HC Deb 07 July 1986 vol 101 cc1-2
1. Mr. Wareing

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on the present position in respect of onshore oil exploration in the Merseyside area.

The Minister of State, Department of Energy (Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith)

In the recent onshore licensing round I awarded four new petroleum exploration licences in the Merseyside area. These are in addition to the three exploration and three production licences already in existence.

Mr. Wareing

Can the Minister tell me the names of the constituencies in which these licences have been granted? Are they progressing well in terms of permissions from the landowners, occupiers and local authorities? Is he able to say when employment possibilities are likely to arise on Merseyside as a result of these developments?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The whole of the Merseyside area is covered by the existing and new licences. If the hon. Gentleman would like further information I shall be happy to provide it. I understand that exploration work is proceeding, but unless some discovery is made one cannot tell what activity may flow from the exploration.

Mr. Patrick McNair-Wilson

As further developments in Merseyside or elsewhere are likely to be affected by the continuing fall in oil prices, is my right hon. Friend aware that the industry is becoming increasingly anxious about the tax regime and especially about the ring fencing of oilfields? Has he had discussions with the Chancellor of the Exchequer about this urgent matter to ensure that further inducements exist for continued exploration and development?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am certainly aware of the problems of the falling oil price. There is no evidence that any existing activity or any developments recently approved or developments at an advanced stage of consideration by my Department have been inhibited by the current tax regime. If activity is hindered, 1 assure my hon. Friend that I and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will look carefully at it.

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