HC Deb 12 June 1956 vol 554 cc234-6
40. Mr. Cooper

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in view of the loss in sterling which will accrue to the sterling area on the take-over by the Texas Oil Company of the Trinidad Oil Company, what action he proposes to take.

48. Mr. H. Wilson

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is yet in a position to make a statement about the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards the proposed acquisition by a United States company of the assets of a British oil concern.

49 and 51. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he would arrange to acquire a majority holding in Trinidad Oil Company Limited, along the lines of the holding in British Petroleum;

(2) if he will use part of the resources which the Government have in British Petroleum Company Limited to finance a British group or consortium to take a majority holding in Trinidad Oil Company Limited.

50. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what action he has taken to prevent the sale of the shares of the Trinidad Oil Company to United States interests.

Mr. H. Macmillan

The matter is still under consideration, but I hope to make a statement shortly.

Mr. Cooper

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the estimated loss to the sterling area, if this transaction is allowed to go through, is from £2 million to £3 million a year, and will he consider this matter with the utmost care before permitting any scheme to be carried through which seeks to nibble away at our already slender reserves?

Mr. Macmillan

All these questions, of course, must be most carefully considered, and they are being considered, with a lot of rather complicated issues which surround this whole problem.

Mr. Hughes

Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether he has offered to lease the plateau of stability to the Texas Oil Company?

Mr. Macmillan

No, I think that will be so fruitful that I prefer to keep it in Britain.

Mr. Wilson

Now that the Chancellor has had more time to look more carefully into this matter, is he satisfied that he has the powers to veto this deal if he decides that it is in the national interest to veto it? While he is considering all the possibilities—and we hope that he will come to a decision very quickly indeed—will he bear in mind the feasibility of making it possible for the company to pass into the control of the Government of Trinidad, or, if there is to be a take-over bid, into the hands of the British Petroleum Co.?

Mr. Macmillan

These matters are being considered.

Mr. S. N. Evans

Would it not be a good thing to debate this matter before a decision is taken? Is the Chancellor aware that, for example, the Texas company is the most volatile partner in Aramco, without whose money anti-British propaganda in the Middle East, in the Persian Gulf, would not be financed? Should not that be taken into account during the negotiations?

Mr. Macmillan

All these matters, of course, are being considered, but I do not think we should gain by a debate before the Government are able to set out their decision.

Mr. Nicholson

Has my right hon. Friend any information whether other Trinidad oil companies are in the same predicament?

Mr. Macmillan

I do not quite know what the word "predicament" covers, but all these relevant factors have to be taken into account with the Government of Trinidad and with other Governments concerned, and that explains why it is not unreasonable that it should take several days, at any rate, before the Government reach a conclusion on so large an issue.

Mr. Wilson

Would the Chancellor answer the question which I put to him? Is he satisfied that he has the powers, if necessary, to veto this deal, and if so, do the powers belong to the Government in respect of the articles of association and the lease or in respect of the 1947 and 1952 Acts?

Mr. Macmillan

There are various powers governing different parts of the deal, which are of a very complicated character. Those powers I shall set out quite precisely when I make my statement.