HC Deb 16 March 1951 vol 485 cc1965-7
Mr. R. A. Butler

I put in a request, Mr. Speaker, to put a Private Notice Question on the subject of Persian oil, but I understand that as there is a Question on the Order Paper about that it is not possible for me to do so. I wonder, nevertheless, whether it would be legitimate to ask the Minister of State to make a short statement on this vital national question?

Mr. Speaker

It is a matter for the Minister. If he wishes to make a statement on the subject he can, of course.

The Minister of State (Mr. Younger)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and if the House wishes me to say something, I will say what I can, although, frankly, it is very little. There is little I can add at this stage to the reply given on 14th March to a Question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Haire). We have received no representations from the Persian Government regarding the nationalisation of the Anglo- Iranian Company's installations in Persia. According to our information, the Persian Majlis unanimously endorsed on 15th March a recommendation of the Oil Commission that the oil industry throughout Persia should be nationalised. The Commission were granted two months, which is understood to run from 14th April, in which to examine the application of the principle of nationalisation. The Majlis added an amendment to the Commission's resolution permitting them to summon foreign experts to assist them in their examination.

So far as I have been able to ascertain, the Note which His Majesty's Ambassador presented to the Persian Prime Minister on 14th March was not mentioned in the Majlis proceedings. A copy of the Note will be placed upon the Table. A full report on the Majlis proceedings, and of the circumstances surrounding them, is still awaited, and I think, therefore, that it would be inadvisable for me to make a fuller statement today.

Mr. Butler

Would the Minister of State agree that legally, under the terms of the agreement, the company's operations cannot be terminated by the unilateral action of the Persian Government? Pending the receipt of further information, may we be assured that His Majesty's representative in Persia will put the case to the Persian Government so that it may be considered in the most temperate atmosphere possible?

Mr. Younger

Yes, Sir, I think I can agree to that. In the Note of 14th March to which I referred we did make that point. As I say, I will lay on the Table the Note which we have already passed to the Persian Government. Of course, that was passed before this actual vote of the Majlis.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Did the Minister of State say that our Ambassador protested in any way against nationalisation in Persia? If so, how can the Government agree to nationalisation here, and oppose it when the Persians do it?

Mr. Younger

My hon. Friend is under a complete misconception. We are not protesting at all, as a matter of fact, in this Note, as my hon. Friend will see when he reads it. It is not a protest. We are calling attention to the fact that there are international obligations involved here, and that we do not think that they can be unilaterally broken.

Mr. Wyatt

Would my hon. Friend take steps to make it known to the Persian people that the oil royalties which should have gone to furthering the seven-year plan were not so used; and that they want to be very careful indeed about how they allow the present Majlis to take over the oil undertakings lest it misuse the funds it gets out of them, so that the Persian people get nothing from them?

Mr. Younger

I much prefer not to make comment on anything of that kind, and I should like to join with the right hon. Gentleman opposite in appealing for a temperate atmosphere.

Mr. Bing

I was about to ask a question about that. Would my hon Friend, perhaps, in view of the right hon. Gentleman's ability to put a case in a temperate way, of which we had a good example last night, get all the advice he can from him as to how this other Parliament should be approached?