All 2 Douglas Ross contributions to the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill 2023-24

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Tue 20th Feb 2024

Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill

Douglas Ross Excerpts
2nd reading
Monday 22nd January 2024

(3 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Edward Miliband Portrait Edward Miliband
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. She takes me to the fifth and final bad argument that the Government are making for the Bill.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross (Moray) (Con)
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Will the right hon. Member give way?

Edward Miliband Portrait Edward Miliband
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In a moment.

The Government argue that the Bill can somehow be justified on climate grounds, which demands a level of absurdity that should make even them deeply embarrassed. Let us get this straight. We signed a global agreement at COP28 for a transition away from fossil fuels in line with the science. That science is unequivocal: we must leave the majority of fossil fuels in the ground. But at home, their domestic policy is what they call “maxing out” the North sea.

Let us get this clear: in the crucial coming two years, Ministers will travel around the world to try to turn that COP28 agreement into reality, but how will the conversation go? The UK Minister will say to other countries, “We want you to leave your fossil fuels in the ground, because that is the agreement from COP28.” The country we are trying to persuade will say to us, “Hang on a minute. You’re saying we should leave our fossil fuels in the ground, but you’re planning to extract all yours.” What will we say, other than, “Yes, the Government are practising total hypocrisy, but please do as we say, not as we do.” That is the truth. The science is unequivocal.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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I was hoping to intervene when the right hon. Gentleman was talking about jobs and investment, because he quoted an awful lot of people. Why did he not quote Sir Ian Wood, who said that Labour’s plans for the North sea oil and gas industry would

“place in jeopardy tens of thousands of jobs”.

David Whitehouse, the chief executive of Offshore Energy UK, said that Labour’s plans would “create a cliff edge”, deterring investment and heightening our risk of energy shortages. Why did he not mention those people?

Edward Miliband Portrait Edward Miliband
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I am very happy to talk about Ian Wood. We had a good roundtable with him in Aberdeen in November. I totally accept that it is for a Government of either party to show that there is a proper transition plan. I firmly believe that we can do it, but honestly, the hon. Gentleman knows that it is not the case that new licences will somehow guarantee a future for those North sea workers. How could he possibly say that four days’ worth of gas demand in 2050 will guarantee a future for those workers?

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Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
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The premise of the hon. Gentleman’s intervention is that by delaying things, and maximising oil and gas production, we somehow maintain this link. We could just as easily deliver the same thing by accelerating the delivery of renewable energy and the infrastructure to transmit it to where it is needed. That would have the added benefit of introducing lower bills for consumers and industry, and making sure that we are not reliant on petrostates from far away with questionable regimes. I am looking through the right end of the telescope, whereas the hon. Gentleman and his Government are looking through the wrong end.

In short, the Tories could not give a flying fig for any worker on these islands—as long as their share price remains healthy, to hang with the rest of us. If the question is “How do we protect and transition oil and gas jobs into renewable energy production?”, the answer is definitely not to overstimulate unlimited offshore petroleum licensing. According to industry data, 441,000 jobs were supported by the oil and gas sector in 2013, but that number has already fallen to 215,000—so we are talking about 200,000 fewer jobs in 2022. The Government have issued approximately 400 new drilling licences, in five separate licensing rounds, in that period. The claim that there is a direct and proportionate relationship between the amount of licences issued and the amount of jobs sustained is entirely spurious.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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Can the hon. Gentleman explain to the House and, importantly, his constituents in Angus, many of whom are employed in the industry, what the Scottish National party’s current position is on the issuing of new oil and gas licences? At the moment, does it support them? Or is there is a presumption against them?

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
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What is important is the understanding that we will be reliant on oil and gas. This Government are creating a false dichotomy between having unlimited new licences and having an oil and gas sector in Scottish waters and within the UK; the two things are not related in the fashion that they are setting out. The hon. Gentleman should be asking why the UK Government will not match the Scottish Government’s ambition for the just transition and our half a billion-pounds of investment, but I will get on to that in a second.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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rose

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
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Is the hon. Gentleman asking whether I am giving way?

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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For clarity—

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
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No, I am not.

Where is the guaranteed ringfencing of revenues from North sea oil and gas production to develop more renewable energy and accelerate the just transition? Accelerating the just transition—not unduly sustaining legacy energy production—will make the difference and deliver real jobs with sustainability, in terms of both the carbon outputs and how those jobs will last into the future. Where is that support?

The Government have claimed that the circa £50 billion in tax revenue over the next five years “could” be used to support the shift to cleaner forms of energy—we are used to jam tomorrow from this Government—but any other form of fiscal revenue could be used to support the future development of renewables. The vacuous observation that the Government have made is so unconnected to reality, unconditioned and unqualified as to be meaningless.

It would have been an uncharacteristically elegant solution for this Government to have ringfenced future oil and gas revenue for the green transition, to marry the endowment of the legacy hydrocarbon industry to the priming of the pump of opportunities of the next renewable industry, but this Government are at least consistent in their ability to disappoint.

