HC Deb 23 March 1981 vol 1 cc620-1
9. Mr. Watson

asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he is satisfied with the rate of licensing in the North Sea.

Mr. Gray

I am satisfied that the rate of licensing that we have achieved provides a sound basis for continuing exploration on our continental shelf.

Mr. Watson

Is my hon. Friend aware that two of the exploration licences granted prior to 1980 were granted to companies with strong South African connections? Will he tell the House in which year those licences were granted and who was the Secretary of State for Energy at the time?

Mr. Gray

My hon. Friend is correct. A firm with South African interests was last granted a licence during the fifth round of licensing. As I recall, the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) was Secretary of State at the time. If I am not mistaken, the hon,. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands) was then a Minister at the Foreign Office.

Mr. Eggar

Is my hon. Friend impressed by the consistencey of the Opposition's energy policy and by the long memory of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands)?

Mr. Gray

I do not wish to comment further on that issue.

Mr. Rowlands

The next Labour Government will prevent any further South African involvement in North Sea oil, and will do everything in their power to stop it. Is the Minister aware that we shall, instead, start to promote more British interests rather than allow the creeping and sinister elements that are intruding into North-Sea oil development?

Mr. Gray

Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that a future Labour Government—I assume of the Left rather than of the Right—will discontinue the practice followed by successive Governments, in that there will be a discriminatory attitude on nationality in future licensing awards?

Mr. Speaker

Order. We shall get into great difficulties if the Government ask the Opposition to answer questions.