HC Deb 23 November 1965 vol 721 cc224-6
15. Mr. McGuire

asked the Minister of Power if he will issue general directions, in the public interest, to the boards of the nationalised coal, gas and electricity industries to reduce the competition between them, with particular reference to sales promotion practices connected with the sale of domestic heating equipment.

29. Mr. Fisher

asked the Minister of Power if he will give a general direction to the gas and electricity industries to cease advertising their products until they are able to meet the demands of their existing customers.

31. Mr. Tilney

asked the Minister of Power whether he will,give a general direction, in the public interest, to electricity and gas area boards to cease advertising until they are able to meet consumer demands.

37. Mr. J. H. Osborn

asked the Minister of Power what plans he has for reviewing the advertising campaigns of the gas and electricity industries.

Mr. Frederick Lee

Following discussions with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and myself, the chairmen of the rationalised fuel industries have agreed to discontinue advertising, both national and local, with certain minor exceptions, for a period of three months from 1st December, 1965.

Mr. McGuire

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the reasons why the gas shortage has been aggravated is the high pressure and despicable sales methods of gas boards? Is he aware that I have with me details of the condemnation of these methods by a judge in a case where a gas board sent a salesman round at a very low basic wage on the pretence of inspecting equipment but with the real job of selling new equipment? Is my right hon. Friend aware that this has aggravated the situation outlined in the House last week, and will he do something about it?

Mr. Lee

I do not think that that subject is covered by my hon. Friend's Question or by the Answer which I gave to it. I was merely talking about advertising.

Mr. Taney

Would the Minister bear in mind the advantages of oil heating and private enterprise?

Mr. Lee

There are great advantages in all these kinds of fuel, but I should have thought it inappropriate at this moment for the public to be confronted by advertisements of this kind when they know that there is a danger of cuts, and so on.

Mr. Fisher

Is the Minister aware that his decision—taken, of course, since these Questions were put down—will be generally welcomed by the public, who found it a little irritating to find their own supplies cut when these advertisements were still circulating? But why does he now try to include oil in this respect? After all, oil can be supplied—why should it not be advertised?

Mr. Lee

In some areas, all fuel can be supplied. It would therefore seem to me to be better—although national advertisements may be all right in a large part of the country but are not applicable to certain areas—not to advertise at all during this period. The oil industry has understood this very well, and has cooperated with us.

Mr. Kelley

Would not my right hon. Friend consider that it would be in the national interest to promote the sale of coal while stocks are available, and so relieve the pressure on gas and electricity?

Mr. Lee

I can assure my hon. Friend that nothing we will do will prevent the National Coal Board or distributors of coal from attempting to do more than they have been doing.

Mr. Osborn

Would not the Minister agree that now is the time to promote the sale of oil, if there are ready supplies that can be used, and not discourage its sale by discouraging advertising?

Mr. Lee

I thought that I had answered that point when I referred to the different positions in the different regions. There are occasions when electricity, gas and oil are in plentiful supply, as well as coal, but I think that all of them come into the same category.