HC Deb 29 October 1947 vol 443 cc999-1045

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

I beg to move, That the Control of Motor Fuel Order, 1947 (S.R. & O., 1947, No. 2058), dated 22nd September, 1947, a copy of which was presented on 20th October, be annulled. Statutory Rule and Order No. 2058 of the current year is a characteristic production of our system of delegated legislation, save in its comparative brevity—a mere 16 pages—and the fact that parts of it are easily comprehensible. Characteristically, too, it goes so far as the proviso to a Subsection before it raises a matter of great general importance. While the Order itself contains a great many matters, the particular Section of it to which I desire to invite the attention of the House is actually, as a matter of technical interest, the proviso to Section 10 (1). Wrapped up in that cushioned obscurity there lies the serious decision of the Government to abolish the basic petrol ration for privately owned motor vehicles.

The issue is one upon which it is quite manifest to all hon. Members that public opinion is profoundly stirred, and if evidence for that were required, then the petition which was presented before Questions today by the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. A. Edwards) is convincing evidence. A petition of which the first instalment bears over one million signatures is no light matter, as indeed the servants of the House learnt at Question Time. All hon. Members will agree that a matter of this sort, in which a very large number of our constituents are greatly interested, is one which is rightly and properly discussed in this House so that the arguments either way may be assessed and weighed, and the House, if it so desires, may come to a decision.

The history of the matter is quite simple. In August of last year His Majesty's Government decided that the situation made it possible to increase the basic petrol ration by 50 per cent. On 6th August of the present year, the Prime Minister himself announced to this House that the ration would be reduced by 33⅓ per cent. If I may say so in parenthesis, that statement made in this House as recently as August and made in connection with the economic emergency, surely entitled those who were concerned to assume that that was a firm decision upon which individuals could base their plans and upon which it would be not unreasonable to purchase motor vehicles even though that involved a payment of substantial Purchase Tax. After the House had been sent, so far as my hon. Friends are concerned, unwillingly into Recess, the decision was taken to abolish the ration altogether, and that decision was incorporated in the Statutory Rule and Order now before the House.

The first question which I desire to address to the right hon. Gentleman the new Minister of Fuel and Power is this. When was that decision to abolish the basic ration taken? How soon after the announcement by the Prime Minister that there would continue to be a basic ration, though reduced, was the decision taken to abolish it altogether? I would be very grateful, and so would be the House, if we could learn just a little bit more about this decision. In particular, were the Petroleum Board consulted? Were they asked for their opinion on this matter? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can also tell the House, if the Petroleum Board were consulted, whether they were given the opportunity to submit any alternative scheme adequate to provide such savings as His Majesty's Government thought necessary while saving the inconvenience of this decision. The position of the Petroleum Board and their very experienced administrators is, I am sure, appreciated by hon. Members on every side of the House. I cannot imagine that any Government would come to a decision of this sort without both consulting that Board and giving them the opportunity to submit alternative suggestions, but it is right, now that this matter has come to be examined, that the Minister of Fuel and Power should tell us whether they were consulted and whether they were given an opportunity to submit alternative recommendations.

This matter was discussed briefly, somewhat unexpectedly, on the Adjournment on Thursday night, and the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), acting in support of and, indeed, firing over the silent body of the Parliamentary Secretary, put the first argument that this House has heard in favour of the Government's decision. I will deal initially with that argument. As I understood the hon. and learned Member for Kettering, his argument was that it was quite inappropriate for those concerned by any of the many cuts which His Majesty's Government lavish upon a grateful people to object to those cuts without being aware of every cut that was going to be imposed. In parenthesis, may I say that is an inevitable state of affairs, having regard to the fact that these cuts are themselves issued by instalments, that they appear with monotonous and dreary regularity about twice a week, and that they have, therefore, to be dealt with on their individual merits as they come out.

The cut which we are now discussing is distinguishable from all the others in this respect, that it is the only one which imposes a 100 per cent. cut upon a particular activity. Even assuming, as appears to be easily assumed by certain spokesmen of His Majesty's Government, that the basic petrol ration was simply used for what they call "pleasure motoring"—even assuming that, which I do not think is true—then pleasure motoring has been for some reason selected for the only 100 per cent. cut which the Government have so far seen fit to inflict. That of itself surely justifies a demand for an explanation but, with the greatest respect to hon. Members opposite, it is sheer nonsense to suggest that in the majority of cases the basic ration is or has been used for pleasure in any sense of the term. It has been used, as hon. Members have no doubt heard from many of their constituents in the last few weeks, for a multiplicity of essential domestic purposes; for, particularly in the country districts, getting to market centres, for such simple purposes as getting the children to school, getting to the doctor—all those purposes which, although not apparently essential in the peculiar sense which the Ministry of Fuel and Power give to that term, are none the less essential to ordinary civil life in this country. It really is an abuse of the English language to suggest that in the majority of cases the basic ration, small as it has been, has been used mainly for pleasure. It has been used, of course, above all to facilitiate people getting to their work.

That being so—and I do not think it really can be disputed—I hope this matter will not be discussed on the basis that this cut is simply the removal of a luxury. I believe it goes much deeper than that, and that view is apparently accepted by His Majesty's Government themselves in that, a week after the cut was announced, the country was informed that special attention would be given to some miscalled supplementary allowances to deal with cases of hardship. It is, of course, an abuse of language to call them supplementary because an allowance cannot be supplementary to nothing; but it is clearly an admission, this announcement, that even the Government realise that the basic ration has been used in a certain number of cases for quite essential purposes, which have nothing whatever to do with pleasure motoring.

As for the decision to issue a further supplementary petrol ration to deal with the hardship caused by the abolition of the basic ration, are there not any figures which the Minister can give the House as to its effect on the original estimated saving of dollars? Before that decision was taken, he must have had some figure in mind, and I think the House is entitled to know what that figure is. The House is also entitled to know what additional staffs have had to be taken on by regional petroleum officers to deal with these applications. I understand that at the moment those offices are swamped. Even the chilly, formal card of acknowledgement takes some weeks to be extracted, certainly from the offices at Bromyard Avenue, Acton, and it is obvious that the task the Government have imposed on these offices must be reflected in additional staffs. We are entitled to know how much extra manpower and womanpower has been employed in this way.

Further, we are told that these extra supplementary rations will be considered in the circumstances and we ought to know what instructions have been issued to petroleum officers to deal, with them. As these so-called supplementary rations are, I understand, to be additional to the previous supplementary grant, if any, there must have been further instructions given to the officials who have to administer the scheme as to what are the new grounds on which petrol can be granted. If the right hon. Gentleman does not feel able to give the information this evening, as I hope he will be able to do, I hope he will make arrangements to circulate it so that hon. Members may know precisely what is the position. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will regard these requests for information as not unreasonable. It is very difficult to discuss this important matter adequately, without full information, and it is up to the right hon. Gentleman to let us have it. For that reason, I express the hope that it will be possible for him to intervene early in the Debate, so that we may have full information for further discussion.

As we have already discussed the administrative side of the change. I will now put certain objections to the abolition of the basic ration which obviously have to be considered in coming to a decision whether in present circumstances it is right to abolish it or not. First, there is a not inconsiderable financial factor. In a Written Reply yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicated that as a result of this decision there will be a total annual loss to the Revenue of a sum of no less than £19 million, £8 million in respect of duty on oil, and £10 million in respect of motor vehicle duty. That is not only a substantial sum, but also carries the inevitable consequence that further inflationary pressure will be released against such other goods and services as remain available. Not only will the money which would have gone in paying those taxes remain at large, but also the money which would have been expended on cars and petrol.

There is a very appreciable increase in inflationary pressure following directly from this decision. There is also—I do not want to labour the point—the factor of hardship. This decision will undoubtedly cause great hardship to a substantial number of individuals. It is no exaggeration to say that the use of public transport in "rush" hours, in the Metropolitan area at least, calls for a very high degree of physical fitness, and the effect of laying up a great many private cars must be that old people and invalids will be unable to get about their normal activities and will be to some extent cut off from their friends and relatives. It is a factor which affects in varying degrees rural districts and urban districts, and it is a matter of some consequence.

There are further factors, and I will deal with them very briefly. There is the hardship to the whole community involved by the further strain that will be thrown on the public transport service. Inevitably people who have travelled by car will have to travel by 'bus, underground or tram. No one should have thought the Ministry of Transport would wish to throw a further load on an already overloaded transport system. In fact, there will be increased hardship in getting to and from work, in particular, imposed not merely on the owners and drivers of motorcars but on every section of the community who use public transport. Then there is the factor of the general effect on the health of the community, during what will undoubtedly be a trying winter, of removing a facility which enables a great many people, particularly dwellers in the great towns, to get out into the countryside for a short time at the weekend. There must be some diminution in the standards of health as a result of that. There is also the factor of increased vulnerability of the community as a whole to the consequences of disasters of one kind or another—strikes and so forth. The private car in commission does give a great flexibility to the community in an emergency. A private car, once laid up, cannot be on the road in a day or so, and with private cars mainly out of commission, the community as a whole is more vulnerable to a disaster or strike affecting public transport. There is just that increased degree of liability to serious interference with the life of the community.

There is, finally, the point that this action of the Government, while it hits, and hits hard, the small man who has a car or motorcycle, attacks in a much less degree the richer section. The rich man can still hire. He can still go to a car-hire agency and hire, if he can afford the very considerable charges these services demand. The man who cannot afford that is going to suffer so much more, and as so often with the austerities recently imposed on us, the brunt falls not on the richer section of the community, but on the more central section which is so much more vulnerable to these attacks.

I want to put one plea for the motor bicycle. That is a vehicle which, if I may quote my own experience, I cannot understand anybody ever riding for pleasure. Only the, strictest bonds of military discipline got me on one of these machines and nothing less would get me on one in future. Nevertheless, as a vehicle it is extremely economical in consumption of fuel. It is owned by many people of humble means and is a very valuable method of getting about the country. May I give two examples from my own constituency, cases I have had in the last few days in connection with the Government's decision. One is the case of a private soldier whose home is in the vicinity of Kingston-on-Thames but who is stationed in the West of England. When he has any leave he goes home, and he travels on his motor bicycle. The removal of the basic ration means that he will not be able to get home because he cannot afford the new fares, and he will have to stay at his military station. There is the other gentleman who uses his motor bicycle to get to work and by using it, he gets there in 20 minutes. Use of public transport takes him 1½ hours. His day is consequently harder, his efficiency must inevitably be diminished while he is at work, and in this case the country suffers.

