Oil Supplies

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th June 1979.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford 12:00 am, 11th June 1979

The right hon. Gentleman, from this statement and others that he has made, seems to be asking that the Government should move from their policy of helping individual customers' needs evenhandedly, working with the oil industry to that end, as we are doing, and working with suppliers to look at regional difficulties, and to go instead for full-scale official priorities for certain categories nationwide.

At present levels of shortfall, that would be wasteful, unfair and highly inefficient. It would mean deciding between who is essential and who is not. It would mean downgrading in priority categories such as people going to work, essential members of the motoring public, and it would mean downgrading the tourist industry. It would mean giving priority to whole categories, even where there was not a shortage of oil.

I take the view that the people I have mentioned—motorists, and people going to work by car—are just as vital to the British economy as are other areas. The right way forward, I am convinced, is to stick to the working arrangements between the oil industry and the Government, and to protect the country from being saddled with an enormous and expensive apparatus at this present level of shortage. [Interruption.] Rationing may be the instinct of the Opposition on these matters, but rationing would not produce a drop more oil and is not our instinct. I do not believe that it is the right way forward.