HC Deb 24 June 1974 vol 875 cc967-9
6. Mr. Roy Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he has had any recent discussions with representatives of the major oil companies concerning exploration in the Celtic Sea.

Mr. John Morris

Although no formal discussions have taken place, I have had a number of recent contacts with representatives of some of the major oil companies during my visits to South-West Wales.

Mr. Hughes

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the major oil companies seem to be merely toying with the Celtic Sea? Will he and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy engage in consultations with the oil companies and urge them to go full speed ahead in order that any discoveries can accrue to the benefit of the Welsh people and the country at large at the earliest possible opportunity?

Mr. Morris

I assure my hon. Friend that the whole of the question of exploration round our shores is very much in the mind of my right hon. Friend. There is a continuing programme of exploration in the Celtic Sea. The Welsh Office is making the right dispositions and preparations to take advantage of any discovery which may arise. However, as my hon. Friend knows, so far no oil has been found.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

May I assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that those of us who are most involved see no evidence that the oil companies are merely toying with the problem? I congratulate him on setting up his advisory committee, which results from a proposal originally made by hon. Members on this side of the House, but may I urge that it should as soon as possible take the opportunity of the present lull in proceedings to look first at the problem of training, secondly at the allocation of land and thirdly at the grave housing problems which will confront us as soon as oil is discovered, if it is discovered?

Mr. Morris

All these matters will be considered by my committee in due course. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. He will recall that in my speech at Milford Haven a few weeks ago I attached particular importance to training, be it from craft or university, at every level so that the young men and women of South-West Wales are properly geared to take advantage of any new industrial revolution in that part of the Principality.

Mr. Kinnock

Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that there is general gratification for the fact that he is making preparations to deal with the problems and the advantages which will arise when the oil strike is made? Will he also note the overwhelming opinion in Wales that the maximum possible participation and profit from these oil explorations should accrue to the working people of Britain and not to the multinational companies or overseas bankers?

Mr. Morris

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We want to ensure that the oil and gas round our shores are exploited in ways which will confer the maximum benefit on the whole community. These obviously would have been dissipated by the policy of our predecessors.

Mr. Hooson

Will the Secretary of State nevertheless be a little circumspect until oil is found?

Mr. Morris

I have made our position quite clear both today and on the previous occasion when I answered Questions. No oil has yet been found but, as the hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware, gas has been found in the Irish Sea.