HC Deb 11 July 1949 vol 467 cc6-8
7. Mr. A. Edward Davies

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will take steps to ensure that there will be no extra winter-time charges for electricity next year such as operated with great inconvenience and hardship to many small consumers last winter.

Mr. Gaitskell

Last year the electricity boards introduced, at my request and in accordance with the recommendations of the Clow Committee, a surcharge for electricity during three winter months, together with a rebate during the remaining months of the year. The purpose of this differential tariff between winter and summer was of course to reduce the domestic load during the peak hours of the winter and so diminish the risk of load shedding for industry. There was, in fact, very little load shedding last winter, but it is not possible to prove conclusively that this was due to any material extent to the differential tariff.

I have now been informed by the British Electricity Authority and the area boards that they do not favour the continuance of the differential tariff next winter, and in this they are supported by the majority of the electricity consultative councils and by the Electricity Sub-Committee of the National Joint Advisory Council. In view of this advice, of the fact that the tariff was regarded by many as harsh and unfair in its incidence and of the absence of cogent evidence that it exercised a sufficiently decisive influence on peak demand, I do not propose to ask the electricity boards to continue it next winter. I must, however, warn the House that the gap between generating capacity and peak demand is unlikely to be much less next winter than last; and, as stated by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour last Tuesday, domestic consumers must therefore limit their demand during peak hours in cold weather if load shedding on a serious scale is to be avoided.

Mr. Davies

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that his reply will give great pleasure and satisfaction to people who wish to help the Government, and that if a proper appeal is made he will get better results than would be obtained from the imposition of any measure similar to that which he proposes to avoid this year?

Captain John Crowder

When will the Electricity Authority be announcing the amount of the rebate which is to be given during the summer readings?

Mr. Gaitskell

They have already announced the rebate, which is 0.1d. for the remaining nine months of the year. The Authority have also said that if they gain financially over the whole period of the operation of the scheme they will give a further rebate, but they would not be able to do that until the year ends.

Mr. W. R. Williams

Will my right hon. Friend consider refunding charges where they can be proved to have imposed a great deal of hardship to people in all-electric houses?

Mr. Gaitskell

That would be quite impracticable.

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