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Persia (British Oil Interests)

Volume 485: debated on Wednesday 14 March 1951

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the threat to British oil rights in Persia.

I would first refer to the statement made by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary in answer to a Question on 21st February, 1950. It is, of course, both the right and the duty of His Majesty's Government to take all possible measures to protect the legitimate interests of a British commercial undertaking overseas.No representation has been received from the Persian Government regarding the nationalisation of the Company's installations in Persia. The present position on the Persian side, I understand, is that the Oil Commission of the Persian Parliament has unanimously passed a resolution to the effect that the proposal that oil should be nationalised throughout the country has received its "attention and acceptance"; since, however, time was too short "for study of the application of this principle," the Commission has asked the Persian Parliament to grant it an extension of time of two months. The Commission's resolution is now before the Persian Parliament.On, the Company's side, I understand that they for their part are willing to discuss an agreement on what can perhaps best be described as the basis of an equal sharing of profits in Persia, and had so informed the Persian Government before the recent unfortunate developments in Tehran.As my hon. Friend also made clear on 21st February, 1950, the Company's present Agreement with the Persian Gov- ernment is valid until 1993; and I would add that His Majesty's Government are advised that under the terms of that Agreement the Company's operations cannot legally be terminated by a unilateral act of the Persian Government.His Majesty's Government cannot be indifferent to the affairs of this major British interest. His Majesty's Ambassador at Tehran has accordingly been instructed to present forthwith to the Persian Government a Note on the subject.