HC Deb 10 July 1950 vol 477 cc932-3
19. Mr. Prescott

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will make a statement on the progress in Lancashire in changing from direct to alternating current; and, in particular, the present position in the borough of Darwen.

The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)

Under the Electricity Act of 1948, the area electricity boards are primarily responsible for making improvements in the system of distribution, such as a change from direct to alternating current. But they must apply for my consent, before they actually change the type or voltage of the electricity they supply to their present consumers.

Before the Act of 1948, the Electricity Commissioners were the authority who gave consent to changes. In 1930 they gave the Corporation of Darwen the necessary consent for the change from direct to alternating current. They gave similar consents to other undertakings in Lancashire at other times. Since the Act was passed, the North-Western Electricity Board have not asked me to consent to any change.

Mr. Prescott

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that failure to carry out this change is causing great inconvenience, particularly to small traders in Lancashire, and is also involving them in considerable cost? Would he review the matter and see if he can help in any way?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I have reviewed it. I imagine that if the Corporation of Darwen, for 18 years, and the area board, for two years, have not taken advantage of the full consent which was given to them, it was because they thought that they had better put other work first. The change to alternating current is a very expensive and complicated affair, and I think it is a matter of priorities.

Mr. Prescott

My question was not confined to Darwen but was directed to Lancashire as a whole. Is the Minister aware that many small traders bought apparatus which they are unable to use and are, therefore, suffering considerable losses?

Mrs. Castle

Is my right hon. Friend aware that if, in the past, Darwen had made the same progress in this work as other undertakings in the Lancashire area, such as Blackburn, it would not now be necessary for the consumers of the North-West Area Electricity Board to make up Darwen's deficiency?

Sir Herbert Williams

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me when we are to have some alternating current in this Chamber?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Yes, if the hon. Gentleman will put that question down.