HC Deb 17 March 1998 vol 308 cc1089-90
10. Sir Robert Smith

What recent representations he has made to the Treasury about taxation of the North sea oil and gas industry; and if he will make a statement. [33164]

Mr. Wilson

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I are well aware of the issues involved and we have made appropriate representations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Sir Robert Smith

I thank the Minister for his answer, as far as it goes. We shall find out later how effective those representations have been. I hope that the Minister will make it clear to my constituents and the many people in Scotland who depend on the oil industry—those within the industry and the many small and medium-sized businesses contracted to it—that, despite the views of some Back Benchers, the Scottish Office understands how crucial oil investment is to the economic well-being of the manufacturing base in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Wilson

It may be that, even at this moment, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor is watching Scottish questions and has taken notice of the hon. Gentleman's remarks. The Scottish Office is extremely well informed on the importance of the oil industry to the Scottish and United Kingdom economy. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the appropriate representations have been made.

Mr. Godman

I may be a minority voice, but may I tell my hon. Friend that I think that it is perfectly reasonable to make representations concerning a comprehensive review of the current North sea fiscal regime? However, given the current price of Brent, it may be that this is not a propitious moment for such a review. I remind my hon. Friend that the companies involved under the regime of the job lot who formed the previous Government made massive profits from the North sea, year in and year out.

Mr. Wilson

We are all concerned to balance the proper taxation structure for the North sea oil industry against the incentives required to ensure that there is further exploration and exploitation. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will have noted my hon. Friend's argument.