HC Deb 07 November 1983 vol 48 cc7-8
7. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for energy if he will give estimates for the current level of production of oil and gas for the United Kingdom sector of the continental shelf.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Provisional figures indicate that oil production from the United Kingdom continental shelf amounted to 9.8 million tonnes in September. Natural gas production was 2.2 billion cubic metres in the five weeks to 2 October.

Mr. Douglas

Will the Minister comment on the view that our production of 2.4 million barrels of oil a day, which is extremely high in relation to what was apparently agreed between the Government and OPEC, is disturbing to the OPEC nations? They cannot understand why they should curtail production to keep the oil price firm while we open the valves and produce at an exceptionally high level, in view of our domestic requirements?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I confirm that the hon. Gentleman's arithmetic is the same as my own. The United Kingdom, which has given no undertaking on this matter, has made it clear that at least up to the end of 1984 there will be no restriction on production on the continental shelf. Although our figures are an improvement on last year's production, they were what we predicted in the Brown Book. The OPEC countries are also producing above their quotas.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the recent tax reforms for the North sea oil companies will be of great help, particularly to the small fields on which so much of our future production depends? Is there any evidence yet that these reforms have had any effect?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

My hon. Friend is right, as always. There are signs of the effects of this reform. First, there is greater interest among businesses in the oil supply industry, and, secondly, more exploration and appraisal wells were being drilled in the North sea up to the end of September than in any year up to 1975, the peak year.

Mr. Rowlands

After a weekend in which the high cost in life that can occur in getting both gas and oil from the North sea has become clear, will the Minister assure us that events such as those witnessed last weekend are highly unlikely to take place in the British sector of the North sea? Will the right hon. Gentleman again consider the safety regulations for diving bells and compression units?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I join the hon. Gentleman in his concern over what happened in the Norwegian sector of the North sea last weekend. I extend my sympathy to the relatives of those who lost their lives, especially as there were some British citizens on that vessel. Until we know the results of the inquiry that the Norwegian Government are carrying out, it is too early for any lessons to be learnt. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I keep in close touch with my Norwegian counterpart. If there are lessons to be drawn from this event, we shall take note of them.

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