HC Deb 04 May 1976 vol 910 cc289-90W
Mr. Stott

asked the Prime Minister what is the present distribution of ministerial responsibility for negotiations with the oil companies on participation.

The Prime Minister

I have reviewed the arrangements which obtained under my predecessor whereby the lead in the participation negotiations was taken by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster assisted by the Paymaster-General and the Secretary of State for Energy. I have noted with great satisfaction the encouraging pjrogress which has been made on our North Sea oil programme.

The main lines on which the Government, through the British National Oil Corporation (BNOC) will participate in these operations are now well established, and the main burden of the negotiations, which are complex and detailed, involve an increasing number of companies and are intimately tied in with other aspects of Government energy policy, falls increasingly on the Secretary of State for Energy and his officials, in consultation with the Treasury and the BNOC.

I have decided to reflect this change in the character of the negotiations in the distribution of ministerial responsibilities. The Secretary of State for Energy will therefore formally become responsible for taking the lead in the conduct of the negotiations, and will answer Questions on these matters in the House. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will continue to be closely associated with him in the negotiations with the oil companies; and the role formerly performed by the Paymaster-General will be fulfilled by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

There will be no change in the arrangement announced on 14th April on the appointment of the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Mabon) as Minister of State, Department of responsibility, within the Department of Energy whereby he will have special responsibility, within the Department of Energy, under the Secretary of State, for the development of energy in the North Sea. He will also be a member of the negotiating team. This adjustment of responsibilities does not imply any change in the Government's stated policy on participation.