It would be extremely interesting to know whether before this decision was made any calculation was made as to how much of the basic ration is used by the motor cycle. I do hope the Minister may be able to give us an answer to that tonight. I venture to say that the quantity used is very small indeed and much smaller in fact, than the general figure for the motor car. I hope that, before this decision was taken to eliminate the ration for the motor cycle as well as that for all other vehicles, the Government went most fully into the facts and figures to see whether the motor cycle, at any rate, could not be allowed to retain its ration. If there is a real difficulty in providing petrol generally, I do suggest that, even now, consideration should be given to some allowance for this most democratic of all forms of mechanically propelled vehicles.

May I also say I further hope the Minister will not just brush aside this matter, lumping it with the motor car, and that the motor cyclist's claim will be given just consideration. Nobody on either side of the House would underrate the need in the present situation to save hard currency, but that does not mean that hon. members should accept without demur—without argument—any particular method of saving this currency without having satisfied themselves that it is a proper and just expedient. Remembering what is our general deficit, it must be admitted that this is a very small saving indeed. Yet what will happen? Serious damage is being done to the efficiency, to say nothing of the comfort and convenience and morale of the community and it is, I suggest, quite disproportionate. Further, it is damage being inflicted very directly because of the fact that this cut, and this cut alone, is on a hundred per cent. basis. I do not think that motorists as a class would say that sufferings in fair proportion must not be imposed on them, as on other people, but what calls for more consideration is that not a proportion of suffering—not a partial restriction—but a complete abolition is being inflicted.

The right hon. Gentleman is new to his vitally important office, and I would say he takes with it the good wishes of hon. Members in all parts of the House. He will be greatly strengthened if, tonight, he does not stand on his dignity on a decision which we know was not made by himself, But if he indicates that he will put the merits of the case before Ministerial dignity and say that no justification exists for inflicting this one hundred per cent. abolition on one section of the community. We ask him to cancel the Order, or at least to put in its place an Order which leaves some basic ration for the motorist and the motor-cyclist available.

Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)

Before the. hon. Gentleman sits down, may I ask him one question? Is there any truth in the report in the "Daily Telegraph" of, I think, three weeks ago today, that clerks of the Warwickshire County Council had told people who were getting a refund of their Road Fund Tax to hand it over to the Lord Woolton Fund?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am afraid that I am not in the confidence of the clerks of the Warwickshire County Council; but if I may say so, the suggestion seems to be one of great wisdom.

10.40 p.m.

Sir John Mellor (Sutton Coldfield)

I beg to second the Motion.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), pressed the Minister to give us some figures to indicate what in his view would be the saving in dollars which would result from the abolition of the basic petrol ration. I would like to pursue that point a step further. Speaking at Eastbourne last Sunday, the Minister of Fuel and Power said this: We abolished the basic ration only because we knew it would save every year £7,500,000 in dollars. Speaking the same day at Hastings, he is reported to have said that he thought it possible to meet most cases of hardship through supplementary rationing. We ought to be quite clear about this point, which was stressed by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames—that the Minister's calculation of a saving of £7,500,000 in dollars, or 30,000,000 dollars at the official rate of exchange, was reached after making full allowance for the petrol which would have to be issued in supplementary rations to fulfil the Minister's promise. I take it that the Minister agrees with that proposition. I am afraid that even then the Minister's calculation is far too optimistic, because what we have to arrive at in deciding whether or not the abolition of the basic ration is warranted is whether it will involve any saving in dollars at all.

In my submission, there will be no saving in dollars when all relevant factors are taken into account. A lot of factors have to be taken into account. A number of them may not be capable of arithmetical calculation. We have to take into account the loss of production for export to dollar countries. We have to consider the waste of time and energy of those who work to produce goods to sell for export. We have also to assess—and this is far more difficult, though it is a real and tangible factor—the effect of the loss of incentive and the loss of recreation. Surely the prospect of some enjoyment, the prospect of being able to run a car and similar prospects, are real incentives and of assistance to production for export. Therefore, I suggest that all these factors, which it may not be possible to assess in any arithmetical fashion will, none the less, in the aggregate, be so great that they will more than wipe out any gain which the Minister might visualise in dollars through the abolition of the basic ration. In other words, I think the Minister's step in abolishing the basic ration will defeat its own object.

A great number of people will suffer because they have established their homes geographically in relation to their work having in prospect the use of cars and motor cycles. These people will turn to public transport, and the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames has stressed how grievous that will be, not only for these people, but for all concerned who have to use public transport. Overcrowding is bad enough at present. Public transport, certainly in my constituency and the Midlands generally, is gravely inadequate now, and it will be far worse when transport is nationalised. I read in the "Birmingham Mail" last Saturday as follows: Today's announcement that the supply of passenger vehicles, buses and coaches, will be cut to four thousand for the home market in 1948 has come as a shock to transport undertakings in the Midlands, many of whom are seriously handicapped by shortage of vehicles. That causes additional anxiety to my constituents. In the next column, I read: Birmingham City transport workers have decided to adhere to their decision not to work overtime. These factors are all increasing the anxiety that public transport will not be adequate, especially when it has to take up the very considerable number of people who at present are carried by private cars and motor cycles. Undoubtedly there will be a great increase in the number of officials employed.-Apparently they are not adequate to their task at the present time for, as I understand, at the beginning of October in London they were quite unable to get out in time, even for doctors, the petrol coupons. A number of doctors at the beginning of October would have been unable to carry on their practices if they had not had some basic petrol left over from the previous period.

Congestion in the Minister's offices is going to cause a considerable amount of delay, and, as it is, people are unable to find out, although they are anxiously inquiring, whether they will be able to get petrol to take their children to school, to move the aged and infirm, to get to church, to go shopping, and, indeed, go shooting, no negligible factor in the nation's food supply. The Minister, I hope, will, on reflection, consider that to be a serious point. The Minister, I think, has greatly over-assessed the amount of petrol which is devoted to pleasure. At the same time, he has under-assessed the value of pleasure itself in the life of the nation. Apparently the Government seem to think that if everybody cannot have something there is no need for anybody to have it at all. I think that is why they are losing incentive in the country. You must give people something to work for, otherwise they will not get results. Imposing unreasonable restrictions on people—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)

The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) is not complying with the Rules of the House if he is reading a newspaper at the moment.

Mr. Bowles

It is a great mistake, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. This is a newspaper from which I have to work in a few minutes.

Sir J. Mellon

Imposing unreasonable restrictions only tends to bring the law into contempt. Inevitably it will happen that perfectly honest citizens will deviate from regulations to a slight degree, and then they will be subject to prosecution. At the same time people will see these official cars, which have been ordered in great numbers for the Civil Service, dashing about the country. I hope that when the Ministries get these cars the example of the Ministry of Supply will be followed, and the cars of each Department will be clearly marked with the name of that Department. Perhaps in this affair where the greatest suffering and hardship will be imposed is upon the small garages. A great number of men have sunk their all—perhaps it is only quite a small capital sum but it is all they have got—into small garage businesses. These people are going to be ruined, and I think that is the most tragic feature of the whole aspect. Even assuming that the Government are given the benefit of the doubt—and there is very grave doubt in the country as to whether this is being done to save dollars and a good many other motives have been thought of—and assuming that this "really is designed to save dollars, then they have totally misconceived the remedy, and will only defeat their own object.

10.52 p.m.

Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)

Before you assumed the Chair, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I asked the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) whether he had seen in the "Daily Telegraph" of 8th October a statement which I will now read to the House, because I think it will indicate, apart altogether from the merits of this question of cutting off the basic ration, how the Conservative Party organise the campaign from which we have all suffered quite a lot in the last few weeks, and it will show that it is rather more sinister than financial. With your permission I will read this statement which is headed "Woolton Fund": Conservatives in various parts of the country are thinking out novel ways to raise money for the Woolton fighting fund, launched at Brighton last week.

Mr. Osborne (Louth)

On a point of Order. Can we have your Ruling as to what the point which is now being raised has to do with the cutting of the basic petrol ration? What is the bearing?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I cannot give a Ruling until I know what the point is that is being raised by the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles).

Mr. Bowles

Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to read on. I will start again:

"Woolton Fund. Conservatives in various parts of the country are thinking out novel ways to raise money for the Woolton fighting fund, launched at Brighton last week.

They cannot raise the money in the ordinary way. I dare say the hon. Gentleman's party opposite will raise their million pounds, because it will be subscribed to by a lot of people who want to stop social democracy advancing. The most ingenious way I have yet heard about comes from Rugby, where the local association has promised to get £1,000 for the Fund. All local motorists are being approached and asked whether they intend to lay their cars up after the end of next month when pleasure driving has to stop. Arrangements have been made…

This is a very subtle kind of political step to which we must—[Interruption.] I think this is a matter which I am quite entitled to bring to the notice of the Government, to the notice of the Minister of Fuel and Power and to the Minister of Health in particular. Arrangements have been made with the Warwickshire County Council for motorists who claim a December rebate on their licences to give the money to the fighting fund.

Sir Arthur Salter (Oxford University)

On a point of Order. May I respectfully suggest that this argument can only be in Order on the assumption that the hon. Member is going to argue for and vote for the Prayer in order to prevent something happening which he deplores so strongly?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

It is not for me to anticipate what the hon. Member will do.

Mr. Bowles

The quotation continues: A special form has been prepared so that the money can be paid direct to the Rugby Conservative Association chairman. Major James Dodds. The average rebate will be about £1. That statement is in the "Daily Telegraph," a paper which is highly respected and which really blindly supports the party opposite, the party raising the matter on the Prayer tonight, the party which I think are largely behind the organised campaign of which we had a demonstration today and of which we have seen evidence in our post-bags for quite a long time. I think that some response should come from the other side, from someone really in the know in the Conservative head office, as to whether it really is true that the Conservative Party's Rugby association has entered into this arrangement with the Warwickshire County Council and with the clerks employed by the Warwickshire County Council. As the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) was talking about "extra staffs" needed by the Ministry of Fuel and Power, it might be a very pertinent question to ask the Government whether extra staff was taken on by the Warwickshire County Council to see that refunds were handed over to the Rugby Conservative Association.

Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury)

Has it not struck the hon. Member that these people might be doing this as a labour of love?

Mr. Bowles

I do not think that anything done for the Conservative Party can be a labour of love, but there is no accounting for tastes. It is important that the Government should find out—I think the Minister of Health is probably more responsible than the Minister of Fuel and Power—whether in fact a local government officer at the Warwickshire County Council offices was suborned in this way. Whether it may be called a "labour of love" or not, I do not know, but if they are in fact carrying this out we ought to know whether the matter has been discussed by the Warwickshire County Council. I do not know, but I should like the Minister to find out before he replies whether there is any truth in what the "Daily Telegraph" says; and further, whether this is not a real indication of the depths to which the Conservative Party can stoop in suborning local government officials to help swell a fund which can only in the end be used to the detriment of the British people.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. Frank Byers (Dorset, Northern)

I do not propose to follow in any detail the argument of the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles). I hold no brief for the hon. Members above the Gangway and I think the hon. Member will agree that my behaviour has been fairly consistent in that way—but I have seldom heard such a red herring drawn across the course. The muddled thinking of that speech really ought to be exposed so that other people do not follow it. If the Conservative Party had got together with the Government and said, "Take off basic petrol, so that we can get pounds from every chap in Rugby," there would have been some sense in the hon. Member's speech. But, honestly, when we have the Opposition pleading for the restoration of the basic petrol ration, so that Lord Woolton cannot get anything, then I ask the hon. Member what was the sense of his speech. We cannot be misled by that sort of thing.

I hope that this is not to develop into a party Debate, because—I say this quite seriously—I do not wish to make any party capital out of this. I am speaking as the representative of a rural area in which there are 120 villages, and no town, I think I am right in saying, with more than about 4,000 inhabitants. In North Dorset this is a big problem. This is not a one class problem. It is going to hit everybody. I should like first to point out that the Minister of Fuel is not a member of the Cabinet. It is a fantastic situation, when a decision has been taken by the Cabinet, and an announcement has been made by the Prime Minister of Cabinet policy, that there is not a single member of the Cabinet in this House for this Debate on that decision. The Labour Party is suffering from absenteeism.

Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devonport)

Where is the leader of the Liberal Party?

Mr. Byers

My leader has not made this decision. The hon. Member for Devonport believes in free institutions. Would he be a party to a Cabinet's taking a decision and then making a mockery of this House of Commons by not having a single representative present at a Debate on that decision?

Mr. Foot

If both the Liberal Party leader and a Cabinet Minister were here, it would make this Debate much merrier, but I do not think it is a very clever argument of the hon. Member to accuse the Government of not having present one of their chief speakers, if his own leader cannot come along on this important topic.

Mr. Byers

The hon. Member has more acumen than that. It is not a question of speaking: it is a question of listening. He knows very well that the decision was taken by the Cabinet, and that that decision can be reversed only by the Cabinet. There is not a person here—

Mr. Mitehison (Kettering)

On a point if Order. Do I not hear another red herring?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am afraid that I do not know the sound of a red herring.

Major Guy Lloyd (Renfrew, Eastern)

Further to that point of Order. Is it a fact that a red herring, whether you can hear it or not, is a point of Order?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I think I dealt with the point, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman would have known had he listened.

Mr. Byers

I was attempting to make a very serious point—that a decision has been taken by the Cabinet, and can be reversed only by the Cabinet, but that there is not a single Cabinet Minister to listen to this Debate about the decision. If that is what hon. Members opposite think about our democratic procedure, then I am thoroughly ashamed of them. I ask, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if, in this circumstance, you will accept a Motion for the Adjournment of the House, in order that a Cabinet Minister should be here.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

My answer is, definitely, No, in view of the fact that the Ministry is represented here.

Mr. Byers

I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I hope I have made my protest clear. I do object, in a democratic country like this, not so much to the decision which was taken for the abolition of the basic petrol ration, as to the way in which that decision was taken and announced. I think we have a right to a full statement of the factors and considerations that led to this decision. The object was quite clear and I am not at this moment challenging it; it was to save as many dollars as possible; but I think we are entitled to know the answers to certain questions.

I want to see the balance sheet before I say that this abolition is the right procedure. I want to know what are our petrol stocks. It is of no use saying that they cannot be disclosed in the interests of security: during the past few days the Government have given the figures for the Royal Navy, the Army and the Air Force. That is on old argument. I want to know what are the annual imports of petrol, in quantity and cost, both from the dollar and sterling areas. It is important that we, as Members of Parliament, should know that. Of the total imports, I want to know how much is consumed—in dollars and in quantities—by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and by Government Departments at home and overseas. I want to know how much goes to essential users, how much to agriculture, and how much to the private motorist.

If we can have those figures, we shall be in a position to judge whether the Government have made a wise decision and readjusted the burden of this sacrifice in the right way. We are entitled to that. What I object to is this dictatorial decision that the private basic ration must go—no arguments in favour of it, but just this decision. It is that sort of Hitlerian technique which is creeping into our Administration. It is of no use saying that these figures are not available, because they must have been available for the decision to have been taken. If they did not have the figures, then this Cabinet is worse than I thought it was. I believe the figures are available, and suggest that they must be produced to the House.

Mr. Christopher Shawcross (Widnes)

Is not the hon. Member aware that most of the figures for which he asks have been published in HANSARD, and were given about six months ago?

Mr. Byers

The hon. Member has given the case away. He says the figures were given six months ago. Are those the figures on which the Government based their decisions?

Mr. Shawcross

I was speaking of Trade Returns. The figures could be obtained by looking at the Trade Returns.

Mr. Byers

May I ask the hon. Member to say what is the cost of expenditure on Government Departments at home and abroad? I challenge him to tell me where I can find those figures. May I put this to the Minister? Is it not true that over £20 million are being spent on petrol for the Armed Forces after this cut has been made? [AN HON. MEMBER: "£32 million."] Thirty-two millions? Unless we get these figures I cannot see how any responsible Member of Parliament can make a decision in this matter. I will not now go into details of the hardship inflicted on various sections of the community, but I will say that I do dislike the whoop of joy with which this abolition of basic petrol was announced, because it appeared to be aimed purely at the middle classes. [Interruption.] I am not saying that it came from all hon. Members on the Government benches, but there were a number who said it was a good show because people had no right to have cars. Let me say, in support of what was said by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), that in my constituency agricultural labourers have motor cycles.

Mr. Orbach (Willesden, East)

Are agricultural workers the middle classes?

Mr. Byers

In order to explain things to hon. Members on the other side of the House one really has to use blackboard and chalk. I was just about to say that those hon. Members who thought they were attacking the middle classes were quite wrong because, in fact, in the rural areas you have many people who are certainly not of the middle classes.

Mrs. Leah Manning (Epping)

May I ask the hon. Gentleman if he is aware that one of the reasons that has made so many of us extremely anxious about the loss of the basic petrol ration, inducing us to say so in our constituencies and put down Questions on the Order Paper, is because we did feel that many working class men are very hardly hit?

Mr. Byers

I hope the hon. Lady will vote with us tonight. I would also point out to her that her reply indicates that if it had only been the middle classes it would have been all right.

Mr. Mitchison


Mr. Deputy-Speaker

These constant interruptions are only increasing the length of speeches.

Mr. Byers

I am going to conclude in a minute. I only want to make two points, one of which has been made already, that the basic petrol ration certainly did not cover only pleasure motoring. Let us face that. The hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) gives an indication that the Government are going to give in. He is usually right in these matters. Perhaps we are wasting our time here tonight. The fact is that the basic petrol ration does not cover only pleasure motoring, and the number of supplementary applications shows that. Produce the factors, the consideration upon which it was made, and see where a readjustment can be made to save the same number of dollars. If the Government are going to spend £32,000,000 on the Armed Forces, they must be able to make some re-adjustment to give back, not the whole of the ration, but at least some proportion of it, and so avoid the chaos which will follow the present decision. I could not in any way bring myself to support the Government on this measure in view of the fact that they have refused to listen to other proposals put up. The least they could have done would be to listen, and give a courteous hearing to these proposals. The matter affects people in the rural areas. Many people, of course, can afford to hire cars, but people in my constituency cannot. I have many instances. There is the case of a man and woman separated for four or five years. The man is a Government agricultural trainee getting backwards and forwards on his motor cycle, and the Ministry has refused his application for petrol.

Mrs. Manning

They are refusing them all out of hand.

Mr. Byers

Protesting once more against the absence of a Cabinet Minister I shall certainly vote against the Government.

11.15 p.m.

Mr. Pagetg (Northampton)

This is, I feel, a very serious subject. If we were to ask supporters of hon. Members opposite whether they would prefer basic petrol or the House of Lords, there would not be much doubt about the answer. It is a matter on which I have a good deal of sympathy with the case that has been put up, but I have been embarrassed by the ludicrous way in which it has been over-stated. The worst form of advocacy is to put the case absurdly high. The climax was to hear what the hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers) told us. I hope to get this Debate back on to rather more realistic lines.

This cut in basic petrol is unfair. It may be necessary in some cases to be unfair, but we must recognise that it is unfair. It is ludicrous to suggest that this is an attack on the rich. They will not be affected by it. Any rich man will have no difficulty at all. He just makes himself a director of a company and gets petrol for a special need. Apart from that, he can hire. The people really affected by this are those who have put their savings into a secondhand car, because they prefer to take their family into the country at the weekends instead of spending their money on beer and cigarettes. It is unfair that people like that should be penalised.

The justification is the black market. Commercial petrol, and that issued to farmers particularly, has been drawn to an extent far above requirements. Local petrol stations have got far more coupons—because the coupons have been handed to them in blocks—than they have issued petrol, and anybody who knows the countryside knows that most petrol stations do not even want coupons. Anyone who can get a car on the road can get as much petrol as he wants, and he does not even have to pay black market prices. I have had a deputation from the garage owners in my district, and I have written a letter to the Ministry on their information, that the amount of black market petrol available through commerce is quite unchecked, and that simply to cut a proportion of the basic petrol would not effect any saving at all because any car that has an excuse for being on the road can get pretty well as much petrol as it wants.

