HC Deb 21 May 1973 vol 857 cc16-7
18. Mr. Taney

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action he is taking to interest and encourage oil drilling companies to explore the potentialities for oil and gas in the North Irish Sea.

Mr. Onslow

Eight companies already hold licences, covering about 1,800 square miles, in the North Irish Sea. They were committed to drill eight exploration wells and to carry out seismic surveys under work programmes laid down when the licences were granted.

Mr. Tilney

Is my hon. Friend aware that in a minor way oil has been pumped for many years from Formby, and that the discovery of oil or gas in the North Irish Sea would be a tremendous boost to industry in Lancashire, on Merseyside and in North Wales? Will he galvanise into action the companies that have been granted these licences?

Mr. Onslow

Under the terms of their licences, these companies must complete their drilling programmes within six years of the grant. On that basis, five wells will have to be drilled in the next three years and a further two in the next five years. So far, two wells have been drilled, but both were dry.

Mr. Eadie

The appointment of Lord Polwarth was announced outside this House. We understand that he has been designated as a trouble-shooter in relation to the North Sea oil exploration activities. Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House of Commons how it is to be informed when Lord Polwarth finds trouble? May we be informed exactly whom he will shoot once he finds trouble?

Mr. Onslow

If the hon. Gentleman takes the trouble to turn up next Friday morning he can make his speech about it then.