Ian Wood, chairman of Britain's largest offshore supply company, John Wood Group, said that about 15 per cent of the UK oil and gas industry's 300,000 workers could be put out of work if the Government interfered with the combined cycle gas turbine station programme.
Mr Wood said that of the 300,000, gas currently employs 100,000 - but this should increase to 150,000 over the next five years as new gas fields come on stream. Oil companies have been turning their attention increasingly towards gas as oil prospects have dimmed and as the new power-generation market has appeared on the horizon.
The areas that stand to benefit from gas development most - and which will therefore be hit hardest if it is restricted - are those where rigs are constructed, notably Tyneside and Teesside.
The oil industry says that the clearest immediate effect of a slowdown of the gas programme will be that the dollars 2bn plan to develop new gas fields in Liverpool Bay will be hindered or halted.