Show Hide image

Shell and Gazprom join forces to explore new markets and Russia

Deal enables Gazprom to extend beyond Russia and Shell to penetrate Russian market

Shell has entered into a new agreement on "global cooperation" with its Russian rival Gazprom, thus paving the way for two of the world's biggest gas companies to deepen co¬operation in Russia and work together in other countries.

The deal was finalised in Moscow on Tuesday, almost four years after Russia forced Shell to cede control of its $22bn (£14bn) Siberian field, Sakhalin-2, to Gazprom. Alexei Miller, chief executive officer, Gazprom, signed the accord with his Shell counterpart, Peter Voser.

The agreement will allow Gazprom to take part in Shell's oil and gas production and exploration projects in third countries, and the two companies will also look at new joint projects in western Siberia and eastern Russia.

It also mentions "co-operation in the downstream oil products business in Russia and Europe, as well as Gazprom participation in Shell upstream projects outside of Russia."

The arrangement will enable Gazprom, which does not currently produce significant quantities of gas outside Russia, to develop its technical expertise, particularly on projects producing liquified natural gas while it gives Shell access to new reserves

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.