HC Deb 01 May 1947 vol 436 cc2183-235

3.52 p.m.

Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)

I beg to move, That the Control of Fuel (Restriction of Heating) Order, 1947 (S.R. & O., 1947, No. 765), dated 25th April, 1947, a copy of which was presented on 28th April, be annulled. In rising to move the Prayer standing in my name and those of my hon. Friends, I am bound to confess that, owing to the Rules of Order, I am in some difficulty. I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, will cast a lenient eye on the early part, at all events, of the remarks which I want to make, because I conceive that this Order, against which we are praying, is a matter affecting every household in the country, and, therefore, it will be of some importance to the public at large, and also to hon. Members of this House, if I deal very briefly with the circumstances in which it arises. I do not intend to enter into details, because it would be out of Order to do so, but to sketch the background against which we have to consider this Order. I am not clear exactly, how the statement which the President of the Board of Trade made earlier today, will affect the necessity for this Order, but, no doubt, there will be an opportunity for discussing that at a later stage.

I suggest that the first question to be put to the Government is this: Is this Order necessary? The second is: Is there any reasonable alternative to it? If it is finally decided that something like a cut of this nature is required, the question arises: Is this the best way to do it, and are there any inherent defects in the Order? So far as the first question—the necessity or otherwise of the Order—is concerned, until today, when we heard what the President had to say, we understood that there was a prospective gap of 10 million tons between the amount of coal available, or expected to be available, this year, and the prospective demand, and it was suggested that 7,500,000 tons out of that 10 million tons could be made up by cuts in industry, 250,000 tons by the railways, and the remaining 2,250,000 tons by the domestic consumer.

All I have to say about that is that I do not think there is anybody who knows anything about the coalmining industry today, including, I believe, Members of the Government, members of the National Coal Board and most responsible leaders of the miners, who would not be prepared to admit, privately, if not publicly, that it is within the capacity of the existing numbers of miners to produce, not only the 200 million tons required, but to go above it. My opinion is that they could produce 220 million tons, and, probably, even get it up to 235 million tons, if the necessary enthusiasm were inspired and instilled into them. So that it is because the Government has failed to inspire the miners with the necessary enthusiasm that they are now saying that this cut is necessary. So much for the first question, as to whether it is necessary. I believe increased production could be got—[HON. MEMBERS: "It has been got"]—No, it has not been got, because, hitherto, we have been told—we may be told something else today—by the Prime Minister this year that domestic consumers must produce a saving of 2,500,000 tons this year. If hon. Members look at the Prime Minister's speech, they will see that for themselves.

Is there any alternative? Until this statement was made by the President of the Board of Trade today—and I do not profess to understand and appreciate it fully at the present time—industry has been expected to make a cut of 7,500,000 tons. I do not want to discuss that today, because a much wider and better opportunity will be afforded later of discussing whether it is possible for industry to make a bigger cut or not. At all events, there is one obvious alternative, which, again, I do not want to discuss in detail, but merely indicate in passing, by which a saving could be made, and that is miners' coal. The figures are so striking that I think that hon. Members, and, I am quite sure, the public outside, will be interested in them. I do not propose to go into the history of miners' coal beyond indicating these figures. In 1938, 782,000 miners or wage-earners on colliery books drew 88,000 tons of coal per week. In 1946, 697,000 wage-earners on colliery books drew 93,000 tons of coal—a reduction of nearly 100,000.miners and an increase of 5,000 tons of coal per week. Now let us look at what the domestic consumer did by comparison. In 1938, the domestic consumption of coal, including anthracite and boiler fuel, was 887,000 tons—

The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Shinwell)

On a point of Order. This is all very interesting, and I make no complaint about it, but I would like your Ruling, Sir, on whether it is in Order. The right hon. Gentleman is now discussing the question of the amount of solid fuel consumed, whereas the Order before the House, which Members opposite are seeking to annul, relates only to restrictions on the use of gas and electricity. Later, we are to have a Debate of a general character, on the Motion for Adjournment. Is not the right hon. Gentleman now going into general matters?

Mr. Hudson

May I say, Sir, that if this Order is to be justified it must be based on necessity? I am not entering into details, hut I am saying that there is an obvious alternative to this Order, I think that what I was saying comes within the general conception of this Debate.

Mr. Speaker

Provided that the right hon. Gentleman does no more than sketch the background, I think he is in Order. As the Minister said, this Order relates to the limited subject of the supply of electricity and gas and, therefore, the background should not be too extensively filled in.

Major Lloyd George (Pembroke)

May I point out, Sir, that in this Order there is an interpretation paragraph which says that "fuel" means coal, paraffin, and so forth?

Mr. Speaker

The Order applies only to restrictions on the use of electricity and gas for domestic purposes.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

May I respectfully invite your attention, Sir, to the third paragraph of the Order? This, you will observe, refers to "fuel"—which is subsequently defined—and to the use of fuel for heating non-residential premises? I submit that that introduces elements other than gas and electricity.

Mr. Speaker

It does not introduce the production of fuel; only restrictions on the use of fuel.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

I appreciate the difficulty we are in, but it remains a fact that the object of this Order is to reduce the consumption of coal, that coal subsequently being translated into gas and electricity. I suggest that there is an alternative by which could be achieved a saving of 2,500,000 tons of coal. I do not wish to go into details, but I want to give the background of figures, and compare the hardships involved. I want to argue that this Order will inflict great hardship on housewives and people generally in the country, and to indicate how much that hardship could be reduced. I was saying that the domestic consumption of coal had dropped from 880,000 tons a week to 599,000 tons a week, while the consumption of miners' coal, for the same period, rose from 88,000 tons a week to 93,000 tons. It is clear that at present, miners as a whole are getting 5 million tons of coal a year, and that these same miners, if they used no more than the ordinary householder gets, would be using something less than 2 million tons a year. In that way alone, there could be made available for general use more than the 2½ million tons, which this Order is directed to save. I doubt whether the miners realise the situation. We have been reminded by Members opposite, particularly by the Minister of Food, of the Labour slogan, "Fair shares for all." We have been told that whereas before the war certain sections of the population ate a great deal more than others, and others ate less, we are now, more or less, all on the same level. If it is a good thing that there should be fair shares for all in food, I suggest that there should be fair shares for all in coal, so that the necessity for these present cuts would be avoided.

Mr. Tiffany (Peterborough)

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that in the case of agricultural workers?

Mr. Hudson

That point will be dealt with.

Mr. Beswick (Uxbridge)

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether he thinks that the prewar allocation was sufficient?

Mr. Hudson

I would point out to the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Tiffany) that the miners, at present, get approximately four times as much coal as the ordinary householder, and that if he applied that principle to agricultural workers, those workers would get four times as much food as an ordinary person.

Sir Arthur Salter (Oxford University)

Should not my right hon. Friend have added one further fact to indicate the scope of this problem? He has shown that if miners got no more than other members of the community, there would be a saving of about 3 million tons of coal, which would be greater than that effected by the new sacrifices, now being imposed on the whole of the population. Is it not the case that miners and their families number only one-twentieth of the population?

Mr. Hudson

I could develop this point at considerable length, but I do not want to transgress the Rules of Order. Actually, there are 708,000 miners, as compared to a gainfully employed population of 18 million.

Mr. Beswick


Mr. Hudson

I cannot give way to too many interruptions, because it might induce me to go still further outside the Rules of Order. The hon. Gentleman will no doubt get his chance to speak later in the Debate.

Let me turn to the scheme itself. Broadly speaking, it prohibits space heating, and when the Minister announced it, he said that in addition to the saving due to the prohibition of space heating, he hoped that housewives would succeed in making a voluntary overall saving of 25 per cent. this summer, including the saving to be made from space heating. In our view, the scheme is a good deal better than a rationing scheme, but we take no responsibility for it because it does not follow the advice we have given from this side, namely, that the proper way to deal with this problem is to tell the people of the country the facts, and ask them for a voluntary saving if it is necessary. This Order does not follow that advice. It mixes up compulsory and voluntary saving. Not only that, but I am sure that we shall be glad to learn from the Parliamentary Secretary whether the scheme follows the advice given to him by the industry itself. After all, the people in the industry know most about consumption, and the regulation of consumption, and I take leave to doubt whether they agree that this is the best scheme that could have been devised.

In any case, the scheme will cause very severe hardship. The domestic consumer has already been more severely cut in coal consumption than any other section of the population. I have just given the figures—a reduction from 880,000 tons a week to 599,000 tons. Let the House not forget that the domestic consumer is not certain of getting, today, the 34 cwt. or 50 cwt. to which he is normally entitled. In the course of the Debate the other day, the President of the Board of Trade took me to task for suggesting that there was to be another cut in domestic fuel. We are having a cut in domestic fuel now. A statement was issued as recently as 26th April by the Ministry of Fuel and Power, warning the people of the country that they were not necessarily to count on getting even their 30 cwt. or 50 cwt., and in addition, a further cut was announced in the supplies of coke. Not everyone uses coke for domestic consumption, but a great number of people eke out their supplies of coal with coke, and, therefore, within two months of making the promise that no cuts in domestic fuel would be made, the President of the Board of Trade and the Government have gone back on their word.

Mr. Shinwell indicated dissent.

Mr. Hudson

The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but he had better read HANSARD for 26th February, column 2190, and see what the President of the Board of Trade said. This is a statement from his own Ministry. Unhappily I have not with me an actual copy of what the Ministry issued

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power (Mr. Gaitskell)

I can clear that up straight away. There is a difference between the maximum permitted quantity and the actual allocations to different classes of domestic consumers. What we have done is to reduce the maximum which any one consumer may acquire in the form of coke for the year, but we have not touched the allocations.

Mr. Hudson

That seems to be a complicated way of telling the House that people are not going to get as much as they expected. The statement says that up to now no one may have more than 20 cwt., and it goes on to say that a reduction of 5 per cent. in the total is due, etc. Therefore, people instead of getting 20 cwt. are only to be allowed 20 cwt. minus 5 per cent., which is a reduction, whatever the hon. Gentleman likes to say. I am sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary cannot realise that people hitherto allowed 20 cwt. who are next year to be allowed 20 cwt. less 5 per cent. will in fact suffer a reduction.

Mr. Shinwell

They may get the same.

Mr. Hudson

They may get nothing. At all events, it is a reduction of the ration. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is not a ration."] The main point is that we shall all get less. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, we may get more."] To turn back to the Order itself, the people mainly affected by it will be the old people, the bedridden people, families with young children and, more particularly, families living in modern flatlets, and in certain types of "prefabs." The Order refers to space heating. The right hon. Gentleman, when he was speaking about this matter, defined "space heating" in his speech on 24th April, as: This means that gas and electric fires must not be used during this period."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th April, 1947; Vol. 436, c. 1253.] That is his definition of the prohibition of space heating. It was a recognised fact prewar, that the consumption of domestic coal went up, not so much when it was cold weather as when it was wet weather, and a great deal of the consumption of coal in domestic fires was used for drying purposes, rather than for the heating of rooms. In other words, the right hon. Gentleman is going to prohibit by this space heating the use of fires, gas or electric, for drying purposes. In that case he has a different idea of what happens during an English summer from my idea. If he thinks that during the whole of the summer none of us will have wet cloths to dry as a result of being out of doors, I think he is making a singularly bad guess. It is perfectly obvious that the compulsory part of this Order will in fact be widely evaded. Does any hon. Member of this House, or anyone outside it, believe for a moment that when a mother sees her child come home from school, sopping wet, and she has an electric fire before which she can dry that child's clothing, she will not turn it on? Of course she will. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that he can bring women like that before the courts, and that if he did, any court in this country would convict? Of course it would not. That is what the prohibition of space heating is worth, when you make it compulsory.

