§ 2.40 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask His Majesty's Government whether the British Government informed the Australian Government that the result of the derationing of petrol in Australia would cost 8,000,000 dollars per annum; whether they are aware that it has been stated that five cargoes of petrol from sterling areas have been refused on the ground that it was not required; and whether a revised estimate of the effect of the abolition of petrol rationing in Australia can be given.]
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS (LORD HOLDEN)
My Lords, your Lordships will recognise that decisions on petrol rationing in Australia are entirely a matter for the Australian Government. Nevertheless, as is the custom, the Australian Government discussed this question with the United Kingdom Government before deciding to abandon petrol rationing. In the course of this discussion it was estimated in the United Kingdom, on the basis of the Australian Government's estimate of the likely increase in consumption, that the cost of freeing petrol consumption in Australia would be of the order of 8,000,000 dollars in a full year. Later Australian estimates suggested a smaller increase in consumption. Replying to the last half of the noble Earl's question, I would say that according to the information available to the Government, the five cargoes of petrol to which the noble Earl refers were offered not from sterling areas but from Italian sources.
§ LORD HOLDEN
My Lords, as the noble Earl is aware, rationing was abolished in Australia as recently as February 8, and therefore at this moment it 228 would be only guesswork to give him an answer to that question.
My Lords, with regard to the noble Lord's statement that the petrol was offered from Italian sources, would he tell us whether or not balances on Italian and British accounts are settled ultimately in dollars?
§ LORD HOLDEN
My Lords, I regret to inform the noble Lord that at the moment I cannot answer that question, but I will communicate with him later if he wishes to know.