§ 11.5 a.m.
§ Mr. M. Philips Price (Gloucestershire, West)
I beg to move,That this House, recognising that Britain's industrial prosperity and favourable trade balance depend not only on the proper development of our immense natural coal resources but also upon the efficient use of such coal, calls the attention of all concerned, particularly in Government, public administration and industry to the urgent need for comprehensive measures for the better use of coal, so that waste may be eliminated and more coal be made available for export and other purposes, vital to our national economy.I am conscious of my imperfections and lack of qualifications to move a Motion of this kind, for the more I look into the problem of coal utilisation and fuel efficiency, with all its scientific implications, the more I realise that to do justice to this Motion one ought to have greater knowledge of applied science, and especially of the science of thermo-dynamics, than actually I have.
My only qualification in that respect is that I do hold a science degree of Cambridge University. I have come here today to move this Motion as a politician, and as one who approaches this subject mainly from the point of view of the man in the street, and as one who wishes to emphasise the great social and economic consequences of this country having a sound national fuel policy.
I am emboldened, however, to feel that this Motion may have the good will and acceptance of the House because of two things: first, because the Motion, or the ideas behind it, have long been sponsored by an all-party Committee with which I have been connected for some years past, namely, the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, which, from time to time, has published documents and pamphlets on this subject; second, because an hon. Member on the opposite side of the House from me is to second the Motion if he has the good fortune, Mr. 884 Speaker, to catch your eye; and, therefore, I am hopeful that it will receive the general agreement of all Members.
When I first came to the House as the Member for the then Forest of Dean Division, in the 'thirties, it was almost a patriotic thing to encourage the burning of coal, because we had then 1,500,000 unemployed—and certainly we had our share of it in the Forest of Dean. Today, it is a patriotic thing to do exactly the opposite, and to be extremely cautious in the way in which we consume our valuable fuel.
Every month that passes makes it plain that those black diamonds which our miners win from the bowels of the earth by the sweat of their brows are worth their weight in gold, and constitute one of the keys of our economic and industrial recovery. How much would the Chancellor of the Exchequer give, standing, as he must do, with an anxious eye on the figures of our coal exports, for the sale of 30 million tons of coal to the Continent of Europe. How much would it assist him in solving that great problem of closing that gap in our balance of payments.
Instead, however, of our coal exports going up, having begun well in 1950 in exporting 17 million tons of coal, we are now in this year down to under 10 million tons. Nothing else, I submit, would more ease our international position economically, morally and politically than if this country were to get back again to its position as a great coal exporter. Yet the prospects at the moment look far from good—unless by a heroic effort we do two things, seemingly impossible, both together: first, raise coal output, and, second, economise in its consumption at home.
I must say a word or two about the first, the raising of coal output. That rather complacent document, the report of the National Coal Board called "Plan for Coal," contemplates a rise in our annual coal output from 222 million tons in 1951 to only 240 million tons in the next eight years, and 11 million tons of that is opencast coal which, according to all the geologists and experts, is not likely to last for more than a few years longer.
If the present rate of coal consumption continues to rise as it is rising, then, according to the report of the Federation of British Industries in an estimate made 885 in a very interesting pamphlet published recently, we shall be consuming 293 million tons of coal in eight years' time, leaving a gap of 50 million tons; but the National Coal Board envisage only 240 million tons in the next eight years at the highest point. I therefore say that their estimate is complacent.
I dare say the Coal Board have their reasons. The short-term improvements they have made in the coal mines, such as conveyors and cutters, may have already played their part in raising our coal output, but with the long-term investment they are making it may be a long time before we see any results. We must hope that the National Coal Board can revise their figures in an upward direction and so enable us to make some contribution to the solving of the first aspect of the problem I have referred to, namely, an increase in our coal output.
I may say, in passing, that this problem does not affect this country alone. According to the recent report of the Economic Commission for Europe the problem is equally acute on the Continent of Europe, where a deficit of something like 20 million tons of coal is likely to be experienced in 1956, and possibly 30 million tons if Poland ceases to export to Western and Central Europe, as it may quite well do in the next five or six years.
I come then to my second point, which is the point of my Motion, namely, the economies. I submit that a substantial contribution can be made, and that there is evidence to show that if all our knowledge of applied science is used on this problem, substantial economies can be made without causing serious inconvenience to our people. Possibly, in some cases, life can be made a little more easy, but great efforts are needed from all before this can be done. Here I should like to utter a word of warning. Some very optimistic calculations have been made by some experts forecasting annual savings of from 40 million to 50 million tons of coal, and, in one case, of even 80 million tons a year.
I think we should be well advised in approaching this problem not to indulge in wishful thinking. Nevertheless, responsible scientists and technicians assure me that after making all allowances, and after making great plans and great efforts to carry them out, it should 886 be possible in the next few years to reduce our coal consumption by 20 million tons, which, I submit, would be a very substantial contribution to the solution of this problem.
Let us consider the types of consumption under their various headings. First, let us see what could be done with domestic coal. Domestic coal consumption in 1938 was 45 million tons; it was reduced in 1950 to only 32 million tons by a system of rationing. Yet gas, which consumed an equivalent of 19 million tons of coal in 1938, consumed 26 million tons in 1950—an increase of 30 per cent.
Electricity, which consumed an equivalent of 14 million tons of coal in 1938, consumed 33 million tons in 1950—an increase of 110 per cent. In other words, domestic consumers seem to have taken an increase in consumption of 50 per cent. in gas and 250 per cent. in electricity, because they were forced by coal rationing to increase their consumption of gas and electricity by the use of cookers and heaters.
Now, what is the efficiency of these various forms of domestic fuel consumption? The open fire, loved by all of us, is only from 20 to 25 per cent. efficient; it wastes anything from 75 to 80 per cent. of its heat. Gas is much better, it is 45 to 50 per cent. efficient; while electricity conveys overland current without much loss. In the process of creating it only 20 per cent. of the heating and power capacity of the coal passes out into the current. I am assured, however, that by various new methods it is possible to raise that figure to 25 per cent.
The fact remains that electric current is an extremely wasteful way of using heat. But we cannot, of course, dispense with it; far from it. Indeed, it is extremely important for power and lighting. For heating, however, we must take some action to restrict its uses, realising, at the same time, that thousands of housekeepers throughout the country have no other means, except the open fire and the electric fire and cooker, of carrying on. We must, therefore, see what we can do to help these housekeepers.
I have made a little study in my constituency to see what the local authorities there have been doing for the heating of their council houses. The Ministry of Housing and Local Government has, I am glad to see, drawn up a list of heating 887 appliances which must be used in council houses if these houses are to qualify for grant, and it seems that some progress has been made in that direction. I find, for instance, that two local authorities in my constituency are now installing open fires with what are known as convectors, which, together with boilers attached, raise the fuel efficiency of the open fire from 20 to 50 per cent., which is a very substantial increase.
They are also installing various types of stoves—proprietary articles, certainly—whose efficiency runs, I understand, from 50 to 60 per cent. Some of them, I was glad to see, were not only installing these in their newly-built council houses, but were reconditioning and re-equipping the old Addison houses, built soon after the First World War, by removing from them the inefficient and wasteful system of heating there.
What is the effect of all this? It looks as if there is no actual direct saving of coal as a result of these improvements. All the people whom I visited seemed to be using the same amount of coal as before, but the important fact is that whereas before they used it only for cooking, heating, or water heating, they are now using it for all three; the same amount of coal is used now for far greater spheres of activity. Consequently, it is being more efficiently used and they are deriving more benefit from it. But that does not directly save the national coal bill. Indirectly, however, I think that it does, because those tenants of council houses, with those new appliances, are not using gas or electricity in the way that they did before. That is where there is a great advantage.
A more difficult problem, perhaps, than that of council houses alone, is that up and down the country there are thousands of private houses which have never had anything other than the electric fire and which now have the electric stove also. The problem is to deal with this type of house at the same time. It is vital that the people living in them should be educated into using better methods, and in some way assisted and encouraged to pass over to the new methods.
Unfortunately, there are considerable complications. Tenants of private houses cannot be expected to install appliances which cost quite a bit of money in 888 houses that do not belong to them. Landlords have little inducement to do so when the rent they receive scarcely pays for the upkeep of the houses. Until there is some modification of the Rent Restrictions Acts which makes it possible for landlords to make investments of this kind which would not be a dead loss to them, I cannot see much being done in this direction.
I have some experience in this, having installed the new type of appliance into houses for some of my farm workers. It has cost me six years' rent to do so, and if the repairs to the cottages are taken into account, it works out at something like 10 years' rent. Under present conditions, therefore, one cannot expect very radical improvements to be made.
There are, however, inducements which the Government might consider to facilitate the use of fuel-saving appliances in private houses. I know that this is not the job of the Minister of Fuel and Power and is a matter rather for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but it might be considered whether something could not be done to reduce the Purchase Tax on certain approved fuel-saving appliances.
I am not in favour of putting up the price of coal, as some people seem to be, but why not have a levy on coal to build up a fund which might be used to subsidise these fuel-saving appliances and make them cheaper?
§ Mr. A. Edward Davies (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
Before my hon. Friend makes a request of that kind, is he satisfied that the manufacturers of these appliances cannot themselves reduce the price, and that what seems to me to be the exorbitant prices of some of these simple appliances could not be considerably reduced?
§ Mr. Price
All that would have to be looked into. I quite agree that if undue profits are being made in the manufacture of these appliances, certainly there would be no case for that. No doubt my hon. Friend knows more on this matter than I do, and I hope he will contribute later to the discussion.
In general, the experts on thermodynamics have assured me that from the relatively modest improvements that 889 could be made, something like four million tons of coal a year could be saved on domestic heating alone. That is a very useful contribution, but it is by no means the only direction in which savings can be made.
It is thought that in the gas and electricity undertakings savings of 1½million tons of coal a year could be made by the use of new methods. On the railways, of course, we are up against a very difficult problem. Doubtless, a great deal would be saved by electrifying the railways, but, of course, the capital cost is out of all proportion and is quite impossible in times like these.
There are, however, less important improvements which could be made. The use of Diesel locomotives for shunting and other methods of a similar kind would, it is thought, result in savings of something like 1 million tons of coal a year. Of course, the steam locomotive is extremely inefficient. Only 6 per cent. of the coal it uses goes in power.
Probably the greatest saving of all could be made in industry. I will not now go into details because I am hopeful that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), who has kindly consented to second the Motion, will have an opportunity of speaking and, as he is an engineer, will go into the subject in greater detail than I am able to do. Nevertheless, I should like to say a few general words. I wish to pay tribute to the work of the regional boards of industry, made up of industrialists and trade unionists in industrial areas, who have done much very good work in arranging for the staggering of loads of electrical power at peak periods. I believe that quite useful economies have already been made in this connection.
I should like also to say a word about the Federation of British Industries and the Trades Union Congress, which together have been trying to make their rank and file conscious of this great problem. The trouble, as I see it, is that most of us do not realise the seriousness of the position. I give a word of thanks also to the State Departments such as that represented by the Minister for what they have done in sending the fuel efficiency units about the country. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker), when he was 890 Minister, started this policy, and I am glad that it is being carried on by the present Minister.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
It was my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell), who later became Chancellor of the Exchequer, who started the scheme. I helped to expand it.
§ Mr. Price
A great deal of the credit goes to my right hon. Friend for continuing and expanding the scheme, and I am sure that more credit will go to the present Minister for his connection with it.
At the same time, much more remains to be done. Is it not possible to extend the number of these fuel efficiency units? I am sure that there is a tremendous field still unexplored in this direction. I know the difficulty of getting a number of qualified technicians to do so, but I think that the number of young people coming out of the universities now who have been studying physical and engineering sciences ought to make it possible to recruit an increased number for these units.
There ought to be an intensive educational campaign to impress on industrialists the need to save coal in this direction. There are various ways in which it can be done, such as the insulation of pipes and exposed parts of machinery, the use of new types of boilers, of pulverised and low grade fuel, and high pressure boilers.
There is also the question of modern methods of stoking. Stoking is an art which has to be learned and a bad stoker can use a large amount of coal. Would it not be possible to offer monetary rewards to stokers who have attained a certain standard? I understand that the trade unions are not very favourable towards this, but at the same time I wonder whether their objections could be overcome if it were explained to them.
I offer the opinion that with all these methods we are undertaking in the industrial field, we might save here 10 million tons a year, the biggest saving we have in all these items, which, with the 4 million tons saved on domestic heating and savings in other directions to which I have referred, should make a saving of 20 million tons a year. This 891 should bring our coal consumption down to about 220 million tons a year.
The National Coal Board, in its very modest figures, suggests that it can produce up to 240 million tons a year, thus leaving 20 million tons a year for export. I hope that the Board can do better than that and can increase output by another 10 million tons, so that 30 million tons a year would be provided for export. But all this will be spoilt if certain authorities, particularly the Electricity Authority, are allowed to consume wastefully up to 50 million tons a year.
I suggest that it is a vital precondition to success that there must be co-ordination between the using services. No nationalised corporation should be allowed to go ahead without reference to the others. The Electricity Authority can plan to increase their industrial uses of power and have done so. They have great plans, but those plans must be confined to industrial power and lighting and as far as possible they must be discouraged from allowing coal to be used for heating purposes.
Certainly, this figure of 50 million tons of coal would make an enormous inroad into our coal production and is something which must be scrutinised very carefully. No nationalised industry like this should be allowed to go ahead unless we are quite sure that they are doing so in the national interest.
All this means a national fuel policy and the Minister must work with all the powers of direction he can use in this connection. He has powers, and I think he ought to use them, as regards the nationalised industries. He must use his powers of persuasion with private industry because he can use no other; nevertheless, those powers are extremely important. By dint of great effort and planning we ought to be able to stop this gap in our national economy and provide for a growing industry and yet leave something over for export. It is a task to which we must address ourselves with the utmost energy and efficiency.
We can call to our aid the discoveries of science which, if we use them aright, can solve many of our economic problems. Science, alas, is not always of benefit to man, because he abuses it. The ancient Greeks held that the 892 gods punished man if he went too far in discovering the secrets of nature. We are certainly being punished for our discoveries of atomic power and the gods seem to be jealous of that secret we have won from nature. But I think we can gain all their blessings if we help ourselves by using the discoveries of science for the benefit of our homes and industries. Let us, therefore, allow no lack of knowledge, no artificial social or administrative hindrance to stand between us and a sound national fuel policy.
§ 11.36 a.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
I beg to second the Motion.
At the outset I wish to congratulate the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Phillips Price) on the lucidly expressed and remarkably well developed case he has presented for a national fuel and power policy and the utmost conservation of our coal, energy and heat resources in the United Kingdom. If there is any justification at all for this Motion today, it is simply that, quite irrespective of political party, we should all be at pains to ensure that not one minute of a miner's time is stultified by allowing the hard-won coal to be dissipated and wasted by inefficient use in industry or in our homes.
In the last few years it has become a regular practice for successive Ministers of Fuel and Power in the autumn to warn the nation of the difficult coal position and to anticipate that we shall be exceedingly lucky if we manage to get through the winter months. The right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker), in his customarily eloquent terms, was responsible, I think, on three successive occasions for giving a general warning of that sort—quite justifiably so. His predecessor, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, gave a warning in similar terms when he was the Minister.
This winter we have managed to get through without any serious breakdown. Load spreading has played its part. Now the winter is over and there has been no coal crisis and no very serious electricity cuts, the British nation heaves a sigh of relief. I am not sure that the majority of people do not say to themselves, "The Minister has cried 'wolf' again. I wonder how serious the coal situation 893 really is?" The fact is that the coal position is bad; by 1955 it will be a great deal worse and by 1960 it will be calamitous.
The Federation of British Industries to which the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West, referred, recently submitted evidence to the Ridley Committee. They estimated, and the hon. Member did not mention this fundamental point, that by 1960 there would be a shortage of 50 million tons of coal a year if we provide for a median of 30 million tons a year for export. That is approximately 22 million tons of coal more than we exported last year. Whatever the correct figures may be, there is no doubt whatever that our coal position is year by year getting further and further "into the red."
I should comment on this, perhaps in a different way from the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West. I should like to compare the development plans of the electricity generating industry, as a coal consumer, with the coal producing industry, the mining industry. I quoted these figures—and the Minister of Fuel and Power commented on them at the time—during the first day of this Parliament when I was fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. Here are those figures, brought up to date, as the result of the published 1951 statistics.
We deep-mined last year 211 million tons of coal. The British Electricity Authority are at present consuming at the rate of 35 million tons of coal a year in the power stations. If the capital investment programme of the British Electricity Authority is carried out in accordance with its plans, power houses will require no less than 65 million tons of coal in 1965, that is, 30 million tons of coal a year, more than they are consuming at present.
But the National Coal Board envisages that after a capital investment of £520 million we shall be mining 240 million tons of coal a year in 1965, that is, 29 million tons more than we mined last year. So the whole of the 29 million tons of extra coal are to be consumed by the British Electricity Authority.
That means that expanding British industry, which in the next 10 years will need an extra 20 million tons of coal, can expect no more. The gas industry will 894 require by 1960 an extra 5 million tons of coal which will not be there. Exports will be doomed to the present low level of 8 million tons of coal a year, industry will continue to be starved of coal, and the domestic consumer will be similarly doomed for the next decade or more to his present short commons.
