I understand that we are now having a general discussion on apparatus which uses electricity. Cooking stoves appear to be the only class of such machines which really deserve to have the tax remitted. I know that a case can be made out for a number of other machines which use electricity, but this is a very special form of taxation proposed by the Chancellor. He is not proposing it for revenue purposes. It is because we are in a fuel crisis and are likely to be for some time. On the other hand, the Committee know all the arguments for the cooking stove. New houses must have these stoves. It is impossible to complete those houses without the stoves, and it is quite wrong if the purpose of the tax is not revenue, but to deal with the consumption of electricity, simply to put up the total cost of houses.
I was sorry that when we discussed this matter on the Report stage of the Budget Resolutions it did not appear from the speeches from the Government Front Bench that the Ministry of Fuel and Power had provided the Ministers who spoke with detailed information of the saving that could be expected from the substitution of new stoves for old stoves.
After all, if the point is to save electricity it is very foolish to make it more expensive to instal apparatus that will cook the dinner at least quite as well as the old apparatus if the new apparatus is going to be more economical in the consumption of fuel. I thought that the raising of the Purchase Tax proposed was something of a panic measure, and that it had been done in view of the great difficulties we experienced in the early part of the year. I hope that when the Government give us their considered reply on all the Amendments that have been put down dealing with these machines which consume electricity, we shall have what I may call "a Fuel and Power reply," and not a "Treasury reply," because it ought not to be beyond the wit of the Treasury to arrange that in all cases where there is a definite saving of fuel the tax might be remitted. I agree that it would be difficult if that were to cover, washing machines, electric irons, etc., but I think the case is absolutely unanswerable in relation to cookers. If the Government would give that, I would be satisfied and I believe that all sides of the Committee would welcome the concession.