HC Deb 09 March 1971 vol 813 cc227-9
12. Mr. Deakins

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his estimate of the net additional costs to the balance of payments of the recent increases in oil prices paid to the oil-producing countries.

17. Mr. Eadie

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the effect on the United Kingdom balance of payments the recent increased price of oil will make annually over the next five years.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

The additional cost of oil imports as a result of the Teheran oil agreement is likely to be of the order of £55 million to £60 million in 1971, rising to about £100 million in 1975.

Mr. Deakins

Do not the Minister's figures make it perfectly clear that the initial burden on our balance of payments, if and when we enter the Common Market, will be much greater than was envisaged by the previous Government, and should not this, therefore, make the present Government reconsider their attitude to this whole problem?

Mr. Macmillan

I fail to see why this extra burden consequent upon the increase in oil prices, which is shared by all the countries of Europe, should be a factor related to our entry into the Common Market. It happens to us whatever be the results.

Mr. Eadie

But will not the Minister agree that, in the light of the information which he has just given the House, even Chancellors of the Exchequer must now pay more attention to our indigenous fuel resources? Will he undertake to have consultations with his right hon. Friend with a view, for example, to investigating what rôle the coal industry would play in relation to our future energy requirements?

Mr. Macmillan

As the hon. Gentleman himself implied, this is primarily a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, but I can assure him that such consultations will be undertaken.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Does my hon. Friend think that it has escaped the Chancellor's attention that it would be a good thing to replace these increased costs on industry by some reduction in the tax on this sort of fuel in three weeks' time?

Mr. Macmillan

I shall not comment on that, save to say that, in the context of international competitiveness, this is one rising cost which is shared by our competitors.