HC Deb 05 February 1998 vol 305 cc1217-8
12. Mr. Godman

If she will list the construction contracts won by United Kingdom-based offshore fabrication yards in the past two years. [25696]

The Minister for Science, Energy and Industry (Mr. John Battle)

I have placed in the Library of the House a detailed list of all construction contracts worked on or secured by UK offshore fabrication yards in 1996 and 1997 and known to the Department. My hon. Friend will note that it is an extensive list running to some 130 contracts. It reflects the current competitiveness of the UK fabrication industry, which is winning orders for UK engineering and technology and underpinning jobs.

Mr. Godman

I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees that our fabrication yards are among the best in the world. One such company is UIE, which is now located at an excellent facility in my constituency. What assistance is given to yards in respect of the international market for offshore structures? Is not much of the foreign competition underpinned by state and regional government subsidies?

Mr. Battle

The former Scott Lithgow shipyard in my hon. Friend's constituency is currently being used for offshore construction work and has won orders. There has been a shift in the industry away from fixed rigs and towards floating platform systems. The Department recently launched the fabricators forum to enhance the UK fabrication industry. At the outset, the oil industry was told that 18 per cent. of its work would be within the United Kingdom. The figure has now reached 17 per cent. Significant fabrication requirements for Norway, Denmark, Canada, America and other international markets are being won by the expertise in our shipyards to which my hon. Friend referred.

Mr. Skinner

I wonder whether my hon. Friend will tell me about another offshore fabrication? Will he tell me why an offshore fabrication document has gone to hundreds of thousands of retired miners and miners' widows saying that they have to use another form of fuel and that they will lose 12, 14 or 16 bags of coal? The Minister is responsible, so will he give a guarantee—

Madam Speaker

Order. The Minister might be responsible, but the question is out of order.

Mr. Skinner

It was a good try.

Madam Speaker

It was not even a good try. I do not mind when it is, but it was a very poor one.