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Petrol Supplies

Volume 476: debated on Monday 26 June 1950

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De-Rationing (Staff Releases)

72.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what staff and premises have been released as a result of derationing petrol; and what expense has been saved.

One thousand seven hundred and forty temporary officers of my Department are under notice of discharge, as the result of the derationing of petrol. In addition, 280 established officers are being transferred by the Treasury to other Departments. The annual cost of the salaries saved is about £700,000. The premises which were formerly used as regional petroleum offices are being handed back to the Ministry of Works, who provided and paid for them. I cannot, therefore, say what savings will he made by their release.

I am glad of this opportunity to express again, as I did on 26th May, the gratitude of the Government, and, I believe, of the whole House, to the temporary and permanent officers who, over a period of years, so loyally and ably carried through the difficult task of administering the rationing of petrol.

Dollar Cost

75.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what will be the dollar cost of petrol this financial year and in a full financial year, respectively; and what is the anticipated increase in petrol consumption over last year.

I estimate that imports of motor spirit into the United Kingdom in the financial year 1950–51 from dollar sources, involving payment in dollars, will cost about 35 million dollars (£12½ million). There is also, of course, a dollar element in the oil produced by British companies; but, as I said on 15th May, in answer to the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot), it is impossible to say how much of this should be attributed to the petrol which they bring here.

I said when petrol was de-rationed, on 26th May, that it might mean an increased consumption of about one million tons a year. It is too soon to say whether this estimate is right, but, in any event, this will not affect the figure I have given since the additional petrol imported from dollar sources as a result of de-rationing will be paid for in sterling.

I think the right hon. Gentleman mentioned 35 million dollars. What rate of exchange did he use to reduce them to pounds?

Electricity Headquarters, Halesowen

73.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the sum licensed by his Department for the extension of the head quarters of the Midlands Electricity Board at Mucklows Hill, Halesowen, in the county of Worcester; and the quantities of steel, timber, bricks and cement that will be required for that extension.

A licence for work costing £59,000 was issued by my predecessor. The British Electricity Authority estimate that when the work is completed it will have required 139 tons of steel, 5.1 standards of timber, 410,000 bricks, and 245 tons of cement.

May I ask the Minister whether he heard the Minister of Works say five minutes ago that top priority should be given to housing? Could not these officials and clerks have been put into Nissen huts, so that these materials could have been devoted to the 2,000 homeless families in Kidderminster?

No, Sir, I understand that my right hon. Friend spoke of cement only. These officers, who are serving the nation, were scattered before in 27 different places, and in the interests of administrative economy and efficiency they must be united at the headquarters.

Surely that does not prevent the British Electricity Authority using Nissen huts, instead of expensive permanent buildings.

Korean Republic (Invasion)

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any statement to make on the situation in Korea.

Yes, Sir. Reports were received yesterday indicating that forces from North Korea had crossed the 38th Parallel at a number of points, in the course of the invasion of the Korean Republic. At the request of the Government of the United States of America an emergency meeting of the Security Council was held, at which a resolution was passed to the effect that the action of the forces of North Korea constituted a breach of the peace. The resolution called for the immediate cessation of hostilities, and called upon the authorities of North Korea to withdraw forthwith their armed forces to the 38th Parallel. The resolution further called upon all members to render every assistance to the United Nations in the execution of this resolution and to refrain from giving assistance to the North Korean authorities. The delegate of the Soviet Union did not attend.

His Majesty's Government are deeply concerned that this breach of the peace should have occurred in a country which is the special responsibility of the United Nations, and where a United Nations' Commission is actually functioning. His Majesty's Government welcome the resolution adopted by the Security Council, and it is their earnest hope that all concerned will duly comply with it.

We shall be grateful if the Prime Minister will keep us informed from day to day in the next day or two on this matter.

In view of the momentous gravity of a possible situation and the absence of the Russian delegate from the Security Council owing to the Chinese representation upon it, will the Prime Minister take steps through the Secretary-General of the United Nations to try to find some other means of opening discussions with the Russians on this matter?

This is a matter which is before the Security Council. It is not a matter of opening discussions with the Russians. The situation has arisen between North Korea and South Korea.

Can the Prime Minister say whether contact is being maintained with His Majesty's Minister in Seoul?

No, Sir. We only have a Consul, I think, in Seoul. We are keeping in contact.

Did my right hon. Friend understand from the question put by the Leader of the Opposition that he was asking that the House should be kept fully informed within the next few days?

In view of the very grave situation, if the North Korean Government refuse to consider this resolution will the Prime Minister advise his representative in the United Nations to ask for the use of the atomic bomb—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—Certainly—upon the capital of North Korea?

A question which asks "if" is bound to be hypothetical, and, therefore, out of order.