HC Deb 11 April 1918 vol 104 cc1678-9W

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) whether, considering the difficulties of carrying out the new Order, the extra clerical labour which will be imposed on the undertakings concerned, and the number of, persons who will inevitably become liable to prosecution and penalty, he will withdraw the Order and substitute a simple ration of coal on all gas and electric lighting undertakings; (2) whether he has realised that about two-thirds of the consumers of gas obtain their supply through automatic coin-meters; that these consumers of gas never have bills to show the quantity of gas consumed; that they never read their meters; that as they cannot get gas without putting a coin in the meter they are naturally economical; that the large majority of them use more gas than the limited quantity mentioned in the Order and therefore become liable under the Order; and that it will involve much labour with reduced staff of clerks to make the comparisons with the previous year, to assess the ration quantity for each consumer, and to advise the Board of Trade of the results; and whether, in view of these facts, he will exclude all consumers of gas through automatic meters from the operations of the new Order; and (3) whether he knows that under the Lighting, Heating, and Power Order, 1918, the effect of the rationing of gas is to encourage the use of more coal in order to save gas; and whether, for the advantages of munition purposes and economy, he will consider the advisability of the coal being converted into gas and used in that form rather than use the coal as a raw material in open fires?


I am aware that the operation of the Lighting, Heating, and Power Order will cause some difficulties, and will, no doubt, involve a good deal of additional labour on the part of the undertakings which supply gas and electricity. They have already given me valuable assistance in this matter, and will, I know, continue to do so. The supply of coal to these undertakings will, for reasons which I have already explained to the House, be considerably curtailed, and it has become necessary, therefore, to impose upon the individual consumers a corresponding obligation to limit their consumption, and unless this object is achieved I can only anticipate that the public will be still more seriously inconvenienced in the coming winter by a failure of undertakings to maintain their supplies. I realise that the position of prepayment consumers presents special difficulties, but their large number makes it impossible to except them from the operation of the Order if the necessary economy is to be effected. Many will come under the minimum provision in the schedule to the Order. I realise that the co-operation of everybody concerned is essential to success, and I hope that, that with this, the objects of the Order will be secured with the minimum amount of hardship to consumers.