HC Deb 13 November 1947 vol 444 cc534-8
62. Mr. Lipson

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how many applications for supplementary petrol have been received at the Regional Office, Bristol, from the Cheltenham Area, since the announcement that the basic ration was to be withdrawn; and how many granted.

Mr. Gaitskell

This information could not be obtained without a disproportionate amount of work for which, in present circumstances, staff cannot be spared.

Mr. Lipson

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the machinery which has been set up in the regional offices is such that applications from the public receive fair and full consideration in the first instance?

Mr. Gaitskell

I am keeping a very close watch on that personally.

65. Mr. Marlowe

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether it is proposed to issue coupons for petrol to foreign tourists staying in the United Kingdom; and on what basis.

Mr. Gaitskell

An allowance of petrol is granted to foreign tourists who visit this country, provided they either bring a car or motor cycle with them, or purchase one here for subsequent export when they leave. This allowance will be granted for each month, or part of a month, of the visitor's stay up to a limit of three months, and provides for about 270 miles of motoring a month. In addition, petrol coupons are issued to cover one return journey from port of arrival to furthest destination and back by direct route.

Mr. Marlowe

Will the Minister consider asking members of the Diplomatic Corps to use rather smaller cars than those we now see going about?

Brigadier Head

In view of this grant to foreigners visiting England, will the Minister reconsider the question of granting an allowance to British citizens stationed in foreign lands who come here on a short leave?

Mr. Gaitskell

I think there is some misunderstanding on that point, for which I am no doubt responsible. A British Service man on leave, who brings his car with him, is entitled to the same allowance as tourists in this country, and so is a British civilian, if he is in the same position; that is to say that they are in the same position as tourists, if they bring a car here or acquire one for subsequent export. In those cases they get an allowance.

Dr. Segal

Does the Minister realise that this meagre allowance of 270 miles a month compares very unfavourably with the allowance in other countries, and it is costing us quite a lot of dollars?

Mr. Gaitskell

I do not accept the conclusion drawn by the hon. Member. This is a reasonable allowance. We must draw a line somewhere, and we have not had many complaints about it.

73. Mr. Low

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what instructions he has given to ensure that supplementary petrol coupons will be issued to individuals who can prove that their journey to and from their daily work takes considerably longer by public transport than by private car.

Mr. Gaitskell

An allowance of petrol is granted to the owner of a private car or motor cycle for travelling between his residence and place of work when the use of alternative transport is not reasonably practicable, having regard to all the circumstances of the case. Account is taken of the hours worked, the nature of the work and the time taken for the journey, but an allowance is not granted solely on the grounds that the journey takes longer by public transport than by private car or motor cycle.

Mr. Low

If a journey by private car takes 10 minutes, and, by public transport, 45 minutes, would the driver of that car receive a supplementary allowance?

Mr. Gaitskell

We must leave discretion, in individual cases of this kind, to the regional petroleum officers, but I am always prepared to look into particular cases.

Mr. McKinlay

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the fuel officers in the West of Scotland know nothing about the geography of the district?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Have the regional fuel officers been given definite instructions that they must use the widest discretion in this matter, in view of the difficulty due to lack of knowledge of localities, late buses, and so on?

Mr. Gaitskell

We sent a special instruction to them to be particularly reasonable in this matter.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Have any new instructions been issued on this point since the abolition of the basic ration?

Mr. Gaitskell

Yes, Sir.

Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite

Would the right hon. Gentleman seriously consider decentralising some of these regional decisions? Decisions for the East Riding are made entirely in the City of Leeds, where they have little or no knowledge of conditions in the Riding.

Mr. Gaitskell

I cannot alter, at short notice, the whole of the machinery for allocating petrol allowances, but I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that if there is any case which is worrying him I should be glad to look into it.

Mr. Bossom

Will the right hon. Gentleman put these instructions in the Library, so that Members can see them? This is a very important matter, and a great many people are interested.

Mr. Gaitskell

There is a Question on this point later on the Order Paper.

75. Mr. John Morrison

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he has now further considered the question of making concessions for a petrol supply to persons living in remote rural areas, to meet their needs over the Christmas period where no public transport services are available; and what decision he has reached.

Mr. Gaitskell

I cannot at the moment add to the reply that I gave to the hon. and gallant Member for Stockport (Wing-Commander Hulbert) and the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. J. Morrison) on 6th November.

Mr. Morrison

Will the right hon. Gentleman remember the difficulties of the people in these areas?

Mr. Gaitskell

I am well aware of them, but I do not want to reach a decision on this important matter without fully considering its repercussions.

Mr. Watkins

Will my right hon. Friend remember the spiritual needs of people in this matter, particularly in South Wales, where special services will be held on Christmas Day and on New Year's Eve?

Mr. Gaitskell

Supplementary allowances are granted for the purpose of visiting church.

76. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether arrangements are being made for Service men to be given an allocation of petrol for their release leave on their demobilisation from the Forces.

Mr. Gaitskell

There has never been an allocation of petrol to Servicemen in respect of release leave as such, and I regret that I cannot introduce such an allocation in present circumstances.

77. Mr. G. Roberts

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will publish the terms of the directive issued by him to regional petroleum officers on the general principles on which applications for supplementary allowances of petrol, arising from the cessation of the basic allowance, shall be judged.

78. Mr. Assheton

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will place in the Library copies of the instructions he has issued to officers of his Department with regard to the issue of supplementary petrol coupons.

Mr. Gaitskell

I am arranging for a consolidated statement of the circumstances in which supplementary allowances can be granted to be prepared and published as soon as possible.

Mr. Assheton

Will the right hon. Gentleman be so good as to publish the actual instructions issued to his officers?

Mr. Gaitskell

No, Sir, that would be contrary to precedent, and would be confusing and misleading to the public. I will, however, publish fully the circumstances in which supplementary allowances can be granted.

Mr. Assheton

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that it is extremely difficult for Members of this House to watch the activities of the Administration in this matter if they do not know the instructions which the Minister has given to his officers?

Mr. Gaitskell

I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman who, I believe, was Financial Secretary to the Treasury at one time, does not realise that the detailed instructions issued by Ministers to their staffs are not usually made public. Ministers take responsibility in full for the activities of their officials.

Mr. Jennings

If these instructions are confusing to the public, will they not also be confusing to the petroleum officers?

Mr. Bossom

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman create a precedent, and let us have the information?

Mr. Gaitskell

I am sure that Members will be far better satisfied with what I propose to do than with anything else.