HC Deb 15 May 1973 vol 856 cc1224-5
9. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a statement on discussions between her Department and the Institute of Petroleum with regard to the organisation of courses in petroleum engineering in the United Kingdom, in the light of the recommendations in the IMEG report.

Mrs. Thatcher

There have been no such discussions, but a group of officials from my own and other interested Departments, including the University Grants Committee, are urgently considering the education and training needs of the offshore industry, and will shortly be consulting bodies such as the Institute of Petroleum.

Mr. Douglas

Is the Secretary of State aware that the institute is in discussion with the Department of Trade and Industry on this particular topic? Will she use her good offices to look at the situation that is arising when a number of universities are embarking on such courses? Will she discuss with the University Grants Committee the formulation of a policy for a top-class research institution in offshore technology in the United Kingdom?

Mrs. Thatcher

As I have just informed the House, the University Grants Committee has an official on this group who will shortly be consulting the Institute of Petroleum. I hope that getting these two and other interested bodies together will produce the desired results.

Mr. Laurance Reed

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have just come from the Department of Mechanical Engineering of University College, London, which is one of the few universities in this country which runs an M.Sc. course in ocean engineering? Did she know that there has been absolutely no contact between her Department and that department since the IMEG report and that it has had no conact with the Department of Trade and Industry either?

Mrs. Thatcher

I hope that that problem will be remedied now that the University Grants Committee has an official on the group who will carefully seek to identify the education and training needs of industry, to see whether they are already being fulfilled and, if not, to make arrangements to fulfil them.

Mr. Moyle

In view of what the right hon. Lady said earlier this afternoon, does not she agree that the last answer she gave on this matter on 10th April was very complacent? It is no use listing the appropriate departments of universities. Does not the right hon. Lady agree that no training in oil drilling engineering is taking place in this country at present and that we need these oil drilling engineers if the sub-contracting business in the North Sea is to go to British firms and not to American firms?

Mrs. Thatcher

Before coming to the House today, I carefully inquired as to whether we had had any complaints from industry about a lack of education or training facilities which created manpower problems. I was told that we had had none. I am given to understand that among the top skills in the offshore industry, including petroleum engineers, there is already a significant and growing element of United Kingdom personnel.