It is our view, on this side of the House, that it would have been far better if the Minister had relied entirely on the voluntary principle, and said to the people, "If you have to use a fire for a purpose like that, we would ask you to make the saving good by consuming less gas or electricity next day." By making is compulsory in this way, we are asking everyone to evade it, human nature being what it is. We believe that by this the Government will have the worst of both worlds. I hope that if the right hon. Gentleman intends to persevere with this Order, he will make sure that the Minister of Health makes ample provision for additional accommodation in the hospitals, and I would not be surprised if the Home Secretary did not have to make additional accommodation in the prisons, because I am sure both will be needed.

The plea I make this afternoon is on behalf of the British housewife. I should say that she is rather like a pack-horse, so over-burdened that it can hardly struggle along the flat, and now she is being suddenly asked to climb a hill, the summit of which is not in sight. We have heard a lot from hon. Members opposite, about incentives to further production and incentives to further effort. What incentives are there for the housewife today? All that is offered her is more rationing, longer queues, higher prices, and a still further cut in the inadequate warmth which she requires in her home. That is not fair. If I had to sum up our position, I would say that we believe this fuel consumption cut is unnecessary. It is still within the capacity of the present number of coalminers to increase production to a point where this saving in this Order would not be necessary, and if the Government are unable to persuade the miners to make the necessary effort, there is the alternative available of the miners' coal. If the miners consume no more coal than the ordinary household, the coal thus released would be adequate to save this cut. If the Government admit that they are not in a position to do either of these things, and still say that some saving is necessary, then we say that this is a bad way of doing it. We say that this Order is a bad one because it mixes two incompatibles, namely, voluntary and compulsory saving. If the right hon. Gentleman and his friends insist on carrying out this Order, my belief is that before long they will come to the House and say that it has failed and that they have not achieved the saving they require, and they will ask us to agree to some far more drastic scheme of rationing. If so, the fault will lie not with the people but with the Government. We believe that the Government could have got the saving by a purely voluntary scheme and that they will not get it by a mixture of compulsory and voluntary saving. We think that the Order is a thoroughly bad one, and that is why I move that it be annulled.

4.31 p.m.

Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)

I support the Motion which my right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Hudson) has just moved. The Debate on a Prayer of this kind must take a very narrow form; I perceive that we are limited to discussing the need for this Order, the effect it will have and whether it is a good Order or whether there is something wrong in the Order which is leading to some discrimination against one section of the public or another. Before turning to the Order, it is well to see what there is on which we can all agree. We all can agree that the economic situation of this country is serious and grim, and will continue to be so for some considerable time. We can all agree that this is, to a large extent, due to the shortage of the quantities of coal available. The stocks of coal have never been so dangerously low as they are at the moment, not only in the yards but also in the wholesalers, in business premises and in industrial premises. We can all agree that it is absolutely essential that stocks should be built up during the summer months, so that we can begin the winter with a reserve of no less than 15 million tons. We dare not face another winter with less than that reserve.

We are all agreed that there must be a greater production in coal. I cannot enter into that question on the Motion which is now before the House, but we are all agreed that there is quite an urgent need for more intense fuel-saving all members of the community. We know that industry and commerce have already made enormous sacrifices and they must continue to do so, as the President of the Board of Trade said this afternoon, even though the cost to the country as a whole and to any particular industry in itself is going to be very heavy. We also know that the domestic consumer, as the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out, has suffered a more severe cut than any other class in the community. In 1938–39 the domestic consumer consumed some 44 million tons of coal, and in this year that has been cut down to 29 million tons, a cut of 15 million tons on 44 million tons, so that they have already suffered this cut—

Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Erdington)

That is solid fuel only.

Mr. C. Davies

Fuel as a whole.

Mrs. Leah Manning (Epping)

It does not include electricity.

Mr. C. Davies

The object of the Order is to prevent the use of electricity and gas for space heating in homes from 5th May to 30th September. Another object is to prevent the use of all fuel of all kinds for space heating in commercial and industrial premises from 5th May to 31st October. In both cases there are exceptions. For example, in the home there may be an exception if a medical certificate is given. In the case of industrial and business premises the use of fuel will be permitted for heating during night shifts from 10 at night until 8 o'clock the next morning. I should like to put this question to the Minister who will be replying: What is the estimated saving? We know what the estimated saving has been in the past, namely 2½ million tons on the whole of this year if it were carried into effect. On the figures of production for the past week which we are glad to see have been raised, the figure of 2½ million tons only represents three days' production, and the housewives are called upon to make this sacrifice in respect of three days saving out of the whole year.

I agree that we must consider every possible form of saving, and it is essential for the national welfare to deal not only with our present position but with our position next winter. It is for that reason that I think paragraph 3 of this Order is right, and that there should be a prohibition on the use of fuel for space heating in all business and industrial premises from 5th May to 31st October. I agree with the exceptions in paragraph 4 (a, b and c). I think those are unavoidable. But it is significant that an exception should also be made under paragraph 4 (d) in respect of night work in all premises whatever be the circumstances, whatever be the temperature, or whatever be the industry.

It is right that we should have attention called to this. I should like to know if this exception is necessary and unavoidable. We know it can be cold at night, and many of us have worked at night not only during the summer months but also during the winter, and during the spring especially we have all suffered. If a sacrifice is to be put on every home, we ought to consider the implications involved in making a special exemption in respect of business premises and of industrial premises which are being used from 10 o'clock at night to 8 o'clock in the morning. One cannot help observing that this distinction has been drawn in cases where there could be organised effective protests, as against a class which, being the most important, is the least organised, namely, the housewives of this country. Those who will be working in industrial premises will be members of a trade union and will be highly organised. They will be able to make their protest effectively. What about the housewives, scattered as they are and not organised for any political or other purpose?

Assuming we strictly adhere only to paragraphs 3 and 4, what will be the saving of coal through increased stocks? Supposing one does grant this exemption in respect of night shifts, what is anticipated to be the amount saved? Then, assuming that one does away with the exemption in respect of nightshifts, one would like to know what would be the amount saved then. Every household will be called upon to make this sacrifice, and if that is so the sacrifice ought to be fair, equitable and just and there should be no discrimination. What one has to point out here is that under this part of the Order the sacrifice is not equitable throughout. There is a discrimination between one household and another because the prohibition is in respect of electricity and gas only. There is no prohibition with regard to the use of coal in the open grate—the most wasteful form of consuming coal that man ever had.

Mrs. Manning

Our allocation will not allow us to do that very much.

Mr. C. Davies

I do not blame the women, and I should like to make that perfectly clear to the hon. Lady. In fact, may I be permitted one digression to say that I think that things would be better if more of the hon. Lady's sex were interested in architecture and built houses in a manner more suitable for the housewife? Perhaps then we should not have these difficulties. We do realise that the amount of coal allocated to us has been cut down severely but if, perchance, a housewife has the old-fashioned grate she may use it. On the other hand, if she is in a modern flat or one of the new type of premises and has only electricity or gas—which provide, on the whole, a far more economical method either for warming the house, boiling the kettle or whatever it may be—she will be prohibited from using it for space heating. Let us consider what that means. As I have said, one cannot have a more uneconomic use of coal than the open grate, but what will happen? A woman has small babies who have to be bathed in the morning and again at night before they are put to bed.

Mr. Murray (Spennymoor)

Small babies and a big fireplace.

Mr. C. Davies

Yes, a big fireplace in which she will light a fire which may then last for two or three hours. That will be permitted without the need to obtain a doctor's certificate. Another young woman, very proud of having gone into a modern flat or one of those new houses where there is only electricity and gas, will also want to bath her baby. All she would need to do would be to put on the gas or electricity just a few minutes before she started to strip the child and as soon as the child was again in warm clothing and in its cot she would switch off. But the right hon. Gentleman will forbid her to do that.

Mrs. Manning indicated dissent.

Mr. C. Davies

I notice that the hon. Lady is shaking her head but I maintain that there is not a woman living who would not defy the law in order to protect her child. Nor is there a Government in the land who would dare prosecute her for so doing. But that is beside the point. She will be, in a sense, a criminal.

Mrs. Manning


Mr. C. Davies

She will be contravening this section of the Order by raising the atmosphere of the room to the temperature which she thinks is necessary for her to strip her little child and bathe it. That is the meaning of this Order, and it is the kind of discrimination which is wholly unfair and certainly should not be introduced in an Order of this kind applying to the country as a whole. May I put one other point? The purpose of this Order is to build up stocks. We are told in speeches by the Prime Minister, the Minister of Fuel and Power and the President of the Board of Trade that what we want to do is to save 2,500,000 tons, so as to build up our stocks for the coming winter. But will that really eventuate from this Order? What will happen will be that power will not be used in the homes—either electricity or gas—but will it not immediately be used by the industries that are drawing upon the grid at that particular moment? It may be a very good thing that industry should have more during the summer months than it otherwise would have, but this will not achieve the object for which this Order has been brought forward—namely, to build up our reserves of coal.

I do not believe that the amount of saving will be very great. The housewife has always been the Chancellor of the Exchequer; thank Heaven she has been, or we men might have ruined ourselves. She has always kept a very close watch on the family income and how it is being spent, and especially is that true within the home. She will not switch on the electric fire or the gas fire unless she feels a grim necessity for it and considers that it is the right thing to do. She will exercise that economy throughout the summer months in any event and will not do anything wasteful. How much, therefore, will the right hon. Gentleman save on the economical housewife? I do not suppose that the saving will amount to a million tons, yet we are to put all these women to this great trouble, inconvenience and annoyance.

Now may I point out two other matters arising from this Order? Where one is drawing electric light or power from a generator which does not consume coal—that is, one which is running on water power—one can use that electricity for heating and lighting and there is nothing to stop one, although there are certain exceptions contained in the First Schedule to the Order. What is to happen in a case such as that of my own constituency? We draw from the North Wales Power Co. I do not know what the position is now because there have been many changes, but during the war the North Wales Power Co. obtained its electricity by the use of hydraulic power. Can we in North Wales warm our houses freely while those outside the North Wales area cannot, using the electric fire all day long and all night too if we so wish. And this in spite of the fact that the North Wales Power Co. is attached to the general grid so that when it is short itself can draw on England and, when it has a surplus, can pass it on to England. That may be drawing another discrimination which would be quite unfair.

Again, why is Northern Ireland exempt? I realise that they have their own Parliament there but they are dependent on this country for coal. Is it intended to see that Northern Ireland puts upon its housewives the same inconvenience and troubles as the Government are putting upon us here? Finally, I think there has been bad psychology on the part of the Minister and his advisers for this reason. In a speech last month the Minister said that he had not gone in for any long and elaborate educational campaign and that therefore what we wanted was a simple general Order which everybody could understand. He followed that by saying that he intended to appeal to housewives for an overall cut of 25 per cent. on their already reduced supplies, and stated that the Government intended to support this by a full publicity campaign. The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways.

