HC Deb 16 April 1973 vol 855 cc2-5
1. Mr. Strang

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a further statement on the progress made in implementing the recommendations of the IMEG report.

The Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Peter Emery)

The Offshore Supplies Office has been established. It is pursuing a number of major initiatives and is currently dealing with about 200 inquiries a week from firms interested in the offshore market. It is taking effective and necessary action to ensure that British contractors receive a full and fair opportunity to secure off shore business.

Mr. Strang

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that any controversy in Scotland about North Sea oil developments relates only to the siting of such developments? The people of Scotland are absolutely united on the need to maximise the number of North Sea oil jobs. Is the hon. Gentleman further aware that it is felt that the Government's response to the IMEG report is both tardy and inadequate? For example, will the hon. Gentleman take the initiative and enable Scottish industry to acquire a major stake in these developments and, in particular, to establish a new and indigenous technology for exploitation in deep waters?

Mr. Emery

I object to the words "tardy" and "inadequate ". On the whole, Scottish industry welcomes the steps that we are taking and believes that it can benefit greatly from them to achieve the results which the hon. Gentle man and the Government wish to achieve.

Mr. Skeet

What are the Government doing to build up an offshore drilling capacity? That is mentioned in the IMEG report and is very important.

Mr. Emery

My hon. Friend will recall that last time I was at the Dispatch Box I mentioned that certain considerations and discussions were taking place on the matter. They are proceeding.

Mr. William Hamilton

Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to the recent speech of the Chairman of the Scottish Tory Party, Sir William McEwan Younger, in which he strongly criticised the Government's current North Sea oil development policies? Will the Government take any notice of their own boss in Scotland?

Mr. Emery

I happened to be present in Glasgow when Sir William made his speech, and I believe that the interpretation of the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) is entirely incorrect.

Mr. Eadie

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Chairman of the Scottish Tory Party said that some Tory Members are unfamiliar with the industrial facts of life? Did not the hon. Gentle man hear him say that? Do the Government propose to ignore some of the main recommendations of the IMEG report? Is underwater technology to be left to the University Grants Committee? Must the University of Heriot-Watt, for example, suffer because the Department of Trade and Industry does not know the industrial facts of life in Scotland?

Mr. Emery

I do not accept the suggestion that the Department of Trade and Industry is not aware of the industrial position and the need for industrial expansion for offshore development in Scotland. I accept that there is a need for considerable thought on the develop- ment of long-term technology for deep-water drilling. Full consideration is being given to that matter.

4. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on pending discussions between his Department and the British Petroleum Company regarding the price of North Sea crude oil and gas.

Mr. Emery

No such discussions are yet in progress.

Mr. Douglas

Is it not time that such discussions took place, in view of the evidence given to the Public Accounts Committee by leading officials of the hon. Gentleman's Department? Will the Government take steps to ensure a firming-up of this company's oil refining capacity in Scotland, because it is urgently needed before the North Sea oil comes ashore in 1974?

Mr. Emery

We will ensure that discussions take place in good time before the oil begins to come ashore. The question of refining capacity in Scotland is under full and continual consideration.

Mr. Grimond

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that at this moment there is a proposal to build a refinery in Shetland which would have drastic effects on the life and economy of the islands, and that it is urgent that the terms and conditions on which such development may proceed should be laid down? The Shetland County Council Bill has been blocked, which means extra expenditure and delay. In the meantime, however, this type of development is in the air and there is grave need for an urgent decision about where the refinery should be put and on what terms and conditions.

Mr. Emery

The decision is a planning matter, which is not for me but for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Eadie

But if the hon. Gentleman should manage to get involved in the negotiations on the question of price, and so on, he may find that there is an attempt to ignore what one might describe as "energy potential ". Will he comment on the allegations that every thing seems to be cent red on oil exploration and that it is nearly a crime to find gas?

Mr. Emery

I do not think that that is correct. Obviously, there is bound to be associated gas in many of the oil discoveries, and the position more often than not is that oil companies are drilling for hydrocarbons in the hope of finding either gas or oil.