HC Deb 11 June 1979 vol 968 cc12-3
22. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what representations he has received concerning the current shortage of diesel fuel and paraffin; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of State, Department of Energy (Mr. Hamish Gray)

I have been approached by a number of representative organisations such as the Road Haulage Association, the Freight Transport Association and the British Hardware Association, as well as by a number of individual consumers. I have undertaken to help sort out problems where there may be some special role for Government, but there is no getting away from the basic shortfall in supply which is something to which all consumers have to adapt.

Mr. Hannam

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Will he take account of the fact that in the outlying regions such as the South-West many firms and industries seem to be experiencing up to 25 per cent. cuts in the supply of diesel fuel and paraffin? Will he try to ensure that the distributive companies in this country give a fair distribution of fuel to these areas?

Mr. Gray

Yes. I can assure my hon. Friend that the Government are doing this. Both my right hon. Friend and I have had meetings with the petroleum industry advisory committee and we are keeping in very close contact with the industry. Our Department is monitoring the situation in various parts of the country. We are doing everything we can to ensure that the supply is spread evenly and that no specific area suffers more than any other.

Mr. Spearing

The Minister said that consumers should adapt, but is it sensible, when everyone wishes to conserve energy, for British Rail allocations to be liable to be cut when people are being encouraged to use public transport more? Does he agree that his statement should not apply to British Rail?

Mr. Gray

The public services will be required to make economies just as economies are required in other areas. I understand that the British Rail services which are to be reduced are not operating in peak hours.

Mr. Beith

Is the Minister aware that the uneven distribution of diesel fuel applies in Northumberland as well? Why does he not reactivate the kind of regional organisation that was used during recent emergencies so that the difficulties, when they arise, can be handled more quickly by his Department?

Mr. Gray

Each case is being carefully monitored by my Department, which is intervening as and where necessary. However, we do not believe that direct intervention by the Government will make petrol more readily available. That is why we have decided that nonintervention is likely to be the best answer in this case.