The oil and gas industry, not just in Scotland but across the length and breadth of our United Kingdom, employs hundreds of thousands of people, providing skilled jobs and contributing not only to our economy but to our nation’s energy security. The Conservative Government have already taken unprecedented action to support this crucial industry, with tax breaks for the North sea worth more than £2 billion. We now have one of the most competitive tax regimes in the world. There is an awful lot of life left in the North sea: according to a University of Aberdeen report, there are potentially 17 billion barrels equivalent of oil to extract. To maximise the North sea’s full potential, ongoing support will be required to sustain this vital industry and the thousands of jobs that depend on it.
Scottish Conservative MPs have raised the industry’s profile at the highest levels of Government. Recently, I was pleased to welcome my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to my constituency, where we met representatives from Oil & Gas UK and visited Aberdeen harbour, where the Minister was given a fascinating insight into the level of activity at the port. Thanks to UK Government funding through the Aberdeen city region deal, the harbour expansion is progressing well. This is an exciting time for the harbour, and its expansion is a clear signal that Aberdeen is open for business. It opens up huge opportunities for oil and gas decommissioning, as well as for welcoming new cruise ships to our city.
Alongside my Scottish Conservative colleagues, I have been lobbying the Chancellor and the Treasury at every opportunity, so I am delighted that the Chancellor announced in his Budget statement that he will keep the headline tax rate in the North sea at its current level, despite the oil price rising. That will ensure the highest level of support for the sector by the UK Government, which is great news for jobs, for families, for the economy and for the communities of the north-east of Scotland. As the industry emerges from the worst downturn in its history, the Budget is a vote of confidence in Aberdeen and the North sea, which is why I commend it to the House.