There is the case not only for co-ordinating the development plans and capital investment of the coal and electricity industries but, in addition to mining more coal, for presenting the complementary case, which is to use coal much more efficiently in industry and our homes. Otherwise—I repeat this because it is a considered statement—the coal position for our nation will by 1960, indeed be calamitous.
The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West devoted a large part of his speech to domestic heating and solid fuel burning efficiency. He has dealt with that very adequately, and I shall say little on that matter other than to make one comment. If coal is saved by the installation in our homes of modern solid fuel-burning appliances, it is improbable that the economy will contribute to the national coal budget to any marked extent. What will happen is that the coal saved by installing modern appliances will result in increased standards of comfort in our homes. A very desirable thing that is, too. But there is no great contribution to the national coal budget to be expected from the domestic side; perhaps 2 million tons or, as the hon. Member said, 4 million tons, over a period of years.
The biggest contribution must come from British industry. It is very dangerous indeed to generalise about efficiency in coal burning in British industry. There is an enormous difference between standards of efficiency. To begin with, many firms are highly efficient in the way they burn coal and consume electricity; other firms are dreadfully inefficient. Many firms pay little or no attention to fuel and power considerations.
There are also great differences in the amount of coal consumed and its value in any individual factory as compared with the value of the end product. For example, in the sugar industry, the brick-making industry, the papermaking industry and breweries, coal consumption is relatively heavy. In the engineering industry coal consumption in the factory 895 is relatively light. In the case of an engineering product, it is not unfair to say that the element of cost in respect of fuel and power as compared with the value of the end or finished product is often not more than 2 per cent. In other industries of course, the sugar or textile industries or the brick-making industry, the element in respect of fuel and power costs in relation to the value of the end product is very much higher.
Therefore, I shall not attempt to generalise too much in what I say but rather to endeavour to pinpoint the attention of the House on certain fundamental considerations in industrial coal-using efficiency. There are two broad issues within industry; the day-to-day maintenance problem, which has been adequately referred to by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West, in which I include such questions as maintenance of boilers, lagging of steam pipes, the insulation of buildings, thermostatic control and attention to steam valves, draught control, and so on. Then, there is a dual or secondary consideration, though it is not less important—the installation of equipment which succeeds, if properly applied, in using the properties of steam more than once, thereby economising very considerably in the consumption of coal.
Let me deal with these as two separate issues. In the day-to-day maintenance problem, the hon. Member referred to the question of maintaining our boilers and the standard of skill of boilermen. This cannot be emphasised too often. The average boilerman could waste in the boilerhouse in a day more coal than the skilled miner can raise in that time.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am glad to have the assent of a former Minister of Fuel and Power for that drastic statement.
§ The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)
But it would not be quite fair to say "the average stoker." A stoker can do, but it is not every stoker who does.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am sure that two such distinguished contributors to our debates as the former and present Ministers of Fuel and Power will allow me to continue to develop this theme. I believe that it is not incorrect to say the average boiler-man. Is it realised—
§ Mr. Arthur Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)
I should like to ask the hon. Member what is the evidence for such a statement, which is supported by one of my colleagues on these benches, about the untrained stoker. It has not been my general experience in the industrial world to negotiate rates of pay for stokers, but I have considerable experience in that field. I have no knowledge in the whole of my experience as a trade union leader of any stoker being permitted at any time to enter that field of industry unless his qualifications were pretty well known. Nor do I know of any agreement that exists in industry in which there are not various grades of pay determined in accordance with the experience and qualifications of the stokers so recruited. What the hon. Member has said is a serious reflection upon the managements, to say nothing of those responsible for negotiating agreements.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I could not disagree more profoundly with the hon. Gentleman. There are hundreds of thousands of industrial boilers in this country and not 1 per cent. of the boilermen employed on them are fully skilled and trained. That is a well-known and accepted fact in fuel efficiency circles.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am not prepared to give way again. I am confident that this is a fact which is not only generally recognised by the nationalised industries but is receiving wider credence in industry itself. One example is that the North Western Division of the Coal Board have recently set up, I believe in the course of the last 12 months, arrangements for giving stoking demonstrations and for giving advice and guidance on the calibration of instruments, etc.
897 The fact remains that out of the hundreds of thousands of boilers there are in this country, a much too high percentage of them are still hand fired. None can deny that a mechanically fired boiler can be operated at a very much greater standard of efficiency than a hand-fired boiler. However, that is a matter for investment and general education. It is a day-to-day problem. It is within the group covered by management technique and it comes within the ambit of what the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West had to say about the need for extensive education in these matters.
The question of the insulation of buildings is of even greater importance. Here there is a great problem over the country as a whole. Industrial buildings -vary enormously in design, age, shape and in locality, and all those factors have a bearing on the insulation problem. No one interested in this question will deny that there are enormous savings of coal which can he obtained by the correct insulation of industrial buildings.
I make no apology for quoting here two exceptional cases of how much can be done. They are extremely favourable to the case I am pleading. In one instance a factory of 100,000 square feet was re-insulated at a cost of £8,000 and saved 600 tons of coal per year, or the output of two miners for a year. The case of a second factory is even more striking. There they succeeded after re-insulation in saving 900 tons of coal, or the output of three miners for a full year for an expenditure of just £315.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman; approximately a thousand per cent. That is only the result of ingenuity and a little common sense, not only by factory management, but of course by the building industry and architects working in collaboration with one another.
Thermostatic control universally applied in our factories could make an enormous difference to the quality and efficiency of steam used for heating and for processing purposes, and incidentally yield a very substantial economy in coal. All these things are, of course, day-to-day maintenance problems.
How is the Minister to bring the facts home to British industry as a whole? I 898 suggest he has three alternative methods of doing it. First, he could raise the price of coal to industry by, say £2 a ton. That is a view held in many circles. I disagree with it. It was a view expressed by the "Sunday Observer" a few months ago. Hon. Members may have seen my reply to it. I said this would be in large measure inflationary, because the heavy coal consuming industries, such as steel, would of course be penalised by a general increase in the cost of coal. Steel prices would have to rise, and that would add a further twist to the inflationary spiral. I condemn any suggestion entailing a rise in the price of coal, on that account.
The second alternative confronting the Minister is equally odious, in my view, and that is to put into effect a completely stringent system of rationing coal to industry and to get really tough. The Minister could go to Birmingham and tell many inefficient users there—
§ Mr. Nabarro
Or any industrial town. That happy triumvirate of hon. Members sitting on the benches opposite, who represent constituencies in Stoke-on-Trent, would support me every time in saying that one has only to drive into the city of Stoke-on-Trent, to see the black and begrimed buildings, and the sooty pall hanging over the city, to realise that much of it is contributed by inefficient coal burning in the industrial establishments. It is going on—
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
Will not the hon. Member agree that Trentham is one of the finest spots in the country?
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
And before he answers that question, is the hon. Member aware that no industry in the country is so rapidly making progress today without coal altogether as the pottery firms?
§ Mr. Edward Davies
Would not the Minister and the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) agree that we could do very much more in the way 899 of progress in that direction if we had the capital equipment, in terms of an extended gas works, to give additional gas supplies to manufacturers who are only too anxious to use these new methods?
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am entirely in agreement with the hon. Members. I concur with what my right hon. Friend has said; and now perhaps they will allow me to continue with the second possible alternative, which is the drastic rationing of coal to industry. That is equally disadvantageous as the first alternative, because it means that firms which are highly efficient and have spent money on capital development to install better steam-raising and coal-burning plant to reduce their demand on the national coal resources, are penalised by having their coal allocation reduced, in the same way as the inefficient consumer. Selective and preferential rationing would, of course, be impracticable.
The third alternative, and the one which successive Ministers of Fuel and Power have followed during the last 10 years, is what I might term the exhortative weapon of regular statements and appeals, using the fuel efficiency branch of the Ministry of Fuel and Power, the trade organisations, the B.B.C. and even television programmes, I hope, for endeavouring to instil greater coal efficiency awareness among consumers. It is all part of the education so urgently needed to change the coal-burning psychology of the British nation.
I got into a lot of trouble for criticising the Scottish hydro-electric development in Committee upstairs. On that occasion I had to say, and it is in connection with psychology, that before the war some of the people who opposed the hydro-electric development were members of the National Union of Mineworkers. There were miners out of work. The Coal Utilisation Council was formed to raise the consumption of coal, and that is only a matter of 15 or 20 years ago. Today, in endeavouring to reduce the consumption of coal by greater efficiency, we must first of all change the psychology of the coal consumer, and that can be done only by a gradual process of education.
§ Colonel C. G. Lancaster (South Fylde)
I was an original member of the Coal Utilisation Council; indeed I was a 900 member for 15 years; and it is news to me to hear that the Council were set up for the purpose, as the hon. Member said, of raising the consumption of coal. I thought it was set up for the purpose of increasing fuel efficiency.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I shall be very happy to give my hon. and gallant Friend evidence of what I say. Although it may not be correct to say that that august body was set up for the purpose of increasing coal consumption, it certainly added that purpose to its task.
The second broad division of this question, which I regard as the most important of all, is the use of back pressure generation methods in British industry. I do not wish to be technical in my approach to this problem but merely to say that back pressure generation involves the use of steam engines to drive turbo-alternators for providing power for factories and emitting steam for use a second time for heating purposes, and even a third time for processing purposes. For example, in the textile industry, steam is thereby derived for doubling or trebling the efficiency at which coal can be burned in powerhouses or in a factory under ordinary methods.
The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West, referred to a maximum efficiency of 25 per cent. in the burning of coal at a power house. That is true in a modern power house. A lot of the older power houses are now much less than 20 per cent. efficient in coal burning. The average is about 22½ per cent. That means that a factory which consumes electricity for power is burning coal at the power house to get that power at an efficiency of only 22½ per cent. It is also burning coal in its factory boilers for steam raising again at an efficiency of only 20 or 22½ per cent.—sometimes less.
By the dual and triple methods that I have ascribed to back pressure generation, efficiency can be raised from between 20 to 22½ per cent. to as high as 70 and even 80 per cent., given a proper balance of power and heating loads. We will not fall out over the generous benefits that I am ascribing to back pressure generation. I invite the Minister to study Fuel Efficiency Bulletin No. 40, published by his Ministry in 1945, which explains back pressure generation and sets out precisely the advantages that I have today outlined 901 as being possible with an efficient installation along these lines.
But what are the Government doing to encourage this? What did the previous Minister of Fuel and Power do to encourage this? On 30th April, 1951 ten months ago—he made a general statement supporting independent generation in factories and the use of waste steam. He was very kind to me in the ensuing few months. I told him bluntly that a general statement in the House of Commons to the effect that the Electricity Authority had relaxed their restrictions on the installation of independent plant until 1956 was wholly inadequate. Since then, as a result in part, I believe, of my representations to him, the British Electricity Authority have extended their relaxation until 1959. But it does not scratch the surface of this problem merely to relax what has previously been a monopoly control and deterrent on the installation of independent plants.
The right hon. Gentleman will remember that shortly after this statement I sent him a case in point. Last August I said, "Here is a factory in South London which has done what you wanted to do. It is employing waste steam for independent generation very successfully, with a great economy in coal. But look what the British Electricity Authority does to it. As soon as that factory tries to generate its own power the Authority doubles or trebles the cost of electricity to that factory if it should require an emergency supply." In other words, the British Electricity Authority have relaxed their general restriction upon independent plant but they have socked the independent plant owner right under the jaw by creating such financial inhibitions, that they act as a grave deterrent to the individual factory owner considering the high capital cost involved for back pressure generation.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
My memory is that the B.E.A. and the Federation of British Industries had joint discussions on this matter. Am I wrong in thinking that they reached an agreement?
§ Mr. Nabarro
The right hon. Gentleman is correct. They had joint consultation and they reached agreement on the period of relaxation of the existing restrictions which was to put them forward to 1956 and then to 1959. Perhaps I may 902 be allowed to quote very shortly two cases of financial inhibition that is killing the incentive to put in back pressure generation in factories and thereby save large quantities of coal.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power mentioned Kidderminster. He should come to Kidderminster by all means. There is a great deal of faulty coal burning there. But there is also assuredly a classic example of what can be done by back pressure generation. A famous Kidderminster carpet factory spent £100,000 on back pressure generation plant to provide electric power and steam for processing and heating. In addition, boilers were modified, thermostats installed in every shed and roofs insulated. The coal consumed before reorganisation was 12,057 tons, plus a large amount of grid electricity. After reorganisation, and in spite of an increase of 33⅓ per cent. in the carpet output of the factory, two-thirds of the factory electricity was generated on the site and the coal consumption, notwithstanding that, was reduced to 11,400 tons.
Thus, allowing for the production increase, greater floor space and less grid electricity used, the saving of coal was 6,000 tons a year over an original consumption of 12,057 tons a year. What does the British Electricity Authority do? This firm, having spent all this money a few months ago, suffered a grievous setback. A careless workman threw a dirty rag into a piece of the generating plant. The plant broke down for a few hours. The Electricity Authority charged the firm 20s. per kVA of maximum demand measured in any period of half an hour, during the breakdown.
The firm only wanted to use grid supplies for a few hours while their own plant was out of action. Their maximum demand was 1,140 kVA., so the charge was £1,140 for using grid supplies for only a few hours. In addition, the firm had to pay £100 a month stand-by charge against the possible eventuality of wanting to use the grid supply for a short while. That firm spent £100,000 to save the nation 6,000 tons of coal a year. But along comes Lord Citrine's British Electricity Authority to say, "You have broken down for an hour or two. You will pay £2,340 for doing so,"—which is the penalty this year.
903 That is what is killing the urge and incentive to induce greater efficiency through back pressure generation in British factories. I propose to send three or four such examples to the Minister. The Electricity Authority will defend their case and say that they must have stand-by charges, and so on. I say they must not have them. Those charges should be eliminated. In addition, to help factories—which today, generally speaking, are short of money for capital investment—to install these greater efficiency plants, it is urgent that the Treasury should give the fiscal incentives to enable them to do so.
I have given way a great deal during this rather lengthy speech and, therefore, I must crave indulgence for a few moments longer because I must direct some criticism against Government Departments. My right hon. Friend the Minister is seized of the importance of fuel efficiency. The right hon. Member for Derby, South was similarly so seized of its importance, but his colleagues were not and neither are the colleagues of my right hon. Friend.
Last week I had occasion to ask the Minister of Health why he refuses to allow a hospital in Worcestershire to go ahead with a scheme of rearranging its coal-burning plant in order to make a saving of 540 tons of coal a year. The right hon. Gentleman, the Minister of Fuel and Power will know the hospital, which is down the road from his constituency—Barnsley Hall Hospital, Worcestershire. The scheme was put up in 1947 and the consulting engineer said that for an investment of £6,000 a saving of 540 tons of coal a year could be made. The Minister of Health replied:…the possibility of proceding with the scheme will be considered when the controlled materials can be made available."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 47.]I telephoned the consulting engineer in Birmingham the next morning and I asked, "What are these controlled materials which the Minister is talking about?" The reply was, "I do not know how the Minister knows what they are because nobody has ever asked me and I am the only person who has been responsible for making up this scheme." He told me what the materials were—40 tons of steel and cast iron. So a Govern 904 ment Department is holding up a scheme which will save 540 tons of coal a year for a mere investment of 40 tons of cast iron and steel. The scheme had been lying on the drawing tables for four long years. While the Minister may say today that the steel and cast iron are not available, there was no shortage at the end of 1949, when there was no rationing in force. If this scheme of reorganisation at the hospital is put into force, it will run for 30 years at least, and possibly for 40 years. If one takes it at 30 years, the saving in coal will be an aggregate of 16,200 tons for an investment of 40 tons of steel and cast iron. But the Government say that the materials cannot be made available. That, in my view, is ridiculously short-sighted, and I shall in due course have to go back to the Minister of Health and point out to him the error of his way.
There is a yawning gap of 40 or 50 million tons of coal a year facing us within eight years, which means a calamitous fall in the standard of living of our people, unless coal can be supplied in reasonable quantities both for home inrustrial and domestic demands and for export. In fact, if a future Edward Gibbon writes of "The Decline and Fall of Industrial Britain," he will record that it rested upon the misuse and prodigality in her consumption of coal.
§ 12.12 p.m
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) quoted the recent Study on the European Coal Situation which was made by the Economic Commission for Europe of the United Nations. I am proud to think that I had the honour, in the Economic and Social Council, on behalf of the Government of this country, of proposing that E.C.E. should be set up; and, if it had done nothing else than prepare this study on European coal, I think it would have paid a good dividend on the investment which has been made.
This study shows the immense importance, now and in the future, for the present reconstruction and for the progress of our continent in times to come, of coal. It shows that three-quarters of the dollars for civilian aid which are being given by the United States are now being spent on imports of American coal. 905 It shows that, while the industrial output of Europe is well above what it was in 1938, the coal output is still below the level of that year.
It also shows that the Governments concerned in O.E.E.C., are, as an essential part of their defence programmes, planning a further increase of industrial output of 25 per cent. in the next five years, and that increase will require a complementary increase in the supplies of fuel and power which, on present prospects, it is hardly possible for us to hope to see.
This study demonstrates the fact that full employment, higher production and a rising standard of living can only be built on increased supplies of fuel and power, and it shows that, in Europe since the war, and perhaps also in this country, there has not been a sufficient confidence in the long-term future of coal, and, for that reason, there has sometimes been hesitation about large-scale investment, and even changes of investment policy in accordance with what proved to be quite temporary trends.