To the casualty of the climate from this Bill, which is an inevitable consequence of this course of action, we can add the pace of delivery for the new net zero economy opportunities in Scotland. When oil and gas opportunities go to a plateau of exhaustion in Scotland, as everyone knows they will, what will be left in the cupboard to support communities such as those in Banff and Buchan, Angus, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, and elsewhere in the north-east of Scotland? Why are the revenues from the historical exploitation of oil and gas not going into accelerating renewable opportunities and making sure that we deliver jobs for the future?

As I said in response to the intervention by the hon. Member for Moray (Douglas Ross), the Scottish Government have invested £500 million into the green transition for Scotland—[Interruption.] Well, unlike anything to do with this Bill, that funding is allocated and is there to be invested. I will tell you why, Mr Deputy Speaker, this Government are nervous of that figure: because if the UK were to match Scotland’s ambition in the just transition, it would be £5 billion across the UK, but we see no such commitment, vision or climate ambition. What we see is a Tory Prime Minister who cannot effectively lead his party, let alone the UK state or an energy transition, seeking to divide people on the climate, and rolling back on climate action commitments and signals given to industry on electric vehicles and boiler replacements, while over-exploiting Scotland’s legacy hydrocarbons and dragging his feet on carbon capture, usage and storage, especially Acorn.

The picture is revealed even for those with the largest blinkers. The hallmark of failure is stamped on this Tory Government, who will politicise anything, even the climate consensus, in a vain attempt to stem their electoral destruction. The Bill fails to outline a transition away from fossil fuels as per the agreed resolution at COP28, on which the ink is barely dry. The UK delegation signed up to that agreement in the full knowledge of this Bill’s impending passage. We all know that the UK has a questionable approach to its international obligations, but this is plain bad faith.

Finally, the Bill does not acknowledge the climate emergency. In fact, with this Bill the Tory Government are thumbing their noses at the climate challenge that we all face together and should address together. In the Bill, the Government seek to over-capitalise on legacy energy production rather than invest in the renewable energy jobs of the future. Much of that employment and enterprise will be in demand mitigation, with thermal insulation, equipment upgrades and new technologies. As a result of the ambition that drives the Bill and the warped thinking behind it, jobs, the economy, bill payers and the climate will suffer, so I urge Members to decline to give it a Second Reading.

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Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross (Moray) (Con)
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It is an honour to speak in the debate about the oil and gas sector, the industry and the jobs that rely on it. Certainly, in my Moray constituency, many people are employed in the sector. They travel through to Aberdeen to go off shore, and it is a regular commute for many people. That is the case in towns and villages throughout Moray, such as Buckie.

Since I have been able to get Buckie into this debate on oil and gas, it hopefully allows me the opportunity to put on the record my appreciation to the club for an outstanding match against Glasgow Celtic yesterday at Parkhead in the Scottish cup. They sadly lost 5-0, but it was an outstanding game for the highland league team. Graeme Stewart and his players did not just do the club, the highland league community and Buckie proud, they came away with an absolute host of new fans, because of what they achieved over the weeks since that game first came into the public domain. It has been great to see cup fever in Buckie and to see stalwarts of the club, such as Annie Jappy and Sandra Paterson, recognised for everything they have done for the club over many years. I am sure the congratulations of everyone in the House go to Buckie Thistle on their achievements.

David Duguid Portrait David Duguid (Banff and Buchan) (Con)
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I of course join my hon. Friend in congratulating Buckie Thistle, but will he answer just one question: which side played in the home strip?

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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Of course, they both play in green and white hoops. Celtic played in green and white, and Buckie were in yellow.

As I say, this is an important debate for many towns, villages and communities in Moray, because a large number of people living in that area are employed in the oil and gas sector. It is important for my constituents in Moray, and I have been clear that it is right that we continue to grant new oil and gas licences to continue the exploration in the North sea while there is still a demand that needs to be supplied, but people will be left wondering what is the current position of the SNP. That is why I put a very direct question to the hon. Member for Angus (Dave Doogan). Normally at this point I would say that I will give way to any SNP Member willing to intervene if they are able to answer, but there is only one here. Would the hon. Gentleman like to intervene and say very simply, to the people of Angus and the people of Scotland, what his party’s position is and what his personal position is? Does the SNP support the granting of new oil and gas licences —yes or no?

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for this opportunity to reiterate what I said previously. There is a fundamental understanding of the ongoing role of oil and gas in meeting our energy needs. Whether that is dealt with and satisfied through existing licences or future licences is a moot point, and I will tell him why: I have already demonstrated, in as simple terms as I can, that the implication that there is a direct and proportional link between job security and licences issued is spurious. I am aware of the point he is trying to make, but he is not making it well. I have told him what the situation is, and he can either like it or lump it.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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I would just like an answer. I have tried twice, and that was as clear as mud. I think people looking at that answer will actually be unable to tell what the hon. Gentleman’s personal position is and what the SNP’s position is. That is really important. Maybe it is telling that only one SNP MP has turned up to a debate about the oil and gas sector—

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
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Have you seen the weather?

