SCOTTISH Secretary Michael Moore says the UK Government will stand shoulder to shoulder with the oil and gas industry over the European threat to deep-water oil exploration.
Members of the European Parliament will be asked to vote on proposals to bring an immediate stop to deep-sea drilling next week.
A resolution calling for a moratorium in European waters was backed by the parliament’s environmental committee on Tuesday, in the wake of the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Oil and Gas UK has branded the move “wholly unjustified” and, after meeting industry bosses in Aberdeen yesterday, Mr Moore said the government was ready to stand by them.
“We are very supportive of the position that they (Oil and Gas UK) are taking,” he said.
“What we have said all along is that there is no need for a moratorium.
“The industry works very closely with the Health and Safety Executive and the Department of Energy and Climate Change on all the different regulations – from the design of the wells down to the operation of them.
“And yes, after the Gulf of Mexico it was important that people look again at the safety regime, and the increased number of inspections implemented in the North Sea is the sign of proper engagement and a proper response.
“But ever since the tragic events of Piper Alpha – and the complete change in the safety regime that produced – there has been a really constructive relationship between the sector, the safety guys and the government.
“Everybody is working together for the common safety agenda, so we don’t support what was said, and we don’t support a moratorium – quite the reverse.”
Mr Moore refused to be drawn, however, on what the government’s response would be should the EU back the proposals next week.
It is believed that the government does not believe the EU has the power to halt drilling in UK waters.
The environment committee wants the European Commission and member states to introduce the ban until uniform oil rig safety standards are implemented across the EU.
Belgian Green MEP Bart Staes has urged the full European Parliament to back a moratorium in a vote on Wednesday.
But Oil and Gas UK’s chief executive, Malcolm Webb, said Britain’s offshore regulatory regime was robust and fit for purpose.