Mr. Shinwell

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite wrong. The saving in space heating is included in the 25 per cent.

Mr. C. Davies

I meant to say that the total, including the saving effected by this prohibition, will amount to a saving of 25 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman is telling the housewife that he is prohibiting her from using electricity and gas for space heating, and he is also appealing to her good nature, patriotism and desire to help, to make a further cut.

Mr. Shinwell

No. I have tried to point out that that is incorrect. The further appeal for saving which is of a voluntary nature, will embrace the saving effected on space heating, and is included in the 25 per cent. There is not an additional 25 per cent.

Mr. C. Davies

Including the amount saved by the prohibition, the Minister is still wanting an overall cut of 25 per cent. He is bringing the criminal law to beat to prohibit space heating by electricity and gas, and he is also appealing to housewives to save more electricity and gas if they possibly can. The housewife will not do it. She will say that the Minister has made a special Order forbidding her using gas and electricity, and that she will do that and no more. What is more, in times of difficulty she will break the Order. It is all very well to say that she can get a medical certificate, but she has not the time to go round to the doctor and ask him to give her a certificate, and in any case, why should she go to the expense of paying for a medical certificate? She does not want to be extravagant, but to get the room warm for her child. If the Minister makes a definite Order, she will adhere to it, but you cannot expect her to do anything else. This is an instance of bad psychology, and I warn the Minister that the scheme will break down. It is a bad Order, and he should think again on it.

4.45 P.m.

Mr. Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)

It is not surprising that those who have spoken this afternoon have not put any real alternative to the Government for consideration.

Mr. C. Davies

On a point of Order. Is it not a fact that we would not be allowed to do so? We are strictly limited to what is contained in this Order.

Mr. Yates

I should have thought that if Members felt so strongly that the Order was wrong, there would have been some suggestion of an alternative.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

I put forward two alternative suggestions.

Mr. Yates

I know that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned miners' coal.

Mr. Hudson

And output.

Mr. Yates

I will leave that question to those who are more conversant with that aspect. There is no question [...] ever about the necessity to save fuel. I do not take the view which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) takes of the masses of the people. He seems to have rather a low view of the people, and believes that they will not co-operate. I think he went so far as to suggest that greater provision would have to be made in prisons. That is an insult to the general masses of the population.

I approach this matter with a certain amount of anxiety, because I represent a constituency which has special problems in this connection. I have toured my constituency asking for opinions. Last weekend I went into many homes to bud out the exact position. The special problem in my constituency is that we have almost 50 per cent. of houses of the back-to-back type. These houses are of the most unhealthy type. In the city of Birmingham no less than 29,182 houses are of the back-to-back type. That is the figure contained in the latest report by the medical officer of health, and those who have had responsibility of government in the past must face up to it. In the Division of Ladywood, which I have the honour to represent, there are 6,019 of these houses. I have consulted these people on this matter, and I find that in all cases there is a desire to do everything possible to co-operate in the saving of fuel.

There is, however, a particular problem. Many of the houses are damp and dilapidated as a result of the recent floods. Many of these houses are almost tumbling down. For instance, I had a most pitiful letter from a constituent whose attic roof had fallen through to the kitchen. These people have been faced with great difficulty in the drying-out process. I have put up to the President of the Board of Trade cases in which beds have been completely destroyed, and drawn his attention to the anxiety which parents feel on matters of this kind. These people have done everything to get alternative forms of heating for drying purposes, but in the main, they are thrown back on coal supplies. I ask the Minister to consider a fairer method of allocating the domestic coal ration. If he can do that, I am certain that this Order will stand a better chance of being successful.

I appreciate that there is nothing in the Order prohibiting the use of fuel for heating hospitals and institutions for the sick and infirm. In this connection I was informed only last Sunday that a fuel dealer in my constituency who has 500 registrations on his books had not been given a supply of coal sufficient to meet medical requirements for the last three months, and that I submit to the Minister is a very serious matter, when people are being asked to make further sacrifices. They are willing to do so, but they want to feel that they are being given a fair deal in the overall rationing of fuel. I would ask the Minister to give them that, and I would also ask if it is not possible for those dealers who wish to distribute their available supplies fairly to have greater supplies during the summer months and less in winter. In the summer the transport is available. During the recent cold spell we found that people in these back-to-back houses, or in long terraces where the coal merchants have to carry the coal long distances up back alleys, have suffered considerably because the merchants simply refused to deliver. The customers had to go for the coal and wait in long queues.

The Minister will no doubt have a good case in regard to the question of stocking, but if we are to appeal to the people to co-operate in the saving of fuel in this way we ought at the same time to give them some guarantee that they will have a fair allocation of fuel throughout the year. Many of them have not got gas and electric fires. In fact I find that there are 50 houses in my constituency without any gas or electricity at all, and there are 417 in the city of Birmingham without either gas or electricity. The people have to depend upon coal.

Mr. Hobson (Wembley, North)

On a point of Order. Am I to understand that the Debate on this Order can extend over the whole of the fuel situation? The hon. Member is dealing with the coal situation, to which the Order does not apply.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

The position is that the question of coal does not arise, in so far as heating residential premises is concerned, but it does apply to premises which are not residential. I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that because there was no electricity or gas, there ought to be coal.

Mr. Yates

I realised that I was going very near the mark, but I want to support this Order to the full because it is absolutely necessary to save fuel. The people are willing to do so; from what I have found in my constituency. I believe that the people will be quite willing to turn off electricity and gas all the time. But I hope the Minister will consider the other point I have mentioned, because it will be very difficult for them otherwise. If the Minister will look into these questions I am satisfied that the mass of the people will not be so low as to refuse to cooperate in saving. It is simply fantastic to suggest it. Nor do I accept the view of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who said that this is a bad approach from the psychological angle. I am quite sure) that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power would never be able to make a right approach according to right hon. and hon. Members opposite.

Mr. C. Davies

If the hon. Member will forgive me for interrupting, may I say that he and I were in agreement. I was saying that people would co-operate voluntarily, but what the Minister is saying is, "The people will not co-operate and I have got to make an Order."

Mr. Yates

I was taking the words of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who said that the Minister had made a wrong psychological approach. I do not accept that view at all. I think the approach is right, and so long as these other safeguards are there I am perfectly certain that people in overcrowded areas such as the one to which I have referred will give their full co-operation and will submit to an Order of this nature. It is necessary that we should bring home to the people the urgency of the position. I can well imagine that any scheme proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for rationing or limiting fuel, would be criticised from the Opposition benches, because according to them nothing he does is done from the right psychological point of view.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot (Scottish Universities)

Quite right.

Mr. Yates

I do not accept that view, and I support this Order and the necessity for it, subject to the safeguards which I am sure the Minister will consider, because the people who are living in these very unhealthy and overcrowded areas are labouring under serious difficulties. They are, however, anxious to help, and I hope the Minister will be able to help them.

4.57 p.m.

Mr. Beechman (St. Ives)

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), in opening his observations, rightly said that in all parts of the House we realise that the times are critical. For my part I think the same can be said of the country at large. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken said it is necessary to bring home to the country the urgency of the situation. I think the people know by now that we are living in most critical times, and they know that more severe conditions are likely to arise. I further agree that there is a great willingness to make sacrifices, remarkably so, but it is our duty not to abuse that willingness to make sacrifices. I say that in this Order there is an abuse of our people's willingness to make sacrifices because undue hardships and discomforts are sought to be imposed and because the Order itself shows, as my right hon. and learned Friend has said, that the Government are not willing to avail themselves of that willingness to sacrifice which has been so remarkably exemplified.

It is upon certain sections of the community, the old people and housewives, that the burden of this Order particularly falls. It has been amazing during the war, since the war and even after our victory to see how the women of the household have sustained continually increasing burdens. And here are more—and let us make no mistake—very severe burdens indeed, that endanger the homes of the people throughout the country for the sake of three days' output of coal. We cannot elaborate alternatives because of the Rules of Order, but I very much agree with what was suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson). Nobody grudges the coal miners their coal; I certainly do not, and we understand how natural it is that they should have it, but I for one do not believe that the coal miners of this country understand that if they gave up a substantial proportion of their free coal it would not be necessary to impose these burdens on the housewives of the country.

Mr. Blyton (Houghton-le-Spring)

Does the hon. Member appreciate that there is no free coal for miners; it is part of their wages?

Mr. Beechman

I will not elaborate it further. I do not grudge it to them We know that there are now more pit-baths and more drying facilities, and I suggest that the Minister should give this aspect of the matter his attention.

We have heard what the housewife would do if she wanted to dry the clothes of a child who had come in wet from school. Let us get down to the realities of the position. If a child is ill is the housewife to run out to get the doctor for a certificate? Can she go out? Think of the circumstances in a rural area where the hardworked doctor may not arrive for a whole day. Would the housewife sit down and be content under this Order to see her child ill, suffering, cold, because she was not allowed to turn on the electric fire or the gas heater? The vice of such Orders as this is that they make criminals of us all. My right hon. Friend has said that our people would all be going to prison. It seems to me that they might do worse than go to prison because, I doubt whether, under the terms of this Order, prisons are residential premises, and people might be much better off there. In conclusion, let us remember that we hope to build up ourselves and our outlook on life during the summer months so as to be able the better to suffer the rigours of the winter. The Order will put an added tension into our lives and will take away from our cheer during the summer months. It will gravely imperil the power of resistance of this country for the time when people will have to face the terrible rigours of the coming winter.

5.3 p.m.

Mrs. Middleton (Plymouth, Sutton)

In making my contribution to this Debate I shall speak not so much as a Member of Parliament as a housewife. During the major part of the time that I have been in the House I have also been running a ten-roomed house of my own, mostly single-handed. I, therefore, know something of the difficulties in which the Order will involve the housewives of this country. I want to add my voice to those of hon. Members who have begged the Minister to withdraw the Order and to substitute something which will be equitable in its operation. I am opposed to the Order on two counts. I first suggest that it is impossible to apply the Order. Secondly, even if it were possible to apply the Order to some extent, I say that the Order would be inequitable in its operation.

I want to beg my right hon. Friend not to make the housewives of this country into a class of law breakers and law evaders, for that is what is likely to happen. I speak from my own experience. During the time when we were restricted in the use of electricity during the fuel crisis I found it impossible to run my home satisfactorily without to some extent evading the Orders which had been imposed upon us. I had to be here in the morning for a Standing Committee and throughout the day to do my duty in this House. I found that if I were to run my home as it ought to be run and to provide for the comfort of those who live there, and if the Order was not to be broken, I needed to stay up after I had left this House, until one o'clock, two o'clock or even three o'clock in the morning, in order to do the cooking, ironing and other things which needed to be done.

I suggest to the House that the Order which we are now discussing places upon women who, like myself, are doing another job, besides working in their homes, a burden it is impossible for them to bear. I would like the House also to remember the effect that evasions of the law have upon public morale. We have seen something of this effect in countries on the Continent of Europe during the resistance movements. Even though laws were broken in a right and just cause, it is now generally agreed that constant evasion of the law had a demoralising effect upon people who were constantly living a lie in the interests of liberty. I do not want to see that kind of thing happening to the housewives of this country. Housewives have borne a very heavy burden, both during the war and since. It is our task to see that further burdens are not placed upon them in the way in which a burden would be placed by this Order.

