HC Deb 10 December 1973 vol 866 cc16-7
12. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the facilities which are now available to him to evaluate the designs for oil production platforms.

The Minister for Industrial Development (Mr. Christopher Chataway)

It is for the operating companies to carry out their own commercial and technical evaluation of alternative designs in the light of the particular conditions at the site where oil is found.

On safety aspects, my right hon. Friend has the advice of a technical advisory committee on which a number of expert bodies are represented. The National Engineering Laboratory can advise on various aspects of new design concepts. Specific studies are put in hand with consultants as necessary.

Mr. Douglas

Does the Minister not concede that that is a most unsatisfactory reply? Is he not aware that there is a growing feeling that a large number of concrete production platforms could be developed in areas of high unemployment if the Government took the initiative to bring the oil companies, the designers and the producers together? Will he not do that small thing and bring these three organisations together to see whether we can have these production platforms built in suitable areas in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Chataway

There have been intensive discussions with all those people about concrete platforms. The hon. Gentleman should remember that of nine steel platforms so far ordered, six have come to this country. There are very few places where there is sufficiently deep water to enable concrete platforms to be constructed. We have commissioned consultants to scour the entire United Kingdom with a view to locating those areas where this would be possible.

Mr. Marten

Are any steps being taken to acquire or build enormous concrete tanks for oil storage in the North Sea such as those which have been built in Stavanger in Norway, so that we can overcome some of the pipe-laying difficulties?

Mr. Chataway

I do not have a figure to give to my hon. Friend, but I shall certainly notify him if there is a case of that kind. I do not believe that it falls within the present plans of the oil companies.

Mr. Strang

Does not the Minister accept that these decisions are far too important to be left to oil companies and construction firms? Does he not agree that there is an overwhelming case for commissioning an expert study of platform design to complement the one that has been commissioned on sites, so that we can come to a decision which will be in the national interest?

Mr. Chataway

The study by consultants which we have already announced has also concerned itself with alternative designs, but, as the hon. Gentleman knows, ideas about designs for platforms, and particularly for these concrete platforms, are changing very rapidly.

Mr. Douglas

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.

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