MPs from across the regions which make up the North Sea offshore industry joined forces yesterday to ramp-up the Budget pressure on George Osborne.
The chancellor was warned repeatedly of the need to support the oil and gas sector through the downturn and help it thrive in the long term.
One after the other, MPs demanded changes to the tax regime, particularly a cut to the headline rate, as a means of building Prime Minister David Cameron’s so-called “bridge to the future”.
Aberdeen South MP Callum McCaig said this would provide the “clearest signal” that the UK Government believed in the industry moving forward.
He also echoed Oil & Gas UK chief executive Deirdre Michie’s characterisation of the £1.3billion tax breaks previously signed-off by the Treasury as “so last year”.
His Granite City colleague Kirsty Blackman described the devastating impact of the oil price collapse on Aberdeen, pointing to 10,000 direct job losses, as well as the wider, knock-on effects.
She highlighted falls in hotel occupancy, complaints from under-employed taxi drivers and a food bank no longer able to sell fruit to oil companies.
The pair were speaking during a debate on the North Sea at Westminster.
Tory MP Peter Aldous, who represents Waveney in Suffolk, warned the industry was “drowning in a tsunami of supply” of oil and gas just as worldwide demand was “cratering”.
He also called for a long “Indian summer” for the sector, adding: “What I don’t want is a harsh, bleak winter coming too early.”
Emphasising a feeling its success had been “taken for granted” over the years, he told MPs: “All of a sudden when you have this shock to the system, you suddenly realise how important this industry is.
“We need to focus on how important it is to the communities represented around this chamber.
“If we don’t do it right, we are hollowing out these communities.”
Labour’s Alan Campbell, who represents Tynemouth, said it all came down to jobs.
He added: “We have to be doing and be seen to be doing everything that we can to safeguard these jobs because they are some of the most highly skilled and dangerous and are done by some of the hardest working people I know.”
West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Stuart Donaldson pointed out many had to undertake a survival course just to be able to get to work.
He added: “We recognise the sacrifices that are made by the men and women on the rigs – day in, day out. They should be able to expect support from the UK Government.”
Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom said she could not comment on the demands for fiscal measures before the Budget.
But she pointed to previous support, including the establishment of the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) as the new regulator and asset steward, as well as the setting up of the inter-governmental
She also hailed the confirmation of the recent £250million Aberdeen City Region Deal, jointly funded by the UK and Scottish governments, and the £20million for seismic surveys, announced by the prime minister on his visit to Aberdeen in January.
Mrs Leadsom added: “The government will continue to do all it can to support this great British industry during these challenging times.”