HC Deb 21 March 1961 vol 637 cc203-4
41. Mr. Ginsburg

asked the Prime Minister whether he will instruct the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Power to co-operate together in producing a White Paper on the gains and losses to the national economy, both internal and external, from the operations of the oil industry.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I am told that there is already available a formidable volume of statistical information about this industry.

Mr. Ginsburg

Is not that a most complacent reply? Is not the Prime Minister aware that the oil imports for 1959—the latest year for which figures are available—stood at £467 million and that exports from this country were £101 million? Is he further aware that such news as is available—there are no published figures of earnings overseas of British oil companies—is far from reassuring? Would not it be better for the facts to be set out clearly for the public to see?

The Prime Minister

There are difficulties about publishing balance of payments figures for a single industry.

Mr. Nabarro

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that this House regularly receives—in fact every month—the Trade and Navigation Returns which set out all these figures in meticulous detail, and that these are amply augmented by the statistical surveys of oil companies which have guided successive Ministers of Power for the last eleven years?

The Prime Minister

I am quite sure that there is a lot of statistical information available.

Mr. Gaitskell

Nevertheless, will the Prime Minister bear in mind that this is an extremely complex yet very important affair? I think my hon. Friend was concerned that we should have the whole situation set out clearly. Could not it all be done in the White Paper on the balance of payments, as it is a very important element in our balances of payments?

The Prime Minister

I will consider that, but I think the right hon. Gentleman will realise that there are some difficulties.