HC Deb 02 March 1955 vol 537 cc2034-5
4. Mr. John Hall

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make available in the Library the Report of the Economic Commission for Europe on the Price of Oil in Western Europe.

25. Mr. Dodds

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement in respect of the Report on the activities of international oil companies sent by the United Nations for consideration by Her Majesty's Government; on what date the Report was received; what consideration has been given to it; and what action is contemplated.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. R. H. Turton)

I would refer to my answers to the hon. Members for Northfield (Mr. Chapman) and Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) on 24th February and to the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery) on 28th February. The Report was received on 23rd February. It is now being considered by Her Majesty's Government with a view to preparing suitable instructions for the United Kingdom Representative at the meeting of the Coal Committee of the Economic Commission for Europe on 9th and 10th March, when this Report will be discussed by the participating Governments.

Mr. Hall

In view of the report appearing in the Press that this Report states that there is no economic reason why the price of oil in the Middle East should be tied to the United States price, should not it be made available for hon. Members to read at the earliest moment so that we can arrive at our own conclusions?

Mr. Turton

The difficulty is that this Report is a restricted document. It has been made a restricted document by the Secretariat of the Economic Commission and, therefore, until the participating Governments have met on 9th March, I cannot make any comment on the contents of this document.

Mr. Swingler

But this document does not seem to have been restricted from the Press. Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that fairly full summaries of parts of it have appeared in newspapers in this country, and would he not, therefore, consider making representations to the Secretariat to release this document from the many restrictions still on it, so that hon. Members may have the full benefit of the knowledge that can be gained from it?

Mr. Turton

I am aware that reports of this document were circulated in the Press, and I believe that some reports were circulated at about the same time as Her Majesty's Government received this document on 23rd February, but it was made a restricted document by the Secretariat, and until the participating Governments have met to consider it, I cannot comment on its contents.

Mr. Speaker rose

Mr. Dodds

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not the custom of this House that when an hon. Member has his Question coupled with an earlier one he can ask a supplementary question?

Mr. Speaker

I had not observed that. I usually do allow it. Mr. Dodds.

Mr. Dodds

In thanking you, Sir, for giving me an opportunity to ask this supplementary question, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is aware that I have his answer of 24th February? It is totally unacceptable. Is it not a fact that what he calls a restricted document is restricted purely because of the opposition of the friends of the oil companies, and as this matter enters very much into the cost of living, will he see that these racketeers are not protected unduly by this Government who have a pledge to the people?

Mr. Turton

Whether a document is restricted or not depends on the ruling of the Secretariat of the Economic Commission—[An hon. Member: "It was in the Press"]—who made that ruling on their own initiative. That is the position I stand in today.

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