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Wednesday 21st
posted by Conrad Landin in Britain

Slash tax on North Sea oilfields, MPs told Tory Chancellor George Osborne yesterday, as job losses in the industry were estimated to have risen above 2,000.

As a back-bench debate in Westminster Hall heard calls for intervention, it emerged that oil and gas giant Talisman Sinopec would add 300 to the running total of sackings.

The news follows Wood Group PSN’s decision to cut the fees of highly paid contractors by 10 per cent.

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy and shadow chancellor Ed Balls met in Aberdeen yesterday for “crisis talks” with oil industry chiefs.

In Parliament, Aberdeen MP Frank Doran said that a skills shortage and rising equipment costs were making oil exploitation off Scotland’s east coast less profitable.

Mr Osborne cut the supplementary charge on oil and gas profits from 30 to 32 per cent — but Mr Doran urged the Treasury to consider further tax relief.

“The government should consider targeted reliefs to protect jobs and skills,” he said.

And he added that “health and safety must remain a priority,” warning that slack and cost-cutting after the industry’s mid-1980s crisis had led to the 1988 disaster that killed 167 men on the Piper Alpha North Sea platform.

Mr Doran said union sources claim that 600 jobs have been lost already in companies where there were recognition agreements.

Oil workers are largely represented by RMT, Unite and GMB.

Mr Doran estimated that total job losses across the industry and dependent services had reached 2,000.

SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford called for tax reductions to be implemented immediately.

But Communist Party leader Robert Griffiths said any financial incentive for big oil should be matched by a public stake in the company.

“The government has missed a golden opportunity to inject the public interest into the profiteering boardroom ethos that produces such chaos,” he said.

The Chancellor used an appearance before the Commons Treasury committee to gloat about past tax cuts and take pot shots at the SNP’s predictions for oil tax revenue during the independence ­referendum.