HC Deb 11 December 1956 vol 562 cc205-6
20. Mr. Allaun

asked the President of the Board of Trade by what percentage he estimates British output will be cut when oil supplies are reduced by 20 per cent. on 1st January.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

The reduction in oil supplies by 20 per cent. from 1st January will apply only to gas/diesel oils. The cut on fuel oils will remain for the time being at 10 per cent. No precise estimate of the effect on industrial output of this further cut of gas/diesel oils is possible, but it is thought that the effect will not be very great.

Mr. Allaun

Will the Minister tell the House how those firms which, for obvious reasons, are saving all the diesel oil possible, can cut their oil consumption by 20 per cent. without cutting their output and production?

Mr. Thorneycroft

There may be some cut in output, which will vary very much from firm to firm. I understand that a questionnaire has been sent out by the Ministry of Fuel and Power to the firms concerned, so that they will have an opportunity of stating the effect in each instance.

Mr. H. Wilson

Are not the Government being far too complacent about the effects of their policy on industrial production? Is not this a parallel to the complacency of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the economic debate five weeks ago, when he gave the impression that there was very little harm to our economy, whereas now we see day by day very serious harm? Will the right hon. Gentleman not get out of his head the idea that it is possible to cut the import of raw materials without a very serious effect on production?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I think we want to take a sensible position in this matter. We do not want to underestimate the problem which must arise if oil is short. At the same time, we do not want to slide into the much more dangerous opposite position of exaggerating all our difficulties, which would undoubtedly do grave harm to the economy.