2. Major HOPE
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he is taking any steps to promote and encourage the full development of the resources of the Scottish shale fields; and whether, in view of the strategic advantage of using for the 509 Navy, as far as possible, oil fuel produced in the United Kingdom, he will in negotiating contracts give treatment to British oil-producing companies preferential to that accorded to the Mexican Eagle and other foreign oil companies?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The best means of securing development of shale and other home sources of supply of fuel oil is receiving and will continue to receive very careful consideration. All pertinent considerations will be taken into account in negotiating for supplies of oil from various sources, but it would not be in the public interest in securing adequate supplies on the best terms that degrees of preference of one supply or another should be promised.
Does the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge the principle that both for strategic and industrial reasons it might be advantageous to pay, if necessary, a little more for Home-produced oil fuel than the price for which the foreign supply is obtainable?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
All other things being equal, no one can doubt that there are substantial advantages in a domestic supply over a foreign supply.
§ 48 and 49. Mr. GRETTON
asked the Prime Minister (1) if, in view of the importance of the adoption of a new fuel for the Navy to the general scheme of defence, the Committee of National Defence was consulted, and approved the adoption of oil fuel on a great scale; and (2) if the Cabinet was consulted previous to the adoption of oil as the only fuel for the battleships of the 1912 programme, or if the change of fuel was decided and adopted without the knowledge of the Cabinet?
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
The adoption of oil as a fuel for vessels of the Navy was begun in 1904; its use since that time has been gradually and constantly extended, and the decision to use oil in five battleships of the 1912– programme, involving a comparatively small addition to the growing oil requirements of the Fleet, indicated no new departure in policy. It is not customary or desirable to state what matters have or have not been submitted to the Cabinet, or (subject to some reservavations) to the Committee of Imperial Defence. The Government as a whole, takes full responsibility for the. decision referred to.