I remember very well that, when I first went to the Ministry of Fuel and Power, a lot of people connected with the production and use of coal used to say, only two years ago. "Do you really believe that the National Coal Board will be able to sell the 250 million tons which they are projecting in their national plan?" I remember being asked to go to a miners' demonstration in Yorkshire with Sir Stafford Cripps, when we had to reassure the miners that there was not a glut of coal in Europe and that they would not soon have to face unemployment.
I hope that this debate will help to impress upon the country the fact that it is because we have invested £10,000 million since 1945, almost every pound of which means an increase in the demand for fuel; because £2,500 million has been spent in plant and machinery which require more steam, electricity or gas—it is because of that that we are now using nearly 35 million tons a year more than was the case before the war.
This long-term policy of full employment, increased production and rising standards of living is not confined to Britain. Europe as a whole will need much more coal, and, if we had 40 million tons for export today, the prospects of peace and progress in Europe would be far brighter than they are, and our own 906 balance of payments problem would be largely solved. We know that, if we are to save the under-developed countries of other continents from imperialist Communism, we must get rid of poverty, and that means, directly and indirectly, long-term and increasing demands for fuel and power. In other words, the present coal problem is the result of the policies which our nation has accepted, and which, with other nations, we pledged ourselves in the Charter of the United Nations to carry out. It is a long-term problem which must be boldly faced and solved.
As my hon. Friend's Motion says, we need a double policy. We must produce more coal and we must use much better the coal that we have. My hon. Friend's Motion touches only lightly on more production, but I want to say a few words about it, without diverting the main stream of the debate. I am sure, that the National Coal Board will beat the targets in the national plan. Of course, in the long run, it is large-scale investment of new capital in the mines that will ensure us the coal we need, and I hope that the Minister will be able to supply to the Coal Board all the steel, timber and machinery which they need. In that he can rely on our full support.
In the immediate future, I think there are two factors which are of supreme importance. The first is higher manpower. For 20 months up to November, 1950, the manpower in the mines was falling, and many experts told us that the fall would inevitably continue, and some of them even gave us figures. They said that it would be 680,000 at the end of 1950, and 660,000 at the end of 1951; one even said that there was nothing to be done about it.
The Government and the Coal Board, however, rejected that discouraging advice. In the autumn of 1950, and again in September of last year, they took measures of many kinds to attract labour into the mines and to reduce the wastage that was going on. These measures have succeeded and today the manpower in the mines is about 50,000 above what it would have been if the downward trend had been allowed to continue, which is a very considerable result. Manpower at the end of March may well reach the interim target which I set last September.
907 I press that history on the Minister because I hope he will do everything he can to help the Coal Board to build up their manpower much above the figure at which it stands today. His housng programme, I am sure—coming on top of ours—is wise and right, and if the Coal Board propose other measures, we again promise our support.
The second factor of great potential importance in the immediate future is the reorganisation of the working of the mines, the adoption of new, unorthodox techniques. I saw the Bolsover experiment in its very early stages—an experiment in a new system of working continuous mining. It has now raised output from 33 cwt. to 50 cwt. per man-shift. The target is 80 cwt., but it has already achieved this great result. It may not be appropriate to every colliery and every coalfield, but it has been extended to 10 other pits in the East Midlands, and I believe that other divisional boards would be well advised to try it, too. Some people think it might add millions of tons to our annual output within a short period of time. They even say two years.
Those are the observations I make on more production, which is really vital, in addition to everything we can do by greater fuel efficiency than we have done in times gone by. But the greater part of my hon. Friend's Motion, and almost the whole of his very able speech, if I may say so—indeed, both the able speeches we have so far heard—have dealt with the better use of the coal we get.
It is a shocking fact, which cannot be too often repeated—I tire audiences to whom I speak with it—that of the potential heat and power in our coal, we use, perhaps, 18 per cent., while 82 per cent. is lost and wasted. If we could raise the 18 per cent. to 28 per cent., it would be the equivalent of 60 million tons of coal. Seven million tons of tarry smoke, of soot and sulphur come down in Britain every year, 2,000 tons of soot per square mile in the most densely industrialised areas. That used to be true of Stoke-on-Trent. I hope it is much less today.
§ Mr. Edward Davies
It is, but there is still much too much. Despite the 908 limitations of equipment, much could be done by the expenditure of a few hundred pounds.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I believe that to be true. This deposit of seven million tons does damage in many ways. It is bad for the health of our population; statistics prove it. It is bad for buildings. This Palace of Westminster has suffered more from soot than it did from Hitler's bombs. It is bad for agriculture. In some places double the quantity of fertilisers have to be put down every year to keep the fields in fettle. That is a fearful waste. A shrub planted in the heart of Leeds is only one-fifth the size of a shrub planted ten miles outside after the same period of growth.
What can we do to reduce this really appalling loss? Both hon. Members who have spoken this morning have answered, "Bring in a national fuel policy." Some people—not they, and I want to introduce no controversial note—have blamed previous Governments for not having done it long ago. I want a national fuel policy. That is why I appointed the Ridley Committee some time ago. Hon. Members opposite will forgive me if I say I am inclined to agree with the eminent authority who argued in an engineering paper that a national fuel policy was a Socialist conception. I think it is, but in my view it is none the worse for that, and hon. Members opposite will accept it if it is right and wise.
It is because I want a national fuel policy that, as I say, I appointed the Ridley Committee. I am sure that that Committee will report that our present resources can be used to better advantage in many ways. I want to say nothing harsh, but I think that some of those who demand a national fuel policy do so partly as an alibi to evade or cover up their failure to do their own duty to the nation and to themselves. They blame the Government. By implication, they suggest it is the Government who should be taking all the action now required. Both the speeches made this morning show that is not true.
I think there is more that the Government can do. I think the Government might carry out a very interesting suggestion made by the Federation of British Industries the other day in their valuable evidence to the Ridley Committee. The 909 F.B.I. suggest that the Government should encourage industry to install fuel-saving plant and equipment by making long-term Government loans at low rates of interest. Personally, I hope that may be done.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am very glad to have the right hon. Gentleman's support for this vital and fundamental principle. He will remember that last June we pleaded from the benches opposite for the retention of the initial allowances. They are a long-term interest-free loan in exactly the same way.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
In other words, tax remission. I was very attracted by tax remission, and I went into it very thoroughly and found that the difficulties of the Inland Revenue authorities were very real. I believe that the difficulties of a long-term loan at very low rates of interest are much less.
The F.B.I. proposed it, and I hope the Government will carry it out, in spite of the argument about inflation. After all, if it saved coal—and it would save lots of coal very quickly—the effect would at once or very soon be disinflationary and not inflationary. I think there is other action which the Government could take. The Scientific Research Department of the Ministry and the various research organisations of the national boards and the Government are working on lots of things. I only mention underground gasification, and total gasification. I believe they will give a tremendous return when they become commercial, which may be in four, five or six years from now. But the Government are already doing, in my submission—the Minister will talk about it, and I will say no more—a great part of their duty in this matter.
Whatever the Government may do, it remains true that the phrase "national fuel policy" must be interpreted in a Churchillian sense. I say that because on Wednesday last the Prime Minister was describing to the House all that his Government have done to strengthen our defences, and he said something like this: "We have started a new scheme for the recruitment of more Regulars." When it was pointed out that the Labour Government had started that scheme, he blandly said, "We, the nation, have 910 started it." It is the nation who must be the prime agents in carrying out a national policy for the better use of coal, the nation, the consumers of coal, who now waste it in so lamentable a degree.
In that interesting pamphlet on the subject, "Make Coal Work Harder," produced by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) and the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport), we find the words to which the hon. Member for Kidderminster has just referred:In the last 20 years conditions in the mines have vastly changed and improved. Technological and social progress have seen to that.They will forgive me for saying that that is a pretty paraphrase for nationalisation.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I do not wish to be controversial or to disturb in any way the harmony of this debate, but the right hon. Gentleman has evidently omitted to consider the operative wordsIn the last 20 years,that is, since 1932, not since the Coal Act of 1947.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Well, there were some pits which improved very greatly up to 1947; they were very few. The great majority did not.
The pamphlet goes on to say—and this is the immediately important sentence:But the psychology of the industrial and domestic users has neither changed nor improved.They ask for…a great national campaign in which every one must take a share.The F.B.I. likewise call for increased activity to remove "ignorance" and they say:The keynote of propaganda should be enlightened self-interest.I agree very fully with all that, and the Government can help in that campaign; but, with great respect, I say again that it is primarily for industry itself. It is the personal concern of every board of directors, every managing director of each of the 180,000 factories in the land to see that coal is better used.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West, said, immense economies could very soon be made. Economy can be achieved in very many of our factories and industrial plants. A vast amount of coal could be saved, 911 beginning now, with almost no capital expenditure at all. The hon. Member for Kidderminster spoke of lagging. The lagging of pipes and tanks can save up to 90 per cent, of the heat that is now wasted. Lagging 100 feet of six-inch steam piping can save over a ton of coal per week.
Leaks of steam from faulty valves and joints cause tremendous losses. A very high authority—I will not quote his name —told me not long ago that he was in the works of a very famous firm—famous for its high efficiency. He saw a leak of steam that, according to his calculation, was costing several tons of coal a day. Leaks of water, leaking water taps and basin plugs mean the loss of coal, because water must be pumped. A new washer or a new plug will stop the loss.
Leaks of air, and air draughts, which can often be put right by the simplest measures, mean extra firing of heating furnaces and send up coal consumption. A double door in an assembly shop saved many tons of coal a week. The level loading of the plant for heating factories and workshops and keeping the temperature at a steady level can be achieved by simple thermostatic apparatus, which is in good supply.
A woollen firm in Yorkshire saved 38.4 per cent, of its fuel consumption by thermostatic control. A firm in Liverpool employing 10,000 people saved 2,000 tons of coal a year. Millions of tons of coal could be saved with almost no capital expenditure at all. But, of course, capital expenditure is needed, too. The hon. Member for Kidderminster spoke of insulation and gave us some very striking figures. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), in the works of Ransome and Rapier, raised the temperature, through insulation, by 11 degrees, which meant a tremendous saving in coal.
Mr. Lidbury, an eminent authority known to all, has cited a case of another firm which spent £13,500 in installing plant and equipment for saving fuel. The plant had a life of 20 years, and in that time it would save 60,000 tons of coal or £180,000 in costs, so one does not need tax remission to carry out plans like that. But a low-interest loan would be a very good plan.
912 I am all for using waste steam for backpressure generation of electricity. I believe that the B.E.A. show a very liberal spirit in these matters. At least, they did so while I was in office. Do not let us over-estimate what can be done by back-pressure. I was given an estimate, which may be too modest, that if we used back-pressure generation everywhere, in addition to obtaining higher efficiency in the use of coal, we would have an additional current supply of perhaps 500 megawatts. If that is right, it must be compared with 1,100 megawatts and more which the B.E.A. added last year.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The figure the right hon. Gentleman has quoted, an overall economy of 500 megawatts, is an industrial figure. Back-pressure generation is ideally suited in the building of a new town, for instance, for generating electricity, heating blocks of flats, and so on, and results in enormous economies in coal.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I agree. It is very important, and I should like to see low-interest loans made available for the purpose.
Hon. Members have said that there is a good deal to be done with the domestic fireplace. Householders, in coal, anthracite, manufactured fuel, coke, electricity and gas use nearly 50 million tons of coal every year. Much of the solid fuel —nearly 40 million tons including coke— is not used very well. The old-fashioned stool-bottomed grates are said to give an efficiency of 15 to 20 per cent. I think that flatters them. The modern improved appliances—grates, fires, stoves and boilers—give an efficiency of from 25 to 40, 60 per cent., and in some cases even up to 70 per cent. The best give as much heat for 19½ cwt. of coal as the old grates gave for 34 cwt.
If they are installed on a big enough scale, it will mean less coal used as well as more comfort enjoyed. The Government have done a great deal about these modern appliances. They have urged their production and installation by every means. These appliances and apparatus are tested at the Government fuel research station at Greenwich and their use is urged by the Coal Utilisation Joint Council, which is subsidised by the coal merchants and the National Coal Board. They are installed in new houses by local authorities on Government advice and 913 with the help of Government grants, and 900,000 were sold last year. That is a considerable number but, in my view, not enough when we have 16 million coal consumers in the country.
The late Government secured an extra allocation of new materials and of iron and steel for the manufacturers. I hope that the present Minister will see to it that that allocation is maintained and further increased. Our coal resources can be better used. Where coal is a large part of production costs, great progress has already been made. Twenty years ago a ton of steel required over 60 cwt. of coal. Today, it requires under 40 cwt. B.E.A. must still run their old power stations which have an efficiency of 7 per cent., whilst their modern stations give an efficiency of 29 per cent.
The Government must help to guide the nation to the better use of our resources, but I say again that the main and immediate job is for every one who uses coal. We need an urgent sense of national danger. In the early stages of the last war the tramp steamers in our convoys sent up great columns of black smoke with the result that the U-boats could track them down from far beyond the horizon. It was vital to get rid of the smoke. Our scientists devised a smoke eliminating door for the ship's boilers. They taught the stokers how to use it and in three months the smoke had completely disappeared. The convoys were far safer and the amount of coal used was reduced by 5 per cent.
Coal shortage is today a national and an international danger. It is a danger at home, in Europe and throughout the world. It is a danger not much less grave and urgent than was the danger to the convoys during the war. Let the whole nation take the measures that are required.
§ 12.40 p.m.
§ Colonel C. G. Lancaster (South Fylde)
I do not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) in his observations on the findings of the Economic Commission for Europe, which made a report on coal. I think that would be more appropriately dealt with on another occasion. There are one or two matters referred to by the right hon. Gentleman which I wish to pick up in the course of the very few remarks I propose to make.
914 I should like to say straight away that the House, and indeed the country, are indebted to both to the Mover and the Seconder of the Motion. No one at this moment should detract from the importance of this problem and to that degree we are indebted to the Mover and the Seconder not only for putting forward the Motion, but for the enthusiasm which, in their separate ways, they have both shown, over a long time for this very important development.
I should like to make one suggestion, particularly to my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro): Do not spoil a good story by over-egging the pudding. I am afraid that nowadays we talk rather lightly about the saving of a million tons here, 5 per cent. there, and 10 per cent. somewhere else; but however desirable all that is, I do not think it can be contemplated that overnight we can bring about such very large reductions in the use of coal as have been suggested. It will happen over a period, but not as quickly as has been suggested.
§ Colonel Lancaster
I only mention that because I think we may do some harm to our case if we give the impression to the country that it is quite as simple as has been suggested.
My hon. Friend very kindly gave way when I interrupted in connection with the activities of the Coal Utilisation Joint Council. It was not the purpose of that Council to develop the additional use of coal. One of its purposes was to advise the use of coal as against—in most cases—the importation of fuel oil. We wanted to protect our own coal industry at that time, and we realised that we could not do so unless we could show that there was economy and efficiency in the use of our own indigenous product. The main purpose of the Coal Utilisation Joint Council was then, as it is today, to induce and encourage by all the means in our power the efficient use of coal and the efficient adaptation of coal-saving devices both in the domestic and industrial spheres.
The right hon. Gentleman, the late Minister of Fuel and Power, gave a general summary of the problems confronting the nation as far as coal was concerned, and some of the ways in 915 which we have fallen behind both in general efficiency and in the use of coal, but I think his summary would have been more comprehensive if he had paid some little attention to the condition of coal, particularly during the last few years.
Dirty coal has undoubtedly played its part in bringing about inefficient firing and, indeed, the pollution of the atmosphere. The average pollution of the atmosphere is brought about in some part by dirty coal but very often by inefficient firing and by the high volatile content of the coal itself. I think we should be unwise, also, to ignore the question of the effect on plant of the sulphuric content of coal.
All our efforts before nationalisation, and, I am sure since nationalisation, have been in the direction of the use of the proper type of fuel under the best possible circumstances. That was the principle upon which we worked. To get the industrial user to make the necessary changes in his equipment and to spend the money which was required, there had to be a sense of confidence that he could rely on getting the appropriate fuel from which he would get the best results. Unless he could so rely, it was unreasonable to expect him to spend the very large sums of money which were very often required if he were going to introduce new methods into his boiler plant. These could be efficacious only if coal was produced not only in its cleanest possible form but in its standard form.
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, before the war, in the great majority of cases, coal was sold on a B.T.U. standard, and any departure from the standard on which the contract had been made was accompanied by complaints and very often loss of the custom of the industrial concern which had been buying it. Until we get back to a condition where coal is sold in a standard form and in its most cleanly form, we shall not make very large strides in industrial efficiency.
Everything that my hon. Friend has said is very much to the point. If I have suggested that we cannot get very large economies quite as quickly as may have been suggested, it is not that I want to detract for a moment from the good work which both the mover and seconder are 916 doing in this connection; but I suggest that until we are producing coal in the condition in which, in the great majority of cases, it was produced before the war, we shall not begin to tackle this problem really efficiently.
A great deal of nonsense was talked about the difficulties of producing clean coal after the war, and a suggestion got about that there was not the proper equipment—washers and the like—to deal with the tonnage being produced. Nobody would suggest that there was not a rundown during the war and that maintenance was as good as it should have been, but it is idle to suggest that what could deal with a larger tonnage before the war could not deal with a smaller tonnage after the war.
