HC Deb 20 January 1975 vol 884 cc1005-6
13. Mr. Ridley

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what percentage of a barrel of crude oil can be made into petrol.

Mr. John Smith

Taking United Kingdom refineries as a whole, this normally lies between about 10 and 15 per cent. The actual figure depends upon a number of factors including the type of crude oil, the refining processes employed and the demand for naphtha as a petrochemical feedstock.

Mr. Ridley

May I offer my gratitude to the Minister for having given me the Answer first on a piece of paper—

Mr. Speaker

Order. May we have a comprehensive expression of gratitude? This is the fourth time that this has happened.

Mr. Ridley

Nevertheless, Mr. Speaker, I am grateful and I hope that it may become standard practice. It will be very welcome.

Why is it that the Government seek to levy tax on 10 or 15 per cent. of the contents of a barrel of crude oil and leave the other 85 to 90 per cent. untaxed? Is it because they have a hate against the private motorist, who seems to be bearing the whole brunt of the tax on oil, and why is this prejudice so evident?

Mr. Smith

The hon. Member is not giving a fair summary of the position. People who use oil for domestic heating have had increases which have almost doubled the price of their oil during the last year. The Chancellor has loaded the tax on to the private motorist because this is an area where economies can be made without affecting our industrial effort.

Mr. Hall-Davis

At a time when recession is clearly biting in those industries which are closely linked with the use of petrol, and since the purpose of the restrictions is to right the balance of demand, is it not worth considering whether there should be a more general onslaught on import levels and an easing of the onslaught on petrol? Is not this advisable if we are not have undue and perhaps avoidable unemployment and recession?

Mr. Smith

The hon. Gentleman's constructive approach indicates the problem of balancing conflicting considerations. An energy conservation programme which bites too deeply might affect our industrial effort and make us worse off than we were orginally. That consideration must be borne in mind by those demanding more extreme measures. I shall bear in mind what the hon. Member said, but my right hon. Friend the Chancellor was right in his judgment that in present circumstances the use of petrol by the private motorist is an area in which economies can most easily be effected.