§ Mr. Alton
asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will require licensees to prepare studies of the implications for the marine environment, other users of the sea and local coastal areas of exploratory 35W drilling programmes which he will authorise for blocks 11/25, 12/21, 12/25 in the Moray Firth and 98/11, 98/17, 98/19, 99/12, 99/13 and 99/16 in the English Channel or for any other blocks on offer in the seventh round of offshore oil drilling; and whether he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Gray
Two of the blocks listed, 12/25 and 98/19, are not on offer in the seventh round. The other blocks specifically identified by the hon. Member are located near to shore and, as announced on 1 May, I will expect that the process of preparing a development plan for a discovery near to shore will normally include a study into the matters mentioned. I would also expect licensees to take account of marine interests and the environment in making their plans for exploration drilling. I do not, however, consider it necessary to require licensees to prepare detailed studies on the matters noted by the hon. Member, before exploration drilling takes place.
§ Mr. Alton
asked the Secretary of State for Energy what advice he has received from the Nature Conservancy Council and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds regarding the importance of blocks 11/25, 12/21 and 12/25 in the Moray Firth currently on offer in the seventh round of offshore licensing, for large concentrations of seabirds vulnerable to oil pollution; if he will draw the attention of potential licensees to this feature: and whether he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Gray
Block 12/25 is not on offer in the seventh round, but as regards the other two blocks:
- (i) the Nature Conservancy Council commented that it would prefer to see no further oil developments in this general area; and
- (ii) the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds included the blocks in a list of about 350 blocks around the coasts of the United Kingdom which in its view should not be licensed at present.
Having taken account of all the comments received during the consultations on seventh round arrangements, I concluded that the balance of advantage lay in including these two blocks in the round. My statement of 1 May laid particular emphasis on the care and consideration needed in the conduct of licensing activities in such areas. I will, as suggested by the hon. Member, draw the attention of 36W potential licensees to the importance of this area for concentration of sea birds.