I believe that that, which is really the major difficulty, can be dealt with in the same way as it was dealt with in the war. Make the farm and commercial petrol coloured—put a dye in it—and authorise the police to take samples from private cars. Any private car that is found with coloured petrol in its tanks should be forfeit. There should be no excuse. If the Government do it upon that basis, they can check this black market, and I believe they will make a far better saving than by simply abolishing the basic, because the black market will then still go on.

Whether I vote in favour of this Prayer or not will depend entirely upon the Minister's answer. If we get an intransigent answer on this, I shall vote against the Government. Do not let the Government be stubborn on this. Let them take the attitude—" We have got to make this saving. The black market position is such that a mere proportional cut is no good. But upon the other hand, if anybody can bring up suggestions which will give us this saving, if the motor trade or garage proprietors can bring up suggestions which will give us this saving and give it in a fairer way, we shall be delighted to accept them." I am confident these fairer proposals can be brought forward, and I ask the Government to say they will listen to the proposals with an open mind. I think in these circumstances they ought to do that.

11.21 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles (Down)

I speak this evening on behalf of the country and rural districts. After all, in the towns people have a great deal of relaxation. They have buses and trams passing their doors to take them to places of amusement, but it is very different in rural districts. Townspeople themselves think that country people live miserable lives, without any amusement at all. I have had more letters in regard to basic petrol than about anything else since this Government came into power. I have had hundreds of letters, and I could quote from them where Ministers of religion have pointed out that in these country districts, especially Northern Ireland, during the winter time, there are no football matches, no cinemas, no theatres, and the only amusement that these country people have is what they call the "social evenings." They cannot get to these amusements without transport, and the transport they get are generally second-hand cars which they have saved up to buy. A great many of these people, the Ministers of religion have pointed out to me, are teetotallers, do not smoke and do not know anything about such things as football pools and gambling. They do get pleasure out of using their cars at weekends and for these social evenings in the winter.

During the war I was connected in a humble way with the Ministry of Aircraft Production, and one of my duties was to try to get petrol for men working in aircraft factories who had to go long distances to work. I always got fair treatment from the regional petrol controller—but he could not always allocate petrol to these men. It meant they had to get up at four or five in the morning instead of a couple of hours later, and I have seen them at 9 o'clock at night asleep in the bus going home. The people were ready to put up with that kind of thing in wartime, but after seven or eight years of these privations they dislike very much having to put up with it today. Of course, as other hon. Members have stated, rich people arrange for a hackney carriage to meet them every morning at seven or eight o'clock to journey to work, and then again at six o'clock in the evening, but the poorer, and the middle classes cannot afford to do that.

I would sooner see each county and town allocated a certain amount of petrol, with the regional petrol controller given some latitude provided he was given the figures. In Northern Ireland, anyway, if we were allocated a certain amount of petrol we might manage to ration it out in a way much more fair to the whole of the community. One can ration petrol by putting the price higher. That would mean there would be no joy-riding because people would think twice before using their cars except for really necessary work. Here is a Government who admit having lost £58 million on currency transactions in Germany, and yet they put before us this measure which will save nothing like that amount. In fact, I understand that if the Government had been a bit more careful of that money it would have kept us in "basic petrol" for ten years.

11.27 p.m.

Mrs. Leah Manning (Epping)

I should like to reinforce the plea which has just been made on behalf of the rural areas. I have had many letters from constituents who do not ask for petrol for pleasure motoring, but for really necessary purposes. At the same time, I do not think that I can agree with the statement just made about the "miserable lives" of the people in rural districts, because many of those people find pleasure and relaxation on their own doorsteps. I say that in passing. None of the people who have written or spoken to me about this matter have found out how the extra petrol is to be granted in cases where it is allowed.

I do not know if instructions have been issued by the Ministry, but I have had letters from people who need petrol for really essential reasons. These people have no public transport at all. There are no buses or trains, and they are unable to get any. One can appeal, they have found, to the Minister of Transport to do something in one's area, but nothing is ever done. I have people in my constituency who have to get up at 5.30 in the morning if they are to use the public transport available in this rural area in order to get to work. Many of the people have motor cycles, some of which have been bought with gratuities, and on which Purchase Tax has been paid. The Government has pocketed the tax, but now those people will have no use for their motor cycles. Furthermore, I have people in my constituency who have wooden legs, and if any man needs a supplementary petrol ration as much, or more, than anybody else, I should think it was the man with wooden legs. There are roads and lanes in my constituency which are very isolated. There are places in Epping Forest where attacks have been made on young children, and on women, but men cannot get petrol in order to bring their children home from school.

This is an area where, in places, there is no public transport, yet the people are turned down if they want petrol because of that. During the war there were allowances for various reasons; there was petrol to enable people to attend divine worship, but the applications of all the people of whom I speak have been turned down. I do not know, as I have said, if the Minister has issued any instructions, or whether the Department has so much work to do that there is a little girl clerk in charge who keeps saying, "No, no, no" to all applications. I wish the Minister had taken advice from people who understand the motor industry, from those who really know what is needed; and from those who live in rural areas. I do not believe the Minister has taken such expert advice. If he has, his answer tonight will not be an intransigent one, but will be one which will modify the situation of which he must now be aware.

I do not know whether the figures asked for by the hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers) are available, but I think we ought not to be asked to vote until we have had them. I asked this afternoon about the cut in the ration of petrol allowed to the military forces, including the Control Commission in Germany. Everyone knows that the amount of petrol wasted there is notorious and abominable, and we should be given the figures. We ought to know how much the Minister understands the situation, and what adjustments he is making in the matter of supplementary petrol, before we are even asked to vote on this question. I shall feel compelled, though most reluctantly, to vote against the Government tonight unless we have that information. If the information is such that I feel a reasonable case has been made out, I might even refrain from voting; but unless the Minister can give some much more reasonable information than we have at the moment, it is our duty to say that this is unfair not on wealthy people, but certainly on some middle-class people and on a very large number of working-class people, especially in the rural areas.

11.32 p.m.

Sir Wavell Wakefield (St. Marylebone)

The Prime Minister and other members of the Cabinet have in recent months been making great appeals for increased production and national unity. I can think of nothing more likely to hinder production or to disrupt the country than this proposal to abolish the basic petrol ration. We have tonight heard from many hon. Members of the difficulties, which will arise in rural areas if the ration is abolished. I want to say how great the difficulties will be in urban areas. My constituency of St. Marylebone is in the centre of London, but people are going to be hindered very greatly in getting to or from their work. In that way production will be delayed, if not stopped. We have seen recently in the newspapers that some 350 luxury coaches have had to be taken on to assist public transport in London. What will the position be when a quarter of a million or more motorists are no longer able to use their cars and to take other people to and from their work? There is going to be the utmost congestion on the public transport system. Further, we have been told by the Government that bus production for the coming year is going to be only 4,000. The rate of production of buses for home consumption runs at about 12,000 a year. That rate of production, therefore, is to be cut to 33⅓ per cent. That means that the position will become even worse, and that conditions in urban areas are to be greatly aggravated.

I want to ask the Government to reconsider the whole question. Is it really worth while so to interfere with production—because how can people give of their best when they have been standing in queues for hours, and when, instead of 20 minutes on a motor cycle it takes them one-and-a-half or two hours to get to their work? Every incentive should be given to workers to produce the best in the coming months, when there is going to be a shortage of fuel and there will be darkness all around? Yet the Government do precisely the opposite. I do not think that the members of the Cabinet have given sufficient thought to this matter.

If the Minister of Fuel and Power and the Government Departments concerned are going to be strict in their allocations and in the cutting down, if they are not going to give motorists supplementary rations, then there will really be chaos in our public transport. If on the other hand they are easy and give everybody what they want, then surely it is quite pointless to have rationing because the saving will be negligible. I do suggest that the Government are putting a most unnecessary burden upon the country by asking civil servants to do all this work. How can an individual, miles and miles away from a locality, decide fairly and justly what is required by an applicant? It will take months and months for all these applications to be sorted out.

I must draw attention to the very great hardship that will be caused to ex-Service men. I have here a number of letters from ex-Service men, as indeed other. Members have, saying how they were encouraged to take up the hire service business on being demobilised and how many of them purchased motor cars on a hire-purchase basis, and have been using this basic petrol for hire-purchase. They have been refused petrol and the grounds of refusal in my constituency have been that there is no need for them—no need for these men who have served their country with distinction. Some have been wounded and they have put all their gratuities and savings into this hire-motor business. Now they see all their savings lost and bankruptcy staring them in the face. I have many letters from Central London constituents of mine, invalids and others, who used these hire-purchase cars. They cannot get around otherwise. Many others use them for business purposes and it is quite nonsensical to say that they are not required. If they were not required how is it that these ex-Service men's car-hire businesses are flourishing? The very fact that they have been increasing and used to such an extent shows that they are fulfilling a national need. If you cut them down, more people will be thrown on the public transport.

I should like to suggest to the Government that instead of knocking off the basic ration, the rationing of petrol be abolished altogether. If the rationing of petrol were abolished altogether there would be a big saving in non-productive civil servants who could get about producing more. There would be a great saving in petrol. There would be, instead of a fall in revenue, a substantial increase, I think, in revenue, for by abolishing the rationing of petrol a tax could be put on motor cars or petrol in such a way that there would be an incentive to save petrol. That would be better than arbitrarily deciding who is to have petrol and who is not. You could take up spending power, save inflation, and, by putting a substantial tax upon the use of petrol, you would automatically get a very substantial saving in petrol. We have heard from Members tonight—the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) was one of those who made the point—of the excessive requirements of petrol for commercial purposes. If a higher tax were put upon petrol the user would watch every gallon used. There would be a substantial saving in that direction, and the Government would save their dollars. Whatever happens, I would suggest that the Government should reconsider their decision, for what they have done is the worse possible course they could have taken. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday, Free the people." Surely this is one way in which the Government could free the people with advantage to everybody concerned.

In the Labour Party manifesto in 1945 the following words were used: Your future—After Victory. What then? The Labour Party says there is no reason why everyone in the land, if our affairs are properly managed and the wealth we produce fairly shared, should not have enough of everything which goes to make a full, happy and secure life. I say that was the mandate they asked and got from the people. This Order is the exact contrary to that mandate. If they cannot carry out the mandate—and judging by this Order obviously they cannot—they ought to resign and make way for people who can do the job better than they can.

11.42 p.m.

Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)

It must be clear from the speeches which have already been made that opposition to the abolition of the basic petrol ration is by no means confined to the Members of one party, and I hope it will be possible to get this discussion on such a level as to be free from party, because it is not a party question. As a matter of fact, if I were unfriendly to the Government I should do all I could to persuade them to continue with their abolition of the basic ration, because I believe that no action which they have taken up to now has made them more unpopular. I want to say to the Government in all seriousness and as one not unfriendly to them, that I believe that, in proposing to abolish the basic petrol ration, they have committed a blunder of the first magnitude psychologically, because they have exasperated the people affected. The people are not convinced that it is fair; they are not convinced that it is necessary, and the result of all that is bound, in my opinion, to reflect itself in the efforts we are asking the people to make in the production drive. I am sure the Government will lose far more from the point of view of our recovery from the economic crisis by insisting on the abolition of the bask petrol ration than can be possibly gained by saving dollars. It seems to me to be a "penny wise, pound foolish" policy, I hope, therefore, that the Government will think twice about this matter and will be prepared to listen to reason and make some reasonable concession to meet reasonable needs.

11.44 p.m.

The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Gaitskell)

The decision to abolish the basic petrol was, of course, taken as an essential step in the battle of the balance of payments. [Interruption.] Military metaphors are sometimes appropriate in dangerous situations. The purpose of the decision was, of course, to save foreign currencies in general and dollars in particular. On this I think there is no disagreement. Obviously, it is not necessary to argue about whether or not the abolition of the basic ration would save foreign currency, because we have to import virtually all the oil we use and any reduction in imports is bound to save some foreign currency. But it is sometimes supposed that if oil comes from the sterling area, we do not have to pay for it at all. I will deal in full in a moment with just how much does come from the sterling area, but I do want to point out that, even if it did, or could all come from the sterling area, it would still involve us in having to find some means of paying for it. That has not always been clearly understood.

The chief cause for the Government's decision undoubtedly rests on the necessity for saving dollars. How much will we save? Here are our estimates. We estimate that the abolition of the basic ration will save gross about 960,000 tons of petrol in 1948. We estimated that we shall have to issue additional supplementary allowances to the extent of 160,000 tons, and, therefore, that the net saving will be 800,000 tons.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-on-Thames)

Is that calculated on the basis of the coupon worth 1½ gallons up to 6th August or one gallon since 6th August?

Mr. Gaitskell

That is on the basic ration as it was. That will save £7,500,000 in dollars at the prices which were ruling when the decision was taken. In fact, prices have risen since then and if they remain at about the present level the total saving will be about £9,000,000.

Why, it may be asked, are dollars saved by this? There have been arguments to the effect that we could obtain this petrol from the sterling area. But, so far as the immediate situation is concerned, there can be no doubt that we import 60 per cent. of the motor spirit which comes into this country from dollar sources, and about one-third of the tankers used are on dollar freights. But, it may be said, why should we not obtain this oil from the sterling area? I am anxious to deal with this because it is a point that is puzzling many hon. Members. Oil is only produced in negligible quantities in the British Empire, but, of course, it is produced in substantial amounts by British companies operating in foreign territories. When one speaks of "sterling oil" one refers mainly to oil produced by British companies in those foreign territories.

The first point I want to make in that connection is that even in those territories, the production of oil by British companies, to some extent involves dollars.

Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)

Not Abadan.

Mr. Gaitskell

Even at Abadan a certain amount of refining and other machinery is involved which costs dollars. In Venezuela and elsewhere obviously dollar costs are involved, but I do not rest the argument primarily on that particular fact.

These British companies supply, of course, not only the United Kingdom, not only the needs of part of the sterling area, but also certain foreign countries as well. So do the American oil companies. In other words, it is an international business. The fact is that if we were to take more oil—as would be technically possible, certainly—from British companies into this country, and cut down our dollar expenditure, there would be the following results. Those companies—the British companies—would then sell less to somebody else. They would either sell less to the sterling area, in which case the sterling area would then have to buy dollar petrol, and we should have to find the dollars, since we are the banker for the sterling area; or they would sell less to dollar countries, and so lose the hard currencies which they obtain from those countries.

There are one or two countries which are supplied by British oil companies, and which are not, strictly speaking, hard currency countries. This is, of course, a question of degree, but I can assure the House that this matter is watched extremely carefully. The amount of petrol going to those so-called soft currency countries is only sufficient to maintain the goodwill of the oil companies in those areas—we have to think of that from the point of view of future exports—and the amounts involved are certainly far less in total than the saving of the basic ration. So the fact is that, even if we were to obtain more oil from the sterling area for our own use here in the United Kingdom, there is not the slightest doubt about it that it would still cost us dollars to do it, and we cannot—

Mr. Churchill (Woodford)

It would still cost us a small proportion of dollars to do it, but nothing like what would be charged to us if we bought it from the hard currency areas.

Mr. Gaitskell

No, Sir. It would cost us virtually the whole of the amount in dollars; subject, as I have said, to the one point, that if we took it away, for example, from France—and we are supplying France with a certain amount of motor spirit at the moment—we should lose, not dollars, but certain other things we are obtaining from France. And there are, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, important political considerations involved in that. It is bound up with the Marshall Plan, for example. Therefore, I think we must take it that if we were to restore the basic ration, we should involve ourselves in an additional dollar expenditure, not only, I may say, because of the additional petrol required, but also, incidentally, from the additional tankers which we should need, and which, marginally, certainly would cost us dollars.

Lord William Scott (Roxburgh and Selkirk)

Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us how much we supply to France?

Mr. Gaitskell

Not without notice, but if the noble Lord will put down a Question I shall certainly be glad to answer it. Rut it is quite a small amount.

I should like to deal with two points which have been raised by the late Secretary to the Petroleum Department, Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd, in a speech he made some time ago, which, I think, calls for an answer. In that speech he made two allegations. He said that the Government had not bought certain tankers which they should have bought in the United States, and that they would be blamed for it. Well, in the "Petroleum Times" today, which is not a paper one would suppose particularly favourable to the decision to abolish the basic ration, this is said—and I will read it to the House: Another charge made by Mr. Lloyd in his Birmingham speech is that the Government lacked foresight in their failure to buy 100 of the 200 American laid up tankers "— and here the article quotes Mr. Lloyd's words— '18 months ago. It is true that Government bought a few of these ships, but, as usual, they closely under-estimated the need.' The Government did not buy the tankers because it is not a part of the Government's business to buy tankers, but as a matter of fact, the Government did make available dollars to the companies to buy them. I quote the article again: The facts are that the United States Act permitting the sale of these vessels was passed 15 months ago, and that since then British companies have acquired 50 of them with dollars made available by the British Treasury. Commissioning of these tankers has been delayed by shipyard strikes in the United States of America, but of 50 released last April, British oil companies have secured no less than 31 which are in operating and not laid up condition. Owing to the unprecedented world demand for petroleum, which has exceeded all estimates, British companies are by no means the only bidders for these 'surplus' tankers, and in securing 31 of the 50 released in April they have done as well, or better, than could reasonably have been expected. As I say, that is not a Government statement, but the considered view on this matter of the trade journal.

Mr. Lloyd's other accusation is that we have not pushed on as fast as we should have done with the expansion of oil production in the Middle East. I do not know how much Mr. Lloyd knows of the activities which are going on. They involve a most tremendous strain on us for steel at the present moment, and the Investment Programmes Committee have had to consider, very seriously, whether we can afford to go on exporting steel at this rate for the purpose. The "Petroleum Times" says: The provision of dollars for the maintenance of the basic ration therefore involves the fundamental economic problem of what proportion of our straitened dollar resources shall be devoted to capital expenditure, and what to current consumption. The more dollars spent on pleasure motoring, the less available for the expansion of the British oil industry abroad and the longer the time before the British motorist, and the British public generally, can escape from the wearisome toils of austerity and enter the promised land of freedom from want which present sacrifices alone can ensure. If, like the rest of us, Mr. Lloyd wants accelerated expansion of British oil production overseas he can only have it by swallowing the bitter pill of present privation either by way of the abolition of pleasure motoring or by even less pleasant inroads on our present standard of living.

Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite (Holderness)

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us who owns the "Petroleum Times"?

Mr. Gaitskell

I have not the slightest idea.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

Odham's Press?

Mr. Gaitskell

Odham's Press owns "many trade papers, and they do not necessarily reflect any particular political opinion.

If I may return to my earlier remarks, I think, therefore, that it is generally agreed that this is a dollar question: dollars are at stake. The Minister for Economic Affairs has recently told the House just where we stand in relation to dollars. We have a deficit in this year of £475 million sterling in dollars, and have to face severe cuts in the food programme and other spheres. We shall still have, at the end of 1948, a dollar deficit running at the rate of £250 million sterling a year—and that after we have run down our gold reserve to £270 million. It needs no additional words of mine to emphasise the extreme seriousness of the dollar situation.

It may be said—and has been said—that this paltry saving of £7½ million or £9 million in dollars is so small, that it is not worth worrying about. If we were to take that point of view, why restrict it to the basic ration? Why not say that the amount involved by another twopence in the meat ration is something we ought not to worry about?—or the reduction in the number of eggs? That is the way to disaster. If we take each one of these sacrifices which we have to make and say they are so small that they are not worth making, we shall never balance payments. I think that once you start in that direction you are lost. It follows, and I put this to the House, that if we were to come to the conclusion tonight that we must maintain the basic ration, then we have got to find a saving from somewhere else. One could, of course, say "Why bother to find it?" but would it not be best to reduce the dollar deficit which, in any case, is going to exist at the end of the year, and save a little of the gold we have to pay out this year?

Mr. W. Fletcher

Is not the right hon. Gentleman losing sight of the fact that he will gain by allowing petrol which will help industry and production?

Mr. Gaitskell

I think if there is a gain from that source, we ought first to consider increasing the food rations again.

Mr. Churchill

Or the soap ration.

Mr. Gaitskell

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, views on that differ a good deal. The right hon. Gentleman, I know, is one who has always favoured taking many baths. He is said to have done a great deal of work during the war in his bath, but I do not want to pursue the matter any further now.

I want to take three possible ways in which this saving could be made. We have already cut timber pretty severely. If we were to cut timber by another £7,500,000, it would cost 187,000 standards of soft wood. That is the amount required for 110,000 houses. We should have 110,000 fewer houses.

