§ 15. Mr. Ovenden
asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he has yet decided whether to acquire the British Petroleum shares which were purchased by the Bank of England from the Burmah Oil Company.
§ Mr. Ovenden
Does my right hon Friend agree, as it is now nearly a yea' since the Bank of England acquired these shares, that a Government decision on this matter is long overdue? Does he not consider that it is contrary to the policy of the Government that a company like BP should be in public ownership—as it has been for the past year—without being subject to public control? Before my right hon. Friend takes a decision on this matter will he consider carefully the value and the advantages of having a publicly-owned oil company operating as part of the British National Oil Corporation?
§ Mr. Benn
I appreciate what my hon. Friend said. On the other hand, the Government have to take account of a number of considerations. That is why we have not yet reached a view of what we should do. The position of British Petroleum over the years since 1914, when Mr. Churchill bought 51 per cent. of the shares, has been seen as a special one. A great deal of its business is under 20 taken overseas on the basis of arrangements with the Government which have persisted for a long period.
§ Mr. Viggers
Before the Secretary of State extends the Government's sticky fingers still further over BP, will he bear in mind that the company is believed to have a better credit rating than the Government? Does he agree that this is a sad comment on the Government's recent policies?