I suggest to the Minister that there are other things that could be done to bring about the economies he desires. If I am within the rules of Order I want to suggest one of the things which can be done. All kinds of new electrical equipment have been introduced into the houses on the new housing estates and into the prefabricated bungalows, but very little has been done to instruct the housewife in the proper use of it. As one who uses an electric cooker I know how difficult it is—indeed how almost impossible it is—for the uninitiated house- wife to avoid considerable wastage of electric current. She does not know just by instinct when to turn the oven off and when the heat will be sufficient to finish her cooking. Much help could be given to her which today is not given. My right hon. Friend would be doing a far greater service to the housewives in general and to the saving of fuel in particular if he paid some attention to instructing and assisting women who are using electrical gadgets for the first time.

I should like to give two illustrations from my own personal experience. I was told a few weeks ago by a woman who goes into these new homes on behalf of a certain gas company that, in a prefabricated bungalow, she found a woman using the refrigerator to air her husband's socks. That suggestion may seem ridiculous, but nevertheless it is true. It was a gas refrigerator. In the side of the refrigerator towards which the heat was drawn, in the process of referigeration, there was a warm patch. The housewife had discovered it and there she put her husband's socks to get them aired. She did not realise, because no one had told her, that by so doing she was actually hampering the process of refrigeration. Again, I went recently into a home where a young woman said, "I am in very great difficulty about my 'Ideal' boiler; either it roars away and the water boils, or I cannot get it to heat at all, or else my kitchen is filled with smoke; nobody has told me how to manage this stove." It so happens that I have an "Ideal" boiler at home, and I was able to go into the kitchen and, in a few moments, tell her how to work the dampers in the stove so as to get the desired result. I give those illustrations because I want the House and the Minister to realise that if there were more help given, particularly to young married women, in using equipment of this sort, there could be a very considerable saving made in the use of electricity, gas and solid fuel, and, moreover, the housewives themselves would very greatly appreciate it, because, particularly in working-class homes, it would help them to cut down their consumption very considerably.

I believe this Order will be impossible to carry through. The Government cannot compel people to obey the Order. If they cannot compel them to obey, is it not much better to get people voluntarily to co-operate, abandoning compulsion? The housewives of this country, who have done so much for the country during the last eight to ten years, who have carried burdens second to none and probably greater than all, will co-operate with the Minister because they realise the need for co-operation, but the Minister will get the maximum result if, instead of imposing penalties, he carries through a campaign of publicity and asks the housewives to co-operate with him in order to save the nation in this very difficult time in our history.

5.12 p.m.

Mr. Raikes (Liverpool, Wavertree)

This Order is the greatest confession of failure and lack of foresight that has yet been produced by the Minister of Fuel and Power. On this occasion, the Minister has contrived to show too much imagination in the wrong place and too little imagination in another place. If the Minister supposes that between 5th May and 30th September the majority of days and nights will be sufficiently warm and comfortable for the ordinary householder to do without electricity or gas for heating, he is not only past praying for, but his imagination has risen to heights—

Mr. Hobson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the majority of dwelling houses in Britain have neither electrical nor gas heating, and that even those that have also get an allocation of coal?

Mr. Raikes

Is the hon. Member for North Wembley (Mr. Hobson) aware that, in the Government's housing programme, the majority of the houses that have been built during the last year for the brave new world have been prefabricated, and that practically all of them are entirely electrically heated, and have no other means of heating?

Mr. Hobson

That is entirely wrong.

Mr. Raikes

The hon. Member says I am entirely wrong, but the prefabricated houses that I have had an opportunity of going into in my own constituency are entirely so. It is also true that a very large number of flats and a certain number of houses rely wholly upon gas and electricity. I live in such a flat myself. It shows a curious degree of imagination to suppose that those flats and houses can have any reasonable heating from 5th May until the end of September if they are to he utterly precluded from making use of electrical or gas heating. I shall not say anything in regard to offices, except that both in May and September there will be many cold fingers and bodies in a number of offices to which the prohibition of space-heating applies.

I entirely agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party, with whom I seldom agree, that on this occasion the Minister has shown extraordinarily bad psychology. Housewives are willing and anxious to co-operate with the Government as much as they can, but there will, I am afraid, be many cold nights between now and the end of September, to say nothing of cold days. In those homes where, when the Purchase Tax was taken off, people bought electrical equipment, imagining that they would be able to use it, does the Minister really think that on a cold night Mrs. Jones or Mrs. Smith will say to her little boy, "Billy, you have got a little bit of a cold corning on, we will let it rip, and then when you have a high temperature, I shall be able to call in the doctor and get a doctor's certificate, and then we will be able to have a fire; so cheer up, Billy, about 48 hours after the temperature goes up we shall have a permit from the fuel officer to get some heating"? Of course, that will not happen; what will happen, when the child, or even the husband, has a cold, is that the heating will be turned on. And when some people begin to switch on the heat because there may be illness in the house on a cold night, other people will follow suit, and there will be less and less saving of fuel and a greater contempt for the law.

Mr. Tiffany

Is the hon. Member referring to ordinary coal fires? If so, will he look at paragraph 6, Subsection (1) of the Order?

Mr. Raikes

I am discussing those houses where it is not possible to have a coal fire.

Mr. Hobson

They are a very small minority.

Mr. Raikes

A very dangerous view which has been taken by hon. Members opposite on a number of these Orders in recent months is that if it is a question of a small minority, it does not very much matter whether they get justice. Whether the number be small or large, it is only right and proper that all persons—

Mr. Hobson

Is the hon. Member aware that a small minority have a very great advantage over the vast majority in that they have electrical or gas heating over and above the basic maximum allowance of 34 cwt.?

Mr. R. S. Hudson

They do not get it.

Mr. Hobson

They have had 26 cwt. in London.

Mr. Raikes

The hon. Gentleman is trying to avoid my point, which is about those premises where it is not the least use having an allocation of solid fuel because there is no grate in which to put it. I said all along that I am dealing with those premises heated by gas or electricity, where there is no alternative. It is true that the person who has an allocation of coal and a grate in which to burn it will be all right; I am not suggesting otherwise, but I am saying that this differentiation operates most unfairly in a number of homes where there is only electrical or gas heating. If those homes are so few, surely the saving will be so small as not to be worth saving by compulsion. If those homes are so few, why was not a voluntary appeal made? I understand that the whole object of this Order, with regard both to households and to shops and various other industrial premises, will amount to a saving of 2,500,000 tons. But if its effect will be, as I Maintain, to bring the law into greater disrepute than it is in now, if this Government by their action increase law-breaking, they will have done something even worse than an ordinary bad Act of Parliament. The strength of our nation has always been that our people believe in the law and keep it, but if you make nonsense of the law, as this Order does, the effect inevitably will be bad, not only during the six months when the Order is in force, but for a long time afterwards insofar as the moral of this nation is concerned.

On those grounds I am delighted that this Prayer has been put down. I am delighted to be, for once in a way, in complete accord with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party. I believe that this Order is unjust and unwise, that it cannot work, that it will bring the law into disrepute, and this Government into even greater disrepute than it is in already.

5.22 p.m.

Lady Grant (Aberdeen, South)

I will not go into the reasons or the necessity for having this Order at all, because, no doubt, measures for increasing fuel production will be debated later on the Adjournment. However, I would like to speak briefly on the Order from the consumer's point of view. When one first looks at this Order, there seem to be many anomalies which will make it entirely unworkable. In that respect I am in complete agreement with the hon. Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Mrs. Middleton), who said that it would lead only to a great deal of evasion of the law by a normally law-abiding people who are only too anxious to cooperate. I do not agree with her, however, when she suggests that something else should be substituted, because the alternative to this Order is to appeal to the public for voluntary savings.

Mrs. Middleton

I am sorry I did not make myself clear, but that was the point of what I was saying. I appeal to the Minister to substitute voluntary co-operation for compulsion.

Lady Grant

I am sorry if I misunderstood the hon. Lady, and I hope she will support us in the Lobby. Coming as I do from the far north of Scotland, this Order on the first view appears to me to be unpractical. It is unpractical legislation to suggest that between the months of May and September space heating in residential premises shall be prohibited all over the country. There are certain parts of the country not only in Scotland which suffer from a peculiarly cold, humid and unpredictable climate. Particularly in the north of Great Britain there are parts where there are very few days when the home can be without some form of heating, not only because of the cold but because of the chilly, damp atmosphere which breeds so many ills. In the North of Scotland we are in a rather unfortunate position because, as hon. Members know, our crops are at least three weeks behind those in the South of England. We have had the imposition of double summer time, which means that early rising makes it absolutely imperative to have some form of heating. Therefore, I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary, that the Minister might consider whether it would not be possible to have some form of exemption in the more Northern parts of Great Britain.

Another point which needs clarification and inquiry in this Order is that of the provision made for elderly people. In paragraph 5 we are told that the Order does not prohibit the consumption of fuel in hospitals or institutions for the sick, infirm or aged. I and many of my hon. Friends on these benches have had letters from people all over the country putting forward the case of elderly people, not only those who live in houses heated only by gas or electricity, but from those who have alternative forms of fuel. Many elderly people, not having the vitality or energy to generate warmth, have made it the custom to turn on an electric or gas heater for a short while to heat the room, which is infinitely more economical than burning solid fuel for a much longer period. Perhaps when the Parliamentary Secretary replies he will give us an indication of some measure of exemption for elderly people.

I am in entire agreement with everything said by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Davies) in his very knowledgeable remarks regarding young children. May I endorse on behalf of those households where there are children of school age? I can speak from my own experience of a vigorous family aged 10 and 12, who are constantly going out, and coming in soaked to the skin, that it is very necessary to have some form of warmth for heating and drying their clothes. I do not find in paragraph 5, or anywhere else in the Order, any provision for heating day nurseries. As far as I can make out, they do not come within the terms of paragraph 5. Again, I would like to ask, in regard to paragraph 3, which deals with non-residential premises, what is to be the position of doctors and dentists and professional men? Are their premises to remain unheated? That would surely cause only further embarrassment to patients already waiting in chilly anticipation of what is to come. We are told in the last paragraph of the explanatory note that central heating is no longer to be prohibited. But what of those forms of central heating, to which most of the modern appliances conform, which are run on gas? Do they come within the terms of this Order, because that will affect many offices and institutions.

Lastly, I support the Motion for Annulment because I feel the Order will not serve the purpose for which it was introduced. It will, as has been pointed out already, cause great inequality. There are exemptions by which certain parts of the country served by hydro-electric schemes will be able to use as much gas or electricity as they like. It is unfortunate that great industrial cities should be at a disadvantage compared with other parts of the country, alhough I cannot help saying that we welcome the fact that this Order recognises that the Fort William scheme and similar schemes may use their own source of power. I support everything which has been said regarding the detrimental effect this Order will have on those who have the task of keeping house today. The housewives of the country have all along been only too willing to co-operate. One has to remember that an Order of this nature is striking at the very root of family life.