Mr. A. R. W. Low (Blackpool, North)

That will not wash.

Mr. Gaitskell

I do not know what is so funny about that: 110,000 fewer houses does not strike me as particularly funny.

Take another possibility—eggs. We could cut them by 14 or 15 per head a year and save £7,500,000. Do hon. Members opposite want that to be done? Is that their view as to how the money should be found? Let us consider cotton; here you find that the total saving—[Interruption.] If the right hon. Gentleman would like to make suggestions I would be delighted to hear them, but I am only giving examples here of what savings in other directions would mean. Taking cotton, £7,500,000 means 42,000 tons of raw cotton which happens to be equivalent to the whole of the clothing ration in cotton. That does not seem a sensible step to take.

If it is a fact that the Government could save dollars in all these and other ways, and we have been discussing this for the past five or six days, why, there are many other priorities which come in advance of pleasure motoring. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is not pleasure motoring."] May I say a word on pleasure motoring? It is, of course, perfectly true that a lot of people have used their basic ration for going to and from their work, for paying social visits, for shopping and so on, and perhaps only a limited amount has been used for pure joy-riding—getting into a car and driving round the countryside in an aimless sort of way. But it is very different from saying that it is desirable to restore to the public the freedom to use their petrol precisely as they wish. It is a freedom which is desirable, but the essence of this change is the change made during the war—we did it, I think, under the right hon. Gentleman, in 1943–that is to say a change, from giving everyone a certain amount of petrol to use freely, to allocating petrol for specific purposes.

Reference has been made by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) to the black market. I certainly would not accept what he said on that. But it is the fact that, it there is a basic ration, somebody who has a little basic ration can use other petrol, whether it has reached him legitimately or not, for any purpose he likes. As somebody told me—" Give us a gallon or two and we will fiddle the rest." That is a fact. It is regrettable of course, but the fact is that the administration of petrol rationing is not of such a character that you can ensure—leaving out the black market altogether—that every gallon of supplementary ration goes only for the specific purpose for which it was granted. Therefore, I submit that it is fair to say that unless you abolish the basic ration, you cannot provide against a certain degree of pleasure motoring.

Various suggestions have been made. One hon. Member suggested that we should abolish rationing altogether, and put on a huge tax to squeeze out those who could not or would not pay. That is an old-fashioned method, and used to have its attractions, but I cannot believe that the country as a whole would take the view that, when we have a restricted amount of a commodity as important as petrol, and there is an alternative, it is desirable to leave it simply to a question of whether people can afford it or not. Sometimes there is no alternative, and a high tax is the only way possible. But we have an alternative. We have a rationing system—it is not perfect, but it is adequate—and it would have been quite wrong to have left it simply to the income of the individual to decide whether he would get petrol or not. [An HON. MEMBER: "He gets none now."] He does. He gets it for essential purposes. Another suggestion has been that we should take it from other essential users. I would like to correct one misunderstanding here. The Services consumption of motor spirit last year was under 600,000 tons, which is about two-thirds of the gross saving on the basic ration.

Mr. Lipson

I asked the Minister of Defence if he would give the figures for the last 12 months for the Army and the Air Force, and the figures he gave for the Army were 891,000 tons, and for the Air Force I think it was about 136,000 tons.

Mr. Gaitskell

I have been given these figures, which were asked for during the Debate. I can only suppose there is a misunderstanding about motor spirit and other forms of fuel. The hon. Member's figures probably include aviation spirit.

Sir A. Salter

Is the Minister seriously excluding from his figures aviation spirit?

Mr. Gaitskell

For the moment, certainly I am. It has no particular relevance to this matter. The only relevance of discussing Service figures at all is whether they can make any further economy. As a matter of fact they will be bound to make further economies because of the cuts announced, whether to the liking of Members opposite or not.

Major Lloyd

Is it not possible that the right hon. Gentleman has been let down by his officials as he has been previously?

Mr. Gaitskell

I have given the figures and, as I say, hon Members may be mistaken about the particular type of petrol.

Many questions have been asked about supplementary allowances. The first thing I would say is that we are going back now to the position that existed during the war. During the war supplementary rations, when there was no "basic," were freely granted for certain purposes, not only for essential business purposes—everybody knows that—but also for certain essential domestic purposes when public transport was impracticable and many cases I have heard hon. Members mention fall within that category. Some of the cases were, for instance, petrol to get to shops in rural districts, to get to church, or to get to school, or to get to the station. Petrol is granted freely for all these purposes. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Granted freely. When I say "freely," I do not say in unlimited amounts. If there is no public transport available—that is the rule. Somebody asked me, I think it was the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) what instructions had been issued. I have not an actual copy of the instructions by me; I could not get it in time; but I can tell him we did issue instructions to the regional petroleum officers that in interpreting the phrase "whether public transport was practicable or not," they should take a reasonable view and take into account the frequency of transport. I am only telling you what we have done. I am not pretending that everyone always gets exactly the amount of supplementary allowance he likes. My hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) said that everyone was refused. The fact is that two-thirds of the applications for supplementary allowances have been granted, so it is absolute nonsense to say they are all being refused, and, I may say, it is a monstrous libel on our petrol officers.

Mrs. Manning


Mr. Gaitskell

I cannot give way. [Interruption.] I cannot give way at this stage in the Debate even to my hon. Friend. May I be allowed to proceed?

Mr. Brendan Bracken (Bournemouth)

The great unwashed.

Mr. Gaitskell

The real issue the House has to face is that we are in the middle of a very grave dollar crisis. Every saving in dollars that can be made, must be made. This saving amounting to £7,500,000, if not obtained here, must be got in other ways. No serious suggestion has been put forward from the opposite benches as to how this is to be done. It has not been put forward seriously because they know of no other suggestion. But they dare not admit to the country that what they are really demanding is a cut in food in favour of petrol. If they wish to give that impression to the country they can do so by voting against this Order tonight.

12.15 a.m.

Mr. Churchill (Woodford)

I do not rise for the purpose of plunging into the grave and serious Debate upon the merits of the question of basic petrol ration and its abolition. I do not rise, either, for the purpose of increasing the excitement and indignation which obviously exists in many parts of the House. I rise to suggest that we ought not to bring this matter to a conclusion tonight. It is quite evident that there are a great many points of view which should be set forth. Many have been put forward from the benches opposite. The answers to these many views and to the individual complaints and explanations of difficulty, should all be put forward. The Minister has made a broad statement of the economic situation to which we are reduced, and endeavours to contrast this evil with the evils which would follow other economies. These are very large questions, and the House ought not to be forced to resolve them tonight. It would be much better to allow this to go forward and to allow opinion to develop, because I cannot feel that the statement of the Minister, however glib, however logical it may appear, is the answer to the difficulties with which we are faced on this practical question of how best to meet the problem of our dollar situation.

I ask the Government not to press this matter to a Division tonight. I am assured that there is plenty of time for this Prayer to be resolved at a later period in the month of November. There is evidently very great interest; look at the condition of the House at this time—this late hour—after all the exciting Debate we have had during the day. Surely this is a domestic matter of ordinary practical housekeeping and management of our internal and small, but very important, affairs in which the opinion of the House ought really to have reasonable fair play and the opportunity to express itself through its channels. The decision which is come to should be worked out by the full instrument of Parliament and not merely by that slick chart drawn by Ministers or by officials. Surely we should take it up when we have a little more time. It would conduce to the public and general interests, irrespective of the many differences which exist between us as political opponents.

12.19 a.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)

I have listened to the appeal made by the right hon. Gentleman, and I have also been here for a considerable part of the Debate, except for the earlier part of the speech by the hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers). Even Cabinet Ministers, on occasion, require a short interval for refreshment. I am sorry that I missed the earlier part of his no doubt entertaining remarks regarding Cabinet Ministers. We have had this evening a Debate which had as its precursor some of the speeches made in the Debate on the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech. The matter did not start with the speech by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) who moved the Prayer this evening. That brought to a point one of the details which had been discussed by several hon. Members on both sides of the House during the previous Debate which has occupied us since the House reassembled.

We have had this evening a very full statement of the arguments by hon. Members opposite, and by some of my hon. Friends behind me who have shown an interest in this matter. We have had a very full reply by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power. It was certainly one of the fullest, and if I may say so, one of the most cogent, replies. It was delivered in excellent temper, and he endeavoured to answer not merely the general sweep of the Debate, as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Churchill) said, but the particular points which had been put up by successive hon. Members on both sides of the House. It seems to me that the large House which has listened to him is a tribute to the interest which is taken in the subject. It is unusual, may I say, for us to be favoured by so many right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite at this hour of the morning when an Order is under discussion. I should have thought, therefore, now that we have been apprised by hon. Members of their objections and my right hon. Friend has stated the reply of the Government, that we were in a better position to vote than we usually are on these occasions. I see no reason why this Debate should be adjourned, and I think that at an appropriate time we should come to a decision on the Motion before the House.

12.22 a.m.

Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)

I think that the course of events this evening proves once again the drawbacks under which this House suffers in discussing delegated legislation. The Minister twitted us with not putting forward alternatives. But he knows perfectly well that one of the handicaps under which we labour in discussing these Prayers is that under our system there is no alternative for the Opposition but a Prayer to annul. There is no opportunity to put forward amendments which would enable us to provide constructive alternatives. The Home Secretary said that he thought the speech made by the Minister of Fuel and Power was one of the fullest and most cogent answers he had ever heard. That only shows what a very poor level of answers he is accustomed to hearing from his own right hon. Friends. Hon. Members who have been in the House during the whole of this discussion will, I think, agree with me when I say that far from being full and cogent, the Minister failed to answer the bulk of the questions which had been put to him.

What did my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) ask him to begin with, which he entirely ignored? He asked when was the decision taken to abolish the petrol ration, a fairly simple question which the right hon. Gentleman ignored. He then asked whether the Petroleum Board was consulted, again a simple question which the right hon. Gentleman thought it wiser not to answer. Then he asked, were the Petroleum Board asked to provide another alternative? Surely the proper people to provide alternatives are not the Opposition who are deprived of the necessary information, but the Petroleum Board who have all the information.

Mr. Gaitskell

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that it was only because I was preoccupied with other points that I did not reply. We did not consult the Petroleum Board for the simple reason that the Petroleum Board has nothing to do with the rationing of petrol.