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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I have seen the weather. I saw the weather when I left Inverness airport at 6.45 this morning. I know what the weather is like in Scotland, but it is important that when we are debating the oil and gas industry, which is crucial to Scotland and the United Kingdom, the SNP can find only one MP to turn up.

Sammy Wilson Portrait Sammy Wilson
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Does the hon. Gentleman accept that for the 90,000 employees of the oil and gas industry in Scotland and the 200,000 across the United Kingdom, an answer that says it is a moot point is hardly the right one to give? It looks more like a mute position adopted by some of the opposition Members in this debate.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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I absolutely agree with the right hon. Gentleman. People should watch closely what the hon. Member for Angus said on his own behalf and on behalf of the SNP—as I say, SNP MPs are speaking with their actions tonight by not even turning up to the debate.

Opponents of this Bill—the Labour party, the SNP and others—try to present our energy transition and support for oil and gas as a binary choice. They say that we cannot achieve our net zero goals while at the same time supporting new oil and gas licences and projects, but nothing could be further from the truth. The oil and gas sector in Scotland and across the UK is essential to delivering and achieving net zero.

The investment in green energy infrastructure that will allow us to build our renewables capacity is coming from the revenue from oil and gas extraction. The businesses that are looking to expand offshore wind and the windfarms for tomorrow are staying solvent today because of their revenues from North sea oil and gas. The people with the skills and expertise that we have heard about throughout this debate, which will be required to secure our offshore renewables going forward, work in our oil and gas sector today. That is why it is so important that I made the point to the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) that people such as Sir Ian Wood are saying that Labour’s plans and the cliff edge that Labour would impose on the sector would see job losses. That is why that position is frankly unacceptable and is not supported by many people, if any, in the north-east of Scotland.

The businesses, the investment and the jobs that make Scotland and the UK a world leader in oil and gas are the same skills, businesses and jobs that are going to drive forward the green agenda and our renewables future. We cannot have one without the other. We cannot tell investors, businesses and workers who pause their plans for the UK’s energy infrastructure due to an artificial ban on new fields to come back when the green technologies have become cheaper or more viable, because those investors, those businesses and those workers will go elsewhere. I say to the hon. Member for Angus that that is not a moot point. That is the reality if we do not continue with the exploration of oil and gas in the North sea and the granting of new licences.

David Duguid Portrait David Duguid
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I am sure that my hon. Friend will join me in welcoming the vast number of offshore wind projects being developed off the coasts of our respective constituencies—as well as that of the hon. Member for Angus (Dave Doogan)—and the operations and maintenance facilities in Buckie in his constituency and Fraserburgh in mine, which are entirely dependent on those offshore wind facilities. As much as people from the oil and gas industry are moving into them, there are just not enough of those jobs to make up for those that we would lose in oil and gas. Does he agree that a lot of the people who work in oil and gas would not go to renewables if there were no oil and gas jobs, but would just go where there is oil and gas overseas?

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. We have a base at Buckie harbour that is supporting a number of jobs and will continue to do so for decades to come—it is a small number of jobs at the moment, with opportunities to grow—but at the moment the vast majority of the workforce is employed in the oil and gas sector. I agree with him that they will go elsewhere, shifting their jobs and expertise to other countries, and another city will become Europe’s offshore energy capital. That would be devastating not just for our net zero ambitions and for Aberdeen, but for the economy of Scotland and the UK as a whole.

We have already heard in the debate that 90,000 Scottish workers are employed in North sea oil and gas. It has been for decades, and will continue to be for some time to come, one of the most important sectors in Scotland’s economy. Yet I believe that it is the position of the SNP—it would be if more SNP Members than just the hon. Member for Angus had turned up to state their case—to put those jobs on the scrapheap. The SNP wants to have a cliff edge in our oil and gas sector and exploration because it is in government with the Greens in the Scottish Parliament. It is supporting Green Ministers who want an immediate end to the extraction of fossil fuels from the north-east, and that is putting those 90,000 jobs, and the Scottish and UK economies, at risk. That is viewed extremely dimly in many parts of Scotland, particularly the north-east, which the hon. Member for Angus represents.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
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It is a bit rich listening to a Scottish Tory MP talk about the bountiful experience of North sea oil and gas for Scotland. If we had been independent in the ’70s, we would be embarrassingly well off compared with our neighbours elsewhere in these islands. The hon. Member says that we want to throw workers in the oil and gas industry in Scotland under a bus, and that we want to see a “cliff edge” where those jobs disappear. What is his evidence for that? We are investing in a just transition. Whereas he is trying to pursue an endurance of legacy opportunities for employment, we want to turbocharge new opportunities for jobs over 150 to 200 years.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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My evidence is very clear; in fact, it is the hon. Gentleman’s own words. When he cannot even tell this House or his constituents about the SNP’s position on the presumption of new oil and gas licences, that is an answer in itself—not a moot point. The SNP clearly does not support it, and he cannot quite find the words to say it yet. That is the SNP position because it is in office with the Greens in Holyrood, and they are increasingly abandoning the north-east oil and gas sector and the jobs that rely on it. As I say, that is viewed extremely dimly not just in the north-east but right across Scotland.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas
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Nobody is talking about turning off oil and gas taps overnight—nobody; not even Just Stop Oil—so will the hon. Gentleman cut the amount of rubbish coming out of his mouth? He is criticising people who are not here in any numbers to be able to defend themselves. Why does he not focus on his own record rather than attacking others in such an erroneous way?

