HC Deb 12 June 1934 vol 290 cc1663-5

10.28 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 16, line 16, at the end, to insert: unless the mean of the average calorfic values of the gas supplied by the undertakers in the said area in the first mentioned quarter and in the last preceding quarter was equal to or greater than the declared calorific value. This Amendment is to deal with tests and what is to be the accepted test. Representations were made that in a large area like the Metropolitan area, where there is a very large number of testing stations, it would not be fair to judge an undertaker merely upon the results of one testing station. An effort was made to counterbalance a deficiency in one area by an excess in another, but the effort was resisted by the Board of Trade as it was quite impossible, for instance, in the case of the Gas Light and Coke Company, to permit a deficiency in Ilford to be counterbalanced by an excess in Staines, or some area equally remote. At the same time, every instrument that measures gas—or indeed anything else, so far as I know—is liable to experimental error. An effort has been made to be equitable to the undertaker and fair to the consumer.

How soon will an error in an instrument be detected, because, once an error is known, all the tests made by that instrument which is shown to be capable of error will obviously be invalidated? How far back are you to go? Instead of taking one test and penalising the undertaker as a result, an attempt has been made to find a form of words which will be just to both parties. The arrangement suggested is that the tests shall be averaged out over two quarters. There is no question of counterbalancing a deficit and a surplus, but if a deficiency is indicated, and if in the previous quarter there is an excess, you take the quarter with the deficiency and the quarter with the excess, and only say that there has not been the declared calorific value if, on the mean of the two, a deficiency is shown. The provision is obviously an equitable one, which does little more than put into the Statute what we should all recognise as the margin of experimental error. With this explanation, I trust that the House will give me the Amendment.

10.32 p.m.


As I listened to the Parliamentary Secretary describing this perfect calculation, by which the purchaser of gas is to know what he is getting, it seemed to me to be all very complicated. As an electrical engineer, I was brought up on the plain volt and ampere. To calculate the units of electrical supply, you simply multiply the volts by the amperes. I should be glad if, before we leave this Amendment, we could have some assurance that the person who is using gas is not paying an extortionate rate for the apparatus, and that, on the basis of this weird calculation by which a deficiency in one area is made up by an excess in another, he is really getting value for his money.

10.33 p.m.


I think that the hon. Member has not quite followed the weird calculation. There is, of course, no question of making up a deficiency in one area by a surplus in another. It is the making up of a deficiency shown at a particular testing area by a surplus shown at the same testing area in another quarter.

Amendment agreed to.