HC Deb 04 February 1974 vol 868 cc863-5
12. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Minister for Energy what further proposals he has for saving power during the present shortage.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

I shall take whatever steps may be necessary in the light of the developing situation.

Mrs. Short

As the present energy crisis is entirely the result of the Government's determination to have a confrontation with the miners and thereby break the miners' determination to fight for what they believe is right, and this has manifestly failed, does the right hon. Gentleman not think it is time the Government called an end to this farce? Will he close his mind to the pernicious suggestion from his hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Rost) to cut down any further on motorway or street lighting, which would nullify the saving in life that has been brought about by the 50 mph speed limit? Does he not think he ought to look at the waste of electricity and power by discotheques, bingo halls, night clubs and similar establishments, which are allowed to continue through the night using tremendous amounts of power and electricity?

Mr. Jenkin

While not for a moment accepting the hon. Lady's premise, perhaps I may make the position clear about places of entertainment. They are subject to the heating and lighting restrictions which were introduced in November. The hon. Lady will have seen the advertisements this weekend in which we have drawn public attention to the continuation of those regulations.

The other point is that the electricity authorities advise that it is possible that less electricity is used by keeping places of entertainment open, because if they were not open people would be at home using their own heating and lighting. However, I assure the hon. Lady that we have been having discussions with the trade associations representing these bodies to see what further contributions they can make towards saving electricity.

Mr. Sydney Chapman

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the greatest incentive that could be given to householders to save power would be to get the regional electricity boards to change their tariff system so that the more electricity a household uses the greater the cost per unit, instead of the reverse, which is the case at the moment?

Mr. Jenkin

I have seen my hon. Friend's suggestion before. There would be great difficulties in short-term tariff adjustments for the purposes he has in mind.

Mr. Benn

Is the Minister aware that his latest suggestion that people are serving the national interest by going to bingo halls so as not to use electricity at home simply makes the situation more ridiculous? Is he also aware that there is a moderate majority among industrialists who would like to see the acceptance of the TUC proposals for a settlement? It is his responsibility as Minister for Energy to convey to the Prime Minister the fact that industrialists do not accept the leadership given by the CBI which does not represent its members on this question.

Mr. Jenkin

The right hon. Gentleman was going very wide with the last part of his question. On the first part, which arose out of the Question of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short), the Government's concern is to see that electricity is saved. We have no wish to encourage people to do this or that; we wish to encourage the saving of electricity, and on that we take the advice that I indicated to the House.

Miss Quennell

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that if domestic householders were given some acknowledgement of the support that they have given the Government in the present crisis it might encourage them to save even more?

Mr. Jenkin

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity of saying in the House what I have said on a number of occasions through the media. The Government are extremely grateful to the millions of householders who are making great efforts to save electricity in the national interest.

Mr. Grimond

Will the Minister reconsider his answer about the use of electricity for gambling, and so on? It is causing great resentment. Of course, by not going to a discotheque one may use electricity at home. By not turning on the television one may turn on an electric blanket, or even read a book, which presumably would be fatal.

Mr. Jenkin

The closing remarks of my earlier answer may not have been fully heard in the House. I reiterate that we are discussing with the bodies representing these interests what further contribution they can make towards saving electricity.

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