Hon. Members


Mr. Hobson

They get their coal allocation.

Lady Grant

If hon. Members would only wait until I have finished my sentence. Husbands and others when they come back from work expect to have some little relaxation. Are they always expected to be in the best temper, when they find they are not able to have a little warmth? [An HON. MEMBER; "That is not true."] Hon. Members opposite are, no doubt, most abstemious in the home, but I suggest that this Order is not going to serve the purpose for which it is brought forward. It is going to lead to great inequalities and will be very difficult to enforce except by most unpleasant and totalitarian means and we do not want any more snoopers in this country. The country should be told the plain unvarnished facts, however grave, and should be asked to make a voluntary reduction. This country has always responded best, not when the people were being herded and driven, but when they were being inspired and led.

5.32 p.m.

Mrs. Florence Paton (Rushcliffe)

It is always pleasant when one can agree with much that has been said on the Opposition benches, and I find myself in agreement with much of what has been said by the hon. Lady the Member for South Aberdeen (Lady Grant), especially in regard to the question of elderly people. I join my wishes with hers in that respect. If it is possible, in some way, to make a distinction in regard to elderly people, I think the Minister should try to find a way to assist them. I do not however agree with the hon. Lady when she speaks of family life. I have the feeling that she knows precious little about the life of the average working-class family. Any working-class family—and there were 12,500,000 before 1938 whose average income was less than £2 10s. a week—will tell her that one of their bitterest memories has been that of cold rooms in winter time all through the years before the war—

Lady Grant

When I referred to family life, I was not referring only to one section of the community. I was referring to every family in this nation.

Mr. Hobson

That is the answer to the hon. Lady.

Mrs. Paton

I suggest that the noble Lady was referring to a portion of the community. I have referred to the fact that 12,500,000 families before the war had an average of less than £2 10S. a week with which to buy everything; how much coal, electricity and gas could working-class families buy in winter time, or summer time, to heat their houses? If it is a question of breaking up family life, there must have been a great deal of family life broken up before the war.

I wish to put a special point to the Minister in regard to the recent sufferings of people through the floods. In my Division of Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire, there is a big area which not only had floods this year, but had almost equal floods last year. There are two particular areas, West Bridgford and Colwick, which had floods last year in which the water came up to the picture rail of the ground floor rooms of houses, and this year they have experienced the dreadful tragedy of having water up to the top bedroom window. The Minister will realise that in those houses the problem of drying out the rooms is going to be one not for one or two weeks, but perhaps for several months. People in my constituency tell me that it was months after last year's floods before they felt that their houses were really dried out.

Now that the experience has been repeated, they have the problem over again. They have not sufficient coal to heat all the rooms and dry them out. I ask the Minister if under paragraph 6, sub-paragraph (1) it is possible to grant an extra licence to those people—they are known, and can be indicated almost to a person—whereby they can be treated as an exception, and can use gas or electric fires to heat the rooms and dry out their houses. This does not apply only to my own constituency, but to a large number of areas in the country. In my constituency there is a specific problem, because it is the second experience of flooding in two consecutive years and therefore something special ought to be done. I ask the Minister to take this point into consideration, and I hope some concession will be granted to these people.

5.37 p.m.

Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)

If argument really counted in this Debate, I think this Order by now would be dead. It would have been killed by the speeches of two hon. Ladys, one speaking on the Government side, and one from this side, of the House. They were the speeches of the hon. Members for Sutton, Plymouth (Mrs. Middleton) and South Aberdeen (Lady Grant). An Order of this kind makes a person like myself, who is sympathetic to the Government and anxious that it should achieve its main purpose, despair. It shows a lack of knowledge of the psychology of the people. My own view, strongly held, is that a voluntary appeal to the public brings out the best in the British people—

Mr. Hobson


Mr. Lipson

—if I may finish my sentence—whereas a compulsory Order brings out the worst, and that has been shown again and again in the history of this country.

Mr. Hobson

Is the hon. Member aware that when a voluntary appeal was made in February, the consumption of electrical energy for the month was 776 million units greater than before?

Mr. Lipson

When I talk about a voluntary appeal, an appeal for co-operation, I mean an appeal to every one concerned in the question of fuel—both of production and consumption. That appeal should be made, not only to the public who consume, but also to the miners who produce. In particular, I would like the example to be followed of what was done during the war in regard to National Savings. In every part of the country we had one week in which there was a special target. A special appeal was made and it was successful. I would like to see one week set aside in every mining area during which the miners should be asked to produce the additional amount of coal required to meet the coal needs in their area, so that this Order would no longer be necessary. I believe that a specific appeal of that kind to the miners, coupled with an appeal to the public not to use electric and gas fires unnecessarily during the summer, would have the desired effect.

Mr. Robens (Wansbeck)

The hon. Member must be aware that the miners have a target. Every pit has a target. If he would go round the mining areas he would find the flag fluttering at the top by the pit gear when that target is reached. What further target on top of the present one does he suggest?

Mr. Lipson

We have not been told how much saving it is expected can be brought about by this Order. The 2,500,000 tons which consumers have to save covers much more than space heating. I am concerned purely with domestic space heating. Two and a half million tons of coal is under three days' production. I am satisfied that the gap could be bridged by a combination of saving and increased production, the miners on the one hand making a special effort for one week—I am only asking for one week—and the public making an effort generally throughout the period, in order to avoid the need for this Order. I believe it could be done. I am sure that that is the right method of approach.

Mr. Hobson

We have tried it.

Mr. Lipson

Well, try it again. There is one argument which I have heard frequently from the Government benches during this Parliament which certainly cannot be used on this occasion. The Government cannot say that they have a mandate for this. There can be very few among those who voted for Government supporters in 1945, who expected that an Order of this kind would be introduced in 1947, after two years of Labour administration.

Mr. Hobson

Coal consumption, as well as production, has gone up.

Mr. Lipson

I think the Government owe something better than this Order to the people who put them in power. Therefore, I say that the Government ought to think again on this matter. In regard to the overall consumption of fuel, this Order probably would result in greater rather than smaller consumption. Whereas all that happens, or is likely to happen, under present conditions, is that on a cold or chilly morning or evening in the summer an electric or gas fire might be put on for half an hour and the discomfort removed, it may mean that there will be the consumption of coal on fires for two, three or four hours. A fire might be lit in the morning and kept burning throughout the day. Ultimately there is not likely to be any real saving of fuel. Nobody in these days—or, if so, only a minority that we can afford to ignore—puts on an electric or gas fire for heating purposes during the summer months unless it is absolutely necessary.

I wish particularly to stress the appeal made on behalf of elderly people. Old people living alone seem to be in a special position of hardship under this Order. One ought to remember that of all sections of the community probably they are the most hard hit by food rationing. In the case of old people living alone the rations do not go very far. If, at the same time, they are to be exposed to the rigours of our climate without the means of protection afforded by a gas or electric stove used for a short time, they will suffer unfair hardship. My view is that the Government have gone to the absolute limit already in the burden which they have put upon the domestic consumer. They ought not to go any further. The honest and conscientious will try to observe this Order, probably at a sacrifice of health and vitality which they ought not to be asked to make. Those who have no scruples will flout the Order and they will get away with it. It is impossible to prevent it.

The hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. Yates) showed that in practice the Order is really unworkable because it is based on two wrong assumptions. One assumption is that all houses in this country are dry and that people are living in decent conditions. That is not true. We were told that in Birmingham there were a large number of back-to-back houses. I know of many people in my constituency who live in damp basements where before they go to bed it is necessary for them to put on an electric or gas fire if they are not to suffer serious consequences. This Order is too rigid. It makes no allowance for that kind of thing. It does not make any allowance for the climatic conditions of the country, and we know how very erratic they can be.

I ask the Government to reconsider this Order. I am sure that a voluntary appeal on the lines that I have suggested—if need be keeping this Order in reserve in the background—would have the desired effect. A rigid and inflexible Order of this kind is bound to inflict unnecessary and unreasonable hardships and is not likely to achieve the object which the Government have in mind. We are all as anxious as hon. Members opposite to try to help the country through the fuel crisis. Where we differ is on the methods to be employed. The very small saving which this Order can achieve does not justify the hardships it will inevitably cause.

5.48 p.m.

Mr. Asterley Jones (Hitchin)

Appeals have been made from various parts of the House that another effort should be made to achieve the object which this Order seeks to gain by a system of voluntary co-operation. I think that we heard all these arguments last July during the Debate on bread rationing. Precisely similar arguments were put forward then. The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of people are voluntarily cutting down their consumption but there still remains a number of people—I do not say that there is a large number—who simply do not respond to appeals for voluntary saving. The effect is that inevitably those conscientious people, who are doing their best, see a neighbour along the road making no effort at all, and so they say, "Well, if so-and-so along the road does not bather, why should we?" It is for that reason that I have come to the conclusion that some form of Order is absolutely essential to enforce restriction upon those who are not responsive to an appeal for voluntary saving.

It is, of course, the easiest thing in the world for hon. Members to get up and make a heartfelt appeal on behalf of some particular section or other of the community, and with all those appeals one can of course agree, but the short point surely is, are we—taking ourselves as ordinary average inhabitants of this country—going to be perhaps just a little bit chilly from time to time during these coming summer months or are we going to be very cold rather more often during next winter? Surely that is a reasonable choice. It may very well be that we can achieve far more in the way of increased production and so on, but we have to be realistic about it. I would not say that I should be seriously inconvenienced by not using electric fires or gas fires for heating during the months of May to September, but—and here I have one criticism which I hope the Minister will be able to meet—electric and gas fires are not always used purely for heating a room. They are also used for drying clothes and other things.

Reference has already been made to the drying out of rooms which have been flooded, the drying out of rooms in which there have been leaks and the drying of clothes for children who come home wet from school, but I am astounded that no hon. Member has so far made reference to the drying of the enormous amount of washing which mothers of young babies have to do. I can see no real solution to this if the Order goes ahead as it stands. I must immediately, in accordance with the practice of this House, declare my interest in this matter. I have a young baby whose expenditure of the articles which are now generally called "nappies," I believe, is positively astronomical. The turnover of these articles is such that it is quite impossible to wait even in the best English summer for a fine day. We work normally on a 24-hour turnover. If it happens to be raining the accumulation either gets so great as to be quite impossible to deal with or else they have to be dried by artificial means. The Minister might suggest that we light a coal fire, but that would be far more wasteful than turning on an electric fire, as it may be in my case, or a gas fire as it may be in the case of other people. In other cases there will perhaps be one of these boiler fires that heat water before which these articles can be dried. Some people have got them and find them useful, but other people have not got them.

The upshot is that quite a considerable number of people in the country are faced with this large amount of washing for small children for which there is no other means of drying on wet days than turning on an electric or gas fire for an hour or so. Even when there is a fine day the vast majority of mothers will not use one of these articles, even though it has been drying in the scorching sun, before first holding it for a few minutes before a fire in order to make sure that it is absolutely dry.

