HC Deb 14 November 1974 vol 881 cc563-4
2. Mr. Douglas-Mann

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how long he estimates it will take, at current share prices, for the accumulated overseas trade deficit in respect of petroleum and petroleum products, at the current rate of deficit, to become equivalent to the value of a controlling—i.e. 51 per cent.—interest in the ordinary shares of all companies whose shares are quoted on the London Stock Exchange; and what the period would be if fixed interest securities were included in the estimate.

The Paymaster-General (Mr. Edmund Dell)

On 28th June 1974, 51 per cent. of the value of ordinary shares and deferred capital of United Kingdom registered companies quoted on the London Stock Exchange was equal to £14,150 million; and 51 per cent. of the value of preference shares and preferred and loan capital was equal to £2,140 million. The deficit on visible trade in petroleum and petroleum products in the three months to October averaged just under £300 million a month. My hon. Friend will be aware of the pitfalls in any such comparison.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

Would not my right hon. Friend not agree that the figures he has quoted are out of date and that current figures are even worse? If we take the September figures for the total value of equity shares, of £20,000 million, this means that at the present rate our oil deficit will be equivalent to a controlling interest in all United Kingdom British companies in just under three years. In the light of these figures, which have not emerged as clearly as they ought to have done from my right hon. Friend's reply, would he not agree that far more drastic measures for energy conservation are required than those contained in the Budget?

Mr. Dell

As has been announced, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy will be making a statement about energy conservation later this month. Meanwhile my hon. Friend will be aware that there are controls on direct inward investment and in certain circumstances on inward portfolio investment. Therefore the comparison which he makes exaggerates the dangers, especially taking account of the fact that so far the volume of direct inward investment by the oil producers has been small.

Mr. Robert Carr

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that, looked at from the other end of the telescope, this underlines the importance of the Government taking action which might reactivate the capital market in this country?

Mr. Dell

My right hon. Friend took such action on Tuesday.