I am very sorry to have to raise, at so late an hour, an entirely different subject, and to detain the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power when I know he has a most important public engagement in Southampton and ought to leave the House, at the latest, by quarter-past four. Therefore, I assure him I do not expect a long reply to any of the points I may raise, because I am sure he will give them due consideration, and will enlighten me as to any steps he may take at some later date.
At the beginning of this month the House will recollect that there were two important Debates on the fuel situation, which took place in succession on the same day. The first was on a Motion to annul the Control of Fuel (Restriction of Heating) Order, and the second was of a more general character, on the Motion for the Adjournment. I listened with very great attention right throughout the day to practically all the speeches made, and I came away very disappointed, because so little attention was paid to the practical everyday problems of the housewife on whose efforts, equally with those of the miner, will depend the success or failure of the campaign to avoid a repetition of last winter's fuel crisis. Much was said about the target at which she was to aim. an overall saving of 25 per cent. on her fuel consumption, including the prohibition of space heating, and there were many rather gloomy prophecies made about the domestic circumstances which would force her to ignore the Order. There was even mention of the short-sighted few people who might attempt to sabotage the saving campaign, such as one lady I met, who boasted that in order to embarrass the Government she had turned on every gas tap and every electric switch in her house. As a matter of fact, I do not think that such bad citizens are very numerous, in fact I am sure they are not, because when she actually made that statement she was taken to task not by myself—I did not get the chance—but by her fellow housewives around her who told her off in no uncertain fashion Her husband informed me that he had also suggested to her that she should defray the quarterly bills from her dress allowance, as he did not propose to pa
The housewife, aware of the gravity of the position, would be able, by exercising unusual caution and by keeping a careful watch on the household, to achieve the 25 per cent. overall saving, but she cannot, in view of the present chaotic position with regard to fuel for this modern type of house. There is no very great difficulty in getting coal delivered in small quantities, but it is almost impossible to obtain slow combustion fuel. On 10th May—I have carefully checked this—there was in the whole of Harrow, the largest urban district in this country, at six depots to serve some 50,000 householders, only 340 tons of boiler fuel, including very poor quality coke.