HC Deb 22 October 1973 vol 861 cc668-9
3. Mr. Edward Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what reply he has sent to the EEC Commission to its letter on the awarding of grants for oil rigs.

The Minister for Industrial Development (Mr. Christopher Chataway)

A reply was sent on 12th September explaining why we disagree with the Commission's suggestion that the shipbuilding directive prevents the payment of construction grants on mobile offshore installations.

Mr. Taylor

Have we received a reply from the Commission? What will be the likely outcome of this correspondence? Can the Common Market Commission tell the British Government not to pay grants to industry, which we have unanimously decided to do?

Mr. Chataway

No reply has been received. As I may have mentioned to my hon. Friend on the last occasion when he raised the matter, there are common rules in this area. What we are discussing is one application of one directive, which expires at the end of the year.

Mr. Benn

We welcome this vigorous defence of British interests, but will the Minister assure the House that he has the power to uphold the position that he takes—which wins the support of the whole House—against the possible application of Common Market rules?

Mr. Chataway

We believe—I think it is a view which has support in all parts of the House—that there is an interest in having common rules, and it is as much in the interests of Scotland as of any other region to ensure that there is not a bidding up of one region against another for aid. That is what the directive is about.