Oral Answers to Questions — Secretary of State for Energy

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th June 1979.

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Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

Is the Prime Minister aware that many hon. Members have been deluged with correspondence from local authorities, transport undertakings and farmers about their failure to secure essential fuel supplies? As the Secretary of State for Energy appears to be embarked upon a one-man energy saving programme, cannot the right hon. Lady get him and the Minister of Transport together and impress upon them what the rest of the country knows already, namely, that proper allocation rather than pious exhortation is needed in this matter?

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I am very much against having a great big bureaucratic scheme of allocation. Two or three years ago we experienced very considerable shortages. When we had previous difficulty, there was then no system of allocation put into effect. If the hon. Member has particular difficulties in his constituency, perhaps he will get in touch with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy.

Photo of Mr Michael Neubert Mr Michael Neubert , Romford

Has my right hon. Friend seen the West German economic Minister's prediction today that there will be war within five years arising from the oil shortage? In view of the growing gravity of the petrol crisis, will my right hon. Friend urge upon her fellow statesmen at Tokyo a joint programme for reductions in petrol consumption throughout the Western world?

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

As my hon. Friend knows, at Strasbourg last week we tried to do all that we could to economise in our own countries on the use of oil and to try to bring our influence to bear on those who supply oil perhaps to increase the supply by a comparatively small amount, which is all that is needed. I agree totally with my hon. Friend that there is little point in our trying to depress the demand in Europe unless that is met with matching determination in the United States and Japan. We shall further that view at Tokyo later.

Mr. James Callaghan:

In view of the growing critical nature of the oil position, when do the Government propose to abandon their policy of selling nearly £1 billion worth of BP shares?

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I understood that the right hon. Gentleman's Government also sold BP shares.

Mr. Callaghan:

But is the right hon. Lady aware that there is a controlling interest in BP at the moment of more than 51 per cent. and that the shares which were sold did not reduce it below that level? Will she please give us any rational explanation why further shares should be sold at this time?

Photo of Mrs Margaret Thatcher Mrs Margaret Thatcher The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave the explanation in his Budget Statement. It is not the ownership of a company which counts; it is the laws which relate to that company. BP is a perfectly ordinary commercial company. It operates commercially. We should be free to dispose of some of those assets in accordance with what my right hon. and learned Friend said in his Budget Statement.