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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It is not erroneous, because we know that the co-leader of the Scottish Greens, Patrick Harvie, has said that he would like to stop oil and gas exploration overnight. That is the Green position: they do not want oil and gas to come out of the North sea, and that will affect jobs there right now. That is the point that I, and indeed other hon. Members, have been making.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas
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Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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I have already given way to the hon. Lady, and I can see that she has copious notes in her hand, so she will be contributing to the debate. I have already taken some time, so I will continue my speech.

The SNP will put those jobs on the scrapheap and turn its back on the north-east of Scotland. Yet, at the same time, Humza Yousaf is telling the people of Scotland that oil and gas revenues will pay for an independent Scotland. The SNP does not want to take the oil and gas out, but it wants to get the benefits to pay for failing public services in Scotland, which it has let down during its 17 years in power. Of course, Labour and Scottish Labour are also opposed to the Bill. Frankly, it is quite derisory that MSPs and the Scottish Labour party will not stand up for the north-east of Scotland and will allow those jobs, skills and the expertise gained over decades to be lost. The stark reality is that the Opposition parties are putting tens of thousands of Scottish jobs at risk, and putting the UK’s energy security in jeopardy when we need it most.

When illiberal, violent regimes such as Putin’s Russia are using energy resources as a means of funding their destructive wars, we cannot close our eyes and ears and pretend it is not happening. The UK will still have a demand for oil and gas products—and not just in energy but, as we have heard, in plastics and medicines, to name just a few. That demand will not go away in an instant; many of the homes that rely on those products and heating will require them for many years to come. Why should we not try to deliver on as much of that demand as we can through domestic production? Importing our energy will only increase emissions further and help those intent on manipulating energy markets for malign purposes.

I urge Members to support the Bill. Let us secure the UK’s energy future and deal a blow to the regimes that are intent on using energy as a weapon. Let us protect our economy and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Scottish and British families across the country. Let us choose common sense—a practical transition to net zero—not naivety and wishful thinking. Let the Labour and SNP Members present explain in their speeches why they will join together to try to vote down the Bill and the opportunities that oil and gas will continue to bring Scotland and the UK for decades to come.

Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill

Douglas Ross Excerpts
Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
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I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. She touches on some of the key elements that I will address in this speech.

In order to salvage some semblance of responsibility and/or equity from this Bill, I urge Members to support the SNP’s amendments. They seek to amend the provisions to facilitate licence issuance on a case-by-case basis, rather than it being done annually and by prescription. That is a reasonable improvement to the Bill by any measure. We would also like to incorporate a real test for new issuance that would require the North Sea Transition Authority to assess whether new licences will: lower energy bills for bill payers; deliver energy security and reduce reliance on imported fuel sources for domestic consumption; enhance sustained job security for the oil and gas workforce in areas of the UK that are economically reliant on the oil and gas sector; guarantee funding for domestic refineries to increase capacity to process sustainable fuel sources; and stimulate the North sea oil and gas sector to meet commitments set out in the North sea transition deal.

The SNP also wishes to ensure that, henceforth, 100% of tax revenues from oil and gas are invested in the just transition. A “just transition” test would have to be met for any given relevant year, under which the NSTA would issue new licences only if it assesses that: they will support the delivery of the North sea transition deal’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets of 10% by 2025, 25% by 2027 and 50% by 2030 against a 2018 baseline, in order to meet the sector’s aim of a net zero basin by 2050; and the Secretary of State has provided funding to support the development of the renewable energy sector in areas of the UK that are economically dependent on the oil and gas sector, equivalent to tax revenues collected from UK oil and gas production. That amendment means that new licences cannot be issued unless it can be shown that the licence will meet the North sea transition deal’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, and unless the UK Government are funding the renewables sector in oil and gas dependent areas to at least the value of oil and gas revenues.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross (Moray) (Con)
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The hon. Gentleman is speaking about conditions for granting new licences, but the SNP’s draft energy strategy includes a presumption against any new licences—is that his position? Is the SNP’s position that there should be no new licences for oil and gas exploration?

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that. It is lovely to see him in his place; we know that he is a busy man with his other two jobs. I am sure that Hansard will correct me if my memory does not serve me correctly, but I believe that we rehearsed this issue on Second Reading. Let me point out to the hon. Gentleman, who I am certain is an ardent Unionist, that the position of the devolved Government, and whoever they are, is irrelevant in debating what we do with oil and gas licences in the UK because, sadly, Scotland’s oil and gas endowment, as he well knows—he makes excuses for this regularly—is controlled remotely by a dysfunctional UK Government, whoever they are. So the point is moot.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to intervene, just to provide clarity?

