HC Deb 01 August 1918 vol 109 cc620-1
The MINISTER of BLOCKADE (Sir Laming Worthington-Evans)

I beg to move, "That leave be given to introduce a Bill to make provision with respect to the searching and boring for and getting petroleum, and for purposes connected therewith."

There was a previous Bill introduced last Session, but some of the proposals of that Bill were objected to and it was not thought right to attempt to press a controversial question as a War measure. This Bill avoids, I hope, all controversial questions. There is already power for boring and getting petroleum under the Defence of the Realm Act and power to prevent anyone else boring without a licence. These powers cease when the Defence of the Realm Regulations come to an end. The main object of this Bill is to extend the prohibition against boring and searching for petroleum without a licence, and it is necessary in order that oil pools, if such can be found in this country, should be protected. If it were not so there would be a great scramble of speculators boring where oil was supposed to exist and there would be a great waste of natural resources. Under the Bill the Minister of Munitions is given power to grant licences to bore. No power is taken to enter or to take compulsory possession of land. That power will exist during the War under the Defence of the Realm Act, but after the War further legislation will be required in order that the industry may be carried on. All vexed questions are thus postponed until after the War, when powers will have to be asked from this House to continue the occupation of land which may be necessary for boring. All those questions, whether there is property in oil, and if there is property in oil whether it belongs to the owner of the land upon which the bore happens to have gone down or whether the adjoining owners have any claim, or whether the discoverer of the oil is the person entitled to it—all these questions are reserved until after the War; and all I need say now is that while Parliament reserves these questions it is not the intention that new vested interests should be created under this Bill, and while I cannot prophesy what another House of Commons will do at a later date, I cannot believe that the House of Commons, when it comes to deal with further legislation, will disregard any legal interests that there may be at present existing, and, on the other hand, I do not expect, nor do I think it would be reasonable to expect, that they will allow future legislation to be hampered in any way by any interests created after the introduction of this Bill. The main object is to protect oil pools by preventing indiscriminate and wasteful borings. The other Clauses are subsidiary, and, I think, unimportant. There is power to inspect plans of workings, and there is a Definition Clause. There is a saving Clause which saves existing natural gasses which are commercially used in this country. I am asking leave to bring this Bill in in order that I may have an opportunity of making this short statement to the House, and of appealing to the House to let me have the Bill in all its stages at as early a date as possible. The Bill will be printed and circulated to-day, and I hope that on a very early day the House will let me get the rest of the stages.


Before the Adjournment?



Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Sir Laming Worthington-Evans, Mr. Churchill, and Sir Gordon Hewart.

PETROLEUM PRODUCTION BILL,—"to make provision with respect to the searching and boring for and getting Petroleum, and for purposes connected therewith," presented accordingly, and read the first time; to be read a second time To-morrow, and to be printed. [Bill 82.]