HC Deb 04 February 1985 vol 72 cc387-8W
Mr. Foulkes

asked the Prime Minister if she will place in the Official Report a copy of her letter to the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley of 29 January.

The Prime Minister

Yes. Dear Mr. Foulkes, Thank you for your letter of 11 January about the licence granted to Firstland Oil and Gas plc for onshore oil prospecting on the Falklands. The granting of this licence was confirmed on 23 July 1984 by Mr. Ray Whitney, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in reply to a Parliamentary Question. A subsequent letter from Tim Renton, his successor, to Mr. Tam Dalyell about the details of the contract was published in Hansard on 25 October 1984. You asked why the matter was "solely for the Falkland Islands Government". The granting of the licence falls within the powers of the Civil Commissioner under the Falkland Islands Mining Ordinance. The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has the power only to approve the terms and conditions and the period of validity of the licence. Such approval was given. You also asked about the resources of the Falkland Islands Government to assess applications for oil and gas prospecting in the Falklands. The Falkland Islands Government can call on the full resources of Her Majesty's Government, by means of consultation with the Department of Energy through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. As for the date of establishment of Firstland Oil and Gas plc, the company was established in May 1984. I understand that it then took over all the assets of Campatou, the foreign-based company to which you referred, which has been engaged in oil exploration since 1981, principally in Texas and Oklahoma in the United States. Lest there should be any misunderstanding I should emphasise that Firstland is incorporated in the UK, and that its directors are British nationals with experience in oil and gas exploration. Firstland has an option to buy land owned by Falkland Islands Properties, which as you say is registered in Jersey. The prospecting rights of Firstland were granted to it by the licence from the Falkland Islands Government. You state that Firstland's operations in the Falklands are being conducted by their subsidiary company Campatou. I understand that the only operation so far carried out under the licence is a survey conducted in November and December last year by a British geologist employed by one of the leading British companies active in this field, and that Campatou has not been involved in any way. You asked finally what guarantee there was that revenue from a successful oil strike would accrue to the Falklands or to the UK. The provisions of the Falkland Islands Mining (Mineral and Oil) Regulations ensure that revenue would accrue to the Falkland Islands Government to which, under the terms of the licence granted to Firstland, rent (and any royalties due in respect of oil or gas extracted) are payable. Yours sincerely, Margaret Thatcher