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
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No, I will not.

The last SNP amendment will prevent this Government and the soon-to-be-installed Labour Government from simply using Scotland’s North sea oil and gas revenues to fund tax cuts in the UK, a state that is demonstrably not paying its way in the world. Both Labour and Tory —two cheeks of the same face, where Scotland is concerned —will sacrifice Scotland’s economic, industrial and material welfare, and those working in the energy sector, if it will win them a few more seats in this place. They have done it before and they will do it again while we remain in this broken and discredited Union. The prosperity that comes from oil and gas in Scotland is finite.

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Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
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I am not going to meet the hon. Gentleman’s ambition to nail those colours to the mast, but I will tell him that through the Bill, the UK Government are turning a blind eye to the implications of a free-for-all when it comes to emissions and who benefits from revenue receipts. I am sorry if he finds that difficult, but he will to have to deal with it.

The prosperity that comes from oil and gas in Scotland is finite, as we know all too well. We have seen what deindustrialisation with no transition plan looks like—we witnessed it at first hand in the 1980s, when coal, steel and heavy industries were all torn asunder on the altar of monetarism and share prices in the City of London. That is set to happen again for oil and gas, under Thatcher’s willing disciples, the Leader of the Labour party and the Prime Minister. We cannot allow that to happen again. It is therefore essential that north-east Scotland and other areas reliant on oil and gas are afforded the investment required. That is what our amendment speaks to; it is about creating new jobs and transitioning in a managed, strategic fashion to accelerate our post-carbon future.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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On that point, will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
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No.

That is a just ambition for a just transition. The billions of pounds still to be yielded from oil and gas revenue must not be wasted on doomed capital infrastructure projects, such as HS2, or used to fund exorbitant false economies, such as nuclear power stations in England. It is a moral and economic imperative that revenue be used to accelerate a genuine just transition, to protect jobs.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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In response to my previous intervention, the hon. Gentleman said that the Scottish National party position on this issue was “irrelevant”, but of course it is not; it is vitally important. The SNP’s draft energy strategy says there is a presumption against new exploration for oil and gas. Does he support that?

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
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That question speaks to a mis-representation. There is no point in giving way to the hon. Gentleman if he is going to misrepresent me in that way. What I actually said was that it does not matter who is in government in a devolved Assembly where energy policy is decided by remote control from a dysfunctional Westminster Government. That is the beginning and the end of it. If the hon. Gentleman does not like it, then he is welcome to join the SNP—well, perhaps not.

We know the facts on the ground: the oil and gas sector is in decline because of finite reserves, and because it is to be considered an industry with a limited future, whereas the green transition has an unlimited future. Jobs have already decreased in the sector. Government Members are giving the impression that with unlimited licensing there will be unlimited jobs, but that is not the case. Jobs have decreased by 228,000 since 2013, despite 400 new drilling licences in five separate auction rounds. Production of gas in the North sea has already fallen by two thirds since 2000 and will fall a further 95% with new licences, as opposed to 97% without.

The issuance of new licences in and of itself will not shift the dial, especially if the revenues from Scottish oil and gas continue to disappear into the black hole that is the Treasury. What is needed is a wholesale redistribution of fiscal receipts from Scottish oil and gas to the renewable transition, ringfenced and guaranteed by statute. In Scotland, we are apt to wonder what we got for the £300 billion in tax receipts from Scotland’s oil—a question now being mirrored for our renewable endowment.

I note that Members on the Government Benches have desisted from repeating the nonsense that energy bills will be lowered if we grant unlimited licences—and not before time. What will lower bills is ensuring that the renewable energy we generate can find its way to consumers without needing to be turned off because the grid cannot cope after 14 years of non-investment by the Tories. New grid infrastructure will lower bills by dialling gas out of the system. Government Members talk about the relentless need for more and more gas, as if that does not speak to a flaky ambition on a just transition; it exposes it and lays it bare. We will dial gas out of the system by having a network that can connect Scotland’s renewable energy to the market where that is required, and we will do so with proper investment in sub-sea lines, rather than by scarring Scotland with 80-metre pylons. It is a pity that the UK Government would not invest the billions that they are ploughing into nuclear into environmentally optimal grid improvements, instead of defaulting to pylons and overhead lines.

The Bill is part of an ill-fated Tory miscalculation on making a just transition a wedge issue. We know that, because the Bill is a non-existent solution to a non-existent problem. Some 27 new licences were granted in 2023, and a licensing round has been held by the North Sea Transition Authority every year and a half since 2016. If the Bill is the answer, then I am not certain what the question is. It undermines the independence of the NSTA by forcing it to hold new oil licensing rounds every year, whereas currently the NSTA undertakes licensing rounds when it deems that they are required. It is a challenge so unwelcome that the NSTA board unanimously agreed that this legislation and the annual licensing rounds were unnecessary. This is what happens when the energy sector, so vital to a broad-based, developed economy like Scotland’s, is subject to remote control.

