§ 32 Mr. WRIGHT
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) On what date was the policy embodied in the agreement between the Minister of Munitions and Messrs. S. Pearson and Son, Limited, of 10th September, 1918, decided upon; and whose was the decision;
(2) Whether any licence to bore for oil has been granted, and to what person or corporation, other than that embodied in the agreement of 10th September, 1918, between the Minister of Munitions and Messrs. S. Pearson and Son, Limited; over what area or areas;
(3) What was the latest date on which applicants for licences to prospect and bore for oil were informed by the Minister of Munitions that the grant of such licences would be considered, and requested to submit to the petroleum executive geological data with reference to the areas on which they proposed to drill; and
(4) On what date the boring tackle and plant of Messrs. S. Pearson and Son, Limited, arrived in this country?
§ 36. Captain BARNETT
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in accordance with the agreement of 10th September, 1918, between the Minister of Munitions and S. Pearson and Son, Limited, particulars of fifteen areas in the United Kingdom suitable for petroleum boring have been confidentially handed to him by that firm; whether he can disclose without breach of such confidence the approximate size of the said areas; whether they are about 100 acres each in extent or counties or groups of counties; whether it is a fact that no particulars of such areas are to be divulged either now or at any time while the agreement remains in force; and, if so, what public advantage is expected to be gained by this secrecy?
§ 37. Mr. NEVILLE
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the combined effect of the Petroleum Bill and the agreement of 10th September, 1918, with? Messrs. Pearson and Son is to deprive every landowner in the United Kingdom of the right to bore for and get petroleum or to grant leases to any boring companies other than Messrs. Pearson; and whether the further effect is that Messrs. Pearson and Son are to have the sole right to obtain such leases, with the result that all petroleum areas in the United Kingdom will be placed at the absolute disposal of one firm, and all competition will be shut out?
§ 60 and 61. Captain BARNETT
asked the Minister of Munitions (1) in reference to the agreement of the 10th September, 1918, between himself of the one part and S. Pearson and Son, Limited, of the other part, under which that firm obtains the exclusive right to bore for and get petroleum in the United Kingdom until £1,000,000 of public funds shall have been expended by them in such work, whether that agreement or any other document contains any provision which would enable the Government to put an end to the agreement in the event of S. Pearson and Son neglecting to continue the work or to expend the whole of the amount; and
(2) whether the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown was taken in reference to the validity of the agreement of the 10th September, 1918, with S. Pearson and Son, Limited, and especially as to the Clause under which the agreement is not terminable until the £1,000,000 provided by the Ministry of Munitions has been spent; and whether, having regard to the fact that 1595 the expenditure of this money is at the absolute discretion of S. Pearson and Son, Limited, the effect is to enable one of the contracting parties to extend the duration of the contract in perpetuity?
§ 62 Sir W. RUTHERFORD
asked the Minister of Munitions (1) why the agreement of 10th September, 1918, between S. Pearson and Son, Limited, and himself, which provides for the expenditure of £1,000,000 of public money in boring for petroleum in the United Kingdom, contains no clause as to who shall sell and receive the proceeds of the petroleum produced; and whether the absence of such a clause is due to the fact that neither party to the contract expects petroleum to be obtained in this country on a commercial scale;
(2) with reference to the contract of 10th September, 1918, between S. Pearsn and Son, Limited, and the Minister of Munitions, why the function of approving drilling areas has been assigned not to the Petroleum Executive but to an individual; and
(3) whether he is aware that under the agreement of the 10th September, 1918, Messrs. S. Pearson and Son, Limited, do not contract to spend one shilling of their own money on boring operations or in the purchase of machinery, but that the whole of such operations and the monopoly right of acquiring machinery and appliances at Government expense is vested in Messrs. Pearson and Son until £1,000,000 of public money has been spent?
§ 65 and 66. Mr. NEVILLE
asked the Minister of Munitions (1) whether the Ministry has considered what arrangements shall be made to refine the crude oil obtained by Messrs. S. Pearson and Son, Limited, under the agreement of 10th September, 1918; where the refinery or refineries are to be situated; who is to carry out the work; and whether this is to be a separate monopoly, or if it is considered to be covered by the terms of the agreement in question; and
(2) what guarantee there is that the firm of S. Pearson and Son, Limited, may not part with the benefits acquired by them under the contract of the 10th September, 1918, to firms or companies under alien control, or that these benefits may not thus pass into the hands of those who may use them in a manner inimical to the interests of the British Empire?
§ The PARLIAMENTARY and FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the MINISTRY Of MUNITIONS (Mr. Kellaway)
The principle of the policy embodied in the agreement with Messrs. Pearson was approved by the Government in March last. No licences under Regulation 2AAA of the Defence of the Realm Act are yet in force.
No date for the submission of applications for licences has been fixed, nor is it intended that any shall be fixed.
Messrs. Pearson ordered boring, tackle and plant in America in the summer of 1917, and the first shipment reached this country on 7th July, 1918. The remainder has arrived at intervals, as shipping facilities permit.
Particulars of fifteen areas in the United Kingdom suitable for petroleum boring have been handed confidentially to the Secretary of State to the Colonies. The agreement provides that the divulgence of particulars cannot be considered until the passing of legislation necessary to protect the fields against indiscriminate drilling.
Following on the rejection by the House of royalties in the original Petroleum Production Bill, an undertaking was given that no licence would be permitted which allowed the payment of a royalty. Subject to this provision and to geological evidence being satisfactory to the Committee on Geology, and to the area selected not being one already appropriated or licensed by the Government, any landowner can be granted a licence to bore on his own land or can lease his land for that purpose.
The agreement provides that the petroleum managers must use their best endeavours to prove the existence of oil, and commence production, so that the nation may have the benefit of such production at the earliest possible moment. If this were not done the agreement would become voidable.
The agreement was drafted and approved by the Treasury Solicitor.
Messrs. Pearson are acting as managers for the Government, and any petroleum produce will be at the disposal of the Government.
The function of approving the first fifteen drilling areas was assigned to Sir John Cadman, the Director of the Petroleum Executive, and to the Geological Advisory Committee of that Department. 1597 Messrs. Pearson as managers for the Government have no monopoly rights, and the machinery and appliances are the property of the Government and not of Messrs. Pearson.
The arrangements which the petroleum managers, acting on behalf of the Government may make for refining crude oil are under consideration, but have not yet been decided.
No change of agents can be made without the consent of the Government.
§ Mr. WRIGHT
In view of the fact that this agreement involves an expenditure of a million of public money, an amount which has never been before this House, which has had no opportunity of considering it, is the right hon. Gentleman able to say when a day could be given for discussion by this House of this agreement?
§ Sir G. CAVE
I will communicate the hon. Member's question to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Captain BARNETT
Can the hon. Gentleman say approximately the size of the areas, whether they represent hundreds of acres, counties, or groups of counties?
§ Mr. KELLAWAY
I cannot say. The question will not be considered until after the Act has been passed.
§ Captain BARNETT
If there are thirty areas in the United Kingdom, and they are sufficiently large, does not that constitute a monopoly?