The fact was that coal was being produced much less cleanly in the pit than hitherto. That was a fundamental reason. We have to get back to producing coal in its cleanest form and its standard condition of size and thereby give the confidence to the industrial user which will induce him to make the necessary alterations in his own power plant to bring about the economies which have been pressed by both the mover and seconder of this Motion.
In my experience the average boiler-man is not quite as idle or inefficient as has been suggested. On the whole—and I have been round a good many boiler plants in the country—he is very proud not only of his job but of the way in which he keeps his little power house. I do not say that he always has the most efficient equipment in his hands, or that he is always the most scientific man in approaching his problem; but by and large he is a good man, he takes a great deal of pride in what he does and, generally speaking, he gets extremely good results.
I know that the lagging of pipes and such things make a big difference, and that if one goes to a plant and finds steam escaping one considers it an inefficient plant; but I think those cases are exceptions. Usually, one of the directors or managers takes a particular interest in the power problems of the undertaking and knows quite a bit about it and, on the whole, the stoker is a good man—proud of his craft and of what he does. I do not think we shall improve our 917 case if we suggest that the trouble is all due to bad stoking and bad stokers. Nor shall we improve our case if we suggest that it is only since the war that this problem has been tackled. We were thinking about it for years before the war. We did not do all we should have done, but it would be idle to suggest that a great deal was not done in research and experiment in those days.
In my opinion, the Simon Report, which was produced in 1946, should be given a good deal more attention than has been given to it. Nearly all the points made by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price), are covered in the report, which also contains some very sound and informative statistics and a great deal of advice which it might be well to follow. Very little has been said about the Report recently, but it was brought out in 1946, it did a good job of work, and I commend it sincerely to my right hon. Friend as something well worthy of his attention.
That is all I want to say. I do not want in any way to pour cold water on the efforts which have been made, but I think that we shall be wrong if we imagine that overnight we can do all that had been suggested. I have tried to show that fundamentally the issue is one of the condition in which coal is mined, in the first instance, and then prepared and cleaned on the surface. All the problems spring from that. If we can produce a good product, then we can induce the industrialist and the domestic user to make the best use of it; and if we do that, we shall go some way towards solving the problem of our coal requirements, which is today the fundamental problem of the country.
§ 12.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
Although I differ fundamentally from the hon. and gallant Member for South Fylde (Colonel Lancaster), I am always pleased to hear him and other hon. Members who have such a fine background of experience, who are so well-informed and who have a relatively good and progressive record in their management and contacts with industry in the past.
§ Mr. Speaker
Perhaps I should explain, to prevent misunderstanding, that I have called on the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) not to 918 move his Amendment, which I cannot accept, as it is out of order, but to speak to the Motion.
§ Mr. Smith
It is always good to hear from hon. Members on both sides of the House who have had practical experience and who have a good record in the industry in which they have served.
On the other hand, I think that the hon. and gallant Member is inclined to think about the whole industry in the light of the management of the business with which he was associated. May I remind him that they were among the most progressive in the country? Had the whole industry adopted a similar policy of modernisation, based upon scientific management and ideas, we should not have been so concerned about our economic position today as we are.
I should like to congratulate the mover and seconder of the Motion. I shall refer later to my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price), because his record deserves it, but first I must say how indignant I am with myself for not having drawn up the Amendment in such a way that it could not have been ruled out of order. I shall accept your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, and endeavour to produce evidence to show the correctness of the ideas contained in the proposed Amendment.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) and I represent a large industrial area of North Staffordshire, and, in particular, of Stoke-on-Trent. Within 10 years that area will be one of the most important mining areas of the country, especially the areas of Longton, Trentham and Fenton, and others represented by my hon. Friend. New shafts are now being sunk there. The management, and especially technicians of the standing of my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West, are saying that at last they are being given a chance to do the right thing in their industry. They are enjoying life and are contributing more than they have ever done in the past, because the millions of pounds being sunk in these shafts should produce results within a few years.
Coking coal seams in many parts of the country are almost worked out. As a result of the application of scientific ideas, it has been found that large coking coal seams exist in this area. The need for 919 coking coal will be urgent shortly. Canada is to open a large steel industry and she will need coking coal from this country, not having any of her own. That is a reason for our deep interest in this problem.
The miners are making Herculean efforts to make their contribution to our economic needs. No one can point a finger of scorn at the efforts being made by the mining industry in general and by the men at the coal face in particular. Today every one of us who feels any responsibility at all must ask whether our efforts are worthy of the efforts now being made by the miners at the coal face. The time has come for less talking on this problem and more action, and that is why we were so eager to have the ideas contained in the Amendment on the Order Paper today.
We consider—and this is a real Labour policy which should have been applied—that there should be an immediate demand for a comprehensive fuel and power policy; and at last that powerful and influential organisation, the Federation of British Industries, are coming to our support in demanding such a policy. This policy is urgently needed if Britain is to hold her own in the world, and when it has been worked out it will also be necessary for it to be resolutely applied in the way in which my hon. Friend and those associated with him would apply it. This would be a great contribution towards a solution of our economic problems and our balance of payments problems.
We need a more fundamental approach to our economic problems. All the suggestions contained in the speech of my hon. Friend and in the Motion are a contribution to the solution of this problem, but they are not dealing with it fundamentally. It is upon these lines that we want to make some further suggestions. Nationalisation should result in greater efficiency, in the avoidance of overlapping, in large-scale savings and in improved organisation. There are also large technical advantages in nationalisation. More and more we should feel the benefits of these as time goes on.
In addition, however, we need a comprehensive policy based upon a national plan which would be worked out, and 920 any technician or anyone with any experience in the industry knows that in these days we need plans if we are to go forward to achieve the best results from our efforts. I would remind the House, and my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West, in particular, of what he has been responsible for. On 10th May, 1943—nine years ago—my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West, and 75 other hon. Members, with a number of eminent professors and technicians, were responsible for producing one of the finest reports on this problem that has ever been produced. It received great publicity, especially in the national newspapers like "The Times" and the "Manchester Guardian."
From that day to this little or nothing has been done about that report. All that is done is talk, talk, talk; all that there is is procrastination, frustration; but there is very little fundamental action. The time has come when Britain cannot afford to carry on in this way. If we are to be worthy of the miners and those engaged in industry, instead of our just producing reports and letting them lie until dust accumulates on them, action must be taken with the same tempo as we now find in the mining industry.
For years and years I have pleaded in this House for large-scale capital expenditure on the development of the mining industry and its by-products, on the electrification of the railways, on scientific research. In my innocence little did I realise that powerful interests behind the scenes prevented our nation from putting national interests first. It was not until Abadan, and not until I read the Nuremberg reports about certain generals who were charged with crimes against humanity, that I realised that powerful interests of the whole world, particularly of our country and America, took steps to prevent our nation from applying science to obtain the best results from coal and oil in this country.
I see the Minister of Fuel and Power looking at me very hard. If he is sceptical about what I am saying, all I ask him to do is to go to the Library and ask the Librarian to produce those reports, when he will see that we did not have activity of this kind because Du Pont's, I.C.I. and other people prevented action being taken before the war.
921 No one can blame the miners. They have a great record; and now their contribution is going a long way to saving our country. Here we have a statement made by a gentleman who used to hold the same political views as hon. Members now sitting on those benches opposite. Very briefly, this is what he said when being interviewed by the "New York Times" on 21st January this year. He confessed that before the State took over the mines he hated nationalisation like hell, but that the rise in output per man shift since then had convinced him that the men were now working better than they did before nationalisation. He went on to speak in glowing terms of the results now being obtained in the area for which he is responsible.
§ Mr. Smith
Mr. H. J. Crofts, C.B.E., Production Director of the West Midlands Coal Board: and he was formerly joint managing director of the Chatterley-Whitfield Colliery; and he said these things in an interview with a representative of the "New York Times" on 21st January, 1952.
We have had presented to us in the last week or two, two very fine reports, one published by the Federation of British Industries and one published by the United Nations that came from the Economic Commission for Europe. Contained in those reports is what many of my hon. Friends have been suggesting for years. I ask today for an undertaking from the Minister that, after this debate, he will go to the Ministry and see that action of a more resolute character than that we have had for many years from that Ministry is taken immediately.
I know that in the Ministry there are some of the most conscientious civil servants that there are in the country. They are prepared to carry out the policy that is placed before them; but they can carry out only the policy that they are allowed, and it should be the duty of the Minister, no matter to what political party he belongs, and in these days in particular, to see that that Ministry applies a policy with the same dynamic force now finding expression in the mining industry—in particular—and in other industries with regard to the saving of fuel and power.
922 I have one slight difference from my hon. Friend who moved the Motion, and also, and particularly, from the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), who has left the Chamber, and that is that I do not think they gave the credit that they should have given to those who have made great attempts during the past 10 years to make savings in industry and in their homes. It is only when one knows the difficulties that one can fairly assess what they have accomplished.
It is easy for me to talk here, or for anyone else. It is what we do when we have responsibility, and have influence, that matters. I am privileged to be friendly with many people in industry who are carrying on in these days under great difficulties, and I can assure my hon. Friends that they are doing all they possibly can to save every ounce of coal and every unit of power. In addition to that, it is a business proposition.
§ Mr. Smith
When my hon. Friend was speaking I asked myself, "Has he ever heard that industry is not a philanthropic institution?" Industry is run for the purpose of making a profit, and, therefore, the managements have to have regard to that, and to their boards of directors. My hon. Friends can depend upon it that, in these days in particular, when joint production councils are also watching saving, that they have not only to give satisfaction to the boards of directors to whom they are responsible; but the joint production councils and all other interests in industry are watching expenditure because they have regard to the national interest in the industries in which they work.
I prophesy—and I know the danger of being a prophet—that unless the country takes action upon the lines that my hon. Friend and I are suggesting today, then we, or whoever is here in five or 10 years' time, will be making speeches similar to those made in this debate. So far as I am concerned, I never have had confidence in the kind of planning proposed by Sir Edwin Plowden and those associated with him. I have made that quite clear. It is on paper, and it can be checked up at any time by anybody who doubts me. Things are far too serious for planning on orthodox lines of 923 that kind. If we really mean business in life we know—or ought to know—that these are days of scientific organisation based upon the same kind of planning as we have in industry.
Let me remind the House that it was in 1925—so many years ago—that a committee reported to this House and to the Ministry that a prima facie case had been made out for the further expenditure of public money on the prosecution of an inquiry into how many millions of tons of coal could be saved by the development of the Severn Barrage. The years rolled on. In 1933 we had another report, in which the Government were recommended to authorise the preparation of a complete tidal power scheme in accordance with that report.
So concerned was I about this that I spent a whole day with one of the finest hydro-electric engineers in the world in the offices of Metropolitan-Vickers. Mr. Stokes was personally interested in this, though he did not need to take that interest, because he was already well placed in life. So concerned was he that our country should take the right road that he still continued to give the benefit of his experience in many directions. We spent the whole day poring over drawings, statistics and specifications, and it was as a result of that experience that my interest in this was stimulated, which gave rise to further action in this House and in another place.
In 1931 Manchester University had a large-scale tidal model made to test the correctness of the proposals made in this report, and I was very concerned when I put Questions to the Minister of Fuel and Power a few years ago to find that neither he nor the Ministry knew anything about that model. It was not in 1952, but on 20th February, 1945, that I asked the Minister of Fuel and Power:If he has given consideration to the Report and policy of the Central Electricity Board; is he satisfied with the policy; and what steps are being taken to bring about an increase in power production, to be distributed as cheaply and as soon as possible after the termination of hostilities."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th February, 1945; Vol. 408, c. 637.]I assert that before and during the last Election the party opposite misrepresented the position about responsibility for our power production. Everyone who was prepared to be fair knew that, 924 in the main, the war was responsible. But there were others responsible, and an example is the reply given to that Question by the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North (Major Lloyd George), who was then Minister of Fuel and Power. I will not take up the time of the House by reading the reply. On 17th April, 1947, I asked a similar Question, and, also, what hydro-electrification in this country would save, and received the same kind of replies from my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). I could give examples of Question after Question.
It was because of that experience that some of us were determined not to be satisfied with the proposals contained in this Motion, which, while satisfactory within their limits, only tinker with the problem with which we are now faced. What we ask for is resolute action based on real planning, with a determination by the Cabinet to allocate the necessary capital expenditure for these proposals, because at the moment our hands are tied behind our back when it comes to providing capital expenditure. Certain problems are so urgent for the future, if we are to save ourselves, that they must have super-priority in the provision of capital expenditure.
The days of steam trains are over; they are out of date. But I am not asking now for electrification, as I have done for 15 years. What I ask for is that there should be more Diesel engines, more Diesel electric engines, more turbine engines. English Electric, Metropolitan-Vickers and British Thomson-Houston have produced the finest turbine engines in the world, and they are now preparing large-scale production for export all over the world.
It is time we used more of them in our own country in order to save this coal which is now Britain's gold. All the gold in the world is not an atom of good unless we have a large output of coal. We are not now talking about the ordinary coal of pre-war days. This is Britain's gold, and without it we cannot live; without Britain's gold we cannot run industry, which enables us to pay for our imports to live, and to afford our imports of raw materials upon which to use our skill so that we can manufacture goods for export, 925 which keeps the industrial machine going. I am not asking this morning for large-scale electrification, but for improvements in this direction.
I should not be worthy of those with whom I associated if I were not critical of American life in certain respects, but I do believe in giving credit where it is due. I was probably anti-Nazi before most people, with the exception of the present Prime Minister and a few of my hon. Friends, whose friendship I have been privileged to enjoy for so long; there were only a handful of us who were anti-Nazi in those days, before many people had made up their minds. Nevertheless, there were certain aspects of German industry to which I feel bound to give credit.
The same applies to America in the application of science and scientific organisation, in which field we could learn from them many things that we ought now to be applying. They not only develop in the laboratories but apply the results very quickly. Let me give an example of what America is doing. Their expenditure on research alone in petroleum and coal was 13 million dollars in 1939; in 1948 it was 47 million dollars. In chemicals, their expenditure on research was nearly 6 million dollars in 1939; in 1948 it was 27 million dollars. In electrical machinery their expenditure on research in 1939 was one million dollars; in 1948 it was 9½ million dollars.
These are typical of examples I could give from most industries in America, but we are doing nowhere near that in this country. Although we have made much headway, much more needs to be done. We therefore ask that modern science should be applied, not only in industry itself, where we are manufacturing products, but also in coal and its utilisation, and in obtaining by-products which we ought now to be obtaining from the coal.
If Britain had planned in the way some of us suggested six years ago, we should now be on the eve of a new industrial revolution. We should be leading the world. A Labour Government, or some other Government, will have to do this sooner or later if Britain is to save itself, and what I ask today is that the Minister should consider what has been said.
926 We have the world's finest scientists and engineers, if only they are given a chance. They are now being given a chance in mining, in large-scale electrical plant manufacture, and we ought to be directing our resources in the best national interests. We could be leading the world in the development and manufacture of the gas turbine, jet engines and new types of manufacture of all kinds. These industries should be given super-priority in all that they require in large-scale capital expenditure, manpower and resources.
We talk of the shortage of manpower, but anyone who walks around the West End of London, or any city in the country, can form his own conclusions. It is true that industry needs more manpower. There are many centres where it can he found, and if it were persuaded to make its contribution in industry there would be no manpower shortage. The same thing applies to our other resources.
It is along these lines that, sooner or later, the country will have to plan, and then carry out its plan by resolute action, if we are to save ourselves. As far as the mining industry and the saving of coal are concerned, it is thoughts of the kind to which I have given voice today that find expression in the Amendment, which Mr. Speaker has not accepted but about which he has been good enough to give us an opportunity of putting forward our opinions. We hope that the views we have expressed will be considered by the House before our next opportunity of considering the same problem.
§ 1.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)
I find myself in agreement with much of what the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) has said. Especially was I pleased to hear him say that he thought the mover and seconder of the Motion had not given sufficient credit to management and to men in industry for what they have done over the last 10 years to try to improve efficiency in the use of coal.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), who seconded the Motion, made the startling statement that the average factory stoker today wastes more coal than a miner can get. He suggested that there is an immense waste in factory stoking It 927 seemed to me that that statement is very much exaggerated. It does not give credit for the work that has been done, especially during and since the war, by the fuel efficiency committees which, throughout the country, have put in a lot of time and have achieved some very fine results. As one of my hon. Friends said later, by overstating the case the seconder of the Motion was spoiling it.
I should have liked the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South, to have said that business was run for profit. The profit motive is the mainspring of industry. Neither management nor directors are going to allow the main costs of their production to run away to waste year in and year out and not take note of it. At least, they will not do that for long and remain out of the bankruptcy court.
I should like to underline and to agree with two other things which the hon. Member said. He said that without coal we could not afford to import the raw materials and foodstuffs that are essential to our continued national existence. That is the point I want most to make, especially in view of the words in the Motion:so that waste may be eliminated and more coal be made available for export…Either more coal is made available for export, or the country will face a tragic situation such as very few people at present can envisage.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South, also said very wisely that the Americans are spending immense sums on research. That is true, and I agree that this is a direction in which we could follow their example. It is by technical efficiency and not by politics, either of the Right or of the Left, that the standard of our people is to be improved. Sheer technical efficiency is what is required, and I was very pleased to hear the hon. Member underline that statement.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
That is so, but what I am concerned about is the national policy, the policy determined by the Government of the day. If real Labour policy were applied, it would result in efficiency of the kind for which the hon. Member is asking.
