Thank you to all those who have contacted me about the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill. The Bill is unnecessary, it undermines action on climate change, and it will not cut energy bills nor increase energy security. That is why I opposed the Bill at its Second Reading in the House of Commons.
The Bill would require the oil and gas regulator, the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), to run annual applications for new offshore oil and gas licences. However, I believe this is entirely unnecessary, since licensing rounds are already run when the NSTA decides they are needed. Hundreds of licences have been granted over six licensing rounds in the last 13 years, yet this has done nothing to protect us from the worst cost-of-living crisis in generations.
On energy bills, the Secretary of State for Energy Security & Net Zero has herself stated that this policy will not cut prices for families. On energy security, meanwhile, doubling down on fossil fuels will make Britain more insecure, not less. The more we rely on fossil fuels, the more we depend on the dictators who control and set prices on international markets – no matter where those fossil fuels are produced.
The way for us to bring down energy imports is to produce more clean power at home that we can control. Indeed, the UK would need less imported gas by 2030 under the plans that I support – that is to expand cheap, homegrown renewables and other low-carbon power – than under the Government’s energy policies.
I recognise that we owe it to people in North Sea oil and gas communities to deliver a managed, fair and prosperous transition. I believe that the way to do this is to carry on using existing fields while delivering jobs for North Sea workers in the industries of the future, such as offshore wind, carbon capture and hydrogen.
Finally, the Bill is completely incompatible with our climate commitments. As the UN International Energy Agency and various other respected bodies have made clear, maxing out fossil fuels risks global warming far above the 1.5°C limit we need to keep to if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Unfortunately, the Bill passed its Second Reading with Government support. I can nevertheless assure Lewisham East constituents that I will continue to support efforts to oppose it through its further Parliamentary stages.