The plan to create one centralised regulatory regime for the oil industry - based in Brussels - has rightly been stopped in its tracks - says MEP
Today, the British Labour Party led the successful opposition to proposals that would have given direct control of oil and gas platforms to the European Commission. Oil rigs conjure up mental images of a modern day wild west. A place where the hours are long, new troops are helicoptered in across stormy seas and danger fills the air. A place where men are men and machismo takes precedence over safety.
Maybe that was the case once but today's oil industry, at least in the United Kingdom, is somewhat more safety conscious. The North Sea oil industry has one of the best safety records in the business, setting the benchmark across the globe. Today's high standards are the direct result of the 1987 Piper Alpha disaster
which tragically claimed the lives of 167 men. Lessons were learned and we now have a world leading safety regime.
Do not get me wrong, in an industry where an accident can cause massive human and environmental damage there is always more that can be done. But the plan to create one centralised regime run from Brussels was a mistake. The European Commission quite rightly wanted to address the danger of a major incident in European waters, similar to the Gulf of Mexico disaster.
There are several countries making their first forays into offshore oil and there is a risk they could repeat the mistakes of the past, something that should be dealt with before a disaster occurs. The commission wished to create a regulation giving it direct control over regulation of the platforms, rather than a directive where national governments will decide how to apply the legislation. The plan for a single centralised regulation with a one size fits all approach would have meant the dismantling and possible watering down of the UK's world-class safety regime; a system built on decades of experience.
Instead, we have secured the best possible outcome; a directive which gives each country the ability to implement a safety regime in their own way. This will give us the flexibility to maintain our own high standards while other countries with fledgling oil industries will be forced to raise the bar. Furthermore, after close cooperation with trade unions, we were able to make some changes that will improve our own system.
Yesterday, in the European Parliament's Industry Committee, we voted to ensure a better role for elected safety representatives, a greater voice for trade unions in the preparation of safety reports and better protection for whistleblowers. We saw off the commission's attempt to take over the regulation of offshore oil and gas safety. Instead we supported better, safer drilling under the well-established system we have on British off-shore platforms
Peter Skinner is a Labour Party MEP for the South East, in the United Kingdom