HC Deb 14 April 1959 vol 603 cc790-1
15. Mr. Osborne

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many licences he has already granted for the importation of oil from Russia; for what quantity; how many other applications have been made for licences; and what are his reasons for not granting them for a five-year period instead of annually.

Sir D. Eccles

Over the last five years no application has been refused outright; one has been modified; 25 have been granted for 526,000 tons of oil not all of which has been imported. In addition, 140.000 tons have come in under 41 open individual licences on issue to long-established oil importers. Oil is now in surplus supply and it is, therefore, necessary to deal with imports on an annual basis.

Mr. Osborne

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that Russian oil is being offered at half the price of the Anglo-American counterpart and that many more firms would take it if they could be sure that they would have a five-years' supply, because the cost of converting from coal burning to oil burning is very considerable? Since the Russians have indicated that they would take part of the price in barter and therefore help our production in this country, would my right hon. Friend consider giving longer-term licences to those who wish to import?

Sir D. Eccles

I am not aware of the price differential which my hon. Friend has mentioned. This is a very difficult subject because, as a matter of fact, we have as much oil as and more than we want at the moment. I do not think that it would be wise to tie up our imports by giving a five-years' licence. That would be something quite exceptional.