HC Deb 22 March 1948 vol 448 cc2555-6
23. Mr. Thomas Reid

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement about the treatment of British oil companies by the Roumanian Government.

Mr. Mayhew

Yes, Sir. The policy of the Roumanian Government appears to aim at gaining possession of British and British-owned oil companies without payment. This is being done both by accusations of "economic sabotage," and by so interfering with their commercial activities as to force them into bankruptcy. One British oil company has been instructed by the Roumanian Government to sell certain of its assets to a Soviet controlled company at prices fixed in local currency by the Roumanian Government. The Roumanian Government has appointed administrators to two British-owned Roumanian companies. The State Administrator appointed to Astra Romana, the largest oil company in Roumania, has acted in a manner so prejudicial to the interests of the British majority shareholders that they recently decided to declare Astra Romana in a state of forcible dissolution and to withdraw the British staff from Roumania. The oil companies also have various causes for complaint against the Roumanian Government arising out of the Peace Treaty.

Mr. Reid

May I ask if anything can be done to stop this iniquitous policy on the part of the Roumanian Government?

Mr. Mayhew

Where companies have put forward claims or grievances His Majesty's Government have been ready to support them, and we shall be ready to do the same in the future.

Mr. Keeling

Is the Minister aware that the work of the British oil companies in Roumania, over a period of many years, did more to raise the standard of living in Roumania than any other single factor?

Mr. Platts-Mills

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that there will be widespread satisfaction in the country when finally we bring about a state of affairs where Britons are no longer associated with the ruthless exploiting of Roumania?

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

In what precise form does the Government intend to sponsor the claims of the oil companies?

Mr. Mayhew

We are at present actively discussing many of these issues with the Roumanian authorities, and we shall continue to do so.

Mr. Gallacher

May I ask the Minister if he would not advise the Roumanian Government to nationalise these oil wells, and then arrange compensation, on the same lines as the compensation for the railways in the Argentine?

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

Can the Minister say how many companies have received requests to mediate?

Mr. Mayhew

I am afraid I should need notice of that question.

Forward to