HC Deb 15 April 1957 vol 568 cc1543-4
29. Mr. Lipton

asked the Paymaster-General when he will announce the end of petrol rationing.

The Paymaster-General (Mr. Reginald Maudling)

I said on 20th February that the removal of petrol rationing depends on the assurance of an adequate and regular flow of supplies. It is the Government's view that, having regard to the present situation in the Middle East, it would be unsafe to assume that this condition is yet satisfied, and it has been decided, therefore, that petrol rationing must stay for the time being. Nevertheless, petrol supplies have improved, and this has been reflected in the increased allowances already announced for the new rationing period beginning Wednesday.

Mr. Lipton

Is the right hon Gentleman aware that his reply today will be received with profound regret by large numbers of people who know that present stocks are quite adequate and that there is no reason at all why petrol should not be derationed forthwith? Does his Answer mean that there is no prospect at all of derationing before Easter?

Mr. Maudling

Everyone, including the Government, regrets the necessity for having rationing. My Answer means no more than it says. It has to continue for the time being.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Is rationing being kept on to justify the surcharge referred to just now, of which there seems to be no other justification at all?

Mr. Maudling

The answer to that is, obviously, "No."

Mr. H. Morrison

Is it not the case that consumption is within normal consumption by about 3 per cent.? I understand that to have been admitted in the House. Is it worth while keeping this elaborate machinery in the circumstances? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there were confident headlines in the newspapers last week saying that rationing was to be stopped, with the result that many people — not I: I do not trust the Government all that much yesterday and during the weekend used their cars? Do these confident predictions appear in the Press without the Government's having given a tip in some way or another?

Mr. Maudling

So far as the predictions were "confident," they were clearly inaccurate. The future supply position in the next quarter looks like being somewhere about 90 per cent. Supplies are not sufficiently certain to warrant the removal of rationing at this period.