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Fuel And Power

Volume 486: debated on Monday 9 April 1951

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

Electricity Authority (Offices)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power for what reasons he authorised the construction of offices by the British Electricity Authority and its subordinate boards.

The British Electricity Authority and the area boards have had to re-organise and integrate the staffs of 561 separate undertakings. About 360 of these undertakings were municipally owned, and many members of the staffs were previously housed in town halls or council offices, which did not pass to the boards. Since vesting date, the electricity sent out has increased by almost 30 per cent., and half a million new consumers are connected every year. It is clear, therefore, that some construction and adaptation of office buildings has been required, if the efficiency of the service was to be maintained.

But did not the Electricity Authority take over a very large amount of office space from the previous electricity undertakings, and has the right hon. Gentleman ascertained from that body why it requires additional office space?

I have explained that the amount is very small. Since 1st January, 1950, I have authorised the expenditure of only £400,000 on new construction and adaptations [HON. MEMBERS: "Only."] which, in comparison with the immense services rendered to the nation, is very small.

Why did not the Minister transfer some of the large surplus of colliery offices which, according to the nationalised industry, have been rendered useless since nationalisation? What has the Minister done with those offices?

Would it not be better if there were fewer administrators in the Electricity Authority?

Gas Council


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if his attention has been called to paragraph 184 of the First Report of the Gas Council; and what steps he is taking to improve the quality of the coal delivered to the Gas Council.

Yes, Sir. I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) on 19th March.

Does the Minister realise that one nationalised industry inevitably causes losses to another and that the taxpayer or the consumer pays? That is one of the main reasons for the rise in the cost of living.

If the hon. Member will look at HANSARD for 19th March, he will see that the two main causes of the present difficulty are, first, that many of the best gas coal seams have been worked out, and, second, that the gas boards require seven million tons more coal than they did before the war.

Does the right hon. Gentleman remember Kipling saying:

"A servant, when he reigneth, throws the blame on someone else."?


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power on how many occasions he has referred matters to the Gas Council as mentioned in paragraph 15 of the First Report of the Council; and what were the subjects so referred.

I am in frequent touch with the Gas Council, not only on the matters on which the Act requires that consultation should take place, but also on other subjects on which consultation may serve a useful end.

Will the Minister give an assurance that he, as a theorist, will consult business men as often as possible?

Yes, Sir. I am in constant touch with the Gas Council, on which are very good business men.

Farms (Oil Storage)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power, in view of the increasing dependence of farmers throughout the country on tractors requiring petrol, tractor vapourising oil and diesel oil, what steps he is taking to increase the storage capacity throughout the country; and whether, in view of the limitation of the tank capacity at the docks, steps will be taken to assist and facilitate the installation of tanks for a year's supply on farms using tractors throughout the country.

As the hon. Member is, I am sure, aware, the oil companies provide the bulk storage which they require to enable them to maintain their supplies to those who buy their oil. I am now considering measures to supplement their storage where, in case of a national emergency, extra capacity might be required. These measures will be designed to meet the needs of all essential users of oil, including farmers.

Does the Minister realise that in the event of a national emergency, owing to the fact that there are hardly any farm horses left, cultivation will be absolutely at a standstill if abundant supplies are not made available?

Yes, Sir, that is very much in my mind, and that is why I am considering supplementary storage.

Gas Main, Dorset


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what quantity of metal it is proposed to use in the scheme sub- mitted to him for laying a new gas main from the Sturminster Newton Gas Works to the Stalbridge Gas Works.

No scheme for laying a gas main from Sturminster Newton to Stalbridge has been submitted to me by the Southern Gas Board.

Materials And Equipment (Exports)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power why he requested that changes should be made by the oil companies secretariat in the analysis of the value of orders placed by oil companies for materials and equipment exported from the United Kingdom; and whether he is aware that the 20 new categories do not permit of analysis into the three main categories of manufactured equipment, steel products and fabricated steel.

The changes in the classification of orders for equipment placed by the oil companies, to which my hon. Friend refers, were made at the request, not of my Department, but of the petroleum industry. They were intended to reduce the volume of work which falls on the oil companies materials secretariat, and they have, I understand, given general satisfaction.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that answer, may I ask if he can say whether there was any pressure from the American companies on the British companies to change the system of analysis?

No, Sir. I never heard of any such pressure. It was the secretariat of the oil companies Materials Committee which asked for the change.

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that this system of analysing oil equipment and the volume of oil equipment does not give full credit to the magnificent job that is being done by British oil equipment producers and British manufacturers, who are now supplying about 80 per cent. of the equipment needed for the oil industry?

The Council of British Manufacturers of Petroleum Equipment have stated specifically that these categories—I am quoting their own words—

"provided a format likely to be more satisfactory for their purpose."

Domestic Heating


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether a greater heating value is obtained by the use of a gas cooker or an electric cooker.

My right hon. Friend, the Foreign Secretary, said in a written answer to the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) on 15th February that the efficiency with which the potential heat of coal is delivered to a house as effective heat for warming a room is, in the form of gas, from 29 to 34 per cent., and in the form of electricity about 20 per cent. There are, however, great variations in the efficiency of gas and electric cookers, and in the way in which their owners use them; no precise quantitative comparison of their performance can, therefore, be made.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the gas and the electricity authorities are carrying out advertising campaigns both claiming the most efficient use of fuel, and that this is costing a great deal? Have these campaigns got his approval?

The promotional campaigns have stopped. But the replacement of existing equipment may sometimes be useful. A modern gas cooker uses 40 per cent. less gas than some of the older types still in use.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if, in view of the fuel shortage, he will state which is the most economic method of domestic heating from the fuel point of view with regard to gas, electricity or grate burning.

In general, the most economic way of providing the main heating of a house or of hot water for domestic use in winter, is by means of solid fuel burnt in modern stoves. In a written answer to a Question by the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) on 15th of February last, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave particulars of the relative efficiency of gas, electricity, coke and coal in the continuous heating of a room.

Fuel Saving Appliances


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he has considered offering to the public at a low price modern fuel-conserving grates and stoves, so as to economise in the use of solid fuel for domestic purposes.

As my hon. Friend no doubt recalls, there is no Purchase Tax on appliances which burn solid fuel. I am considering various other measures designed to encourage the public to replace old fashioned grates and stoves by modern and more efficient types.

Has my right hon. Friend calculated that we might save 10 million tons of coal a year if open fires could be replaced by modern grates or stoves? Would he consider introducing a Noel-Baker type of stove?

About one million improved appliances have been sold since the issuing of the Simon Report.

Is not the first step in this development to secure the co-operation of the local authorities to install stoves instead of open hearths?

Yes, Sir, and everything is done to ensure that they put in improved appliances. They are given special prices when they buy these appliances in bulk.