§ Mr. Osborne
I should not like to trespass upon the hon. Member's 928 domestic ground as to what is and what is not real Labour policy. I should not like to make or to see another cleavage introduced from Stoke. I do not care whether it is real Labour policy or unreal Labour policy, whether it is real or unreal Conservative policy; what I am interested in is improving technical efficiency. I do not care what label is attached to it.
If our technical efficiency is improved, the standard of life can be bettered; the old age pensioners can be given a better standard, the sick can be looked after, and the unfortunate can be helped. No matter what label the hon. Member puts to the national policy and no matter from which quarter it comes, unless it improves our technical efficiency it will weaken the standard of life. What I am concerned with is not the label that is attached to the policy, but the results that it produces.
I should like to make two points. First, we have somehow, as the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker), said, to make our people alive to an urgent sense of national danger. Those are the words of the former Minister. That is the crux of all our problems, because we shall never overcome our difficulties until we have first convinced our people that they exist.
How that is to be done, I do not know. It will be no easier for this Government to accomplish than for the previous Government, who time after time tried to put across to the public the immensity and urgency of our economic difficulties. Therefore, if this debate results in only a small measure of that urgency being put across to the public, the mover and seconder of the Motion are to be congratulated.
Next, the important thing that needs looking at is the manpower in our industries and the distribution of manpower as it affects coalmining. According to the official statistics, the total number of people in civil employment is 22,324,000, of whom only about 700,000 are engaged in coalmining. Coalmining is the very lifeblood of the country, and unless it succeeds, everything else will fail. Seven hundred thousand out of 22¼ million is an absurd and insufficient proportion.
I should not like to say anything that would upset the arrangements that the miners' representatives are making to try 929 to bring Italian labour into this country, but I would rather see British labour than Italian labour in the mines. We have too many men in what I have described previously as less important industries. In the food-producing industries in which my constituency is interested, agriculture and fisheries, there are only 1,118,000. So, in the three most vital industries, those concerned with food production and coalmining, we have less than 10 per cent. of the total. It would be much more sensible to attract our people into those industries than to go on bringing foreigners into the country to do work that we ought to do ourselves.
When I have been asked how I would get that extra manpower, my answer has been quite simple: I would pay people to do it. If coalmining and food growing are the two most vital things we need, I would pay men in those industries by far the highest wages so that everyone would want to go into them. That is how the capitalist system works, or should work; that is the profit motive. I would make it so attractive that men would want to leave less important industries and go into coal-mining, agriculture and fisheries. If there is any redundancy in this country in any industry, our own people will turn against the foreigners we have brought here, and I think we should do best to avoid that by not bringing them here.
Somehow or other we have to increase our coal exports—I do not think there is much chance of our increasing the export of other goods. The Bevanite outlook on re-armament, as it affects our discussion now, is that we ought to turn our swords into ploughshares and sell those ploughshares abroad. They really mean that we should turn our tanks into textiles and sell them abroad. But the world market for the things we produce is shrivelling. Other peoples are not in such urgent need of what we are producing in textiles—and soon they will not be in such need of engineering products—as they are of coal. The world is prepared to take, almost at any price, all the coal we can produce. Since we have to import food to keep our people going, we have somehow to get our coal exports up or we shall not get that food.
930 May I remind the Parliamentary Secretary, who is taking notes for the Minister, that last year half of the food we ate in this country was imported and it cost us £1,000 million. We only paid for half that food because we had a trade deficit of £500 million. Either we must close that gap or, on that basis alone—over-simplifying the case—our rations will be cut by 75 per cent. and—
§ Mr. Osborne
In reply to that, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I was going to say that I feel the gap in our trading account can only be filled by coal exports. I was showing the urgency of that gap and its seriousness but, in obedience to your Ruling, I will leave that and make one or two points on the F.B.I. Report.
The most impressive figure is given at the end of the F.B.I. Report where it says that, whereas the annual consumption of coal for last year was 219,500,000 tons, it is expected in 1961 to 1965 to be 293 million tons. That only gives an increase in exports from 11,500,000 tons to 30 million tons. I cannot see how we shall raise all that extra coal in the meantime. Nor do I think that the increase from 11,500,000 million tons to 30 million tons will anything like meet the problem which faces us. Therefore, our only hope is to use much more wisely and much better the bulk of our production which is retained at home.
Before the war, for 10 years, we exported an average of 42,500,000 tons every year and for the last six years it has been only 8.7 million tons. What a vital difference it would make if we could get back to that pre-war export figure. Our people do not realise and many hon. Members do not realise, if they will allow me to say so, how far the help and aid we received from overseas has taken our eyes from the dangerous position in which we are living. It seems to me that before long the American economy will not be able to give overseas the help it has been giving since the end of the war and we shall have to stand on our own feet.
As the former Minister has said, the American economic aid to Europe last 931 year was spent as to 75 per cent. in the transport of coal backwards and forwards from America to Europe. If that coal could have been supplied to Europe from this country, the effect upon shipping freights would have been immense. Shipping freights would be down and ships would be free to do other work. Our cost of living in this country would have been materially affected.
I suggest to the Minister that whatever he can do, along the lines of the Motion, to impress upon the country the urgency of the need to use our coal resources as if they were as precious as gold will be the finest thing any Minister can do for this country. It is our only hope of salvation.
§ 1.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
I enter this debate with a very high degree of hesitancy because we have been charmed by the speeches of a science master, an engineer and an ex-Minister and I happen to be the only one in the House at present who has spent 35 years producing the commodity we are now discussing. So I approach it from an entirely different point of view from that of all other speakers.
I recall that in 1926 I said, although it was not generally accepted, in that there would come a time in this country when coal would be like Beecham's Pills, worth a guinea a box. We are fast approaching that day. The "box" was drawn from the work I had to do underground as a collier's drawer. We were paid a shilling a box for drawing at the depositing stations in the pit. The box took 8 cwt. because we reckoned three to the ton. That was how I coined my phrase that the day would come when coal would be like Beecham's Pills, worth a guinea a box.
I am one of those who believe it to be a crime to waste a product which necessitates the expenditure of physical energy and the great risk of life and limb which miners run. It is a crime to waste that product when he produced it for the benefit of the nation. I believe that the hand of the Divine Creator has been very beneficent to this country. He has given to us in large volumes a product which is so essential to our industrial prosperity.
932 Happily, we are in the position of having the best coal, from a calorific point of view, of any country in the world, with the exception of a little in Westphalia. We have the best engineers, produced by our mining and technical colleges, of any country. The last six years have given us conclusive evidence that we have the best miners for the production of the coal which is so essential.
It is not my intention to go into any of the points which have been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price), who moved the Motion, and by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), who seconded it. I wish to approach the matter from the point of view of bringing about a policy of the immediate conservation of coal. That there should be a long-term policy is all well and good, but while we are working out the long-term policy we should not blind ourselves to the immediate and urgent necessity to conserve coal now.
I do not want the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power, who has sat through the whole of this debate, to decry my simple suggestions. We may talk here about the scientific application of the use of coal, but it is a vastly different matter when talking to people in mining villages about it. We want to get across to our people, and particularly into the homes of the steel workers, miners and textile workers, the value of the commonsense use of coal.
I do not want to be controversial but I have often said, and I repeat it now with the same vigour as I have said it outside, that if everybody had to get their own coal they would exercise care in its use. That is impossible; men cannot be expected to get their own coal, but we can expect them to use it properly, and it is about the right use of coal that I wish to speak.
Some time ago a very important report was issued. One of my hon. Friends has referred to reports of committees of investigation which have been produced, put on a bookshelf and left there until they were covered in dust, with no action having been taken upon them. A few days ago I turned up some information—essays written by Count Rumford, who wrote many interesting essays. He lived 933 150 years ago. In one of those essays he wrote:I am not without hopes that at some future period, houses in England will become as celebrated for warmth and comfort as they are now for neatness.Those words were written 100 years ago, but the hopes of the writer have not yet been realised. His criticisms of our methods of heating are substantially as true today of the great majority of our homes as they were when the words were written.
I wish briefly to ask the Minister to intensify the drive for the abolition of open firegrates as we understand them, in our mining homes. In that drive let us be mindful of the needs of the miners and other workers. It is extremely difficult to impart to the non-mining public what we mean when we say, "Have some concern for the miner's domestic life."
It is all very well to introduce the slow combustion firegrate into the miner's home provided that the miner is continually on the day shift and provided there is only one member of the family employed in the pits. But in many of our mining villages we have three and four members of one family working in the pits, all of them on different shifts, which means that the fire is continually burning throughout the 24 hours in order to keep in readiness the necessities which are required for the miner and the miner's family on their return from work.
Some people may advance the argument that that is impossible. I say that it is not. It is within the realm of possibility to install in the homes of our miners, steel workers and textile workers firegrates which are economical and efficient, and which will give a higher degree of comfort and satisfaction to the inhabitants of those homes.
I assume that the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister intend to impart drive to this matter; indeed, they have already attempted to do so. The Parliamentary Secretary will have read of the very interesting experiment that has been tried out at Ferryhill in Durham, where a great clearance sweep, as we say, has been made of the old, ineffective, inefficient firegrates. The help of the Durham Miners' Association and all concerned has been given, and that experiment has 934 brought comfort and joy to the homes of those miners.
In addition, what is of paramount importance in relation to this debate is that there has been a remarkable saving in the quantity of coal consumed. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to pay due regard to the type of range he introduces. The best I know—I am not advertising the goods—is the "Sofono" or the "Rayburn" range. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] I am speaking from experience. I thought I was being helpful. I do not wish to be controversial.
I turn to my next suggestion. I think there can be a remarkable saving of coal which is now wasted in the minefields where pits have to deposit on the surface a large volume of pit debris. I have the honour to represent a mining constituency where there are about 144 pit heaps which have been raising their heads over the last 20 years. At one time they used to be controlled by what we call controlled tipping. There is a great amount of coal which is mixed with the debris underground and when it comes to the surface it is tipped with the debris. It gets in among the metal and there is a tendency to create spontaneous combustion. That sets on fire the pit heaps, and we have an atmosphere polluted with smoke fumes and carbon and all the bad things which affect the health of the people.
If these pit heaps were controlled and there was stricter supervision and the coal which becomes mixed up with the debris could be picked out, even if it were not fit for ordinary consumption, it would serve a useful purpose by adding to the boiler fuel for steam raising purposes at the pits.
The third suggestion I would make is regarding the saving of coal and the prevention of wastage at the point of production. To my mind that is the most important of my three suggestions. In these days of highly intensified mechanisation, and working on the long wall system, it is impossible to obtain a perfect machine which will not break down.
On the long wall faces in our pits, if anything goes wrong with the haulage or the mechanisation of the conveyer belt it leaves unloaded a large amount of coal either at the top or the bottom end of the coal face. It is absolutely essential 935 that that coal which was cut the previous day shall be removed so that the coal cutters on the next shift can cut right through. I am not blaming anybody. In the hurly-burly of pit life these things happen, but there is no reason why they should be allowed to continue in these days when coal is such an essential commodity.
What happens is that the miner ends his shift at a given time and the haulage men end their shift also at a given time; and the coal which has not been removed is thrown into the waste. I am not objecting to that because it is a practical way of getting coal. What I maintain is that that coal thrown in the waste should not be lost, but on the following day the supervisor of that coal face should see to it that the coal thrown into the waste is picked out and sent to the surface.
I do not want it to go from this House that I am blaming the miners or the engineers or the managers, or even the Coal Board. But that is one of those little things which might be lost sight of. From my information, mine workers do not like to see coal wasted after they have expended their energy on cutting it. It is a greater crime to waste coal in the pit than out of it.
I would not like it to be thought that the National Coal Board has done nothing to cultivate and develop the proper use of coal. The Report they published for the year ending 31st December, 1950, is conclusive evidence of the remarkable progress in the conservation of coal made during that year. Paragraph 130 of the Report say that the National Coal Board, as suppliers,hope to assist consumers to be more efficient in using fuel resources. It is only half the story. The other half is for the consumers themselves.There we have the two sections, the two important factors in the conservation of coal.
In my early days I was the chairman of a public utility undertaking which manufactured products essential to the comfort of people in the neighbourhood. It was a paying proposition for us to install at the lowest possible cost the apparatus which consumed the commodity we produced; because if the people had not the apparatus they could 936 not consume the product and we could not sell it. In the introduction of slow combustion fires some attention should be paid to letting them out on an instalment, or any other credit plan, so long as we got the people to use the apparatus.
The Report goes on:The cost of wasting coal may in future be very high indeed: it will not be measured simply by the price of the coal wasted, but by the value of national production which may be lost when there is not enough coal to go round. The coal industry itself consumes much coal and must see that every possible economy is made, and it has made some progress. In 1948 colliery consumption was 11.3 million tons, when coal production was 197.6 million tons: in 1950"—the year to which the Report refers—204.1 million tons were produced, and colliery consumption was 10.7 million tons.So there is a remarkable reduction in the consumption of coal at collieries.But far more remains to be done. The coal industry has no tradition of using its own product economically. For many years collieries were embarrassed by having more coal than they could sell…Naturally, that led to waste. The Report continues:…and only the best of it found a market. So a lot of coal was burned without regard to thermal efficiency. Many collieries must have new boiler plant and at all plants there must be better instruments and more efficient stoking.I do not blame the stoker and the boilerman. Having regard to what has happened in the last five or six years we ought to thank the stoker, not condemn him. He has been compelled by force of circumstances to use coal of inefficient quality. I can raise steam if I have the best quality coal, but it is a hard job to do it with coal of poor quality. I do not blame the man in the boiler-house.
As a practical miner I welcome this debate. I repeat what I said at the outset. It is a crime to waste a product which calls for the best from our men which involves risk to life and limb; which is so essential; upon which the industrial and commercial prosperity of the country has been built and upon which it relies for its future prosperity. I appeal to the Minister and to all concerned to play their part in every conceivable way in the conservation of the coal which is essential for our prosperity.
§ 2.2 p.m.
§ Mr. C. J. M. Alport (Colchester)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) will allow me to say how much I enjoyed the contribution which he made to this debate. I am sure that all hon. Members are always most grateful for the practical and commonsense advice which someone with his experience can give on matters such as this. I, with my most limited knowledge of this subject, am very glad to learn that a man of his experience confirms the belief which I have that it would be possible for the mining industry itself to make a contribution to the more efficient use of its valuable product.
I believe that we should tackle this problem from an aspect which has already been suggested. The whole future of our country depends upon how far we are able, not in 10 or 20 years to export 20 million or 40 million tons of coal, but upon how far we are able within the next two years to resume our exports of coal to the Continent. The crisis which we face is not one which can be shelved indefinitely. It is on our doorstep this year.
I believe that we should be right if we said that after meeting the demands of the coal industry itself and of transport which is necessary to move that coal to our ports, the third priority should be our export trade. What we have succeeded in doing during the last few years is to export our own coal crisis to the Continent. As the hon. Member for Ince pointed out, at one time before the war we used to export 40 million tons of coal a year. Between 1946 and 1951 we exported a total of 40 million tons.
The result is that not only has our own economic situation been gravely jeopardised, but we have not made that essential contribution which we should be able to make to the recovery and economic progress of our colleagues in Western Europe. Any contribution which can be made by the people of this country as a whole towards the solution of this problem should and must be made now.
I fully agree with what was said by the hon. Member for Ince. This is not a question of broad plans: it is a problem of individuals—of myself as an ordinary householder to see what I can do to make my contribution towards the solution of 938 a great national problem—just as it is the problem of every industrialist in Britain. I have found from practical experience that it is all very well to talk of incentives. There can be two sorts of incentive—the incentive of the carrot and the incentive of the whip—but they are both incentives.
I do not think that it is right, as the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), and Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) were trying to suggest, that we should shift the responsibility for dealing with this problem to three important national bodies, allowing the rest of us to escape our responsibilities, because that is what would happen. We must bring everybody into this campaign for fuel economy.
There is no excuse for any industrialist to waste coal. My hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) was slightly indignant when it was suggested that great progress had not been made in improved efficiency in industry since the war. It is true that progress has been made and that there are many far-sighted and progressive industrialists who are trying to tackle the problem. But I suggest to the hon. Member for Louth that if he went into his own factories he would probably find even there a pipe that was unlagged or some other little detail that could be attended to which would improve the standard of efficiency.
I suggest that that would apply to every industrialist in the country, however efficient and effective he may think his plant is. We should not try to suggest that we have made progress and that conditions are not so bad. There are many efficient stokers of boilers and many efficient industrialists, but we should not be satisfied with the present standard. If we are satisfied, what will happen? It will be as the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South, said. We shall leave the whole problem to become dusty upon the shelves of the nation as a whole.
I suggest that we should reward those who have shown progress and efficiency in fuel conservation in the past and that we should draw to the attention of those who have not the problems which face us as a nation. We should do that by putting a tax on industrial coal of perhaps £1 a ton and allowing those who have introduced fuel efficiency equipment during the last three years, and those 939 who may do so in the next year, to write off that additional capital cost against this special tax.