Mr. Hudson

What the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out has merely confirmed the accuracy of my diagnosis, that he did not answer the question in the speech which had been put to him. The hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers) asked a very cogent question which was picked up by the hon. Lady the Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning). He said that we would like to see a balance sheet. There was no answer to that question. What did the right hon. Gentleman's speech mainly consist of? Of setting up "Aunt Sally" and knocking them down. He had obviously made up his speech before he came to the Box, and he proceeded to make that speech dealing with arguments never mentioned in the Debate. No one in the Debate raised the question about the possibility of getting supplies of petrol from the sterling areas. That part of his speech was entirely unnecessary as an answer to the Debate. He proceeded to deal with two points made by Mr. Lloyd in the country. No one mentioned those points in this Debate. In other words, the right hon. Gentleman made no attempt to deal with the Debate.

On this question of estimates and a balance sheet, the right hon. Gentleman seemed to try to take refuge in the miserable quibble that the Services used only 600,000 tons of motor spirit. That is not a balance sheet. What the country is concerned with, what, indeed, he himself and the Government are concerned with, is the total dollar expenditure. He said, supposing you had not saved this £7½ million on the basic ration and you had to save it on something else; what would happen if you saved it on eggs or cotton or what would happen if you saved it on timber? He avoided the real question which is: why not ask the Services to avoid that expenditure, not necessarily by cutting out the whole of their expenditure on motor spirit? They use other things beside motor spirit. They use aviation spirit. They use fuel oil. Why should we not be told what the figures are? As far as I am aware, the Government has hitherto refused to tell this House the total expenditure in terms of oil which the Services use—oil in its wider sense—fuel oil, petroleum, aviation spirit, kerosene. Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to get it and contradict the statement made? Does the Under-Secretary of State for Air contradict it? Apparently he does not, so we can take it as correct. Will the Minister of Fuel and Power contradict it? No? Then I think we may take it as correct.

The House is being asked to decide this vital question affecting the work, convenience and happiness of a very large section of the population without having the essential facts on which to form a judgment. The right hon. Gentleman the Defence Minister in answer to a Question in the House this afternoon, said that the Services were being instructed to making a saving of 10 per cent. Well, most people in the House, I imagine, assumed that the saving was to be 10 per cent. overall. Is it, or is it not? Is it apparently now to be assumed from what the Minister of Fuel and Power said that it is merely a saving of 10 per cent. on the motor spirit? Which is it? What does 10 per cent. of the whole consumption of Service oil amount to in terms of tons? I shall be glad to give way for a reply. I wonder if the Home Secretary still thinks that the speech of his right hon. Friend was the fullest and most cogent he has ever heard when he cannot even say what 10 per cent. of the expenditure of the Services means today at a time when we are told that it is vital to save every dollar that can be saved. The answer, in fact, is that they picked on this particular saving because it was a saving, as suggested from the these benches, that would hit the middle classes particularly. I should like to go a little further in the balance sheet.

Mr. Gaitskell

The right hon. Gentleman is making great play with this. I agree I was slightly confused about these particular figures. I do not think it is a very serious error. May I read the position? During the 12 months ended 30th June, 10,47–that is last year's consumption—the consumption of motor spirit by the Army was 891,000 tons and by the R.A.F. in the neighbourhood of 130,000 tons. The estimates for the 12 months ending 30th June, 1940, are 530,000 and 00,000 tons respectively.

Mr. Hudson

If the House, having listened to that explanation, wanted any further proof, they have got it. I ask two questions about this 10 per cent. Was the 10 per cent. saving which was announced by the Minister of Defence at Question time today only a matter of spirit or was it 10 per cent. of the whole oil consumption, including fuel and aviation spirit? We have not had an answer to that. Can the right hon. Gentleman answer that? Can the right hon. Gentleman say what the 10 per cent. is? Obviously he cannot, for he does not know. This is the fullest and most cogent answer that the Home Secretary has ever heard.

Let us move one step further in the balance sheet. Included in the global cost of oil in its widest sense in this country is the oil required to enable the schemes for the conversion from coal to oil to be carried out, and, having been carried out, to be maintained. If such information as we have got is correct this is the situation. The original budget was one million tons. The next target announced was five million tons, making a total of six million tons. The final figure, as we understand it, is a further two million tons, making a total of eight million tons of fuel oil required to convert from coal to oil. This figure is substantially in excess of the figure originally budgeted for. It is quite clear that, roughly speaking, a million tons of fuel oil is equivalent to 800,000 tons of petrol, so the additional expenditure or commitment for fuel oil is more than sufficient if it had remained at the original figure to enable the basic ration to be maintained. So we get out of this situation that, fundamentally,

this cut is due not to a shortage of dollars, but entirely to the failure under this Government and the right hon. Gentleman the present Secretary of State for War, to get adequate coal. Let it also be understood in regard to this cut and the balancing of the hardship of one person against another, that a proportion of conversions from coal to oil, are in respect of individual houses. Anyone who converts from coal to oil is guaranteed, broadly speaking, a supply of oil and, therefore, an appreciable proportion of people who are going to suffer this year by the abolition of basic petrol can have this consolation, that they are suffering in order to enable someone to have his house kept warm.

What is the real reason why the Minister of Fuel and Power made such a miserable answer to the case we have put up? I venture to think that, having heard him, the House will agree with us that his reply was intransigent, offered no sort or kind of compromise, no readiness at all to consider other possible alternatives, including the benefits of a further cut in Service oil, the necessity for which "sticks out a mile," or some cuts in conversion from coal to oil. Therefore we shall have the greatest pleasure in voting tonight for the annulment of this Order.

Several Hon. Members


The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. William Whiteley)

rose in his place and claimed to move, " That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The House divided: Ayes, 184; Noes, 160.

Division No. 4.] AYES. [12.39 a.m.
Adams, Richard (Balham) Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge) Crawley, A.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Daggar, G.
Alpass, J. H. Brook, D. (Halifax) Davies, Edward (Burslem)
Anderson, A. (Motherwell) Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Deer, G.
Anderson, F (Whitehaven) Brown, George (Belper) de Freitas, Geoffrey
Attewell, H. C. Buchanan, G. Delargy, H. J.
Awbery, S. S. Butler, H. W (Hackney, S.) Diamond, J.
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B Callaghan, James Dobbie, W
Baird, J. Castle, Mrs. B. A. Dye, S.
Balfour, A. Champion, A. J. Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.
Barton, C. Coldrick, W. Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)
Bechervaise, A. E. Collindridge, F. Evans, A. (Islington, W.)
Beswick, F. Collins, V. J Evans, John (Ogmore)
Blackburn, A R Comyns, Dr. L Evans, S N. (Wednesbury)
Blenkintop, A. Cook, T. F Ewart, R.
Blyton, W. R. Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N. W.) Fairhurst, F.
Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W Carlett, Dr. J. Farthing, W. J.
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Corvedale, Viscount Fernyhough, E.
Field, Capt. W. J. Macpherson, T. (Romford) Shackleton, E. A. A
Fletcher, E G M (Islington, E.) Mallalieu, J. P. W. Silverman, J. (Erdinglon)
Foot, M M. Mann, Mrs. J. Simmons, C. J.
Foster, W. (Wigan) Mathers, Rt. Hon. G Skeffington, A. M.
Fraser, T. (Hamilton) Medland, H. M. Smith, C (Colchester)
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Mellish, R. J. Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)
Gibbins, J Middleton, Mrs. L. Snow, J. W.
Gilzean, A Mikardo, Ian. Solley, L. J
Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Millington, Wing-Comdr E. R Sorensen, R. W.
Gordon-Walker, P. C. Mitchison, G. R. Soskice, Maj. Sir F.
Greenwood, A. W J. (Heywood) Moody, A. S. Steele, T.
Grey, C. F. Morgan, Dr. H. B Stubbs, A E
Griffiths, W D. (Moss Side) Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.) Sylvester, G. O.
Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R. Morris, P (Swansea, W.) Symonds, A. L.
Hannan, W. (Maryhill) Moyle, A. Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Hastings, Dr. Somerville Murray, J. D. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Nally, W. Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Herbison, Miss M Neal, H. (Clayoross) Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Holman, P. Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.) Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Nioholls, H. R. (Stratford) Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
House, G. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby) Tiffany, S.
Hoy, J. Noel-Buxton, Lady Timmons, J.
Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) O'Brien, T. Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr) Oliver, G. H. Walker, G H
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Pargiter, G. A Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool) Peart, T. F. Watkins, T. E.
Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.) Platts-Mills, J. F. F. Watson, W. M.
Janner, B. Popplewell, E. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Jeger, G. (Winchester) Porter, E. (Warrington) Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Jeger, Dr. S. W (St. Pancras, S. E.) Porter, G. (Leeds) West, D. G
Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools) Pritt, D. N. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow) Proctor, W T. Willey, O. G (Cleveland)
Jones, P Asterley (Hitchin) Pryde, D. J. Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Keenan, W. Pursey, Cmdr. H Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Kenyon, C. Randall, H. E. Willis, E.
Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E Ranger, J. Wills, Mrs E. A
Kinley, J Roberts, A. Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H
Lee, F. (Hulme) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) Woodburn, A
Levy, B. W Rogers, G. H R. Woods, G. S
Lindgren, G. S. Ross, William (Kilmarnock) Wyatt, W.
Longden. F Royle, C. Younger, Hon Kenneth
McGhee, H. G Sargood, R. Zilliacus, K
Mack, J. D. Scollan, T
Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N. W.) Segal, Dr. S. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Pearson and Mr. Wilkins.
Aitken, Hon. Max De la Bère, R. Keeling, E. H.
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Armagh) Digby, S W. Kendall, W. D.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. Donner, P. W. Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H
Astor, Hon M Drayson, G. B. Lambert, Hon. G.
Baldwin, A. E. Dugdale, Maj Sir T. (Richmond) Lancaster, Col. C. G
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Duthie, W. S. Langford-Holt, J.
Beechman, N. A. Erroll, F J Legge-Bourke, Maj, E. A. H.
Bennett, Sir P. Fletcher, W. (Bury) Lennox-Boyd, A. T.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D C. (Wells) Foster, J. G. (Northwich) Lipson, D. L.
Bossom, A C Fox, Sir G. Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Bowen, R. Fraser, Sir I (Lonsdale) Lloyd, Selywn (Wirral)
Bower, N. Gage, C Low, A. R. W.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D Lucas, Major Sir J.
Bracken, Rt Hon Brendan Gammans, L. D. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. George, Maj Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke) Lyttellon, Rt. Hon. O
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey) MacAndrew, Col. Sir C
Buehan-Hepburn, P G T Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. McCallum, Maj D.
Bullock, Capt. M Grant, Lady Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)
Butcher, H W Granville, E. (Eye) McKie, J. H. (Galloway)
Byers, Frank Grimston, R. V. Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (B'mley)
Carson, E. Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge) Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)
Challen, C. Haughton, S. G. Manningham-Buller, R. E
Channon, H Head, Brig. A. H. Marlowe, A A. H.
Churchill, Rt. Hon. W S Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C. Marples, A. E.
Clarke, Col. R. S Henderson, John (Cathcart) Marsden, Capt. A.
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col G Herbert, Sir A. P. Marshall, D. (Bodmin)
Cole, T. L. Hogg, Hon. Q. Mellor, Sir J.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E Hollis, M. C. Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)
Cooper-Key. E. M Howard, Hon. A Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cir'nc'ster)
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) Mullan, Lt. C. H.
Crookehank, Capt. Rt. Hon H F C. Hurd, A. Neven-Spence, Sir B
Crowder, Capt. John E. Hutchison, Lt.-Com. C. (E'b'rgh W.) Nicholson, G.
Cuthbert, W. N Jarvis, Sir J. Nield, B. (Chester)
Darling, Sir W. Y. Jeffreys, General Sir G. Noble, Comdr. A. H. P
Davidson, Viscountess Jennings, R. Nutting, Anthony
Davies, Clement (Montgomery) Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.
Orr-Ewing, I. L. Scott, Lord W. Turton, R. H.
Osborne, C. Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W. Vane, W. M. F.
Peto, Brig. C. H. M. Smith, E. P. (Ashford) Wakefield, Sir W. W
Ponsonby, Col. C. E. Snadden, W. M. Walker-Smith, D.
Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry) Spearman, A. C. M Ward, Hon. G. R.
Price-White, Lt.-Col D. Spence, H. R. Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie
Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. Stanley, Rt. Hon. O. Wheatley, Colonel M. J
Ramsay, Maj. S. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M. White, Sir D. (Fareham)
Rayner, Brig. R. Strauss, H G (English Universities) White, J. B. (Canterbury)
Reed, Sir s. (Aylesbury) Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray) Williams, C. (Torquay)
Renton, D. Studholme, H G. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Roberts, H. (Handsworth) Sutcliffe, H Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.
Roberts, Maj. P G. (Ecclesall) Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne) Willioughby de Eresby, Lord
Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham) Taylor, Vice-Adm, E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.) York, C.
Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Ropner, Col. L. Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry) Thornton-Kemsley, C. N. Mr. Drewe and
Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F. Commander Agnew.
Sanderson, Sir F. Touche, G. C.

