MPs pass new offshore licensing bill at second reading


THE OFFSHORE Petroleum Licencing Bill passed its second reading in the Commons on Monday.

The new legislation would require the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) to run annual licencing rounds in the basin.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

Why? Free to subscribe, no paywall, daily business news digest.

The bill passed with 293 votes to 211 and, despite a number of Tory MPs speaking out against the bill including the former Cop26 president Alok Sharma, none voted against it.

“I do not believe, and it pains me to say this, that this bill will advance that commitment to transition away from fossil fuels,” Mr Sharma told the House.

But energy secretary Claire Coutinho hit back, arguing the bill will be vital to securing hundreds of thousands North Sea jobs supported by the oil and gas industry.

“This bill is about improving domestic energy security. 

“But I think we all understand that the oil and gas extracted from the North Sea is owned by private enterprises and the government does not control who it is sold to. We all understand that this does not necessarily lower bills. 

“We have to acknowledge that 200,000 jobs supported by the oil and gas industry have been lost over the last decade, and that is despite hundreds of new drilling licences being issued.”

She added: “We do not live in a world where we can simply turn off oil and gas”.

In a column written for The Scotsman, Scottish secretary Alister Jack said: “The Bill will give us a more flexible approach, allowing Britain to maximise domestic resources. 

“It will introduce annual licensing rounds for the North Sea – all subject to tests to ensure that future licensing supports our transition to net zero. 

“This will help industry keep a steady conveyor belt of oil and gas work rolling forward, even as we move away from reliance on fossil fuels and towards cleaner wind, wave and hydrogen power.

“The carbon footprint of domestic gas production is around one-quarter of the carbon footprint of producing and importing liquefied natural gas. Not proceeding with new licences would mean increased reliance on this imported liquefied natural gas.”

Conservative MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine Andrew Bowie claimed only one SNP MP attended the debate on the bill, although 27 SNP MPs voted, all voting against it.

The latest stories