§ Mr. RUPERT GWYNNE
asked the Home Secretary if he is aware that the Redhill town council refused after the outbreak of war to grant a licence to the British Petroleum Company to store petroleum in Redhill on the ground that it was a German concern; and whether, when he decided to grant a licence over the heads of and against the wishes of the town council, he was aware that practically all the shares of this company were owned by the Europaische Petroleum Union, which is clearly a German entity carrying on business in Germany?
§ Mr. McKENNA
A licence was refused by the town council of Reigate on the ground stated. In allowing the appeal of the company against this decision, I was aware of the German interests in the company, but it is misleading to describe it as a German concern. The European Petroleum Company, which holds all but a few of the shares in the English company, though registered in Germany, is an international company, and 50 per cent. of its capital is held by Belgian and Russian interests. The employés of the British company are all British, and 350 of them are serving with the Colours. The licence was not granted until power had been given by the Trading with the Enemy Amendment Act to prevent any dividends or profits being paid to German shareholders. A supervisor of the business has been appointed by the Board of Trade under that Act. The company are very large distributing agents throughout the United Kingdom, and hold, I understand, large contracts with the War Office and Admiralty, and great public inconvenience would be caused if the company were not allowed to hold licences.