I suggest that we should use that tax of £1 a ton as an incentive bonus to the miners for additional output on any shift—say on the Saturday shift. Obviously, there must be a partnership between consumer and producer in this matter. In this way we should be able to ensure that those managements who in the last six months have not had upon the agenda of their board meeting the problem of fuel efficiency would put it on their agenda very quickly indeed. My hon. Friend the Member for Louth said it was a question of providing methods which would in the long run, draw the attention of industry to this particular problem. Indeed, if it were, we would mainly leave once again to somebody else to work out the problem of a national fuel policy, so that many of the people most concerned would continue to avoid taking the action which must be taken now.
There is no reason why industry should not improve, and continue every year to improve, its technique in these matters. Let me give one small example which has not been used to illustrate any of the arguments put forward during the debate, and it is concerned with the construction of furnaces and kilns. Recent technological progress in the production of lightweight alumino-silicate refractories—I am not a scientist, and I very soon get out of my depth in dealing with such matters—is in the process of revolutionising the whole basis of the construction of furnaces and kilns in this country. As a result, with a comparatively limited capital expenditure spread over a period of, say, five years, this could effect a saving of something like three or four million tons of coal a year. That is merely an estimate, but it is an indication how technical progress is coming more and more to the help of the industrialist in this matter, and is taking away from them the excuse that they are unable to make progress in fuel efficiency.
If I may turn to the problem of the domestic consumer I would agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) that the contribution which the domestic consumer can make to this problem is far smaller than anything which can be made by industry. After all, the domestic consumer only 940 uses, so far as solid fuels are concerned, less than one-sixth of the total output, perhaps including electricity and gas, about 50 million tons, as compared with industry's 150 million tons. But that is not the point.
It is not a question of how much or how little the domestic consumer can contribute to actual saving of coal. The problem is one of a changing attitude on the part of the nation as a whole to the use of coal. Unless we can bring it home to the women and the members of the families of people who are remote from the great coalmining areas that coal is a precious substance which must not be wasted—if we allow waste to continue in the home while trying to prevent it in the factories—we shall not get the full effect of our economy measures. It is absolutely essential that, parallel with a campaign for fuel efficiency in industry, should run an equally vigorous campaign for fuel efficiency in the home.
I believe it is absolute nonsense for people to say that the common-sensed and practical families in this country will continue to maintain the old, out-of-date and inefficient open fires for purely sentimental and traditional reasons, and are not prepared to accept new methods of heating their homes. It is quite certain that given the opportunity, the women, who are mainly concerned with this matter, as I am sure the hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge (Mrs. Mann) will agree, would be glad to have anything which would save fuel and produce the same heat as the old open fire, as well as save labour in the house.
When I was demoted recently from laying the breakfast in my home, when my small daughter took over, and. I was given the job of cleaning out the grate and laying the fire, I realised how very important it is to introduce labour saving in the use of solid fuel, at any rate, as far as space heating is concerned. It is no use our lecturing the women-folk of this country and telling them that they must not use electricity for space heating in order to save fuel unless we ensure that the drudgery of keeping these fires alight is removed from them.
That is now being done, and can be done still more, and I have no doubt that there will be a further improvement of these methods; indeed, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South 941 (Mr. Noel-Baker) gave us some figures in this matter. I have no doubt there will be an extension of the application of these improved domestic appliances, such as continuous burning fires, closed stoves, water heaters and other such things in the home.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he is satisfied that the present regulations and advice issued by the Minister of Housing and Local Government to the local authorities with regard to the introduction of improved fuel efficiency apparatus in council houses is as effective as he would like it to be. It is my impression that, although many of the larger authorities are fully conscious of the importance of this question, some of the smaller ones are frightened, not in the political sense, of the conservatism of future tenants who may not like these new-fangled devices, either for space heating, water heating or cooking.
At the back of all this—and this is the thread that has been running throughout the debate—is the fact that, although we may appear to be small in numbers on both sides of the House while discussing this matter today, we are dealing with a major problem. I assure the Minister that, if he takes the action which is being pressed upon him, which was pressed on his predecessors, not only in the previous Government but for many years past, he will get our wholehearted support, both in the country as well as in this House. He has only to do something which strikes the imagination of the people of the country and he will get the response, a response which will surprise him.
This is an old country, with a long experience of these problems, and we know quite well that the real problem of Britain today is one of the availability of coal; that if we can increase the amount of coal for export and for industry by using it more efficiently, we shall be able to see our way through the dark and foggy years ahead and the dangers to which the right hon. Gentleman opposite referred. If he can make a contribution by encouraging both industry and the domestic consumer to use coal more efficiently, he can be quite certain that the men and women of this country will back him up.
§ 2.19 p.m.
§ Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge and Airdrie)
I am very glad I have caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, because I feel that I have a valuable contribution to make to the debate, and I hope that the Minister will agree when I have finished that it has been a valuable contribution. Indeed, I am making him a very large present. I hope I may have the Minister's ear. I feel that I can make him one of the most popular Ministers in the country if he will but give heed to what I am going to tell him today, and also that he can get a response from the housewives of this country of a fuel saving of perhaps ten million tons of coal. How marvellous it would be if the housewives of this country could add ten million tons to our coal exports. That is something which would appeal to the housewives and to the domestic consumer.
Why have we failed? It will be noticed that I am the only woman on these benches today. In all these appeals—we have had thousands of them—money has been spent on propaganda pointing out how the coal goes up the chimney in smoke, that it does not give the heat it should, and that we are using the wrong type of grate. Today, to my astonishment, we have heard hon. Members, including my very old friend on these benches and the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) condemning the open fireplace. I notice that Press contributions condemn the open fireplace. But we are not going to get the consent of the housewives of this country to the abolition of the open fireplace.
Why not have the type of open fireplace which I have in my home? It is one which is approved by the Ministry of Fuel and Power and has cut down my own consumption of coal by about 60 per cent. Why not say to the women of this country: Have the bright, cheerful open fireplace that a man likes to come home to, that he likes to put his feet up against, that can be wiped down with a cloth in a few minutes, and that saves quarrels in the home concerning whose turn it is to put on the next lot of coal?
Such a fireplace also solves the problem of the second fire. In my own case there is often the necessity to have two fires going which we can only afford to do on a Sunday. That problem has 943 been solved by the new open fireplace I have described. Not only has it decreased my consumption of coal, but I can have a second and even a third fire during the winter months if necessary. Of course, it is not always necessary to have a third fire, but it is nearly always necessary to have a second fire.
§ Mr. Alport
The hon. Lady's experience is precisely the same as mine. I am afraid there was one word which I may have left out of my speech, but which I certainly intended to use. It is the old-fashioned open fireplace to which we are taking exception. I agree with the hon. Lady that there is no reason why we should not have these bright open fireplaces which burn with controlled ventilation, because that is the secret of the proper use of coal.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am entirely in agreement with the hon. Lady's views that it is the women of the country who will contribute to solving the problem. But there is already an official body, the Women's Advisory Council on Solid Fuel, which is doing extremely valuable propaganda work in this field.
§ Mrs. Mann
I know, but somehow they are not getting their propaganda across. I have had to find out these things very largely for myself.
In my own constituency of Coatbridge there are some 400 "prefabs." The tenants do not like the type of stove that the local authorities provided, and when I went round I found that many of them were installing at their own expense slab tiled fireplaces at £17 10s. each. They are not wealthy people. Many of them are miners, and all of them are working people receiving small wages. The architect went along to the firm that I contacted and had installed a fireplace like my own. It is not a Sofono, because the Sofono does not go all the way in saving fuel consumption. The secret of this fireplace is in the building of the wall which gives out warmth.
§ Mrs. Mann
I am asked what it costs, and I will come to that in a moment.
I had this fireplace installed because I wanted to do away with the labour of the old fireplace, and because I wanted 944 something that would look very much better. To my astonishment I found I was using only one shovelful of coal where formerly I used three. I was astonished to find that when I built up my fire at breakfast time, I did not have to renew it until about two o'clock, and then when I renewed it round about lunch time it went on till six o'clock. When renewed again at six o'clock, it went on until the news bulletin at 11 o'clock. With very little extra fuel consumption I can, if necessary, keep it alight all night.
It is an attractive, modern slab fireplace. I do not have to assure the House that I have not a vested interest because I have. My interest is in getting as many firms as possible on this job. Its cost is the most astonishing thing of all. I have told hon. Members how many of my constituents have paid £17 10s. for the ordinary slab tiled fireplace. This fireplace cost me £22, and I ask the House to note that the firm supplying it sent a man and an apprentice 80 miles, 40 miles each way, to install it. I live in a primitive old cottage on the Clyde, and when they said that they would send someone with it, I told them I thought that would cost me too much. I asked them how much they would charge and they gave me a quotation. I asked whether it was not bringing them too far out of their way, to which they replied that on the next day they were going to Fort William, which is much farther away than where I live. They told me that they went all over Scotland.
I want all housewives to have a bright, open fireplace and to make their contribution to putting the country on its feet by the export of coal. It would be wonderful if the women who need a second fire could have it in this way with so little labour as regards cleaning, and without any dispute as to whose turn it is to make up the fire. I have shown this fireplace to my various, scientific, modern family, and they all agree I have got them beat. Indeed, they are turning their modern fireplaces into this type simply because it will cut down their coal consumption and will save labour in running round with coal when two fires are alight at the same time.
Another thing that has kept the average housewife from responding to 945 the propaganda is the fact that she has been told to go in for that square type of stove which we see in the advertisements, and which is said to burn anything. But so will the one which I have. It burns dross, vegetable refuse, anthracite, coal, and indeed anything. The only alternative is that queer-shaped stove which is not suitable for small parlours and which I think is not attractive. The attractive thing is a bright, open fireplace. If we concentrate upon the provision of that type, we shall win over all the housewives.
Why is it that today so many people are going over from using the old type of fireplace to the modern type at their own expense? Why should not the thing be done properly and the patent open-fire provided in new houses? I noticed that when I received a prospectus from a firm supplying these fires, it was labelled "Approved by the Minister of Fuel and Power." He has approved a first-class idea for the housewives of this country.
The second idea I contribute is on how to save on the electricity bill. I have always been brought up to remember the edict not to have hate in my heart towards any man, but when I get my electricity bill I forget about that edict. I salve my conscience by remembering that it comes not from a man but from a board. But there is no cheque that I write with greater reluctance than the cheque I write for my electricity bill. I keep the board waiting until the last hour before I write the cheque and when I sign my name I have murder in my heart.
§ Mrs. Mann
It is not merely because I am a Scot. The bills have risen to such a high figure. I notice that a report on domestic consumption in 1946 said that the average consumption of fuel in a household of five or under was equivalent to a cost of 6s. 5d. a week. That is nonsense today. I have gone very carefully into the fuel budget of an old age pensioner and I find that even he cannot figure on a cost of less than 10s. 0d. a week. When I get my electricity account. I think of all the families all over the country who are receiving a similar account.
946 I think of the upset of domestic relations when the wife says, "The account has arrived," and the husband says, "How much?" She tells him and he says, "You have been very extravagant." She says, "You have forgotten to switch off the immerser. I am always telling you to switch it off." And so the whole atmosphere is charged with the electricity account. Visions of the nice little outing they were going to have fade. Four such accounts in a year and the little holiday planned for the family also fades. Do hon. Members wonder at the domestic quarrelling that ensues? Do they wonder at the hate in my heart when I sign my cheque for my electricity account?
I would do everything I could to ensure that I gave the electricity board the lowest possible amount on a cheque they had ever received. The open fireplace, the approved coal saver, helps to keep down my electricity account on space heating for a second or third room. Space heating and modern cooking methods are very important if we are to have some regard for reducing the consumption of electricity and giving the electricity board a heavy punch when we send in our cheques.
The second big item in domestic economy—and I have only discovered this recently—is the advent of science to help the housewife by means of the pressure cooker. I went into a home this week. I am very reluctant to say this and I ask the Press not to rush to this home and try to take photographs. It is not in Scotland. I was expected to have lunch there at one o'clock. I nosed into the kitchen—I have that privilege in this English home—and I saw vegetables lying there and what looked to me like a tough piece of butcher's meat.
I said that lunch would not be ready by one o'clock. The young housewife said, "Oh, yes. You ought to have one of these." The young woman put the tough meat on a tray and the vegetables on top in the pressure cooker and said. "Watch for the third ring and when it appears turn the gas down until you have a small glimmer and in a few minutes the meat will be cooked." This steam pressure method of cooking gives a delightful flavour to all the vegetables and preserves all the elements in them that give us the best nutrition.
947 The potatoes were put on top. All these things were worked into the pressure cooker and the lunch was on the table by one o'clock. I had grave suspicions about the tough-looking meat, but it was really very nice indeed. It would have taken me two hours to have got that tenderness in it. I would have required three pots, one for one set of vegetables, one for another, and one for the butcher's meat; and I would have required all my gas taps blazing, except, of course, that I would have turned them down to stew the meat. I asked the young woman the amount of her gas bill and she said it was 29s. Fancy, only 29s. for a period of three months of good cooking!
Let hon. Members think of the advantage of this form of cooking today when so many mothers are taking on a second job. We say it is not good for the family or the husband that the wife rushes in, puts on a frying pan and makes up a scraggy meal. Ten to one the husband is at the doctor's afterwards with a duodenal ulcer as a result of too many scraggy meals fried in a pan. The solution is a pressure cooker which provides a tenderly cooked meal at low cost. I feel that I have the electricity board just where I want them now with my open fire, which does not use up my full ration of coal and my pressure cooker.
I have a third hint to give to the Minister. I feel that as a member of the Opposition I am very kind to him. He can use these three hints to very great advantage among housewives. The third example is also a scientific contribution. It is the pressure paraffin heater. Where there is no power plug in a room or in a hall, it is a common idea to use a paraffin Valor stove. I have one in my home which I sometimes stick under the cistern to stop the pipes freezing and sometimes put into the hall or into a bedroom where there is no fire and where I only need its heat for an hour or so. The modern pressure paraffin heater can be put into the children's bedroom and by the time the youngsters are in bed, in half an hour, it has heated the whole room. It can be removed—because it is not safe to leave a pressure heater in a bedroom where there are young children—and the room remains heated. It can then be transferred to another bedroom, 948 or it can be taken round the house, and it is burning air and not oil.
These are three appeals which I think might be made to housewives. They could bring down the coal bill. It would be pushing at an open door. We all want to know how to save on coal, gas and electricity. We are bursting to know. We hate these fuel bills. They are a trial to the old age pensioners and to everyone else, even to those earning what are regarded as pretty comfortable salaries. I think one must go out among the housewives. Do not make the mistake of telling them to scrap their open fireplaces; they can have beautiful open fireplaces which can be cleaned in five minutes. Their consumption will be—and I am convinced it is an under-statement—50 per cent. less than it is at present.
Housewives can use their pressure cookers either on a gas or an electric cooker, and cut down the gas or electricity bill. Science can be brought to their aid in regard to space heating for the odd bedrooms—for the room that has only to be heated for an hour or so and at short notice—by using pressure oil stoves instead of burning coal.
Without making any extra charge for this very valuable information, I express the hope that the appreciation of these ideas will mean the export of 10 million tons of coal and—the finest thing of all—will put our country on its feet.
§ 2.45 p.m.
§ The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)
The hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) has given us a most interesting, delightful and exceedingly useful talk upon a most practical aspect of fuel efficiency, from the point of view of the housewife, which calls to mind the great care shown in these matters in the northern part of the Kingdom.
In the course of my duties I have been told of the remarkable case of the lady who lived in Scotland and who was found to be using only one unit of electricity per quarter. This so surprised the electricity board that they investigated the reason for it and found that she was using electricity only while she found and lit the oil lamp which was the normal source of illumination.
949 We should all be happy if fuel conservation and fuel policy could always be dealt with from the important and homely aspect which the hon. Lady has mentioned. On the other hand, I could not help feeling some sympathy for the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) when he moved this Motion—even though he told us he had a scientific education—when he complained about the complexities of the scientific aspects of these matters.
I, too, had the benefit of a scientific education and I feel the same difficulty. When one goes into these matters with the experts, as I have done recently, the deeper one delves the more complicated are the different aspects of these matters and, what is more important, one finds that these different aspects do not by any means always point in the same direction.
Consideration of the merits of particular fuels and the methods of using fuel in different ways is rather like the old nursery game of snakes and ladders. As one chalks up the merits and the demerits of different ways of using fuel, it is found that one has some advantage, then it has another advantage; but then one finds that there is some great disadvantage which brings it rather lower in the scale. I must confess that I was rather startled when an expert, the other day, told me that hon. Members themselves are a certain form of heat engine. They have a rather low thermal efficiency, but when they are calm hon. Members give out about 400 British thermal units an hour; but when they are excited that output can rise considerably.
For example, on Wednesday night, when the party opposite found themselves so dramatically divided in the face of the House and the country, I believe that their energy output was the equivalent of about 70 or 80 electric fires. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Conservative Party?"] The Conservative Party was in a great state of calm, since they were contemplating a disaster to somebody else.
I do not wish to mention, this afternoon, the question of coal production, because I think we can state the position very simply from the point of view of our debate today. The position is that, however good production is, we shall need a great contribution from coal conservation. Look at the simple facts, 950 The householder is so restricted in his coal and there is also the need for exports. Europe imported 30 million tons of coal from the United States of which we, of course, would wish to provide a very great share.