Renewables already account for the equivalent of 113% of Scotland’s gross electricity consumption, yet we still pay sky-high energy bills because of the amount of gas required for generation in England, due in no small part to the Tories small-minded hysteria surrounding onshore wind, and their 10-year-old ban on development of onshore. Investing further in the green hydrogen sector in Scotland could support up to 300,000 jobs—it is a pity that Members on the Government Benches will not focus on that opportunity—and it would add up to £25 billion to Scotland’s gross value added by 2045. Further development of our renewable sector represents an extraordinary export opportunity for Scotland—one that we must grab much more, instead of looking back; we should look to the enterprises of the future.

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Alan Whitehead Portrait Dr Whitehead
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We are talking about what the Government are doing through this policy—that is what we are concentrating on today. I hope we will have another much wider debate about the effect that a comprehensive transition policy for the whole North sea field would have, with associated arrangements for the transition of investment, energy security and worker and job security, in the context of future jobs and future energy security. Many people in the industry have already said that that is exactly what we need to secure the future of the North sea. It is a declining basin; its output will not change greatly as a result of the measures that the Government are proposing. On the other hand, unless urgent action is taken to secure a holistic transition for the North sea, it certainly will not have the investment and the future that so many of us want to see. We need to put that overall consideration alongside some people’s shorter-term concerns about what will happen to the oil and gas industry right this minute.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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This has been an extremely crucial issue in the north-east of Scotland, particularly this week. Does the shadow Minister think it is a small, short-term problem that 42,000 highly skilled workers in that area could lose their jobs under Labour’s plans?

Alan Whitehead Portrait Dr Whitehead
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They will not. I have tried to make it very clear, against what is, frankly, misinformed scaremongering by Government Members, that under Labour’s plans the North sea will, of course, continue to produce efficiently and effectively over a very long period of time. We know that the North sea is a very mature field and is in decline, and all authorities have said that the Government’s proposals would make no difference to that overall pattern.

We are looking at how to make sure that the North sea continues to produce well and efficiently the oil and gas we will need for the future in declining amounts, while at the same time transforming that economy to produce new forms of energy for the future and maintaining security of production. That will be the big task for the future Labour Government—I am pleased that the hon. Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) is envisaging what the new Labour Government will shortly have to do. The long-term task in the North sea is not to pump every last drop of oil and gas it contains, but to give it a new lease of life. New industries can come into the North sea alongside the infrastructure that already exists, making it a new energy powerhouse for the UK in the future.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
- Hansard - -

I cannot let that go unchallenged. This letter from the Aberdeen and Grampian chamber of commerce to the Leader of the Opposition—the leader of the Labour party in the UK—says that

“if North Sea production is to cease prematurely—a certain outcome of this”

Labour

“policy—then our entire energy transition is undermined.”

This has massive consequences, and I have to say that the reaction of the shadow Minister is quite telling.

Alan Whitehead Portrait Dr Whitehead
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The hon. Member rather gives himself away by the first sentence he read out:

“if North Sea production is to cease”.

North sea production will not cease—

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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It is

“a certain outcome of this policy”.

Alan Whitehead Portrait Dr Whitehead
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North sea production will not cease over a long period of time, and Labour is committed to making sure that that production continues at the appropriate level for the maturity of the North sea basin. That is something that all sensible people understand to be the case, although it is unfortunate that certain Conservative Members pretend it is not the case for their own political purposes.

--- Later in debate ---
Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross (Moray) (Con)
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It has been interesting following the process of this Bill. I spoke on Second Reading, and I sat through most of the Committee today, and I am pleased to speak on Third Reading to support the proposals brought forward by this UK Conservative Government—the only party supporting our vital oil and gas industry across the United Kingdom, and particularly in the north of Scotland. My constituents in Moray, many of whom work in the oil and gas industry, will be shocked and annoyed by what we have heard today from those on the SNP Benches and by the deeply disappointing remarks we have just heard from the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) on the Labour Front Bench. If he thinks that “misinformed scaremongering” from Offshore Energies UK and from Aberdeen chamber of commerce does not deserve to be raised in this Chamber, he is gravely wrong. I think it is an indication of Labour’s position. It has already turned its back on the oil and gas industry in Scotland, and by the sound of things it will only get worse. [Interruption.] He is looking quizzical, but let us just look at what is happening in Scotland now and at some of the coverage.

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is a regular reader of The Press and Journal, but its front page made clear what people in the north-east of Scotland think about Labour’s proposals. The Scottish Sun said that people in Scotland could wave goodbye to tens of thousands of jobs. That is not the papers or the Opposition just saying that; it is papers reporting what experts in the field are saying. We know that the Labour party changes its policies quickly, and I can only hope this is another of those, because its actions are having a deeply damaging effect. Were these policies ever implemented, they would have a huge impact on the oil and gas sector and the people who work in it and rely on that oil and gas production. Tens of thousands of jobs and livelihoods are at risk.

