HC Deb 12 March 1984 vol 56 cc7-8
6. Mr. Malone

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what representations have recently been made to his Department regarding the operation of the Offshore Supplies Office.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Representations from a wide range of organisations and individuals are a regular feature of the Department's business.

Mr. Malone

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, despite the healthy looking figure issued by the Offshore Supplies Office of 70 per cent. plus involvement by British industry in the North sea, the true figure for wholly-owned British companies is about only 40 per cent. and that that does not tend to be in high technology matters? Will his Department take steps to ensure that wholly-owned British companies will benefit during the next round of investment in the North sea of £50 billion to £60 billion.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The 40 per cent. to which my hon. Friend refers is a conjectural figure. The important point to remember is that the estimates of the Offshore Supplies Office are based on firms that are making a direct contribution to the United Kingdom economy, which is the correct basis on which to assess the position. As for the type of activity, I could not agree more with my hon. Friend that we want to see it taking place in high technology, and he need not go much further than his constituency to see many examples of wholly British firms which are at the forefront of development in the North sea.

Mr. Rowlands

Is it not a fact that, despite the figure of 70 per cent. in general terms, on the exploration side we have a very disappointing share of the export market? What efforts are the Government and the Offshore Supplies Office making to improve that percentage?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am extremely disappointed with matters on the drilling side, but there are a number of historic reasons for that. There was high British activity at one point but for a number of reasons, that declined. That is why I hope that the hon. Gentleman will welcome the efforts of the Government to keep open Scott Lithgow, which is one means of maintaining a high capability of building drilling rigs in the future.