Fuel Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st May 1947.

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Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham 12:00 am, 1st May 1947

The House has listened with its usual courtesy to a most interesting essay, which bore the mark of careful preparation. Undoubtedly, the composition was impeccable, though I am bound to say that the content was infantile. [An HON. MEMBER: "Cheap."] It does not lie with hon. Members opposite to complain when they get a Roland for their Oliver. I gathered during the course of the Debate that I am cordially disliked by hon. Members opposite. They must not complain if there is a ready and willing response.

This Debate has, in one respect, been a curious one. It began with consideration of an Order designed to impose certain restrictions on the use of gas and electricity by various classes of consumers, and during the course of that Debate hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite referred to the subject of production, distribution, miners' coal, and so forth; but when they came to the Debate on the Motion for the Adjournment, we discovered that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite wished to revert to the earlier Debate, and references have been made to the undesirability, to put it mildly, of promoting an Order which seeks to impose restrictions.

I thought that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary had made a very able reply to the Debate on the subject of domestic restrictions. Ordinarily, I would have said no more on the subject, but, in the circumstances arising out of the latter part of the Debate, I feel this must be said. None of us on these benches, certainly nobody in the Government, has the least liking for restrictions of any sort or kind. We are as concerned for the wellbeing of the housewives of this country as anybody on the Opposition benches, and we shall seek, as we have always done, to safeguard their interests. But hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have got a record in this matter. I should not be at all surprised if millions of housewives in this country recalled the many sordid episodes that occurred in the lifetime of Tory Governments. They will not forget.

If I do not present the argument as carefully and as concisely as the right hon. and intellectual. Gentleman opposite, it must be put down to lack of education. But, at any rate, there is no doubt about my reasoning. I repeat that we are as much concerned about the housewives of this country in the matter of domestic fuel restrictions as anybody on the other side. But we are equally concerned about the position of industry in this country. When the fuel crisis occurred, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite said that we should have exercised more foresight last year; we should not have wasted our substance, by which they meant that we ought not to have wasted coal. We ought to have saved it up, we ought to have resorted to more stocking. At whose expense? At the expense of consumers. As to industrial consumers, if we had resorted to stocking at the expense of consumption, it would inevitably have led to short time and excessive unemployment in the country.