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Haifa Oil Refinery

Volume 466: debated on Monday 4 July 1949

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the present position with regard to petroleum supplies from Haifa; and what representations have been made to the Government of Israel in this connection.

The Haifa refinery is not functioning at present owing to the recent hostilities in Palestine and to the fact that the pipeline from Iraq is still closed. There would not seem to be reason or occasion for His Majesty's Government to address themselves to the Government of Israel upon this subject. However, His Majesty's Government remain anxious to see Haifa operating again and we shall lose no opportunity of furthering this purpose.

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that, as the non-functioning of this pipeline puts a great strain on us in dollars, its added urgency at the present moment should be borne upon him and upon everyone else?

Can my right hon. Friend give the House an assurance that the Government are making every possible effort to get these refineries going again and making representations to all the authorities concerned in the Middle East, whether they be the Israeli, Iraqi or Egyptian Governments?

I am sure my hon. Friend will agree that no one periodical has exclusive information on this subject.

Are His Majesty's Government of the opinion that the proposal of the Iraqi Government that oil should only be allowed to come through the pipeline on the condition that it will not be used for war purposes the other end is a practical proposition, or not?

Is it not a fact that the major part of the supplies to the Haifa refinery always came by tanker? Cannot that part of those supplies be restored?

I cannot say definitely that the major part always came by tanker. I am in agreement that we should seek to restore any sources of supply to this refinery.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that Israel has expressed her willingness that the refinery should be used and in fact, for a short period after the establishment of Israel, it was so used, and that the Iraqi Government are standing in the way of any oil being sent through the pipeline? Will he do something about it?

I would have liked notice of the second part of that supplementary Question. The first part is correct, and, in answer to the third part, the Iraqi Government are not the only party to this proceeding.

In view of the fact that all the supply which used to come by tanker amounted to about two-thirds of the total, can my right hon. Friend say what is holding things up now?

I could not agree that two-thirds is a correct total, but I would not avoid admitting that it was a very substantial proportion. As my hon. Friend knows, it is a very complex problem.