HC Deb 07 May 1951 vol 487 cc1576-7
25. Mrs. Jean Mann

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how far the researches made by his Department establish whether the use of gas or electricity for cooking is the more economical in the use of coal; and what steps he is taking to encourage the more economical method.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I made to the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Langford-Holt) on 9th April, when I gave him the results of research work done by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. I am at present discussing these complex problems with the chairmen of the national boards concerned.

Mrs. Mann

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind, during the discussions, that the Electricity Authority are charging local authorities £15 per house per installation, if gas is used for cooking purposes, and that the charge to local authorities is reduced to £3 if no gas is used at all? As that is contrary to the national interest will he remember it during the negotiations?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Every nationalised board must adopt business principles in order to make its business pay, and the electricity and gas authorities have both been making money. The hon. Lady has raised a very difficult question on which I am at the moment engaged in consultation with the nationalised boards.

Mr. Renton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the system of charging for electricity, including the domestic two-part tariff, is calculated to encourage the consumption of electricity and, therefore, indirectly, the consumption of coal? Will he advise the Electricity Authority to use a system of charging which will encourage economy of coal while at the same time not relinquishing any profit that they can reasonably get?

Mr. Noel-Baker

The hon. Member will realise that before the Authority took over, a great variety of different tariffs were in operation all over the country. They have been endeavouring, more or less to standardise them, and they are now engaged in considering the principles of the long-term tariff policy which they should adopt. They are bearing in mind the very point which the hon. Member has raised. It is a most complex matter.

Mrs. Mann

Will my right hon. Friend impress on the boards that the national interest must come before profit making, and that it is very much against the national interest to waste our fuel reserves and to import coal from America?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Yes, I have spoken in that sense with great force to the nationalised boards.

Mr. John Hynd

Does not the Minister realise that a great number of his hon. Friends will be shocked to learn that he proposes to allow the principles of cutthroat competition and waste of overhead expenditure in uneconomic advertising, which is a burden upon the nationalised boards?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I have just said that that is what I propose not to do.