§ 11. Mr. Ernie Ross
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the total amount of revenue raised through North sea oil since 1978–79.
§ Mr. Ross
Since all the analysts, even at the Scottish Office, are now suggesting that there will be increased redundancies this year in the North sea oil industry, how does the Minister respond to the charge that in the past six years the Government have wasted £56 billion? What level of tax does he think Britain would be enjoying if he had not wasted that £56 billion? Can he tell us one single thing that we have as a result of that £56 billion from North sea oil?
§ Mr. Lamont
In no way has the £56 billion been wasted. First, it has been used to reduce overseas debt. Secondly, it has been used to acquire overseas assets that will benefit this country for many years to come. Thirdly, it has been used to support a prudent level of expenditure in the country under this Government, including an increase in National Health Service resources way above what the previous Government were able to afford. The hon. Gentleman is also aware that we have introduced the Advance Petroleum Revenue Tax Act 1986, whichwill help to modify some of the consequences to which he referred.
§ Sir William Clark
Does my right hon. Friend agree that part of North sea oil revenue has been used to pay back the International Monetary Fund loan that was borrowed by the previous Labour Government? Does my right hon. Friend also agree that since 1979 our overseas assets have increased by far more than £56 billion? It is with the returns from those overseas investments that we shall be able to replace North sea oil revenue when North sea oil disappears.
§ Mr. Lamont
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The overseas debt has been reduced by 14 per cent. The figure that he gave concerning our overseas assets is also right. The country will be able to enjoy the benefits of that stream of dividends for many years to come, and way beyond the life of North sea oil.