HC Deb 27 March 1973 vol 853 cc1071-3
3. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on his estimate of the effect on unemployment on rigs and drilling platforms in the North Sea of the proposed tax changes.

14. Mr. Eadie

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what co-operation exists between his Department and the Department of Trade and Industry in relation to the monitoring of jobs that are likely to arise as the result of the development of projects attached to North Sea oil.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Maurice Macmillan)

The proposed tax changes are unlikely to have any significant effect on the level of employment on rigs and drilling platforms. My Department and the Department of Trade and Industry are represented on the North Sea Oil Committee of the Scottish Economic Planning Board which co-ordinates information about all aspects of North Sea oil developments.

Mr. Douglas

In the co-ordination of activity, will the Minister pay regard to the fact that many of the highly skilled technologists on these rigs come from outside the United Kingdom? What steps has his Department taken to ensure that the companies employing the technologists recruit United Kingdom workers and at the same time ensure that they pay taxes in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Macmillan

It is not possible to ensure that people who are not resident in the United Kingdom, whether they are British or non-British subjects, pay tax in the United Kingdom. As to the skills developing on the rigs and in the ancillary work connected with them, more and more British residents will be employed in these jobs. The number of jobs which these developers are providing in Scotland is increasing rapidly.

Mr. Costain

Has my right hon. Friend any record of the number of jobs that this new industry has produced, and what are the prospects for the future?

Mr. Macmillan

We must remember that so far this work is purely exploratory. There is no oil yet flowing from the North Sea. A total of 3,600 development and exploration jobs has so far been created, including jobs on rigs. Projects which are firm and which have been announced are expected to produce another 8,600 jobs over the next four years, and there will be more projects which are still under consideration.

Mr. Eadie

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a need to update information about North Sea oil jobs available now—not jobs projected for the future? Is he further aware of the great anxiety in Scotland about the loss of jobs in the older-established energy industries? The rate of loss of jobs is greater than the gain in new jobs. Will the Minister tell us about jobs that are coming to the fore now?

Mr. Macmillan

I have just done so. The situation is changing rapidly. On 21st February I said that there were 3,000 jobs currently created and there would be about 8,500 over the next four years. The present figures are about 700 higher, and that gives an indication of the speed with which the situation is developing and how many more jobs are being created. We must remember the great investment that has been made in the coal mining industry to preserve jobs in the older energy industries.

Mr. Wolrige-Gordon

As much of the work on the oil rigs is highly skilled, what stimulus is my right hon. Friend giving to encourage the training of British nationals in this work?

Mr. Macmillan

Firms engaged in North Sea oil activities benefit from training grants to expanding firms in assisted areas, which are £15 per man and £12 per woman per week.