Oil Supplies

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th October 1973.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East 12:00 am, 24th October 1973

The House is very well aware of the reasons that led to the statement being made. I should like to ask the Secretary of State some questions. First, will the 2p a gallon increase which he mentioned be applied across the board as a flat rate to all users of oil? Secondly, do the Government intend to take charge of the negotiations with the supplying countries, in view of the obviously political nature of these arrangements, which can no longer be regarded as commercial deals to be left in the hands of the oil companies?

Thirdly, although the whole House will obviously support the appeal for economy and sensible contingency plans, is the Secretary of State aware that public transport, particularly in London where there are also staff shortages, is in no condition to take on board the additional burden of car users who might be induced to shift from one to the other? Will he look at this problem in conjunction with the Secretary of State for the Environment? Will he also watch to see that the oil companies do not discriminate against independent distributors and independent garages—as has happened in America—and the firms which rely upon them?

while welcoming the decision on exports so far as they go, why are exports of oil to the Community to be allowed to continue and what powers does the Commission have over the disposition of our own oil reserves, in view of the fact that we must now protect our own oil?

May I also ask, in view of the long-term nature of the problem, what steps the Government are taking to implement the recommendations of the Select Committee on Public Accounts published earlier this year, calling for a stiffening of the terms of licences for North Sea oil to protect our national interest by a bigger take for the Government and the taxpayer, and greater public participation?

As regards coal, can the Secretary of State tell the House whether he would be ready to play a very much larger part in bringing about a re-examination of the policy pursued by the CEGB on different types of firing of power stations, in view of the relative changes in the prices of the fuels?

On nuclear power, will he give an absolutely categorical assurance that there will be no purchase of American reactors for the nuclear power programme at home until the House has had a chance to debate the whole issue in the light of the Select Committee's report?

Finally, I hope that the Secretary of State will keep Parliament and the public fully informed, and will understand if we feel it necessary to ask for a major debate on these very important matters.