I should like to put the general position, following that statement, in this way: as a country we are going through a revolution in our circumstances with regard to our basic raw materials and we are, therefore, having a revolution of ideas in regard to that matter.
When that happens in this country—which, happily, is not governed by the dictates of an authoritarian Government—there is always a great movement of public opinion, and one of the reasons for which I so much welcome the Motion moved by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West, today, is that it carries a further stage, and in the most constructive way, the general movement of public opinion which is so often formulated and assisted by debates in this House.
When this process takes place, it inevitably means that there are many people who are endeavouring to forward the movement, some approaching it from one angle and some from another, with varying degrees of enthusiasm and wisdom. That is why I agree so much with what was said by the hon. Gentleman who moved the Motion and the words of warning uttered by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Fylde, South (Colonel Lancaster), that we have to be careful about the way in which we look at some of these estimates. They range as high as 80 million tons a year.
Some of these estimates are produced by applying the great scientific law of the conservation of energy in a largely theoretical manner, by deducting the realised efficiency of the total thermal content of a particular fuel and then saying that all the rest is wasted without, of course, taking into account—very often—the enormous physical difficulties of achieving higher efficiency.
That does not mean that we ought not to make all possible efforts to achieve it, but the hon. Gentleman himself gave an extremely good example when he referred to the electrification of the railways, a subject which I know has always interested the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South 951 (Mr. Ellis Smith). It has been estimated that the electrification of the railways would save 7½ million tons of coal a year, and I believe that to be the case, but everybody knows, and can see at once, what a colossal national effort would be demanded and what time it would take. I think I am right in saying that an eminent authority recently estimated the cost as being £1,000 million of capital expenditure.
Another similar example, on somewhat the same lines but on a smaller scale is this. In the country at present there are two million old-fashioned gas cookers, and it has been estimated that if they could be replaced by modern gas cookers there would be a saving—a net saving—of 700,000 tons of coal a year. I am sure that that is correct, but such an operation would require not only 140,000 tons of steel but also a capital expenditure of nearly £40 million.
We see, therefore, that these matters have to be approached not merely theoretically but also in a practical way, although I admit that there is great urgency in the need to get things done. I think I can best sum up this part of the subject by saying that a few days ago I was discussing with an eminent expert what were the prospects of fuel economy. He said, "I believe that we can save 20 to 30 million tons of coal a year." I said, "How soon?" and he replied, "In about 20 or 30 years."
I think it would be better, therefore, to turn to the more practical approach, and a very good method of doing that is to mention what was mentioned to the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West—the estimate given by the Federation of British Industries for industry itself. They say:While an estimate of the order of this potential economy is largely speculative, it is suggested that a target of 10 million tons should be adopted as the economy to be achieved by about 1965.It will be seen, therefore, that what the F.B.I. are contemplating is industry making an economy at the rate of two-thirds of a million tons each year, at a gradually increasing rate, and at the end of the period of 15 years getting it up to 10 million tons.
There is, however, another important point to be borne in mind. This saving 952 must not be considered as something which will produce a net reduction in the amount of coal to be consumed by industry, because the estimate is that the consumption of industry will normally tend to rise and that this economy will make itself felt not by a net reduction in the amount of coal used by industry but by achieving a larger rate of production at something about the same level of consumption as at the present time. The F.B.I. go on to say that they think what will occur will be a certain rise in consumption in those years and then a gradual fall, but, keeping in tune with the general estimates they have made.
Having said that, I think the House might regard it as useful if I classify the subject in the light of advice I have been able to receive from sources which the House knows are available to me. I must turn at once to the immensely important subject of the co-ordination of the fuel and power industries themselves, which was a subject raised by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South. Here we are dealing with great strategic questions of enormous importance and, let the House remember, of very great complexity and difficulty, very often, to determine.
I would say at once that the form of the Amendment—which we must not discuss—would have been a little difficult to accept, even had it been in order, although the idea behind it is right. So great is the enthusiasm for a fuel and power policy that there was some competition on the other side of the House from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker), who claimed that it was something of a peculiarly Socialist nature.
Perhaps I may direct the attention of the House to a most useful speech which was made in the House on the subject by the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) who, on 10th February, 1948, said:Co-ordination is a means, not an end…The end is the satisfaction of the consumers' needs for fuel and power at a minimum cost to the community. Co-ordination seeks to achieve this end by arranging the relations between the fuel and power industries, the scale of their activities, and the purposes they serve so as to get the best results…It is not our view—let me make it perfectly plain—that we should dictate to consumers what fuel they should use. To do this and to ignore consumers' preferences would not in our view 953 give us the best results, and freedom for consumers to choose is something which, as a long-term proposition, I regard as an essential part of a civilised society.If I may say so, that is not at all out of tune with a Conservative approach to matters of economy in general.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
But it is out of tune with our ideas. We think the situation so serious that the national interest ought to come before individual interests.
§ Mr. Lloyd
This, of course, was the right hon. Member for Leeds, South, speaking, and I was indicating that I thought there was a good deal of sense in what he said, although the hon. Member may not agree with him. The right hon. Gentleman said:Freedom for consumers to choose is…an essential part of a civilised society.But the right hon. Gentleman finished in this way—and here his ideas and ours and those of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) may join together:The principle must be that charges should correspond to real costs."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th February, 1948; Vol. 447, c. 234–8.]I do not think one could expect to get the kind of fuel policy which the hon. Gentleman wants merely by getting the nationalised industries together, because they themselves have the most keen loyalties to their own forms of activity, which are quite praiseworthy. One must act in the way the right hon. Member for Derby, South, acted, by appointing an impartial committee to which the nationalised industries, among others, give their evidence. That should be the basis of the approach to the problem and I hope we shall get a report from the committee in the course of a few months.
May I say one word about domestic appliances? In that respect I listened to the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie with great attention and with great agreement, because, like her, and like English people generally, I have this obstinate lingering desire for the open fire. If we could combine efficiency with the open fire, that would be the thing to achieve. I should like to add that I was most interested in what she said about the fact that if we press too strongly for the closed stove we may even drive some people back to the most inefficient old form of fire imaginable.
954 It might be much wiser, therefore, to proceed along the lines of giving people what they want combined with as much efficiency as can be obtained—and the hon. Lady showed that the more modern types of the open fire are capable of giving a great deal of efficiency. One of the reasons why people have been installing so many of these fuel-saving stoves is, not only the question of financial economy, but the great shortage of fuel.
Before the war there was an average of about three tons of coal per household. That was cut down during the war to about 47 cwt. and is now down to about 37 cwt. per household—a tremendous reduction which our national circumstances have forced; and it is a great incentive to many people to install these modern stoves to get a more reasonable standard of comfort, to which they were accustomed in the past.
Although I was not here, I have heard what the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) said about those fires in the miners' homes, where, of course, the facility that so many of them have, of being able to continue a fire at a low rate of combustion during the night or for long periods without its going out, and without their having to go to the old-fashioned labour of lighting a coal fire, is a facility particularly to those in industries where people are working several shifts and odd hours.
I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South, rather overstated the position when he said that 900,000 of these improved appliances were supplied during the last year. The real figure, as I am advised, is 700,000; but, of course, that is an enormous increase compared with what it was only two years ago, when there were only 200,000 going into the homes of this country.
The figure went up to something like 350,000 and last year it had gone up to 700,000. With regard to certain types of the improved open fires there has been a sevenfold increase during these three years, and we are doing as much as we can to get the necessary materials for the manufacturers of these fires, and I believe that this year we are hopeful that the figure may rise to about 900,000.
§ Mr. Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Heeley)
Does that mean that my right hon. Friend will be able to allocate a greater amount of iron and steel scrap for this purpose?
§ Mr. Lloyd
What I was saying was that we were hoping they would have those kinds of materials which would be enough to produce about 900,000 during the present year.
I am sure the House realises, as so many people have concentrated on this, that it is in industry that we have the greatest hopes of getting big economies, as, indeed, has been said by the Federation of British Industries. My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), I think, perhaps, may be held to be the greatest protagonist of all these necessary measures of capital expenditure which would yield these economies—through pre-heaters, waste-heat boilers, feed-watering economisers, and all those kinds of industrial equipment which have a most notable effect on fuel economy in the factories.
They may not be very well known to us laymen in the House of Commons, but they are very well known to industrialists, and I am sure my hon. Friend will agree that we can get a great deal of economy in fuel consumption through these means. However, I ought, perhaps, to say just in passing that fuel efficiency is only part—although a very important part—of the broader question of industrial efficiency as a whole.
Last, but by no means least, is the question of back pressure turbines, about which my hon. Friend has spoken again today. I should like to say to him and to other hon. Members interested in this subject that the Government and the British Electricity Authority wish to encourage the installation of back pressure turbines in suitable factories—for my hon. Friend will probably agree that usually it is the larger factories of more substantial character that can use this equipment, because it is a considerable piece of equipment. Owing to the fact that, unlike great power stations, which waste so much of the heat in thermal efficiency of the coal, we get this very high rate of efficiency out of the back pressure system.
I have to face a real difficulty, and it is that this system has to be designed according to the needs of each particular factory. It depends upon the difference 956 between requirements for heat and electricity in the factory as to whether they can be exactly matched—which is almost the ideal—or whether they will still need to take some power from B.E.A., or have a surplus which, because of high efficiency, they will actually be able to sell out to B.E.A.—and that is an economic proposition from the point of view of the country as a whole.
As I say, the merits of each case have to be considered; they cannot be put on a completely standard basis. That is why we get difficulties when certain manufacturers consider they are not being fairly done with by B.E.A., and why we get these complaints. Neither the Government nor the B.E.A. wish these complaints to arise if they can be avoided. All I can do today, considering that this is so much a matter of individual cases, is to say, quite plainly, that if these cases arise I will go most carefully into them to try to find out whether there is a legitimate complaint.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his assurance. I will provide him with three specimen cases to investigate. I would point out that large capital investment is required by individual firms to reach this high state of efficiency with back pressure generation, and that unless those firms know in advance that they will not be called upon to pay penal rates, such as stand-by charges and other penalties imposed by the B.E.A., they will not go on with that capital investment.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I quite see that, but I have made the position plain, and I cannot go further than that today.
That brings me to the very important point stressed by so many speakers today, that quite apart from capital expenditure industrialists and experts know that there could be a tremendous saving of fuel in industry if only certain things could be done in the ordinary maintenance and running of the plant, such as the lagging, stopping steam leaks, efficient standards of stoking, and so on.
We are in great difficulties over this, and we must face them as a nation and not only as a Government. What we can do to get this done requires cooperation from a large number of people in different kinds of managerial and technical positions. It is not susceptible 957 to management by regulation or an Act of Parliament we cannot stand behind people working all over the country. It must be done by them and not by us.
Therefore, we must try to get industry on our side. We must try to work from within industry, and with that end in view I have recently been in touch with the F.B.I., the National Union of Manufacturers and the Engineering Industries' Association who have. I am very glad to say, assured me that they will carry out a fresh campaign throughout the country and throughout all their associations, working from within industry, to do their very best to get a higher standard in these very important matters which, we know, could make a considerable saving in the future.
I have just one announcement to make, which I think will interest the House. There is a growing awareness on the part of industry that insulation—another very important subject which I have not had an opportunity of going into in detail—and the installation of fuel-saving equipment usually pay a very quick return in terms of fuel saved.
The Government are doing what they can to ensure that the supply of fuel-saving equipment and of the materials for insulation are adequate, and they consider that, in view of the quick return which is normally yielded, a great many firms will insulate their factories and install fuel-saving equipment in their own interests and from their own funds. This will take up the bulk of the equipment and materials likely to be available in the immediate future.
There are, however, some firms who, for one reason or another, may not feel able to devote capital resources of their own for this purpose, but who, none the less, could save substantial quantities of fuel if loans, say for three, four or five years, were made available to them.
The Government are accordingly informing industry, through the appropriate representative bodies, that they are prepared to make arrangements whereby experimentally, for one year in the first place, a sum of £1 million will be made available at full commercial rates for loans to such firms. This sum would cover both the structural insulation of factories built before a date to be prescribed, and the installation, again by a 958 prescribed date, of approved equipment which would save a substantial amount of fuel.
§ 3.9 p.m.
§ Mr. George Darling (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has brought a realistic note into the debate. It would not be very difficult to prepare and lay down the general lines of what might be called a national fuel policy, but it would be altogether too easy to exaggerate the saving that could be made at the present time from such a policy, assuming that the policy could be put into operation.
From the announcement that the right hon. Gentleman has just made, it seems to me, without going into any great detail, that the sum is quite inadequate for the purpose, and I am not sure that the full interest rates that are to be charged will encourage those manufacturers who ought to be dealing with this problem to accept the loans which the Government are now offering. We are all agreed, I think, that the fuel situation is so serious that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) said, even small proposals may be helpful. All of them will add up to something that may provide a quite big saving in fuel.
In dealing with industrial users, I should like to begin by agreeing with the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) that there is quite a lot of inefficiency in industry, and particularly in the use of fuel. I have been round factories that have almost made me weep with shame when I have seen how good managers in other directions, generally speaking, deal with the question of the use of fuel, with steam pipes not properly lagged and leaking valves and all the other things that have been mentioned today.
It is because coal was so cheap in the past that manufacturers, engineers and industrial managers have not considered this problem with the importance that it deserves. I am wondering whether, instead of leaving it, as the Minister apparently thinks it should be left, to appeals to industry to take greater care in the use of fuel, the Ministry's fuel efficiency service might be turned into something like the Factory Inspectorate. The factory inspectors have the right to 959 go into a factory, and if machinery is not properly covered or the safety measures which should be provided are not provided, an inspector can make things difficult for the employer.
If we could have fuel efficiency inspectors to go into factories, not only when they are invited—when they are invited they do an excellent job—but even when they are not invited, when it might appear from the smoke coming from the boiler chimneys that fuel efficiency is being neglected, they could make suggestions to the management; and if those suggestions were not followed up, some form of sanctions or punishment might be provided so that the management would be brought up to scratch and put its factory into proper shape as regards the use of fuel.
I should prefer the method of persuasion, but I think that an inspectorate service on those lines would in the long run mean a great saving of fuel and would not interfere seriously, in the same way as the Factory Inspectorate does not interfere seriously, with the workings of industry.
§ Mr. Darling
With regard to domestic consumption, I was very interested to hear everybody in the debate say that modern fuel-burning appliances should be everywhere in use. I was tempted to interrupt every hon. Member to ask, "Have you an open fireplace?" I am sure that very few of us here today have done this job in our own homes. I might say that I have done it, and therefore I can speak without any hesitation, but I am sure that not everyone in the House has tackled the job at home, where really it should begin.
We have here three problems. One of them is relatively simple: that of getting the right—
§ Mr. Darling
I know all about that and in fact I count the appliance my hon. 960 Friend is talking about as a fuel-saving appliance—
§ Mr. Darling
Yes, it can be had that way if one likes. The right hon. Gentleman would not have been able to announce the production of 700,000 of these appliances if he had not included the kind of which my hon. Friend was speaking, and I so include them. There are three problems here. One, relatively easy, is that of getting the appliances into council houses. That is being done and the Government have authority to bring pressure to bear there. The next problem is very much more difficult. It is that of getting modern appliances including those mentioned by my hon. Friend, into private houses let for rent, because there the problem is a rent problem.
We have to face the question and cannot continue to run away from it. We cannot expect landlords of private houses in present circumstances to carry through repairs and maintenance and the putting in of new appliances on the present rent levels. Special credit facilities from the Government are needed to enable the landlord to buy the equipment and those special credit facilities should be spread over a period of time. I do not know what the period should be, as I have not worked it out—12, 13 or 15 years, perhaps. The cost should be added to the rent by arrangement with the tenant. I think that the weekly addition to the rent, with the kinds of appliances of which we have been speaking, would lead to a saving in fuel—or greater comfort, which is worth something in shillings and pence—which would be equivalent to the increase in rent or perhaps larger.
§ Mr. Nabarro
May I help the hon. Member? I recently carried out considerable researches in this matter. The answer is that if one takes the average cost of a new modern appliance, such as that with which the hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) referred, as £12 and assumes that the landlord recovers the cost over a period of 10 years, it would amount to an addition in the weekly rent of 6d. and that 6d. would be more than offset by the great economy in coal consumption.
§ Mr. Darling
The hon. Member has gone into this question and I have not. I was expressing a sort of instinctive view. 961 I am sure that if the cost could be spread over a reasonable period of time, the saving in fuel would be greater than the increased cost of the appliance. This question of cost brings me to another question and, again without any figures or information but a general assumption, I am not sure that the costs of these appliances are as low as they ought to be. I am not suggesting that undue profit is being made, but I think that if the right hon. Gentleman could get some industrial experts to look at the factories making these appliances and do a proper costings job on them to find whether inefficient methods are used in production and make suggestions for improving those methods, we might get them made at a lower cost. Some, I think, are too expensive.
I am also wondering whether the right hon. Gentleman could get his Coal Utilisation Council and perhaps the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research to look into the question of domestic appliances and see whether they could design even better appliances than we have, because I do not think we have reached perfection at a low cost on a mass production basis, and either produce them in a Government factory or under licence in factories now engaged in the trade but at prices and costs determined by industrial experts.
