HC Deb 09 November 1954 vol 532 cc1037-8
41. Sir R. Boothby

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the holding of Her Majesty's Government in the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company; the assets of the company, following the recent agreement with the Iranian Government; and the estimated value of the shares held by Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Her Majesty's Government hold £11,250,000 of issued ordinary stock and £1,000 of issued preference stock. The value of this holding on the basis of current prices is about £201 million. In addition to a 40 per cent. interest in the Persian Oil Consortium, the company's main assets are its interests in Kuwait, Iraq, and Qatar, its refineries and marketing organisations in many countries, its tanker fleet, its research establishments and its various other exploration and production interests.

Sir R. Boothby

In view of the very substantial interest of Her Majesty's Government in this company and its past record, which has not been characterised by diplomatic acumen of the first order, will my right hon. Friend request the somewhat taciturn Scot who is chairman to furnish the Government and this House with as much information with regard to the present financial position and future policy of the company as is normally given by the chairmen of concerns of comparable size and importance?

Mr. Butler

My hon. Friend may be well satisfied that the Government are obtaining all the information they want.

Mr. Gaitskell

Would the Chancellor of the Exchequer not agree that the great success of this State investment in a private firm suggests that it would be an excellent thing if the State were to purchase ordinary shares in a large number of other private concerns, so that the capital gains at present enjoyed by private individuals would accrue to the community?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir.