HC Deb 14 June 1966 vol 729 cc1230-1
30. Mr. Palmer

asked the Minister of Power if he will introduce legislation, after due inquiry into ways and means, to provide for a greater degree of State interest and control in the oil industry on the lines already being followed in the mixed economies of other West European countries.

Mr. Marsh

I have no plans for such legislation.

Mr. Palmer

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that there is not very much hope of getting a balanced fuel and power policy in this country until the whole question of control of the oil industry is looked into? Will he make a new start in his Ministry and look at some of the experience of Western Europe generally in this matter?

Mr. Marsh

It is true that some European countries, particularly France and Spain, exercise more control over their oil companies than we do in this country. However, others, including Germany and the Netherlands, have policies similar to our own. I am not making any pronouncement on what the long-term policy should be, but merely saying that we are at the moment reviewing the whole question of fuel and power policy in the light of new developments; but there are no policies at the moment which give rise to the sort of legislation mentioned by my hon. Friend in his Question.

Mr. Lubbock

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the British oil refining industry is capable of very substantial economies of scale and that at present refineries with a throughput as small as 2 million to 3 million tons are being constructed in Britain? Will he consult the President of the Board of Trade with a view to the I.D.C. procedures being used to prevent the construction of oil refineries with a smaller throughput of 2 million and 3 million tons per annum.

Mr. Marsh

The hon. Gentleman's question about I.D.C. procedures is, of course, a matter for my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. It is a fact that United Kingdom refinery output did not cover inland demand of bunkers last year, but this should be put right as planned capacity comes on stream.