My third point is one which has not been mentioned yet in the debate but it is germane to it, namely, the appalling waste that goes on even in modern appliances because we are using raw coal. I should like to see, in the working out of our national fuel policy, a working towards the point where we stop people in this country burning raw coal. That would not only require the setting up at the collieries of this country of the washery plants mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for South Fylde (Colonel Lancaster)—and we have not enough of those—but, at every group of collieries, of coking ovens and tar distillation plants which would enable us to get the raw materials out of coal—the by-products—which are now being wasted.
It is not only a matter of wasting fuel and not getting enough heat in our factories and homes out of the coal we burn. The smoke that goes up the chimney and pollutes the atmosphere is 962 taking with it the sulphur which we need for fertilisers in this country, the sulphuric acid that we need for so many of our industries, and nylon stockings that our women want, drugs and industrial chemicals of all kinds—
§ Mr. P. Roberts
The hon. Member is not referring to all coal but only to coking coal. There is a lot of coal that will not coke.
§ Mr. Darling
Yes. I think that the new seams being opened up for the Nantgarw project in South Wales and in other coalfields will give the type of coal which can be used for this purpose. I agree that not all the coal we mine in this country will be suitable for that purpose but all the coal in this country has raw materials in it.
The point is that it is not economical to use some of it for these tar distillation processes. But where it is economical to do so, I hope that, instead of wasting these national resources and polluting the atmosphere in the way we are doing, we shall set up the necessary plants—the coke ovens, distillation plants, by-product plants, and so on. I hope that the Government will, tight as things are at the moment, give a high priority in steel and equipment for the purpose.
There is a further point, associated with these by-product plants: we should have more and more plants for the production of Phurnacite briquettes. I know that the Coal Board are getting on with that job. Unfortunately, in the past briquettes had a bad reputation, largely because some stupid and dishonest believers in private enterprise were mixing clay with coal dust and calling the product briquettes.
We now know how to produce the right kinds of briquettes. The Coal Board are carrying on at Stoke Orchard research into finding the right mixture of tar and coal dust to provide the right kinds of manufactured fuel. That research should encourage development and should lead to the production of more briquetting plants to produce this manufactured fuel.
That brings me back to what I was saying when I began to make my third point, that we should, wherever we can, stop people in this country, in industry and domestically, using raw coal. We 963 can only do that, however, when we provide them with a form of manufactured fuel which for their purpose is better than raw coal. I think that, through the expansion of our coke oven and by-product plants and the production of Phurnacite briquettes and so on, we can give industry and domestic users in this country manufactured fuels which for their purposes are better than raw coal. The value of all that would be beyond calculation. Not only should we get the raw materials we want for industry and agriculture, but we should also stop this horrible pollution of the atmosphere which is so unnecessary in the year 1952.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ Sir Wavell Wakefield (St. Marylebone)
We are now coming to the end of a debate which I think all would agree has been most valuable. If ever justification were needed for Private Members' time, and Private Members' Motions, surely the debate today is full justification. We have had many most valuable contributions from hon. Members on both sides of the House who have made constructive proposals and suggestions. As has already been said, both the House and the country are deeply indebted to the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) for choosing this subject when he was lucky in the Ballot.
I pay a tribute to the hon. Member for the work which he has carried out for many years as Chairman of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee. Towards the end of the war, that Committee made a valuable report, to which reference has already been made, and under the leadership of the hon. Member further reports have been made. There is no doubt that the attention drawn to this subject by that Committee has stimulated interest in industry, in scientific associations and in Government circles, which is all to the good.
The debate today, I am glad to say, has been free from any party controversy. That is right when we are discussing a matter which is a question of life or death for this country. What is required is immediate and urgent action, and the very fact of the important statement today shows that the Government also realise that we are faced with an 964 immediate, pressing and urgent problem. I very much welcome, as I think will all industrialists, the statement made by the Minister of Fuel and Power. There are a number of firms, especially small and medium firms which, for reasons well known to hon. Members, are finding themselves short of capital. They wish to carry out expenditure which would bring about fuel economy, but are unable to do so because of financial stringency.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Federation of British Industries, the National Union of Manufacturers and the Engineering Industries Association. It so happens that I and my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) are on the Executive Committee of the National Union of Manufacturers. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that that body will do all it possibly can to further the interests of fuel economy by bringing to the attention of firms, particularly the small and medium firms, the necessity for care and attention being given to fuel efficiency.
I have in my hand the issue for March of the "British Manufacturer" which is the magazine of the National Union of Manufacturers, and I also have their publications for the months of November and December. In these publications special attention is paid by way of articles to the ways in which industrialists can save fuel and use power more efficiently. This work is being done in conjunction with the Ministry of Fuel and Power.
Most valuable information is given to industry in this way. Some interesting examples of the way in which fuel can be saved without any great capital expenditure are quoted. For instance, one firm found that careful use of an electric motor saved enough electricity to burn 40 100-watt lamps, while shutting off process steam promptly saved enough fuel to generate current for 210 100-watt lamps.
Other examples are quoted. In one works where hundreds of people are employed, the temperature dropped by about 10 degrees when doors were left open. When air locks were constructed and draughts from windows and so on were stopped, there was a saving amounting to several tons of coal a week. 965 Practical examples such as these show that valuable savings can be made without any great capital expenditure.
There is another direction in which, without the use of steel or any large capital expenditure, a saving of 25 per cent. to 30 per cent. can be achieved in an industry which uses a lot of coal. I refer to the brickmaking industry, but not to that part covered by the London Brick Company, where there is a large amount of combustible fuel in the bricks which are, more or less, self-burning. I refer to works in other parts of the country where bricks and pipes have to be burnt and where coal consumption is heavy.
I have a personal interest in this matter because, by arrangement with the National Coal Board, experiments were carried out three or four years ago by the Board and certain private firms. These experiments proved that by insulating kilns a saving of 25 per cent. to 30 per cent. in coal could be achieved. Not only that, but increased brick production could be obtained. More suitable and improved conditions for workers and a better product is the result. Although there has been a lot of publicity about this, the industry has been singularly slow to put this scientific information into practice. I urge the Government to do what they can to press upon this industry the necessity to make use of this scientific knowledge.
Over a year ago, in the "Financial Times," there was a very interesting article showing how savings in coal consumption in industry could be obtained, and reference was made to this industry. Information was given on how the saving could be achieved and paid for over one or two years. Therefore, I hope the Government will draw the attention of the Coal Board itself to this matter, because, while the West Midlands Division of the Coal Board has successfully carried out these experiments and are doing more, there are other divisions of the Coal Board which are not bothering about it, despite the great savings that can be achieved.
That is a practical example, in addition to those given by other hon. Members from their personal experience, of the way in which substantial savings could be achieved quite easily within the next few years. In this article in the 966 "Financial Times," to which I have referred, there was a most interesting series of case histories showing ways in which coal could be saved and really startling results obtained with a comparatively small expenditure in capital annually, and, represented in terms of years of miners' work, the saving was tremendous. In one case, at a cost of £13,500, 3,000 tons of coal were saved, equivalent in value to £9,000 or to the labour involved in ten miner-years, so that calculated on the life of the equipment it is possible that no less than 200 miner-years could be saved. That kind of saving does show how very important it is that all steps should be taken at once and in every possible direction to implement the national coal policy.
The hon. Lady the Member for Coat-bridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) drew attention to open fires, and I should like to draw attention to what has been happening in Denmark, which has no coal. The Danes must import their fuel, and the result has been that very great research has been carried out into insulation in the home, and I have been informed—the Minister can check this with his colleagues the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Minister of Works—that legislation was recently introduced in Denmark prohibiting the building of houses unless they had a lining of insulating bricks to, conserve heat.
It seems to me that something of that kind could quite easily be done in this country, if not in the whole house, at any rate in the living room and at the back of or underneath the open fire and round the chimneys, so that some of the heat that now escapes into the open air and is lost could be retained in the house, producing a great saving in coal consumption. That is the kind of direction in which progress can be made, and will increasingly be made over the next few years.
Continual reference has been made to fuel saving in industry, and I believe that this is the main field in which savings can be made. I have had personal experience in recent months of what can be done when the attention of managements is drawn to power saving. In a certain company which I know, it was very necessary that exports should be increased, and it appeared as if 967 £30,000 would have to be spent on adding further boilers to obtain the increased power and steam, but by carefully examining the ways and means of conserving the heat and steam generated, it has been found possible to increase production by about 20 per cent. with the same generating plant. That is the sort of example which if followed in industry—as it is generally—could undoubtedly make an enormous contribution to increasing our industrial production without increasing the use of coal.
As I was motoring the other day between Preston and Bury, I saw a big chimney belching forth foul black smoke. I stopped and watched it for some time, and I could not help thinking that action ought to be taken by the local authorities, who have the necessary powers, to see that such a waste of fuel is not allowed to take place. As we go up and down the country from time to time, we see this sort of thing. Surely, immediate remedial action ought to be taken and could be taken.
I want to ask the Government whether everything possible has been done to speed up the manufacture and fitting of smoke eliminators to hand-fired boilers. Cannot some more urgent action be taken to try to stop the kind of waste of fuel which I have just described? It seems to me that further action could be taken.
There are also one or two other questions I want to put to the Government. What progress, if any, has been made in wind power development? I believe that if such development could be made successfully, it might result in the saving of perhaps two or three million tons of coal a year. Is action being taken along those lines, and, if so, with what result? Could not there be a more efficient use of the power which we have got? Is it not possible, for example, to try to arrange with France the export or import of electricity across the Channel? It seems to me that at certain peak hours we might with great advantage to our industry import electricity, on the one hand, and perhaps with advantage occasionally export some. That is another direction in which perhaps the conservation of power and help for industry might be obtained.
In conclusion, I ask what action is being taken to implement the Simon Report 968 and its recommendations. I have in front of me a report made a few months ago by some eminent scientists and practical fuel men who are asking that much greater action be taken to implement that report. They draw attention to ways and means in which, for example, gas works could generate power from waste heat and from coke breeze and could supply the surplus power to the grid. The possibility of combined gas and electricity works and the pithead generation of both gas and electricity should be examined. That is the kind of practical and useful co-operation to which an hon. Member opposite referred. Could not the Government look into this aspect of fuel conservation and co-operation to see what could be done to expedite it?
A ton of coal saved a day is equal to a ton of coal mined. It is absolutely vital that coal, our greatest national asset, should be used as efficiently as possible. The supply is not inexhaustible. We have to export the products of our industry and buy the raw materials and food we need, and coal is the main means of enabling us to do that. Much of our financial difficulties would be overcome at this moment if we were able to export 20 million or 30 million additional tons of coal. It is the main basis of our prosperity and if we are to maintain, let alone improve, our standards of life we must give greater attention to the production of coal and its efficient use.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent. Central)
The Minister was good enough to refer to the terms of the Amendment which was put down originally in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) supported by myself and other hon. Friends. He gave us to understand that he had no particular quarrel with it. although he could not agree with the way it was worded; and he accepted, as it were, the principle that lay behind it. As I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will agree, the principle is that we feel that fuel economy is a very urgent matter indeed.
In this country, with a population of 50 million, people cannot possibly look forward to sufficient work or sufficient food if there is not a sufficiency of power in their hands to use. We know very well that we have the greatest need to 969 reduce costs and prices in our economic life and that we shall achieve that only by greater efficiency. That greater efficiency inevitably demands more power—the type of power available to the American workman who has three times as much horse-power available for himself as a workman in this country.
The Minister was also good enough to mention that he realises that in North Staffordshire, in the pottery area, we are conscious of the need to use suitable fuel and to discriminate not only in order to economise in coal consumption but to benefit our own industry. One medium-sized factory out of the 200 or 300 factories in the area uses as much gas for firing its ware as an average town of 30,000 population uses for all general purposes. The House will understand, therefore, why it is that we have a great gas industry in that area. It is very efficient and compares pretty well with any in Europe. Yet it is not adequate, and the Parliamentary Secretary will not be surprised when we say that we shall be coming to him and his right hon. Friend sooner or later for further help to increase our opportunities.
I have a suspicion that the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett) would like to speak for two or three minutes. In view of the time I shall cut down my remarks and deal only with two aspects of this subject so as to allow him an opportunity to take part in the debate. I should like to point out, particularly on behalf of the womenfolk, that we must be careful when we are talking of the use of the electric stove for space heating.
We have been told that these stoves are only 20 per cent. efficient and that certain other appliances of various kinds are more efficient, but when one examines the problem carefully one must realise that there are many aspects other than heat efficiency to be considered. For example, the electric stove is movable and that means using one fire where other types of fuel would involve the use of two separate fires in cold weather. It is switched on just when needed and gives maximum efficiency at once. There is no time lag in burning up before it gives its maximum heat. When it is switched off no electricity is used. Air changes in the average room heated by electric stoves are only two per hour compared with 970 five for other forms of heating, such as open fireplaces with flues which suck up air.
There is another aspect to this economy. Womenfolk who now go out to work would be quite unable to do so if they did not have electrical appliances and heaters at their disposal, and the nation would be the loser. Our economy would be adversely affected because hundreds of thousands of women who go out to work today would not be able to do so. They would have to stay at home to light and tend fires and cook in the old-fashioned way.
There is another point which applies especially to space heating by electric fires. Houses built with flues for open fires need more labour and materials for their building. Coal-burning stoves, of whatever type, need iron and steel, and very much more iron and steel than is needed for the average electric stove. If space heating by electricity were cut out, we might fall back on the situation we all experienced many years ago, when electricity was used only for lighting and was two or three times as dear as it is now. Bulk supply does mean cheapness for everybody.
With regard to alternative sources of supply, had the Minister not spoken I should have wanted to talk to him about the gasification of coal and to ask how the experiments are going on; how far we are getting on with the use of peat—the methods of drying peat and the use of the small movable plants that can be taken from one fairly small bog to another. I should also have wanted to know about the latest research done by the Minister's Department with reference to the use of wind, and these great experimental windmills, with arms as much as 200 feet in length, each producing three megawatts of electricity. Is it still mainly in the theoretical or experimental stage? I should also have liked to ask when we are going to get some more information about the Severn scheme and about nuclear fission. Everyone is agreed that by means of nuclear fission we can produce electricity as economically as from any other source.
The hon. Gentleman who opened this debate spoke of the anger of the gods with regard to science probing the deep secrets of life and nature. I should say it is not the probing or the discovery of 971 the secrets that makes the gods angry, but the mistakes made in the use of those we have discovered.
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Dr. Reginald Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)
I shall express my gratitude to the hon. Member in suitable terms at a time of greater leisure afterwards. In the few minutes remaining, I should like to say that in my opinion the whole question of economy in the use of coal can be divided into two spheres—the domestic and the industrial. In the domestic sphere one of the very largest factors is the factor of heat preservation.
As a doctor, like the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), my colleague, I have to learn about ventilation, and I know that it is fairly well established that the rates of air change in houses and living rooms in this country is almost always excessive. It is very seldom that they are under-ventilated, whether they were designed with special ventilation appliances or not. The rate of air change in British houses is, on the average, about twice what it needs to be as a result of leaks around doors and windows, the porous nature of plasters and ceilings and, of course, open chimneys. In addition to the losses through convection, there are the losses as a result of radiation through the walls.
I have taken a certain interest in this as a result of moving into a top floor flat of a once bomb-damaged building in Chelsea. I laboriously put strips of felt all around the ill-fitting windows; for the winter I bunged up the chimney and I went up into the rafters with my wife and spread newspapers, several layers thick, over the rafters, which were on top of a plywood ceiling. We immediately felt a most palpable warming up. I do not say that we saved much fuel, but we felt much warmer. We were no longer poikilothermic, to use a medical term. As my medical colleague opposite will know, that means that we were no longer living at the temperature of the external world. I believe there is a big future in that line of domestic economy.
On the industrial front, I suggest that the main objective is to look for leaks and lagging. We have heard some figures of losses of heat and fuel from unlagged 972 pipes, boilers, furnaces, kilns and such things. There is, too, the question of leaks of power. One thing which has always mystified me is when, on my way to Portsmouth by train on the week-end, I enter the north end of Portsmouth and see the gas works with its great plume or cloud of beautiful white steam over the top, which can be seen 10 miles away. I do not think that is a very efficient piece of work.
We must learn to use poorer qualities of fuel, made into briquettes, if necessary. A small firm in a village in the Meon Valley in the south of Hampshire were called in I understand as consultants at the time of the Berlin airlift, and they worked out a principle by which the use of oil, suitably burnt together with extremely poor coal, meant that this poor coal could be used in the power stations of Berlin, thus reducing by a great proportion the coal to be carried in the airlift. As a result of this method, they were able to use local fuel and combust it with the aid of oil.
A method like that is of importance, for proper combustion is proper efficiency—and proper combustion means smoke elimination. All these problems are linked together. Personally, I should like to see an end to the system whereby seven million tons of "muck" come down on this country every year. All of it was produced as coal—very much more than seven million tons. I do not know how many miner years are involved, but that is a very good unit by which to register the loss. I deplore the scale of waste which goes on, and I fervently support the Motion so public-spiritedly moved by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) He has the support of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, and I believe it will be found that he has the support of the whole House.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That this House, recognising that Britain's industrial prosperity and favourable trade balance depend not only on the proper development of our immense natural coal resources but also upon the efficient use of such coal, calls the attention of all concerned, particularly in Government, public administration and industry to the urgent need for comprehensive measures for the better use of coal, so that waste may be eliminated and more coal be made available for export and other purposes, vital to our national economy.