be expressed that holders of exploration and production licences ought to give preference to United Kingdom manufacturers when ordering equipment.

Five, the legislation ought to give a specific pledge to encourage proposals which facilitate direct participation by public enterprises in exploring and drilling for oil and gas.

The possibilities and potentialities of oil and gas on the United Kingdom continental shelf are too important to be left to the oil companies. These are national assets, and it is the responsibility of the House to bring the searchlight of public accountability to bear on these issues.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Dick Douglas, Dr. J. Dickson Mabon, Mr. George Lawson, Mr. Hugh D. Brown, Mr. Michael Cocks, Mr. David Lambie, Mr. Edward Milne, Mr. Harry Ewing, Mr. William Hamilton, Mr. Gavin Strang, and Mr. Peter Doig.

  1. Continental Shelf (Amendment) 58 words