As we often want to articulate our own views in this Chamber, I think it is only right that we repeat some of the concerns raised by the industry. Offshore Energies UK’s chief executive Dave Whitehouse is someone who must be listened to on this subject. I met him recently on a visit to Aberdeen. He said that Labour’s proposals

“would deliver a hammer blow to the energy we need today and to the homegrown transition”.

He also said:

“These are not faceless numbers but decent, hardworking people working across the UK to provide the energy we will need today and in the future.”

That is an expert view on the Labour proposals.

Aberdeen chamber of commerce has described Labour’s plans as a “betrayal”. Chris Wheaton, an oil and gas analyst, said:

“The uncertainty created by threatening new windfall taxes is as bad as the tax itself.”

Perhaps most powerfully of all, last week, more than 800 individuals, firms and trade groups wrote to the Leader of the Opposition to express their deep concerns about what is being spoken about by the Labour party.

Sadly, in Scotland, we cannot get a cigarette paper between the Labour party and the SNP. It is almost as if they are in a race to decimate our oil and gas industry and want to outmanoeuvre each other. Both support a windfall tax. Both oppose the Rosebank field. Both are speaking about dangerous proposals—[Interruption.] Liberal Democrat Members think that is funny. I am sorry, but I do not think it is funny that tens of thousands of jobs across Scotland are under threat. I take that issue extremely seriously.

Speaking about the SNP, I tried to get this out on Second Reading and in Committee. I am delighted that the hon. Member for Angus (Dave Doogan) is still in his place, because we have to get to the bottom of this. I ask him to intervene on me and explain whether he, as the MP for Angus, representing a north-east constituency, believes further licences should or should not be granted for production of oil and gas in the North sea.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
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I do not know about you, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I have just about heard enough from the hon. Member today. For the fourth time, Government Members’ association between the number of licences issued and the number of oil and gas jobs protected is specious at best. We have been accused by them—including, I think, the hon. Member—of wanting to put the oil and gas industry in Scotland to the sword. There is no such plan. The leader of the SNP and Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf was in Aberdeen just yesterday talking about how Scottish oil and gas workers must never be left behind.

I am disappointed in the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid)—I thought more of him—misquoting Humza Yousaf, who said that he would rather Aberdeen was not the oil and gas capital of Europe but the renewable energy capital of the world. That promises vastly more economic opportunity for workers in Scotland. Government Members had better start dealing with that.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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Order. I remind Members that this is a Third Reading and that we should not be reopening arguments that were heard in Committee or previous stages.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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I respect that ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I do not think it is reopening anything, because we have not got any further. I have tried at Second Reading, in Committee, and now at Third Reading. Why is it so difficult for SNP Members who represent communities in the north-east of Scotland to say what is actually in their own draft energy strategy? It says there is a “presumption” against new “exploration” for oil and gas “in the North sea”. The fact that the hon. Member for Angus cannot simply stand up and give his own position tells us exactly how people in the north-east of Scotland feel. The SNP has breathtaking hypocrisy on this issue. It wants to run down the oil and gas sector. It is no friend of the oil and gas sector. Of course, the SNP asked the Green party into government—that tells us everything we need to know.

Sammy Wilson Portrait Sammy Wilson
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Was the hon. Member as confused as I was by the answer given by the hon. Member for Angus (Dave Doogan): that somehow or other there is no need for a licence to drill for oil to create and protect oil jobs, and that we can protect oil jobs by not extracting any oil from the ground?

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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That is just one example of the mixed and confused messaging from the SNP which, sadly, we hear far too much in this Chamber. We have heard it across the north-east this week and it has dominated much of our proceedings.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
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Will the hon. Member give way?

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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I will, because this may be our final chance to hear if the hon. Gentleman believes in the SNP’s draft energy strategy, which included a presumption against licences for new oil and gas exploration.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As much as I am enjoying the hon. Member’s crocodile tears about protecting jobs in Scotland, I wonder if he could give confidence to those oil and gas workers in Scotland by highlighting an example from recent history when the Tories have protected anyone’s job anywhere?

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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It is only this UK Conservative Government and the Scottish Conservatives at Holyrood who are standing up for an industry that supports more than 200,000 people across the United Kingdom and 95,000 people in Scotland. We have heard that 42,000 jobs are at risk under the Labour proposals, which are almost identical to those of the SNP.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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I will briefly give way, and then I will bring my remarks to a close.

Wera Hobhouse Portrait Wera Hobhouse
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

How does the hon. Gentleman propose to get to net zero by 2050 and a temperature rise of no more than 1.5C? Our current projections exceed all that. All I hear is that we have to increase oil and gas production in the North sea, but that is the wrong path to net zero. How will we limit temperature rises to 1.5C and ensure that we do not carry on the current trajectory of well over 2C? The Government do not have an answer for that.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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The hon. Lady has misinterpreted everything that I have heard during the debate. No one is saying that there will be increased production; we are looking to protect what is happening at the moment, and jobs. As my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid) said in Committee, those jobs will go elsewhere. Let us make no bones about that. They will not stay in Scotland or the United Kingdom. Under the proposals of other parties, they will go to other countries in Europe and around the world. They will drill for oil and gas in those countries, they will pay their tax in other places and they will ensure that we buy that in as a nation at a higher cost and with a greater carbon footprint.