The Minister has power in this Order to give a licence under paragraph 6 (1) and I hope that he will be very forthcoming on this matter. On 24th April he said that he had had this particular point in mind and that he thought that any such cases might come within the category of the relaxation and that they would have to be based on the production of a medical certificate. I wonder whether it is really necessary to have a medical certificate for these things. Surely we can take it that any home which has children or a child under the age of two is allowed to use these appliances for the purpose of drying washing? I hope that the Minister will be very amenable on this subject, as he always is when an appeal to reason is made, and that he will afford this relaxation.

5.55 p.m.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

The hon. Lady the Member for Rushcliffe (Mrs. Paton) used an argument of a nature which is somewhat frequently employed from the benches opposite. In referring to the hon. Lady the Member for South Aberdeen (Lady Grant), the hon. Member for Rushcliffe indicated the line of argument that because a large number of homes had been cold before the war that was an argument for this Order making more homes cold now.

Mrs. Paton

I did not use that argument at all. The hon. Lady the Member for South Aberdeen (Lady Grant) said that this Order was likely to break up family life. My argument was that if family life was to be broken up by this Order, family life must have been broken up very much more before 1938 because so many families then had only about £2 10s. a week to buy everything.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Exactly. The hon. Lady has almost in the same words repeated the argument to which I referred, and I am grateful to her for refreshing the memory of the House on the matter. The hon. Lady spoke in support of this Order. The only conceivable relevance to this Order of a refer- ence to homes being cold before the war was that because homes were cold before the war it did not matter if they were cold now—[HON. MEMBERS: "No.''] Hon. Members opposite cannot have it both ways.

Mr. Messer (Tottenham, South)

They do not want to. They are not lawyers.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Otherwise the hon. Lady's argument was quite irrelevant to this Order. I should not be so unchivalrous as to suggest that. But it is not a justification of this Order, which will undoubtedly make homes cold, to say that other homes were cold in other conditions. Hon. Members opposite are so prone to use just that type of argument to justify the various impositions which they are imposing on the long-suffering people of this country, but I do not think they should be allowed to get away with it.

Hon. Members opposite did not like it when the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) pointed out that they had no mandate for this, but that is perfectly true. Let hon. Members opposite speculate as to what their electoral fortunes would have been if there had been displayed at the General Election the statement, "Vote Labour and abolish domestic heating during the summer months; own the coal industry and have less warmth in your homes than you have ever had in history." If hon. Members had had the honesty to do it, let them speculate how many of them would then have been here, and let us discuss the Order, not as the hon. Lady the Member for Rushcliffe seemed to, as a kind of political tit-for-tat, but on the basis that it is a savage blow at the comfort of a great many homes and can only be justified if its necessity is abundantly and manifestly proved.

It is perfectly true that some of my hon. Friends have urged the right hon. Gentleman the Minister to make another public appeal. I think that appeal would fail. It would fail for the reason that such an appeal requires to be made by a Minister of Fuel and Power in whom the public have confidence. The public have no confidence in the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Fuel and Power—

Mr. Hobson


Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

—and that is why his appeal in the earlier part of the year, to which the hon. Member for North Wembley (Mr. Hobson) referred in one of his numerous interventions, failed. I would therefore add as an addendum to the suggestion from this side of the House of a voluntary appeal that a necessary condition of that appeal is that it should be made by a Minister of Fuel and Power whom the public believe to have some tenderness for the consumer and not to be wholly interested in keeping in with the National Union of Mineworkers.

The right hon. Gentleman has decided to bolster up his failure to provide adequate fuel with the sanctions of the criminal law. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] From that interruption, hon. Members opposite do not appear to understand that this Order does invoke the sanctions of the criminal courts. Any person who, without the Minister's licence, uses space heating during the summer months, commits a criminal offence for which, under the Defence Regulations, he can be sent to prison for three months. Therefore I am right in saying that the right hon. Gentleman is doing that. How does he propose to enforce this Order? Is he suggesting a wholesale search of private houses to see whether somebody has turned on the gas, because, unless he is prepared to do that, he must know perfectly well that this Order is unenforceable. The hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Asterly Jones) referred quite rightly to a number of people who would be deaf to appeals. It is no use using compulsion against those people unless one can enforce it, because just as they would be deaf to appeals, so they would be deaf to any threat of the criminal law, unless it was manifestly clear that that law could be enforced. Therefore, I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman, or the Parliamentary Secretary who he is putting up to reply for him, how it is proposed to enforce this Order. Is it seriously intended to be an enforceable Order, or is it just one of the right hon. Gentleman's aberrations?

I want to ask another question. As I understand it, Section i of the Order prohibits space heating and nothing else. Supposing an electric or a gas fire is used, both to dry the "nappies," to which the hon. Member for Hitchin referred, and, incidentally, to warm the room, is it an offence committed against this Order, or is it not? The people are entitled to be told whether, when they have decided to use this apparatus to dry clothes or for any other purpose, and, incidentally, to warm the room, they are committing an offence against the Order or not. If they are not, I suggest that this is what will happen. Hon. Members who before the war used to take refreshment late in the evening, particularly, I imagine Liberal Members, will recollect that, in order to obtain that refreshment, it was necessary to take the statutory sandwich. I foresee that under this Order the statutory "nappy" will take the place of the statutory sandwich, and that, provided one "nappy" is displayed in the Parliamentary Secretary's drawing room, he will be able to heat that no doubt elegant salon to the greatest possible extent.

Mr. John Paton (Norwich)

Would he have to supply a statutory baby also?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

That question is one which should be addressed to the Parliamentary Secretary; it is he who has to hold that particular baby. I am asking what the Government Order means. Whether the "nappy" is sufficient, or whether one would have to have the baby with it, is a matter for the Government to say. I am obliged to the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. Paton) for adding that characteristically charming question to the, perhaps, not so charming question which I desire to put to the Parliamentary Secretary.

There is another matter of which the right hon. Gentleman has already had notice, because I raised it with him when he made his statement last week. It is the case of households where there are young children. The hon. Member for Hitchin referred to it, but I should like to refresh the right hon. Gentleman's memory. On 24th April, I asked the right hon. Gentleman the following question: In framing the Order, will the right hon. Gentleman consider a relaxation of the ban on domestic space heating in the homes where there are very small children—say, under two years of age? The right hon. Gentleman replied: I have had that in mind and I think such cases might come within the category of the relaxation which is to be based on the production of a medical certificate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th April, 1947; Vol. 436, c. 1257.] I am not clear what that answer means. Toes it mean that. in every case where there are young children, it is necessary to obtain a medical certificate in order to demonstrate what must be known to everybody, that very young children require to be kept warm? Does it mean that every mother in the country has to go to the doctor to collect a medical certificate? That is what the right hon. Gentleman's answer appears to mean. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to elucidate that part of the Order. Will there be a general dispensation in the case of small children under any specified age, or will it be necessary, in every case, solemnly to go round to a doctor and obtain a medical certificate?

There is another question to which I would like an answer.. Many of my hon. Friends and, indeed, some hon. Members opposite, have raised the question of the effect of this Order on the health of the community. Has the Ministry of Health been consulted as to the expected effect of this restriction on the health of this nation during the summer? If it has, may the House be told what the answer was? If it has not, may I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he does not consider that this is a matter in which the Ministry of Health may well have a compelling interest?

Mr. Hobson


Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Member for Dundee who, apparently, regards himself as a greater expert on matters medical than the Minister of Health—indeed he may well be right—says "No." I am entitled to say that the effect upon the health of the community of the sudden cessation, for the first time in our history, of certain forms of heating during the summer months, is a matter which would entitle hon. Members of this House, in their duty to their constituents, to endeavour to ascertain whether the responsible department, so far as health is concerned, had been consulted, and what its opinion was. Therefore, obliged as I am to the hon. Member for Dundee for his expert—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] I was advised that he was the hon. Member for Dundee; if he is not, I apologise to Dundee. He is the hon. Member who could, perhaps, be sufficiently identified as the one who has made a number of interventions this afternoon. I understand that he is the hon. Member for North Wembley (Mr. Hobson). Notwithstanding that, I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to tell the House the answer to that question, which I think he has sufficiently apprehended.

There is one other matter to which I want to refer. Hon. Members on the Government Front bench were very indignant the other day at the suggestion that this would not be a country which would be very attractive to tourists this summer. They indicated that the Government put a great deal of value on the tourist trade. Has the Parliamentary Secretary considered what the effect of English hotels being extremely cold places this summer will be upon that tourist trade, particularly upon the American tourist trade? If it is necessary, and I have an open mind on this point, to stop heating hotels, surely it would be advisable to warn would-be tourists that they are coming to a very cold and uncomfortable country, and had better prepare for it. [Interruption.] To let people come here this summer without due warning, will inevitably have the consequence that they will never come again. For hon. Members opposite to become so very indignant at that observation of mine seems to reveal a strange state of mind.

The Parliamentary Secretary, as I apprehend it, knows well that when he goes to the Box he has to justify what is yet another blow at the long suffering housewife of this country. The hon. Lady the Member for Sutton, Plymouth (Mrs. Middleton), I am glad to say, made it clear what a blow to the housewife this Order would be. I am very glad she did so, because some hon. Members opposite always seem to regard the championing of the housewife as a Tory plot of considerable ingenuity, whereas the hon. Lady nailed that lie tolerably effectively. The Parliamentary Secretary has to justify what is only the latest, and probably not the last, of a succession of blows which this Government have struck at the homes of this country. I do not know whether they can justify it, but I think the Parliamentary Secretary realises that it is up to him to try.

6.11 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power (Mr. Gaitskell)

We have listened to a series of characteristically irresponsible speeches from quite a number of hon. Members on the opposite benches.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)

Including the hon. Gentleman's own supporters.

Mr. Gaitskell

Some of those speeches came from hon. Members whom normally I should have regarded as being very responsible in their attitude, and some came from those from whom I do not expect responsible opinions at all. The basic assumption, of course, on which this discussion proceeds, and on which this Order is framed, is that it is necessary to impose some restriction on the use of gas and electricity in domestic premises this summer, and that, so far as possible, general fuel economy measures should be carried a stage further in non-residential premises. I am not quite clear whether the Opposition really accept those premises or not. I appreciate their difficulty, on the grounds of Order, in making their position clear, but I do know that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), speaking in this House on 26th February, appeared to accept the first of these premises. I do not think the second one has been challenged by anybody. He said on that occasion: There seems to be no reason to doubt that unless definite steps are taken by the Government, domestic consumption of those kinds of fuel"— he was referring to gas and electricity— will continue to extend, to the detriment of supplies for industrial and other essential purposes.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1947; Vol. 433, c. 2098.] There we agree. We think that is the essential background to this Debate.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) gave us what, I think, was described by Mr. Speaker as sketching in the background of the position. He did it from his own particular background—a very sketchy one indeed. He told us, in effect, that if he were Minister of Fuel and Power he would say to the miners, "Come on, boys, just produce some more. Bring it up to 235 million tons"—I think that was the figure he used—"and, by the way, I am afraid you will have to give up your house coal as well." Some reference has been made in the Debate to the correct psychological approach. All I can say is that I think it is a very good thing that the right hon. Gentleman is not dictating our psychological approach to the miners.

