Erosion of North Sea safety standards thwarted

21-Feb-2013 @ 16:0

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Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Conservative MEPs have successfully headed off EU proposals on oil and gas safety which they feared would mean poorer standards in the North Sea and unnecessary added cost.

After months of negotiations and scores of legislative amendments tabled by British Conservatives, agreement was reached today in talks between representatives of the European Parliament and Commission over a framework for safety regimes in the industry.

Vicky Ford MEP, Conservative MEP for the East of England, said: "We have come up with a result that is good for Britain, good for the environment and good for consumers. Instead of levelling safety standards down, we will be encouraging the rest of Europe to match Britain's high standards."

The UK is seen as across the world a gold standard on safety, but the European Commission caused concern last year by pushing for regulations which would force all member states to conform to the same rules. The initial proposals would have denied member states the required flexibility to adapt measures to their own national circumstances.

Such a move would have proved needlessly expensive, and the industry would have been forced to pass on extra costs to consumers. The experts currently involved in crucial offshore safety checks would have ended up spending years onshore learning how to ensure compliance with the new rules. It was estimated that the total cost of implementing the proposed measures would have been about £150 million in the United Kingdom.

As shadow rapporteur, or lead negotiator on the legislation for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the Parliament, Mrs Ford tabled more than 300 amendments.

Crucially, she successfully argued that any new measures should be in the form of a directive rather than a regulation, meaning UK authorities can maintain the current regime and still incorporate the new measures that will have a positive impact on safety.

Mrs Ford,  Conservative industry spokesman, said: "Safety and environmental protection in the industry have to be paramount, but the very restrictive legislation proposed would have actually damaged standards in countries such as the UK which have long-established and globally-respected safety regimes.

"We were facing an attempt to 'Europeanise' national offshore competences by forcing member states to repeal key parts of their domestic law and replace them with a one-size-fits-all piece of EU legislation. It would have forced the UK oil and gas industry to divert resources to these changes. That would have caused serious project delays and dealt a blow to the economy, investment, jobs and energy security.

"The original Commission proposals were deeply flawed and potentially damaging. Line by line we amended the EU proposal so that it now mirrors the UK gold standard.

"It is gratifying that we managed to head off the worst of the proposals. We want to be exporting British best practice to the rest of Europe, not importing inferior standards to Britain."

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