Question put accordingly: That the Control of Motor Fuel Order, 1947 (S.R. & O., 1947, No. 2058), dated 22nd September, 1947, a copy of which was presented on 20th October, be annulled.

The House divided: Ayes, 160; Noes, 187.

Division No. 5.] AYES. [12.49 a.m.
Aitken, Hon. Max Grimston, R. V. Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Armagh) Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge) Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. Haughton, S G. Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)
Astor, Hon M Head, Brig. A. H. Price-White, Lt.-Col. D
Baldwin, A. E. Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C. Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H Henderson, John (Cathcart) Ramsay, Maj. S.
Boechman, N. A. Herbert, Sir A. P. Rayner, Brig. R.
Bennett, Sir P. Hogg, Hon. Q Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)
Boles, Lt.-Col. D C. (Wells) Hollis, M. C Renton, D.
Bossom, A. C Howard, Hon. A. Roberts, H. (Handsworth)
Bowen, R. Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) Roberts, Maj. P G. (Ecclesall)
Bower, N. Hurd, A. Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Hutchison, Lt.-Com. C. (E'b'rgh W.) Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland
Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan Jarvis, Sir J. Ropner, Col. L
Brairhwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Jeffreys, General Sir G. Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W Jennings, R. Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W Sanderson, Sir F.
Bullock, Capt. M. Keeling, E. H Scott, Lord W.
Butcher, H W Kendall, W. D. Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.
Byers, Frank Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H Smith, E P. (Ashford)
Carson, E. Lambert, Hon. G. Snadden, W. M
Challen, C. Lancaster, Col, C. G Spearman, A. C. M
Channon, H. Langford-Holt, J. Spence, H. R.
Churchill, Rt. Hon. W S Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.
Clarke, Col. R. S. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Stoddart-Soott, Col. M.
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G. Lipson, D. L Strauss, H G (English Universities)
Cole, T. L. Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Lloyd, Selywn (Wirral) Studholme, H G.
Cooper-Key, E. M. Low, A. R. W. Sutcliffe, H
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Lucas, Major Sir J Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)
Crowder, Capt. John E. Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O. Thomas, J. P L (Hereford)
Cuthbert, W. N. MacAndrew, Col. Sir C. Thorneycroft, G E. P. (Monmouth)
Darling, Sir W. Y. McCallum, Maj. D Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Davidson, Viscountess Macdonald, Sir P (I. of Wight) Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A F.
Davies, Clement (Montgomery) McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Touche, G. C.
De la Bère, R. Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (B'mley) Turton, R. H.
Digby, S W. Macpherson, N. (Dumfries) Vane, W. M. F.
Donner, P. W. Manningham-Buller, R. E. Wakefield, Sir W. W
Drayson, G. B. Marlowe, A. A. H. Walker-Smith, D.
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Marples, A. E. Ward, Hon. G. R.
Duthie, W. S. Marsden, Capt. A. Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie
Erroll, F. J Marshan, D. (Bodmin) Wheatley, Colonel M. J.
Fletcher, W. (Bury) Mellor, Sir J. White, Sir D. (Fareham)
Foster, J. G. (Northwich) Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury) White, J. B. (Canterbury)
Fox, Sir G. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cir'nc'eter) Williams, C (Torquay)
Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale) Mullan, Lt. C. H. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Gage, C. Neven-Spence, Sir B Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U.
Galbraith, Cmdr T. D Nicholson, G. Willioughby de Eresby, Lord
Gammans, L. D. Nield, B. (Chester) York, C.
George, Maj Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke) Noble, Comdr. A. H. P
George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey) Nutting, Anthony TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Mr. Drewe and
Grant, Lady Orr-Ewing, I. L. Commander Agnew.
Granville, E. (Eye) Osborne, C.
Adams, Richard (Balham) Gordon-Walker, P. C. Platts-Mills, J. F F.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood) Popplewell, E.
Alpass, J. H Grey, C. F. Porter, E. (Warrington)
Anderson, A. (Motherwell) Griffiths, W D. (Moss Side) Porter, G. (Leeds)
Anderson, F (Whitehaven) Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R. Pritt, D. N.
Attewell, H. C. Hannan, W (Maryhill) Proctor, W. T.
Awbery, S. S. Hastings, Dr. Somervilla Pryde, D. J.
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B. Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Pursey, Cmdr. H
Baird, J. Herbison, Miss M Randall, H. E.
Balfour, A. Holman, P. Ranger, J.
Barton, C. Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Rankin, J
Bechervaise, A. E. House, G Robens, A.
Beswick, F. Hoy, J. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Blackburn, A. R Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Rogers, G. H R.
Blenkinsop, A Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr) (toss, William (Kilmarnock)
Blyton, W. R Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Royle, C.
Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool) Sargood, R
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Irving. W. J. (Tottenham, N.) Scollan, T
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exoh'ge) Janner, B. Segal, Dr. S.
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Jeger, G. (Winchester) Shackleton, E. A. A.
Brook, D. (Halifax) Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S. E.) Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Jones, D. T. (Harllepools) Simmons, C J.
Brown, George (Belper) Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow) Skeffington, A. M.
Buchanan, G. Jones, P. Asterley (Hltohin) Smith, C (Colchester)
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Keenan, W Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W)
Callaghan, James Kenyon, C. Snow, J. W
Castle, Mrs B. A. Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E Solley, L. J
Champion, A. J Klnley, J Sorensen, R. W.
Coldrick, W. Lee, F, (Hulme) Soskice, Maj. Sir F
Collindridge, F. Levy, B. W. Steele, T.
Collins, V. J Lindgren, G. S Stubbs, A E
Comyns, Dr. L. Longden, F Sylvester, G. O.
Cook, T. F McAllister, G. Symonds, A. L.
Corbet, Mrs. F K. (Camb'well, N W.) McGhee, H. G Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Corlett, Dr. J. Mack, J. D. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Corvedale, Viscount Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N. W.) Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Crawley, A. Macpherson, T. (Romford) Thomas, J. O. (Wrekin)
Daggar, G. Mallalieu, J. P. W. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Davies, Edward (Burslem) Mann, Mrs. J. Thorneycroft. Harry (Clayton)
Deer, G. Mathers, Rt. Hon. G Tiffany, S.
de Freilas, Geoffrey Medland, H. M. Timmons, J.
Delargy, H. J Mellish, R. J. Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G
Diamond, J. Middleton, Mrs. L. Walker, G. H
Dobbie, W. Mikardo, Ian. Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Dye, S. Millington, Wing-Comdr E R Watkins, T. E.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Mitchison, G. R Watson, W. M
Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) Moody, A. S. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Evans, A. (Islington, W.) Morgan, Dr. H. B Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Evans, John (Ogmore) Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.) West, D. G.
Evans, S N (Wednesbury) Morris, P. (Swansea, W.) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Ewart, R. Moyle, A. Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Fairhurst, F Murray, J. D. Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Farthing, W. J Nally, W. Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Fernyhough, E Neal, H. (Claycross) Willis, E
Field, Capt W J. Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.) Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Fletcher, E G M. (Islington, E.) Nicholls, H R. (Stratford) Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H.
Foot, M M. Noel-Baker, Capt. F E. (Brentford) Woodburn, A
Foster, W. (Wigan) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby) Woods, G. S
Fraser, T. (Hamilton) Noel-Buxton, Lady Wyatt, W
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N O'Brien, T. younger, Hon Kenneth
Gibbins, J Oliver, G. H. Zilliacus, K
Gilzean, A. Pargiter, G. A
Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Pearl, T. F. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Pearson and Mr. Wilkins.

Question put, and agreed to.