That is why I want us to maximise what we can do in the North sea, supporting tens of thousands of jobs in the north-east and right across Scotland and the United Kingdom, and work towards that just transition, which Offshore Energies UK and everyone else is fully behind. That is why I support this Bill and the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Minister, who has worked constructively across the House. I have had very useful meetings with him, the Secretary of State and others.

The Bill also sends a clear message that there is one party on the side of workers in the north-east and those in the oil and gas sector across the United Kingdom. That is the Conservative party—here in government at UK level, and the Scottish Conservatives at Holyrood and across Scotland. More and more people are starting to see that the Labour party and the SNP are turning their backs on these workers, and only the Scottish Conservatives and this UK Government are supporting them.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
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The Bill is completely lacking in merit. It seeks to solve a problem that does not exist. The North Sea Transition Authority can issue licences, and it has been doing so. This is a Potemkin argument; a specious debate about the issuance or otherwise of licences. When this Bill passes, which it will given the arithmetic in this House, it will change not one jot the ability to issue licences or otherwise. What it seeks to do is put on a pedestal and create conflict in what was previously broad consensus about the need for a just transition to combat a climate emergency.

In the tone and tenor of the debate today, Government Members in particular have shown a desire to weaponise that. We just heard from the hon. Member for Moray (Douglas Ross), who said in his summing up that only the Conservatives are standing up—absolute and utter nonsense, although if I was working in oil and gas, I would not want to rely too heavily on Labour, if its £28 billion plan is anything to go by. It could have included measures to offset the rapacious appetite for more and more licences to drill for every drop of oil and gas within the North sea basin and receipt every available ha’penny of tax into His Majesty’s Treasury. It could have done those things, and chucked a little bit over the wall to say, “But we’re going to put 5%, 10% or 15% of all those revenues directly into the just transition.” That would not have been brilliant, but it would have been something. But no—there is not a thing in this legislation to offset the appetite for further and further investment.

Government Members have spoken at length about the need to ensure that we do not develop a gap between that which we demand and that which we can supply—it has already passed; the UK can no longer sustain its own demand. We have to import oil and gas from elsewhere. But that is a myopic obsession with the supply side. There is not nearly enough being done by the Government after 14 years to mitigate the demand side. Supply is a function of demand; the be supply requirements are such as a result of that which is being demanded. If there had been a truly ambitious programme at any stage over the past 14 years to insulate houses, get people into electric vehicles and introduce further decarbonisation of our economies and lifestyles, we would not have the demand that we have now. The potential gap between that which can supplied domestically and that which has to be imported would inevitably be less in a zero-sum game. However, we do not have any of that.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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I will not go over an issue that I am not going to get an answer to. However, the hon. Gentleman’s own party has been in government in Scotland for 17 years now, and the Scottish Government have repeatedly missed their own climate change targets, largely because they have not done what he is accusing the UK Government of not doing. How does he reflect on his own party and Government in Scotland who have not done enough to insulate homes, get more people into electric vehicles and put in the charging points that we need across the country?

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Not for the first time, the hon. Gentleman has stood on a political landmine if he thinks he is going to hold me to account on the availability of charge points. What he may not know—although, knowing him, I suspect he probably does—is that someone wanting to find anywhere on these islands with more vehicle charge points than Scotland would need to come to London or the south-east of England. Scotland has many more available charge points for electric vehicles—

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
- Hansard - -

Rubbish!

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Well, we can sort this out later. Scotland has the third highest availability of electric vehicle chargers of all geographical areas in the United Kingdom. I think the Scottish Government’s record is exemplary—having, as we do, one hand tied behind our back due to being a member of this non-Union, with the freedom of movement and zero agency that comes from being a non-sovereign state. Any other normal country could invest into whatever it wants, and could do so using the normal levers that an independent country would have. Scotland, of course, cannot do that because it must wait for its cheque every year from Westminster. If the hon. Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) does not like that, he knows what to do.

I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid) for the work he did in finally grinding out some progress from his partners and colleagues in government on the Acorn project, but that just typifies the slowness—the absolute pedestrian nature—of measures to protect consumers and the environment from the largest possible demand. If we had gone into that with a proper fund and with ambition and pace five, six or seven years ago, we would not be in this situation now.

The SNP’s amendment proposed an elegant solution to invest the additional receipts from oil and gas extraction in the North sea basin directly into the renewable transition, protecting people from higher bills, insulating their homes and getting them out of their petrol and diesel cars and into electric cars. As we saw in the Prime Minister’s rolling back on heat pumps and electric vehicles—a further weaponisation of the climate emergency—that is not on the agenda of this fag end Tory Government. They are trying to scrabble around looking for votes, but that does not work. They have achieved tremendous damage with that approach and judging by recent by-election results they have gained zero political capital. On the mess that is evident before us—[Interruption.]—while I get heckled by the hon. Member for Moray, I and my SNP colleagues urge Members to decline the Bill a Third Reading.