Oil industry challenges official figures and says it is not to blame for British economy’s worse-than-expected performance
The North Sea oil industry has challenged the official Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures and insisted it is not to blame for the British economy’s worse-than-expected performance. The ONS figures suggest that two-thirds of the downturn in fourth quarter GDP was down to low output of oil and gas as a result of protracted platform maintenance programmes.
According to the official data collectors, a slump in production from the UK’s largest offshore field, Buzzard, led to the biggest decline in mining and quarrying output since official records began, down 10.2%. That left activity in the wider production sector, which includes oil production, some 1.8% lower quarter-on-quarter. But Oil & Gas UK, the North Sea industry lobby group, said Buzzard was back in operation at the end of the third quarter and a picture of plunging volumes was contradicted by other government statistics.
“We just can’t see the reasons they (ONS) are giving are valid,” said Sally Hatch, a spokeswoman for Oil & Gas UK. “Department of Energy and Climate Change figures show oil output between October and November rose by 26% as Buzzard and other fields came back on stream. We have noticed in the past that the ONS tends to restate them [its GDP figures] some time later,” she added.
The other excuses
In the spring of last year, the ONS blamed unusually wet weather that deterred shoppers and hit construction activity for a 0.7% second quarter drop.
In the runup to Christmas 2010 the UK was blanketed in snow. Transport ground to a halt, Heathrow was paralysed and shoppers stayed at home. The ONS said it was a major factor causing a fourth quarter fall of 0.5%.
In the first quarter of 2012, the ONS said blame for a 0.2% contraction could be partly laid at the eurozone’s door following the second Greek crisis. There was a real fear that the single currency mighty fall apart at any moment and consumer confidence suffered.
In the latest figures, a fall in North Sea oil output dragged down the figures. It is not the first time that temporary cuts in production have been blamed for a GDP fall.
William and Kate’s nuptials caused havoc with the GDP figures in 2011. The royal wedding followed a warm Easter weekend and huge numbers of workers took the week off. The economy, apart from grocers selling barbecue food, suffered – growing by only 0.2% in the second quarter, down from the 0.5% growth in the previous three months.
The jubilee holiday
One thinktank said that without the extra bank holiday given to celebrate the Queen’s 60 years on the throne in June last year, Britain would have emerged from recession. It estimated the jubilee wiped 0.4 percentage points off growth in the second quarter.