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Power Stations (Posters)

Volume 480: debated on Monday 13 November 1950

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

24.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will make a statement on the posters displayed by the British Electricity Authority headed "Another New Power Station."

On reflection, I think the hon. Member's Question deals with a matter affecting the day-to-day administration of the British Electricity Authority, on which it would not be desirable that I should comment in a reply.

Does the Minister recall that in reply to a supplementary question last week he expressly invited me to table a Question on this issue? Does he consider it consistent with the duty he owes to this House, having invited a Member to table a Question, then to decline to answer it?

My recollection, confirmed by others, was that I had spoken in my answer to the hon. Member of the general policy of advertising. HANSARD does not record that. If I was in error, I regret it, and I apologise, but I am quite certain that if I gave any other answer to the hon. Member's Question today I should not be adhering to the principle that I should not answer questions on matters of day-to-day administration.

Does the Minister's answer mean that he is prepared to answer a Question, if tabled in accordance with his recollection of his invitation, or does it mean that he declines to answer any question on this subject, notwithstanding his invitation?

On the question of general policy in regard to this matter, does the Minister recollect that I brought to his attention in July the question of an advertising agent employed by the Authority who regarded it as his duty to plead the case for nationalisation? In view of the facts, does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that it means that an expenditure of nearly £500,000 per year on posters dealing with power stations, not one of which has ever been erected by the British Electricity Authority, constitutes misleading propaganda for nationalisation?

No, I do not accept that at all. This year the British Electricity Authority will bring into commission 950 megawatts of power—30 per cent. more than in any year in our history.

Would not the right hon. Gentleman, in the interests of accuracy, ask the British Electricity Authority to place upon each of these posters a slip saying, "This station was planned and started by private enterprise"?

As a matter of fact, of the 60 schemes on which work is now going forward only three were started by private enterprise.

Does the Minister realise that the psychological effect of this extensive advertising campaign is to cause consumers to use more electricity at a time when the right hon. Gentleman wishes them to use less?

I think that the hon. Member's question shows that he does not read the advertisements. A very large part of them is devoted to explaining to housewives and others that they should use as little electricity as possible at peak hours.

On a point of order. In view of the right hon. Gentleman's refusal to answer a Question, the putting down of which he expressly invited, I beg to give notice that I propose to raise the question of his behaviour in the matter at the earliest appropriate opportunity.