We are, naturally, in continuous touch with Arab Governments about the cutback in oil supplies. The exchanges have resulted in assurances of supplies from some countries. We have also drawn Arab attention to the detrimental effects of the oil cutback on world economies, and pointed out that these effects would not be in the interests of our Arab friends.
I would not connect the two, and never have done. I would say that on its merits the political settlement in the Middle East has to include Israeli withdrawal and, complementary to that, security arrangements for Israel's frontiers and those of her neighbours. I would not connect the political settlement with oil. I have made it clear that our policy had nothing to do with the oil supplies but, on its merits, was that a political settlement should be brought into being.
We published a declaration of the Community on 6th November. In Copenhagen we were able to see representatives of the Arab countries and we impressed on them that they should not try to divide the European Community on these matters. We also impressed on them the danger of pursuing their present policy too far, because it could have such wide repercussions on world trade.
I believe that if the hon. Gentleman thinks about the matter he will feel that, by and large, the activities of the international oil companies have a good deal to be said for them. How long the present patterns of the international oil companies will last, we do not know. In the short term, the essential thing is to get the maximum supplies into Europe. In the longer term, relationships between producers and consumers can be worked out, and I hope that they will be.
At the summit meeting in Copenhagen on 14th and 15th December I had full discussions of the energy problems with my Dutch and other Community colleagues.
In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon), the right hon. Gentleman used the phrase "a change in the pattern of the international companies". Did he discuss that with the Dutch? What did he mean by that phrase?
We were talking about the supply of oil through the international companies, and I was asking the hon. Gentleman to look at the benefits that flow from the present practice of the international oil companies. That may be changed at some future date, but it has not changed yet.
The Foreign Secretary knows that the summit communiqué referred to immediate and effective action in the short term by the Community to meet the oil shortage problem. Does that immediate and effective short-term action include a pledge to the Dutch on oil sharing?
No, Sir. That has never been talked about either bilaterally with the Dutch or in the EEC. No one—including the Dutch—has talked about oil sharing. We have talked about what will happen, which is that the Commission will collect information from the members of the Community about the situations in the various Community countries, which vary enormously. We shall have this report by 15th January and we shall then be able to judge the situation. Neither the Dutch nor any other members of the Community have talked about oil sharing as such.