HC Deb 30 November 1959 vol 614 cc844-5
11. Mr. Warbey

asked the Minister of Power what sums have been, or will be, expended on the purchase of oil for stocking purposes in each of the financial years 1958–59 and 1959–60.

13. Mr. Wainwright

asked the Minister of Power the separate amounts of crude oil and fuel oil which are stored in this country by Her Majesty's Government; the value of this oil; the cost of storage; and where the storage places are situated.

Mr. Wood

Capital expenditure by my Department on the supply, storage and distribution of petroleum products was £7.7 million in 1958–9 and is expected to be about the same in this financial year. In the public interest I am afraid I cannot give all the details asked for.

Mr. Warbey

Is the Minister aware that it is really nonsense to suggest that the defence of the country would be harmed in any way if the Government were to disclose exactly how much they are paying to the oil companies for this oil? Are we not entitled to know just how much more help the Government are giving to the oil industry than to the coal industry?

Mr. Wood

I am afraid that no Government have been able to go further than I have and to disclose other figures. Therefore, I am afraid that I am prevented from giving the hon. Member all the information which he would like for the comparisons which he wants to make.

Mr. Wainwright

Would the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House why it is that the Government of the day support private industry by spending £7.7 million a year when we have a nationalised industry which has huge stocks of coal and is made responsible for its own stocking? Would the right hon. Gentleman see to it that the Government are also responsible for the stocking of coal?

Mr. Wood

The hon. Member seems to be ignoring the fact that only last week I moved an Order in the House, which the House approved, in order to increase the borrowing powers of the National Coal Board so that it can finance stocks—which the hon. Member wants.

Mr. Finch

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that coal is of a strategic importance equal to that of oil? That being so, will the Government give assistance, apart from borrowing powers, for the stocking of coal so as to help the Board in the present emergency?

Mr. Wood

I do not want to be unduly controversial, but the hon. Member will appreciate that the reason for the present level of coal stocks is not strategic. It is that production has been exceeding demand. Therefore, I do not think that any valid comparison can be made between the two.

19. Mr. Wyatt

asked the Minister of Power by how much the consumption of fuel oil increased between 1953 and 1958; and how much of the increase came from refineries in this country.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power (Mr. J. C. George)

Seven million tons. During the whole period home production exceeded inland consumption.

Mr. Wyatt

How does the Minister work that out? The increase in production in oil refineries in the United Kingdom has been only 1½ million tons in the period, according to Board of Trade statistics?

Mr. George

If the hon. Gentleman looks up the figures of production at home he will see that a very large increase took place in 1953. By 1958 annual production had increased by a further 2 million tons. I would repeat that in the whole period home production has exceeded demand.

20. Mr. Wyatt

asked the Minister of Power the net fuel oil imports in the first nine months of this year; and the cost of such imports.

Mr. George

None, Sir. Our exports, including bunkers, supplied to oceangoing ships exceeded imports by about 1 million tons valued at about £6 million.

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