HC Deb 28 February 1972 vol 832 cc13-5
12. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the total investment by companies investing in North Sea gas and oil.

Sir J. Eden

About £300 million to date. This figure covers both exploration and the cost of producing the gas and oil discovered.

Mr. Douglas

While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask whether he concedes that he ought to address his mind to two matters? First, will he look at the adequacy in present circumstances, of the Continental Shelf Act, 1964, and his specific reports there-under to this House? Secondly, in view of the developments in the North Sea, will he quickly review and produce a White Paper on fuel policy?

Sir J. Eden

I shall consider the first point made by the hon. Gentleman. With regard to the second point, the whole question whether to publish a White Paper, or in what form to make observations about fuel policy, and the implications on it of recent events, is under consideration.

Mr. Edward Taylor

Is my hon. Friend aware that despite the remarkable finds of gas and oil referred to, Scottish consumers are still paying on average 25 per cent. more for gas supplies than is paid by the average consumer in England and Wales? Does my hon. Friend think that these additional supplies of natural gas might reduce the differential?

Sir J. Eden

The matter deal with in the first part of my hon. Friend's question is one for the gas board concerned. As regards the degree to which Scotland will benefit from development on the Continental Shelf, Scotland like the rest of the United Kingdom, of whose economy it forms a part, will benefit substantially.

Mr. Sheldon

Is it not a fact that the country as a whole is not likely to benefit from these reserves of gas and oil to anything like the extent that it should? Is it not also a fact that the royalty of 15 per cent. for the gas from these fields is one of the lowest in the world? What attempt is being made by the Minister to find the true costs of producing gas and oil so that when gas boards and other bodies place their orders they will be in a rather more advantageous position than they are now in assessing the price they ought to pay?

Sir J. Eden

Exploration expenditure can be anything from £500,000 to £2 million. Production and development costs vary between fields, depending on the size of field, well productivity, distance from shore and other factors. The most important thing is to ensure that resources are discovered and developed as rapidly as possible, and that is taking place now. We know that possibly oil production will amount to 25 million tons a year by the mid-1970s, possibly trebling by the early 1980s.