§ Mrs. Humble
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will introduce regulations to apply the Habitats and Birds Directives to the UK Continental Shelf; and when he will be in a position to make licence awards in the Nineteenth Round of offshore petroleum licensing. 
§ Mr. Hain
I have today laid Regulations which apply the EU Birds and Habitats Directives to offshore petroleum licensing, and activities carried out under those licences. The Regulations introduce, for the first time, a requirement that seismic surveys must be granted consent by the Secretary of State before they can take place. They also cover the granting of authorisations for pipelines and approval of decommissioning plans. They serve to emphasise the importance of marine habitat and species protection.69W
The Offshore Petroleum Activities (Conservation of Habitats) Regulations (No 2001/1754), which will come into force on 31 May, take account of a number of helpful comments received by my Department following a wide-ranging public consultation on earlier draft proposals.
These Regulations mark a substantial improvement in the transparency of our environmental and licensing regimes. In particular, the Regulations require that the objectives of the Directives are met not just for habitats that are already identified as needing conservation or protection, but also those that the Government are likely to nominate in the future.
I am also pleased to announce that the DTI has completed the assessment of the applications made in the Nineteenth Round of offshore petroleum licensing against financial, environmental and technical criteria. Environmental factors have been considered in the light of an independent comprehensive strategic environmental assessment of that part of the UK Continental Shelf between the Shetland and Faroes Islands that is the subject of the round (the 'White Zone'), and as though these Regulations were already in force and fully in accordance with the Habitats and Birds Directives. I intend to make licence awards to the following companies, once the Regulations come into force.
Block/Operator Partners 176/20 Amerada Hess Ltd. BG International (NSW) Ltd. Dong Efterforskning OG Produktion 176/25 Phillips Petroleum Company UK Ltd. Statoil UK Ltd. Veba Oil & Gas UK Ltd. 104/9 + 204/10 Amerada Hess Ltd. Texaco North Sea UK Company Dong Efterforskning OG Produktion OMV (UK) Ltd. 204/16 Amerada BG International (NSW) Ltd. Dong Efterforskning OG Produktion 204/17 Texaco North Sea UK Company Conoco UK Ltd. EDC (Europe) Ltd. 204/18 BP Exploration Operating Company Ltd. Shell UK Ltd. 204/21 Amerada Hess Ltd. BG International (NSW) Ltd. Dong Efterforskning OG Produktion 213/5 + 214/1 Texaco North Sea UK Company Intrepid Energy North Sea Ltd. 213/26 + 213/27 Texaco North Sea UK Company
As a result of the licence awards, at least seven exploration wells will be drilled in the White Zone—an area which has world class potential for significant petroleum discoveries. Developments here would provide a significant boost for jobs in Scotland and north-east England as well as boosting the UK economy generally.