§ Mr. Dodsworth
asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is the reason for the delay in confirming the fifth round oil licences since their conditional awards on 9th February 1977; if the delay is holding up North Sea oil production; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Benn
There are important matters at stake here. The licences will last for 37 years and in that context it is entirely appropriate to spend now whatever time may be necessary to get things 17W right. A few months' delay in the grant of licences will not affect oil production, as it will be several years before we can expect any production from fifth round licences. I am satisfied there has been no undue delay, and, as the hon. Member will know, some awards have already been confirmed.