Hydrocarbon Oil etc.

Part of Orders of the Day — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th July 1979.

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Photo of Mr David Stoddart Mr David Stoddart , Swindon 12:00 am, 4th July 1979

What I am advocating is that the Government should ensure that oil supplies from our own sources are not diverted to other places, such as South Africa and the Common Market countries, at the expense of people in Britain. It is the hon. Gentleman's Government who have done that, and not the previous Labour Government. Again, therefore, for the second time, out of his own intervention, the hon. Gentleman has condemned the present Government's policy.

Another point that I wish to make is about our own motor industry. The Government have been warned throughout the passage of this Bill that the doubling of VAT is bound to have an adverse effect on our industry. It will adversely affect our textiles industry and our footwear industry, as we heard last night. But an imposition on the price of petrol helps our foreign competitors in respect of cars, because a great part of the British small car market is supplied from abroad. Since the higher the petrol price, the smaller the car that will be in demand, so the worse our indigenous car industry will be hurt.

I conclude by referring to conservation. It is no good talking about trying to conserve scarce oil supplies merely by the price mechanism. That simply will not do. I listen to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) with great respect when he speaks on economic matters and Common Market matters. He talked about a glut. He virtually said that as sure as night follows day, a shortage will be followed by a glut. I wish that I could think that he would be proved right. Perhaps, over a period, and in normal supply and demand conditions, that would happen. However, in the case of oil there is no infinite supply. The market economy can and will work to the ultimate only if there is an infinite supply.

There is no true glut if the supply is finite. Following a glut there will be a shortage until eventually oil runs out. That is why the Government should not consider controlling oil conservation solely by price but rather turn their efforts to finding alternative forms of energy. Many of these have been mentioned this afternoon.

The Government should give encouragement and financial inducement to people better to insulate their homes. They should also ensure that our public transport services have a better allocation of oil. These services should be increased and the public encouraged to use public transport. That would consequently save oil. A great effort should also be made to bring in electric traction. Let me here put in a plug not only for electrification of our railways but a return of the trolleybus, which would save a great deal of oil. The trolleybus was phased out through the lobbying of the oil companies, but it was a great vehicle, capable of dealing with stage carriage transport. I hope that the Minister will persuade his colleagues in the Department of Transport to consider these alterative methods of traction.

This amendment should be supported. I hope that there are enough Tory Back Benchers with good memories to support the amendment.