I propose, first of all, very briefly to remind the House of what this Order does, then to answer a number of detailed questions and points which have been raised, and finally, to argue the main case for the Order. This Order, first of all, abolishes certain restrictions which are now in force. It abolishes restrictions on the use of electricity during certain periods which have proved tiresome, though they were necessary at the time when they were imposed. I say at once that although those restrictions were necessary at the time, and fulfilled a very useful purpose, they are, in my opinion, quite unsuitable as a long period measure of restriction. Secondly, the Order also abolishes the simple central heating bans. It abolishes them because they are, for the most part, replaced by the general ban on non-residential premises in the Order. Having abolished those restrictions, it imposes what I think even opponents of the Order will agree is a very simple form of restriction. On the one hand, the use of gas and electricity in domestic or residential premises is prohibited during the Summer months, with certain exceptions. On the other hand, the use of any fuel in non-residential premises is prohibited also throughout the summer months and, indeed, for one month longer, again with certain exceptions.

I have been asked by the right hon. Gentleman, quite fairly, whether the electricity industry, who we consulted, were in favour of the first of these restrictions? No, Sir. They were opposed, they always have been, to any form of statutory restriction, but I think I am entitled to say that one does not usually find in those particular circles any great enthusiasm for cutting down the demand for electricity. [Interruption.] I say I do not think one usually finds there any particular enthusiasm. I do not think there is anything derogatory about that. It is very natural that people who, for years and years, have been concerned with pressing the sale of electricity, should not be very enthusiastic. However, the right hon. Gentleman asked me the question and I have given him the answer. We take the responsibility, for reasons which I will give in a moment, for making this ban statutory.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

I do not wish to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but, really, the statement is, I think, grossly unfair. I do not know whether he was present or has seen the record of the conversations, but is it not a fact that the industry said that if a purely voluntary scheme, which they recommended, were adopted, they would do everything in their power to secure compliance, and that they thought by a voluntary scheme they would actually get the saving which will not be obtained by this Order?

Mr. Gaitskell

They were most bitterly opposed to various other suggestions which were made. I need not go into details about them now. There is nothing particularly confidential about them. They embodied other forms of rationing, and those whom we consulted were against any form of statutory control. As I have said, they always have been. They were in favour of voluntary methods. I am not saying for one moment that they were not prepared to operate a voluntary scheme, but I am saying they were always opposed to statutory restrictions of this kind. They were in 1942, as the right hon. Gentleman no doubt remembers. In case there is any misunderstanding, let me hasten to add that I am not suggesting they are refusing to cooperate in a voluntary campaign; certainly not. We have had every possible help from them in this connection.

Commander Galbraith (Glasgow, Pollok)

Was not the point this, that they did not consider these measures could be made effective? Is not that the reason they were against them?

Mr. Gaitskell

Not particularly. There were various reasons why they were against them. The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) asked me some questions about what saving we thought we would achieve. We think we shall achieve a saving of 2,500,000 tons from these domestic restrictions, including the voluntary 25 per cent. cut. We think we shall also achieve perhaps another million tons of saving from the restrictions imposed on industry. I think the right hon. and learned Member was in favour of industrial restrictions. These figures are, of course, inevitably, very broad estimates; they cannot be more than that. Here, I think I may be able to anticipate the right hon. and learned Gentleman. We cannot say—and I will not attempt even a guess—how much saving would come from the ban on the use of gas and electricity for space heating alone. It is simply impossible. I would prefer to leave it there. It would be dishonest to say any more.

Mr. C. Davies

What does the Parliamentary Secretary estimate the night shift heating will cost?

Mr. Gaitskell

I am afraid I cannot answer that without notice. I do not think, myself, that it is likely to be heavy. As the Order stands at the moment it is, of course, restricted to certain months—May, September and October. I am afraid I have not the figures with me. The right hon. and learned Gentleman also asked me a question about North Wales, and I should like to make the position clear. In the Order as it stands certain statutory undertakers are mentioned in the First Schedule. They are mentioned because their electricity is generated wholly by water power, and they are not linked with the grid. Therefore, there can be no possible advantage in saying that the consumers of that particular type of electricity should be cut down. That is the point. Also in the Order, the non-statutory undertakers, who generate by means other than coal or oil—that is to say, again chiefly by water power, or in some cases by wind—are exempted. They are exempted because they also are not connected with the grid. But in the case of North Wales, which is connected with the grid and does not, I think, obtain all its electricity from water power in any case—the essential point is that it is connected with the grid—that is included in the Order. The right hon. and learned Member also asked about Northern Ireland. That is essentially a domestic matter. It is one of those things which Northern Ireland does for itself. In the past it has always cooperated very well in matters of this kind, and I have not the slightest doubt that it will in this also.

References were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood (Mr. Yates) to the allocation of solid fuel. I could not, I think, go into that matter in detail without getting very much out of Order. I should like, if I may, to say just this in answer to my hon. Friend. The position is, that if there is a strong case on grounds of need, because of dampness—the particular case which I think my hon. Friend mentioned—it is, of course, within the discretion of the local fuel over-seer to grant an extra allocation. That is the present system. I cannot at this stage and on this occasion go into details about why we think this is the only workable system. I think I should probably have the right hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) with me on that. I ask my hon. Friend, if he would be so kind, to read the speech I made in the last Debate on fuel, at the beginning of April, when I dealt somewhat extensively with the subject.

Mr. Yates

What I am concerned about are the vast numbers of people who are not only not getting the maximum ration, but are not getting a reasonable ration. What guarantee can we give to them to make this Order more workable?

Mr. Gaitskell

Again, I cannot enter into all these points now. We can distribute only the amount of coal that is there; that is to say, the amount of coal that can be spared for domestic consumption. We can only ensure that it is fairly distributed. Within those limits I am prepared to discuss the figures, and perhaps my hon. Friend would have a further word with me about it. The hon. Lady the Member for South Aberdeen (Lady Grant) asked me a number of questions. Let me deal, first, with a relatively minor one. She asked about central heating by gas. If she looks at the Order—I think she referred to the Explanatory Note at the end—she will see that the change there relates purely to residential premises. Offices, of course, are covered by the general ban on all forms of space heating. I think that clears the position there. Perhaps I might explain at the same time—because some hon. Members may have been puzzled about the Explanatory Note—what precisely has happened. Under the old central heating ban all non-industrial and non-residential premises plus residential premises with more than 10 rooms were covered. Now we have made a new classification. In effect, we have said that, on the one hand, there are residential premises, which are covered by Article 1, and, on the other, there are non-residential premises which are covered by Article 3. What that means, in effect, is, that hotels and boarding houses which were previously covered by the central heating ban are now simply covered by the gas and electricity restrictions. It is some years since that original ban was introduced, and we think that now the control over the allocation of coke and coal supplies for these premises is quite sufficient to prevent wasteful heating of that kind in those premises.

I now turn to a number of what I might call pleas of various kinds for various classes of persons, of all ages. My hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Asterley Jones) in his, if I may say so, admirable and most intelligent speech, seemed to me to have exactly the right perspective about the whole matter. [Interruption.] It was a very intelligent speech. If the right hon. Gentleman had been here he would have learned a lot from it. The part which entertained the House most was the reference to the babies' nappies. I am happy to say that while I, myself, am slightly past the stage in which he finds himself, I still have a great deal of sympathy with what he has to say. I freely admit that the problem of, on the one hand, drying clothes for young children, and, on the other, of providing heating for very young children is a serious one. We are in consultation with the various organisations concerned on points of this kind. We have, of course, power in the Order to license exceptional cases. I want to say only this in addition. We shall consider these points, and the others which have been referred to in the Debate—many useful points were made by hon. Members who have been back to their constituencies—we shall take them into account, and discuss the matter with the organisations concerned and with other Departments, and if we think it is possible, we shall make exceptions. But I do not want to mislead the House into thinking that we can make wholesale exceptions, or that we can always tackle these problems in any very simple manner. Indeed, the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) indicated some of the kinds of difficulty against which one might run in trying to make exceptions for drying nappies. However, we will look into the matter and do our best to meet the really bad cases, in which one can reasonably say there would otherwise be hardship.

Sir Harold Webbe (Westminster. Abbey)

Would the Parliamentary Secretary tell us which organisations he pro- poses to consult in regard to the airing of babies' nappies? Surely, the only organisation is every mother in the land?

Mr. Gaitskell

There are a number of organisations which represent women in this country. I do not know whether the hon. Member was here when my right hon. Friend answered a question this afternoon. If he looks up the OFFICIAL REPORT he will see a list of the organisations which can be consulted. Those are the organisations with which we are in touch. If he is really interested, I am sure he will find it all there.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The Parliamentary Secretary has said that he will enter into consultation, and so on. But does he appreciate the urgency of this matter? This Order comes into force on Monday, and will make it a criminal offence to use heating, for example, for young children from Monday onwards. Can he give some indication that action will be taken over the weekend?

Mr. Gaitskell

I have said we are already in consultation with those organisations. I can assure the hon. Member that we do appreciate the urgency of this particular matter.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)

There is one further point. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I have listened to pretty well every speech in this Debate. If, as a result of this Debate, the right hon. Gentleman is going to consult the organisations—

Mr. Shinwell

We are doing it already.

Mr. Lindsay

This is only to emphasise it. What will he do about the Order? Apparently, there is very strong feeling on it throughout the House. Will he amend the Order?

Mr. Gaitskell

There is adequate provision for licensing.

Mr. Lindsay

I know.

Mr. Gaitskell

In this way exceptions could be arranged. There is not the slightest difficulty about it.

May I turn to the major issues raised in the Debate? I think the two chief criticisms put forward by hon. Members have been, first, that the Order is unfair, and, secondly, that it is unenforceable. I intend to deal with both of these points. I claim at once that it is not more unfair than having no Order of this kind at all. Far too many hon. Members Opposite approach this whole problem from the point of view of electricity and gas consumers only; but the fact is that at the moment the system of fuel distribution and allocation is unfair because there is no control over the domestic consumption of gas and electricity. That is the point. So far, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, and as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery pointed out also, we have cut down the consumer of solid fuel. But all the time people with all-electric houses, with electric cookers, electric fires, electric water heaters—or people with gas appliances of the same kind—could use as much gas or electricity as they liked, until, of course, this last winter. All the time they have been completely free of restrictions.

I am bound to say that I cannot see that that is in the least fair. If we have to choose between asking domestic consumers of solid fuel to cut down still further and making those who consume gas and electricity make a contribution, surely it is the latter we must ask for it. In my own constituency, repeatedly, people have come up to me and said, "Why do you not do something to restrict the extravagant use of electricity?" They have come up and said, "We know that so-and-so has an electric fire on practically all day." We think that that is unfair. [HON. MEMBERS: "Snoopers."] Not official snoopers, but very naturally indignant neighbours. It is also a fact—and the House must take note of it—that, according to the last estimates we have had, the increase in the consumption of electricity by domestic consumers in 1940 over 1945 was a third—33⅓ per cent. increase. Practically the whole of the total increase, it is now evident, was on account of domestic consumption. [HON. MEMBERS: "The fault of the Chancellor of the Exchequer."] If that is the case, I do suggest that it is no great hardship to ask them to reduce consumption.

Mr. Harold Roberts (Birmingham, Handsworth)

Was that not due to the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer made purchase of electrical outfits easier?

