At the Council of Ministers on 5th and 6th November, attended by my right hon. Friend and myself, the energy situation was discussed with our Netherlands and other Community colleagues. It was agreed to keep matters under review and to work collectively and individually for a solution of the Middle East problem. The declaration on the Middle East was a first contribution to that end. Further consultations were held in Copenhagen on 20th November on this and other matters.
What is the point of discussing European energy co-operation or, indeed European economic co-operation if we are prepared to help destroy the Dutch oil industry on the instructions of our Arab oil suppliers?
If the case were as my hon. Friend has postulated, we should indeed be faced with great problems. The truth is that we have had profound and deep discussions with all our Community partners, including the Netherlands, and have reached a conclusion as to our common line of action, which we are now pursuing. It would be unwise to seek to go beyond that common line of action, agreed with all our partners.
The right hon. Gentleman has said that we shall approach this problem collectively and individually. What does he mean by "individually"? Shall we approach the problem individually and forget what the right hon. Gentleman meant by saying "collectively"?
No. In making this response I simply mean that there is a field of work in which collective action is useful. There is also one in which individual action is useful. What we are concerned with doing, obviously, is maximising oil supplies to the Community.
Does my right hon. Friend recall a leader in The Times earlier this month which said that if we do not supply oil to Holland we shall be turning our backs upon Europe? Are we supplying oil to Holland, or are we turning our backs on Europe,—or is there a division of opinion over the Common Market, at last, between The Times and the Government?
Is Shell ordering the diversion of supplies, directly or indirectly? The right hon. Gentleman has referred to an agreement among the members of the EEC on a common line of action. Are we to understand that the Dutch Government are in full accord with that decision by the EEC members?
On the latter point, yes, the Dutch Government are in full accord. At the meeting on 20th November to which I have referred, they repeated their accord with the common line of action proposed. Concerning the Shell Company—and, indeed, any other oil company—there is no question of diversion. It has its own decisions to make about the routing of the supplies to which it has access in the various producing areas. That is the position. There is no question of diversion in so far as it makes decisions in relation to its own routing schedules.
The latest proposals were made by the Commission in August. They were mainly about oil and have since been under discussion by officials of member States. Further detailed proposals for a European energy policy are awaited.
Will Britain obey the Arab directive to apply oil sanctions against Holland and the Rotterdam refineries? If so, is it not a waste of time to talk about a European energy policy? Surely it is meaningless without solidarity and mutual aid. Does the Government's policy of even-handedness not also apply to Europe?
No, I think my hon. Friend has got it wrong. The Arab action has been in relation to supplies emanating from their countries to Holland. It has, therefore, so far as I am aware, not in any way at this stage sought to impose a ban on movements between European Community countries. Indeed, there are provisions within the treaties which would at this present stage, except in the case of an emergency, make that action not correct within the framework of the Community.
May we take it that in the discussions which have been taking place in the last few days between representatives of Saudi Arabia and the oil-producing countries and the British and French Governments, no demand has been made by the oil-producing countries that other European countries should cut down their exports to Holland?
No. So far as the missions which have reached this country are concerned, they have acted entirely in accordance with their own statements concerning their will to give certain preferences of supply to certain European countries. So far as I am aware, there has been no question of endeavouring to impose limitations of movement between Community countries.