MPs have clashed over the future of the North Sea oil and gas industry as the fallout over Labour's plans for a "proper" windfall tax spilled over into the House of Commons.

Scottish Conservative leader and Moray MP Douglas Ross used an Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce letter, signed by 800 business and civic leaders, to press Labour on fears their plans could decimate jobs in the sector.

Sir Keir Starmer has proposed extending and increasing the energy profits levy by three percentage points to 78%, and would also cut investment allowances and ban new drilling licences.

Unions have spoken out to raise their concerns about the plans, while analysts at investment bank Stifel have since suggested that anywhere between 20,000 and 100,000 jobs could be at risk if North Sea investment is to cease.

Speaking during a Commons debate, Mr Ross cited both the Chamber letter and an editorial in the Press & Journal as he clashed with Dr Alan Whitehead, Labour's shadow energy security minister.

"This has been an extremely crucial issue in the North-east of Scotland, particularly this week," Mr Ross said.

"Does the shadow minister think it is a small, short-term problem that 42,000 highly skilled workers in that area could lose their jobs under Labour’s plans?"

Dr Whitehead responded: "They will not. I have tried to make it very clear, against what is, frankly, misinformed scaremongering by government members, that under Labour’s plans the North sea will, of course, continue to produce efficiently and effectively over a very long period of time. We know that the North sea is a very mature field and is in decline, and all authorities have said that the government’s proposals would make no difference to that overall pattern."

He added; "I am pleased that the hon. Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) is envisaging what the new Labour Government will shortly have to do. The long-term task in the North sea is not to pump every last drop of oil and gas it contains, but to give it a new lease of life. New industries can come into the North sea alongside the infrastructure that already exists, making it a new energy powerhouse for the UK in the future."

Mr Ross hit back, saying: "I cannot let that go unchallenged. This letter from the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce to the Leader of the Opposition—the leader of the Labour party in the UK—says that 'if North Sea production is to cease prematurely, a certain outcome of this Labour policy, then our entire energy transition is undermined'. This has massive consequences, and I have to say that the reaction of the shadow Minister is quite telling.

Dr Whitehead responded: "North sea production will not cease over a long period of time, and Labour is committed to making sure that that production continues at the appropriate level for the maturity of the North sea basin. That is something that all sensible people understand to be the case, although it is unfortunate that certain Conservative members pretend it is not the case for their own political purposes."

Mr Ross pushed Dr Whitehead further, adding: "I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is a regular reader of The Press and Journal, but its front page made clear what people in the North-east of Scotland think about Labour’s proposals. The Scottish Sun said that people in Scotland could wave goodbye to tens of thousands of jobs. That is not the papers or the Opposition just saying that; it is papers reporting what experts in the field are saying.

"As we often want to articulate our own views in this chamber, I think it is only right that we repeat some of the concerns raised by the industry. Offshore Energies UK’s chief executive Dave Whitehouse is someone who must be listened to on this subject. He said that Labour’s proposals 'would deliver a hammer blow to the energy we need today and to the homegrown transition'.

"He also said these are not faceless numbers but decent, hardworking people working across the UK to provide the energy we will need today and in the future. That is an expert view on the Labour proposals.

"Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce has described Labour’s plans as a 'betrayal'. Chris Wheaton, an oil and gas analyst, said: 'The uncertainty created by threatening new windfall taxes is as bad as the tax itself'.

"Perhaps most powerfully of all, last week, more than 800 individuals, firms and trade groups wrote to the Leader of the Opposition to express their deep concerns about what is being spoken about by the Labour party.

Mr Ross later turned to the SNP's Dave Doogan, the party's energy security and net zero spokesman, asking if the SNP believes further licences should or should not be granted for production of oil and gas in the North sea.

Mr Doogan responded: "We have been accused by them of wanting to put the oil and gas industry in Scotland to the sword. There is no such plan. The leader of the SNP and Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf was in Aberdeen [this week] talking about how Scottish oil and gas workers must never be left behind."

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