HC Deb 10 March 1955 vol 538 cc599-600
29. Mr. Warbey

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has considered the report on the influence of cartel arrangements on oil prices submitted to him by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe; and whether he will introduce legislation in order to end these arrangements, so far as this country is concerned and to establish price control.

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Peter Thorneycroft)

I have nothing to add to the answer given on 24th February by my hon. and learned Friend to a similar Question on this subject.

Mr. Warbey

Are the Government really satisfied with the position in which we continue to pay Gulf prices for Middle East oil? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Report referred to says that some Middle East oil companies are making 400 per cent. profit on every gallon of oil? Will he do something to put an end to this costly racket?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I did say in answer to the previous Question that I was continuing to bear these things in mind.

Mr. Stokes

Has the President really examined the matter yet? Is he aware that it costs only £1 a ton to put oil into a tanker in the Persian Gulf, whereas it costs nearly £3 10s. in the Gulf of Mexico and the result is that the price is kept up to £4 10s. a ton to keep the American oil companies in business?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I said that I shall continue to bear this industry in mind as a possible reference to the Monopolies Commission. Both I and, I think, the previous Government have shown good sense in not debating matters before reference to the Commission.

Mr. John Hall

Does this not show the advantage which would accrue if the Report were made available to hon. Members? Will my right hon. Friend reconsider my original request to have the Report made available in the Library?

Mr. Thorneycroft

That is a question for the Foreign Secretary.

Mr. H. Wilson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is nothing in the Question about a reference to the Monopolies Commission? Can he confirm the statement published today, to the effect that this matter is to be referred to the Commission?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I think the whole question could be referred to the Foreign Secretary if there is no mention of reference to the Monopolies Commission.

Mr. Beswick

Since the right hon. Gentleman introduced the question of the Monopolies Commission and it is now more than two years since he said that he was bearing this matter in mind, can he say when he will come to a decision about referring it to the Monopolies Commission?

Mr. Thorneycroft

No, Sir. I will take it into account with other matters suggested to me at the appropriate moment.

Mr. Stokes

Are we to take it that the period of gestation of the Minister is like that of an elephant?

Mr. Thorneycroft

What the right hon. Member can assume is that we prefer on the whole to investigate the facts before announcing action on them.

Mr. Dodds

Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the answer, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment on Friday of next week.