Petrol Rationing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th May 1950.

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Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock 12:00 am, 19th May 1950

The hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) covered a very wide field. He started by talking about the fuel crisis, among other things, and eventually got as far as Australia. But I do not think he made any real attempt to prove that this was a really substantial and justified Motion. I have listened to most of the speeches in this Debate and very few, £f any, of the speakers opposite have made any attempt at all to analyse what would be the cost of derationing petrol in terms of increased consumption, whether it came from resources outside or inside the sterling area. I think that is the crux of the whole matter.

I well remember the right hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. G. Lloyd) speaking in the last Debate we had on this subject—I think it was on 27th March—when he pointed out that there were 4 million metric tons of surplus oil in the sterling area which, if used in substitution for dollar petrol at present being used in the sterling area, would result in a saving of 60 million dollars. Are we justified at this time in throwing away such a saving?

At the beginning of this week the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) spoke about the grave difficulties of our economic situation. He played down the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer declaring that he had been far too optimistic in his build-up of the sterling area's gold and dollar resources. He was followed later in that Debate by the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) who said that we had done well and proclaimed himself the apostle of danger. We now find, three or four days later, back benchers opposite proclaiming themselves apostles of danger. They are advising us to live dangerously and to act dangerously—to eat into these hardly built-up dollar resources, and, instead of making an effort to conserve and build them up still further, to take action which would, on their own calculations, considerably cut them down.

I entirely agree with what was said by an hon. Member on this side who suggested that this matter should be looked at, not from the point of view of the individual, but from that of the national situation. If we do that, I can see no justification at all for endangering the economic stability of this country, of the whole sterling area and of our future in order to satisfy, or to make an effort to redeem, some of the irresponsible speeches made on Conservative platforms during the General Election. It is even worse than that.

I am sorry the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) has left the Chamber—[An HON. MEMBERS: "He is here."]—because I can remember one of his pleasant and entertaining speeches of the garden fete type toeing rehearsed in this House not so very long ago. He was then declaiming about the evils of the licensing authorities. He was pleading, as had many of his colleagues on the other side, that we should give far more licences to people who applied for them for road transport vehicles. If we applied that taking away of controls, plus the one that was suggested a few minutes ago by the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) when he quoted Lord Nuffield's statement that we wanted a bigger supply of cars for the home market——