HC Deb 29 April 1974 vol 872 cc764-6
28. Mr. Alexander Fletcher

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what plans he has to ensure that the development of onshore facilities keeps pace with the production requirements of offshore oil.

Mr. Varley

I liaise closely with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for the Environment in keeping under careful review the requirements for all necessary infrastructure in support of offshore development.

Mr. Fletcher

Is the Secretary of State aware that his answer is not good enough and that the full resources of his Department and of the Scottish Development Department should be put into the job of expediting onshore facilities for oil? Will he try to persuade his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry to leave the oil companies alone to carry out their job as experts and to bring the oil ashore? I hope that the Minister's Department will try to do its job onshore.

Mr. Varley

I agree with the hon. Gentleman to the extent that British industry is not taking advantage of the North Sea oil development. It is our job to encourage British industry much more than it has been encouraged in the past. Only five weeks after assuming office we took the decision to establish the headquarters of the Offshore Supplies Office in Glasgow. We want to see that built up so that industry can take full advantage of it.

Mr. William Hamilton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is not much good saying that British firms ought to get cracking when they are inhibited, for example, by shortages of steel? Has his attention been drawn to a case in my constituency, about which I wrote to him a week ago, where a firm which could use 5,000 tons of steel a year has had a current allocation of 47 tons?

Mr. Varley

That case has not been drawn to my attention, but one of the factors associated with the shortage of steel was the totally unnecessary three-day working week.

Mr. Tim Renton

To promote British interests in servicing North Sea oil and gas, will the Secretary of State consider sponsoring a training school for deep-water drilling and other aspects of offshore oil technology?

Mr. Varley

Subject to correction, I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment already has such a scheme in hand.