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

We are reviewing the functions and activities of the BNOC. I shall take into account the point made by my hon. Friend. It is obviously relevant to the review.

On the question of naphtha supplies, the basic shortage is of crude oil from which naphtha and other fractions of the barrel come. Therefore, there is a shortfall of 5 per cent. right across the board.

I have urged all industry, including those companies using oil products, to seek to make economies and to do so—as many of them tell me they can—without necessarily cutting back production. There are many ways in our society—and we need only to stop and ponder these—of operating existing services and levels of production while cutting back on the use of oil by the sort of amount I mentioned.

I freely concede that if we were to have a far greater cut, and if there were to be another major shortfall in the Middle East, it would be different. However, to handle the present shortfall, I am convinced that it is far better to use the approach that I have outlined to the House, which I believe is more even-handed and fairer than any kind of rationing and allocation being pressed on the public, as is suggested from the Opposition Benches.