Mr. Gaitskell

No, I do not ascribe it to that at all. I ascribe it to the fact that the people of this country have had full employment and more money, and have taken the opportunity to buy electric fires and use them. The fact is that complete fairness in this field is practicable only, if at all, with a full scale rationing system. We have abandoned any idea of a scheme of that kind—at any rate, for the moment—for reasons which my right hon. Friend gave in great detail in the last Debate on fuel. I do not think I need go into them here. They are absolutely familiar to the House, and, by and large, accepted by the House. We know we cannot have a system of rationing of that kind without enormous administrative cost; and even then, as I say, it is very doubtful whether it would be fair or not.

Let me turn to the second major issue, enforcement. Of course, we agree that this Order is obviously not fully enforceable in the sense that everybody infringing it can be caught or will be caught. That is clearly out of the question. As the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames, who touched on this matter, knows perfectly well, we have not power to force an entry into private houses, and we do not intend to take that power. We have powers in the case of the business and commercial premises, and, sparingly and with discretion, they may have to be used. But in the case of the domestic premises we have no powers, and we shall not seek such powers. In my opinion, however, the fact that it is difficult to enforce does not mean that it is, therefore, of no value. I think, first, it is far better that people should know precisely where they stand in this matter. Of course, we can get search warrants, if necessary; information can be obtained, or may be forthcoming. We can deal with really flagrant cases.

I do ask hon. Members to believe that there is a lot of indignation in the country about people who are using electricity and gas extravagantly, and we must, in the last resort, be able to deal with them. I have even heard of cases of persons, not being friendly to the present Government, even deliberately, going to great expense to turn on electric fires. [Laughter.] I am glad to hear hon. Members laugh in their incredulity. I am bound to say it is a fact that I have heard cases of that kind reported to me. I hope that hon. Members opposite will agree that even they would not support actions of that kind. I believe that the general public understand the need for this Order. They know perfectly well that something must be done to restrict the consumption of gas and electricity. They know well—better than some of the hon. Members opposite who spoke today—that we still face, unquestionably, a very grave fuel situation. [HON. MEMBERS; "Hear, hear."]

Mr. R. S. Hudson

Production is not enough.

Mr. Gaitskell

My right hon. Friend will deal very adequately with the question of production in the next Debate. I should be out of Order were I to go into it now. But the fact is that we must ask for some restriction, and, in my opinion, it would be very wrong of the Government to abandon all attempt to restrict consumption of gas and electricity by domestic consumers. I also think it would be grossly unfair—more unfair, far more unfair—than the present Order. I have given reasons why we cannot go further than this. We cannot go in for a full scale rationing system. But this Order is simple, and that is a tremendous merit. I ask hon. Members to appreciate that. It is perfectly clear and simple and intelligible; and we must remember, incidentally, when we are considering whether we can let up here and there, that we cannot abandon essential simplicity, otherwise the whole thing will become confused and lose a great deal of its value.

I quite agree that this Order itself, as well as the 25 per cent. cut, is bound to depend, to a very large extent, on voluntary support and co-operation. I believe that the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery is quite wrong in his psychological approach to this matter. We have had purely voluntary appeals. My right hon. Friend has been criticised for going on making nothing but voluntary appeals. The time has come when we must stiffen those voluntary appeals by some statutory regulation. We think this is the easiest to understand. We believe it is not likely to cause hardship, except, as I have said, in a very limited number of cases. It will cause some discomfort—of course it will; but there is bound to be some discomfort if we are to get the necessary economy. In my opinion the country is prepared to stand for that, and I believe it prefers a definite move of this kind, rather than the irresponsible, ostrich like, attitude which the Opposition are adopting, and on those grounds I ask the House to support the Order.

Lieut.-Commander Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, West)


Hon. Members


Lieut.-Commander Hutchison

I want to ask a question arising out of an answer given earlier today. Can the hon. Gentleman state the reasons why he is applying this Order to Scotland without any modification? What is the meteorological evidence for doing that? The Minister did say that this was a point which would be dealt with during the Debate.

Mr. Gaitskell

I apologise. I know that the hon. Lady also asked me about that. We will consider it, but I must point out that the central heating ban has hitherto been applied from 8th May—and this is only applied from 5th May—until 30th October, throughout the whole country, but there have been relaxations earlier in Scotland and in England. There may be, equally, under this Order. I will not say more.

Question put, That the Control of Fuel (Restriction of Heating) Order, 1947 (S.R. & O., 1947, No. 765), dated 25th April, 1947, a copy of which was presented on 28th April, be annulled.

The House divided: Ayes, 141; Noes, 227.

Division No. 180.] AYES. [6.40 p.m.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. Harvey, Air-Comdre, A. V. Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.
Aitken, Hon. Max Houghton, S. G. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Amory, D. Heathcote Head, Brig. A. H, Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Baldwin, A. E. Headlam, Lieut.-Col Rt. Hon. Sir C Pickthorn, K.
Beechman, N. A. Henderson, John (Cathcart) Ponsonby, Col. C. E
Bennett, Sir P. Hogg, Hon. Q. Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)
Boothby, R. Hollis, M. C. Prescott, Stanley
Bower, N. Howard, Hon. A Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) Raikes, H. V.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J. Rayner, Brig. R.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'gh, W.) Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)
Bullock, Capt. M. Jeffreys, General Sir G. Renton, D.
Butler, Rt. Hon- R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n) Jennings, R. Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)
Byers, Frank Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W. Roberts, H. (Handsworth)
Challen, C Keeling, E. H. Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S. Kerr, Sir J. Graham Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland
Clarke, Col. R. S. Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H. Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G. Lambert, Hon. G. Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Lancaster, Col. C. G. Sanderson, Sir F.
Cooper-Key, E. M. Langford-Holt, J. Scott, Lord W.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)
Crowder, Capt. John E. Lindsay, K. M. (Comb'd Eng. Univ.) Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
Cuthbert, W. N. Linstead, H. N. Spearman, A. C. M.
Darling, Sir W. Y. Lipson, D. L. Spence, H. R.
Davies, Clement (Montgomery) Low, Brig. A. R. W. Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Lucas, Major Sir J. Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)
Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P. W. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)
Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness) Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O. Sutcliffe, H.
Eccles, D. M. MacDonald, Sir M. (Inverness) Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight) Taylor, Vice-Adm, E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)
Erroll, F. J. Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Teeling, William
Fletcher, W. (Bury) McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Fox, Sir G. Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone) Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.
Gage, C. Manningham-Buller, R. E. Touche, G. C.
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. Marlowe, A. A. H. Vane, W. M. F.
Gammans, L. D. Marsden, Capt. A. Walker-Smith, D.
Gates, Maj. E. E. Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Ward, Hon. G. R.
George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke) Maude, J. C. Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)
George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey) Medlicott, F. Wheatley, Colonel M. J.
Glyn, Sir R. Mellor, Sir J. White, Sir D. (Fareham)
Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T. White, J. B. (Canterbury)
Grant, Lady Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Gridley, Sir A. Morris-Jones, Sir H. Winterton, At. Hon. Earl.
Grimston, R. V. Morrison Maj. J. C. (Salisbury) York, C.
Gruffydd, Prof. W. J. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (C'nc'ster)
Hare, Han, J. H. (Woodbridge) Neven-Spence, Sir B. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Harris, H. Wilson Nicholson, G. Mr. Drewe and Mr. Studholme.
Adams, Richard (Balham) Allighan, Garry Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South) Alpass, J. H. Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Attewell, H. C. Barstow, P. G.
Battley, J. R. Haire, John E. (Wycombe) Pryde, D. J.
Berry, H. Hale, Leslie Randall, H. E.
Bing, G. H. C. Hardy, E. A. Ranger, J.
Binns, J. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Rankin, J.
Blackburn, A. R. Herbison, Miss M. Reid, T. (Swindon)
Blenkinsop, A Hewitson, Captain M. Richards, R.
Blyton, W. R. Hicks, G. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Boardman, H. Hobson, C. R. Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Bottomley, A. G. Holman, P. Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W. Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Royle, C.
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) House, G. Scollan, T.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge) Hoy, J. Shackleton, E. A. A.
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Hubbard, T. Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)
Brook, D. (Halifax) Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Brown, George (Belper) Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.) Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Simmons, C. J.
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Irving, W. J. Skinnard, F. W.
Buchanan, G. Jay, D. P. T. Smith, C. (Colchester)
Burden, T. W. Jeger, G. (Winchester) Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)
Burke, W. A. Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.) Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools) Snow, Capt. J. W.
Callaghan, James Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin) Sorensen, R. W.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Key, C. W. Sparks, J. A.
Clitherow, Dr. R. King, E. M. Stamford, W.
Cocks, F. S. Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E. Steele, T.
Collindridge, F. Kirkwood, D. Stephen, C.
Comyns, Dr. L. Lang, C. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Cook, T. F. Lavers, S. Summerskill, Dr, Edith
Cooper, Wing-Comdr, G. Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J. Swingler, S.
Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.) Lewis, J. (Bolton) Sylvester, C. O.
Corlett, Dr. J. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Cove, W. G. McAdam, W. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Crawley, A. McAllister, G. Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Crossman, R. H. S McEntee, V. La T. Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Daines, P. McGhee, H. G. Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)
Davies, Edward (Burslem) McGovern, J. Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Davies, Hadyn (St. Pancras, S.W.) McKinlay, A. S. Thurtle, Ernest
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Maclean, N. (Govan) Tiffany, S.
Delargy, H. J. McLeavy, F. Timmons, J.
Diamond, J. Mainwaring, W. H. Titterington, M. F.
Dobbie, W. Mallalieu, J. P. W. Tolley, L,
Donovan, T. Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping) Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Driberg, T. E. N. Marquand, H. A. Turner-Samuels, M.
Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich) Marshall, F, (Brightside) Ungoed-Thomas, L.
Dumpleton, C. W. Mathers, G. Vernon, Maj. W. F
Edelman, M. Medland, H. M. Viant, S. P.
Edwards, John (Blackburn) Mellish, R. J. Walker, G. H.
Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) Mikardo, Ian Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel) Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R. Warbey, W. N.
Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Mitchison, G. R. Watson, W. M.
Evans, John (Ogmore) Monslow, W. Weitzman, D.
Fairhurst, F. Montague, F. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Farthing, W. J. Moody, A. S. Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Field, Capt. W. J. Morris, P. (Swansea, W.) West, D. G.
Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Moyle, A. White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Follick, M. Murray, J- D. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W
Foot, M. M Neal, H. (Claycross) Wigg, Col. G. E.
Wilkes, L.
Foster, W. (Wigan) Noel-Buxton, Lady Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Fraser, T. (Hamilton) O'Brien, T. Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Gaitskell, H. T. N. Oldfield, W. H. Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Ganley, Mrs. C. S Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Williamson, T.
Gibbins, J. Palmer, A. M. F. Willis, E.
Gilzean, A. Parker, J. Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield) Parkin, B. T. Wyatt, W.
Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood) Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe) Yates, V. F.
Grenfell, D. R Paton, J. (Norwich) Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Grey, C. F. Pearson, A. Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Grierson, E. Peart, Capt. T. F.
Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) Popplewell, E. TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly) Porter, E. (Warrington) Mr. Joseph Henderson and
Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side) Porter, G. (Leeds) Mr. Hannan.
Guest, Dr. L. Haden Pritt, D. N