HC Deb 11 December 1980 vol 995 cc1064-5
14. Mr. Douglas

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on his proposed changes in taxation on North Sea oil, giving his estimates of the "Government take" from each of the fields affected and the anticipated revenues in the next five years.

Mr. Peter Rees

Forecasts of Government take from the North Sea depend on a number of factors — including changes in the price of oil, costs and the production programme — which cannot be precisely estimated. Looking one year ahead, I expect total Government revenues in 1981–82 from oil and gas production to be in the range of £4½ billion to £5 billion at 1980–81 prices with about £900 million attributable to the proposals outlined in the statement of my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor on 24 November. For reasons of confidentiality, I cannot provide estimates for individual fields.

Mr. Douglas

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman confirm that the estimates that he has just given show no change from the forecast he made some months ago? Does he agree that his Government are being extremely profligate with this finite resource by using all these revenues to sustain social expenditure, unemployment benefits and so on instead of putting them aside to sustain our manufacturing base?

Mr. Rees

My right hon. and learned Friend made it clear in the documents published alongside his statement of 24 November that there had been a diminution in our expectation of the take next year apart from the new tax. On the question of profligacy, North Sea oil revenues are not hypothecated to any particular form of activity. We could just as easily pray in aid the additional sums being put into various employment measures and the capital requirements of the nationalised industries.

Mr. Eggar

What is the net increase in the Government take as a result of the 24 November announcement about a windfall profits tax?

Mr. Rees

We hope about £900 million.

Mr. Grimond

In view of the large take from the North Sea, and since British industry now has to buy the most expensive fuel in Europe, will the Government consider taking the tax off oil?

Mr. Rees

I cannot anticipate my right hon. and learned Friend's Budget.

Mr. John Home Robertson

Does the Minister of State accept that the whole of the Government's take from North Sea oil revenues in the current year and next year is already being swallowed up by unemployment benefits?

Mr. Rees

I do not. The figures do not match up in the way suggested by the hon. Gentleman.