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Load Shedding

Volume 480: debated on Monday 13 November 1950

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16.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware that despite undertakings that farms will not suffer from temporary electricity cuts, load-shedding in Hampshire on 30th October stopped water pumping in farms and villages, prevented grinding and preparing of cattle food in the morning and electric milking machines in the afternoon; and whether he will give an assurance that such dislocation will not again be imposed upon the agricultural industry.

Every area electricity board makes every effort to avoid cutting off essential agricultural supplies. But I know of no pledge that farms would be immune from the effects of power-cuts, and I think that no such pledge can have been given since it would be technically impossible to carry it out.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture has appealed to farmers to protect themselves and to help industry, by reducing their consumption of electricity to a minimum during the hours of peak demand. If a farmer, nevertheless, finds that a power-cut may cause him loss or inconvenience, he is asked to consult his area board. I am grateful to the hon. Member for this opportunity of drawing the attention of farmers to my right hon. Friend's appeal.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the district manager of the electricity area board at Basingstoke has stated, in reply to protests by farmers, that his instructions are to carry out cuts on a strict rota basis, regardless of whether those affected are farmers? Does the Minister realise that there simply is not the labour with which to milk cows except by machinery?

I am sure that the Board will try to adjust the rota in order to reduce inconvenience to a minimum, but I might point out that two of the jobs which are mentioned in the Question—pumping water, and the preparation of cattle food—seem to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture to be eminently suitable for off-peak hours.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give instructions about this, because I assure him there is not the labour on many farms in Hampshire to milk cows except by electrical machinery?

I will do what I can, but the hon. Member should take up the matter with the Board.

27.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he is aware of the continuing inconvenience and danger to patients in surgeries and hospitals arising from electricity cuts imposed after dusk, and that such inconvenience and danger is aggravated when cuts take place outside advertised times; and what steps he is taking to deal with this serious problem during the present winter.

Yes, Sir. Unfortunately, it is technically impossible to give hospitals and surgeries complete immunity from power cuts; but the electricity boards make every effort to give them warning when cuts are to be made. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour said in reply to a Question on 8th November, the Electricity Sub-Committee of the National Joint Advisory Council are giving the whole problem of load spreading urgent and detailed consideration.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind—I am sure he will—how serious these unadvertised cuts can be in surgeries and hospitals where, very often, there is no alternative means of lighting? Will he do everything he can, in the broadest sphere, to avoid what are very often chaotic conditions resulting from unadvertised cuts?

I will do everything I can, but I have had no complaints about this matter. If the hon. Member knows of any, perhaps he will bring them to my attention.

In the event of cuts, will the right hon. Gentleman try to avoid any kind of similar inconvenience and danger in the case of electrically lit road signs?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in spite of his replies, warnings are not being given to hospitals, and that some giving of notice would be of great value to hospitals that are without alternative sources of supply?

I hope that my hon. Friend will give me details. I also think that hospitals and surgeries ought, wherever possible, to have alternative means of lighting.

We have dealt with 27 Questions in 37 minutes. It does not look as though we shall get very far today.