he North Sea oil and gas industry scored a victory in Brussels yesterday in its battle over EU plans to seize control of offshore safety rules.
A European Parliament committee voted narrowly in favour of amending the plans to make them more flexible, in the way north-east MPs and UK sector leaders had requested.
EU commissioners previously tabled a draft regulation which would set a continent-wide health and safety regime for the offshore industry.
The move has caused alarm in Britain, amid fears the North Sea’s world-leading safety standards will be replaced with a potentially weaker and more rigid system, at a cost of tens of millions of pounds.
Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson said yesterday that the public health committee in Brussels had backed his amendment to turn the proposed “regulation” into a more flexible “directive” by 24 votes to 23.
However, the amendment will still have to be rubber-stamped by an industry committee next month, before all MEPs have a chance to vote on it in December, he said.
Mr Stevenson added: “While there are still elements of this report we are unhappy with, it was absolutely vital for the industry to get this amendment pushed through.
“If it is ultimately approved by the EU it will save the industry around £150million and ensure that health and safety workers will continue to work where they are most needed, and not back in onshore training rooms. This would have been a legislative nightmare for the industry and the results could have been catastrophic.
“We still need today’s vote to be approved at the highest level.”
Meanwhile, SNP MEP Alyn Smith welcomed a decision by the European Parliament’s environment committee, insisting oil and gas companies must have the financial means and resources to cope should there be an accident.