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Kuwait Oil Supplies

Volume 643: debated on Tuesday 4 July 1961

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asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what contribution is made to the United Kingdom balance of payments by Kuwait oil supplies; and to what extent British Petroleum, in which Her Majesty's Government is a majority shareholder, has an interest in these supplies.

It is not possible to distinguish the contribution to the balance of payments arising from the oil supplies from any particular country. The British Petroleum Company has an equal share with the Gulf Oil Corporation of America in the Kuwait Oil Company, which in the year ended 31st December, 1960, was responsible for the production of about 80 million tons of crude oil, representing the total output from Kuwait.

Will the Chancellor confirm that the Ruler of Kuwait has invested in British banks in London about £300 million which is his reserve from oil revenues during the last few years? As that large sum of money is evidently readily convertible and could have a dynamic effect on our balance of payments, will the Chancellor make some comment on what is obviously a very vulnerable financial position?

No. I do not think that I should make any comment at all. Nor do I think that I ought without notice to deal with the revenue or funds of the Ruler of Kuwait. If my hon. Friend puts down a Question about the matter I will consider whether it is right and proper for me to answer it.

As about four-fifths of the people in Kuwait are illiterate, how do they apply for shares in British Petroleum?

If the figure mentioned by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) of £300 million is correct—

No doubt the Chancellor will check it. Would it not be wise to ask the Ruler of Kuwait out of these huge reserves to pay the bill for what is going on?