HC Deb 18 December 1973 vol 866 cc1128-9
7. Mr. Douglas

asked the Minister of State for Defence what assistance the Naval Construction Research and Development Establishment at Rosyth has given to the petroleum industry in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Buck

As much assistance as possible has been given, including advice, research and testing, within the limits imposed by the need for the Naval Construction Research Establishment to devote its resources primarily to the defence programme.

Mr. Douglas

Does not the Minister concede that, with the unique opportunity for the development of the North Sea, the special facilities of this establishment should be used to give advice on the design and testing of production platforms for the North Sea, that much more of the establishment's activity should be in the civilian field and that, if necessary, the establishment should be built up and expanded for that purpose?

Mr. Buck

I have great sympathy with the views expressed by the hon. Gentleman. If specific projects are put up by industry, they will be considered sympathetically.

Mr. Dalyell

Are not these limits another reason for the setting up of the proposed North Sea environmental command outlined by Professor Erickson, to which I referred in the defence debate?

Mr. Buck

Again I have sympathy on that point, but we still await Professor Erickson's report. We look forward to receiving it and will give it our careful attention.

Mr Judd

In view of the massive expenditure on military research and development, does not the Minister agree that, in the context of the current crisis, it would be advantageous if the maximum possible resources were to be deployed on research into alternative sources of energy and on less energy-intensive means of production?

Mr. Buck

That is probably a good point, but it goes much wider than naval research. We are anxious that the facilities available should be utilised in the way envisaged by the hon. Gentleman.