asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what official conversations he has had with the heads of Government of Middle East oil—producing States, on part ownership of the oil wells, owned by British companies or where British companies are concessionaries, in the light of the Aramco agreement, details of which are in his possession.
Sir G. Nabaro:
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the Aramco agreement with the oil-producing States represents a most important precedent which may have a profound influence on this country's fortunes in the future, and will he, therefore, give an absolute undertaking that this House will be informed of all developments, especially in relation to Her Majesty's Government's minority shareholding in B.P.?
This is an important matter, and I understand that the announcement by Aramco was taken in conjunction with other major oil companies. The British Government's position is that we normally reckon that it is for the companies themselves to engage in negotiations, although we stand ready to assist in any way which is requested of us. We shall keep in close touch on this matter, but I think it batter that negotiations should continue in the usual way.
Is it not a reasonable assumption that the price which we shall have to pay for oil to the Middle East countries will rise dramatically over the next decade or so? Will the right hon. Gentleman and the Foreign Office make representations to this effect to the Department of Trade and Industry when it is formulating its fuel and power policy, especially with reference to the part that our indigenous coal industry can play in it?
I accept that changing patterns in regard to the oil-producing countries are likely to continue to have an adverse effect on oil prices in consumer countries. It is for Her Majesty's Government as a whole to take decisions regarding fuel policy. One of the things we should be doing—and we are doing it—is actively to expand our indigenous supplies of oil and natural gas.