Oil Supplies

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

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

The price mechanism is not the whole answer, because obviously there are problems of transition and easing the impact of the higher prices which are bound to come, but the price mechanism is part of the situation. I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman felt it necessary to raise that question.

On the question of representations to the United Kingdom Petroleum Industry Association, once powers under the Energy Act are taken and directives given, the Government are then in the position of allocating and organising priorities. In that situation, it will be necessary for the Government and, indeed, hon. Members to justify choices in essential priorities between one user and another which may in practice not be justified and may create more injustice. With the present levels of shortfall, I am convinced that that kind of full panoply of apparatus of allocation by Government officials would create more difficulties and rigidities and undermine the work that is being done by the Government, the Department and the oil industry to meet customer needs and combat hardship during this first impact from Iran which has been working through this economy for many months. Let no one be under any illusion that it has suddenly sprung up during the last few weeks.