I hate to find myself in disagreement with my hon. Friend; I am not at all unsympathetic to his request. What I am saying is that given the limited supply of petrol available to the people of this country—first, by the crisis which has come upon us, and secondly, by the chronic crisis in our affairs—we should all be much better advised in pressing that such petrol as is available is directed towards improving the public services, instead of cutting them down in this lamentable way.
When I hear, from both sides of the House, a remarkable moaning and gnashing of teeth on behalf of the supposedly about-to-be impoverished taxi drivers and taxi owners, I am bound to throw my mind back to the time when I returned after the war; and I cannot say that I noticed that those who had been occupied during the petrol rationing period in driving taxi cabs appeared to have suffered any spectacular malnutrition as a result of the petrol rationing which had been in force. I have no reason to imagine that anybody need fear any such lamentable occurrence in this connection now.
It is possible—and nobody is better qualified to do it at greater length than I am—to enlarge indefinitely on the number of categories who ought to have the special favour of the Minister, who no doubt is waiting to reply so that he can refuse them all, as I hope he will. One could apply on behalf of people who have been told by their doctors that they have incurable cancer or any other incurable disease. Why should they be deprived of driving in the last months of their lives? Why should we not give special consideration to those orphaned in the war? Why should we not give special consideration to those who lost limbs in the war? I do not say that sneeringly. I am merely pointing out that the categories of humanity entitled to special consideration can be enlarged indefinitely until they embrace the whole community.
In all probability the Minister will have to consider some 3 million applications, and give each and every one of them careful and impartial consideration to determine what the judiciously considered and socially desirable share of the community's restricted supplies of petrol is in each case. The only right way in which the available petrol should be used, apart from its use for certain categories of high priority personnel such as doctors and those in urgent medical services, is in the public transport services, to save them from being cut down in the present manner.
I conclude with this thought. I believe myself that this country is facing an economic crisis, and that it may face siege conditions, but that this is not the way to bring home that fact to the people, and that a much more realistic and serious approach is required instead of the somewhat flippant approach which, it seems to me, is widened, though perhaps unconsciously, by this attitude that sympathetic consideration should be given by the Minister to these special applications. The most serious consideration should be given by the Minister to the allocation of this precious fuel.