Ed Miliband orders immediate ban on new North Sea oil and gas drilling

Energy Secretary Ed Miliband
-Credit: (Image: Anthony Devlin/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Ed Miliband has ordered an immediate ban on the issuing of new North Sea oil and gas licences in a damaging blow to the north-east, according to reports.

The new Energy Minister is said to have overruled his own officials in taking the action as he told regulators they should not approve a new round of drilling that had been expected to be confirmed in the coming weeks.

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) has labelled the story a "fabrication" but it has left the industry in the dark.

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The news will have a huge impact on the north-east, and Mr Miliband's decision could trigger costly legal action, according to The Telegraph.

Applications for 35 new sites in the North Sea were to be considered in the latest round of decision-making by the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), writes the Scottish Daily Express.

As recently as Wednesday afternoon, the NSTA said there were no plans to change policy despite the new Labour government and "further consideration is being given to a small number of remaining applications and a few more may be offered at a later date".

But on Wednesday night, the group said: "We will not issue new licences to explore new fields, and will not revoke existing oil and gas licences. We will manage existing fields for the entirety of their lifespan."

Scottish Conservative West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Andrew Bowie called on Sir Keir Starmer to intervene and reverse the "economic and environmentally illiterate" move.

He said: "This reckless move by Ed Miliband confirms that Labour are no friends of Scotland’s vital oil and gas industry.

"The new Energy Secretary is happy to turn off the taps in the North Sea and put tens of thousands of jobs at risk. His economic and environmentally illiterate policy of banning further exploration – which is supported by the SNP – is even opposed by his own officials.

"Keir Starmer should step in and reverse this decision immediately, or risk major damage to our energy security and Scotland’s economy.”

And industry representative Offshore Energies UK chief executive David Whitehouse said: "We remain deeply concerned that some of the new proposals being put forward for our industry will undermine the energy transition we all want to deliver.

"Labour’s leadership has recognised that North Sea oil and gas will be with us for decades to come and they have committed to managing this strategic national asset in a way that does not jeopardise jobs. They now need to deliver on their commitment to support our industry."

A DESNZ spokeswoman said: "This piece is a complete fabrication - it invents meetings and decisions that have not taken place. As previously stated, we will not issue new licences to explore new fields. We will also not revoke existing oil and gas licences and will manage existing fields for the entirety of their lifespan. We are working with the North Sea Transition Authority to ensure a fair and balanced transition in the North Sea."