That is certainly an important incidental advantage.
I should like to try to establish the fact, which is often denied, that it would save some coal in overall terms. I support my contention by a very interesting sentence in this year's report of the National Coal Board. In page 35, paragraph 124 of their annual report, they say:
Merchants' sales of coal to domestic consumers were lower than in 1951. This may have been due in part to consumers running down their stocks and in part to the use of more efficient heating appliances.
So the Coal Board take the view that the installation of more efficient heating appliances will save coal even if part of the extra efficiency goes in increased comfort, increased heat and an improved standard of living. It is, therefore, very hard to deny that no saving of coal will occur.
In the sort of coal situation that we are likely to have in this country for about 10 years ahead even a small saving of coal might be important and might make the difference in future between having and not having a fuel crisis. So it is not enough to dismiss this case on the ground that the proposal will save no coal or will only save a small amount.
The second advantage is the great improvement in the abatement of smoke pollution which would result. One of the most desirable consequences of installing these appliances more widely is that we should have far less smoke in our cities. In terms of health that is a very important thing which is in everybody's mind as a result of having a winter with a particularly bad fog which caused a very large number of deaths. In addition, the cost of combating the effects of pollution is enormous. If we had a system of domestic heating which caused less pollution there would be a considerable saving in measures required to deal with smoke pollution at the present time.
A third important consequence would be a saving in terms of capital cost where these appliances replace electric fires and other electric domestic equipment. If electric fires and all domestic electric equipment were used only at other than peak hours this would not be a very strong or significant argument. But a proportion of them is used at peak hours, not only in all-electric houses but even in houses which have open grates, where it is very common for electric fires to be used at the early morning peak hours before the fire has been lit for the day.
Where electric fires or other equipment are used at peak hours the capital cost to the country of having electric appliances in the home is obviously enormous. It leads to capital expenditure of a serious nature and enormous magnitude on generating plant. A general switch-over from electric equipment to solid fuel burning appliances in the home might mean a very great saving in terms of capital cost in the electricity investment programme.
It would be possible to maintain quite seriously that, taking into account these three possible forms of saving—and others can be adduced—a direct saving of coal, a saving on expenditure in combating smoke pollution and a saving on capital cost in electricity investment, it would pay the Government or the community to give away solid fuel appliances free. The cost would be a great deal less than the value of the resources saved in terms of coal, smoke pollution and investment programmes.
It may well be said that even though this case is an undeniable one and we ought to encourage the installation of these appliances one must ask why a special incentive of any kind is needed, because I do not think that any householder who has installed one of these appliances would deny that there is a saving to his or her purse. Why, then, is a special incentive needed?
Almost everybody who has discussed this topic, or who has written about it. agrees that some special incentive is needed if the appliances are to be installed in large numbers; and the Ridley Report is quite clear in its claim that they will not be installed on a sufficiently wide scale without incentive. In paragraph 150, the Report lists a number of financial incentives which should be given, and among those is the incentive that we are discussing this evening.
Furthermore, the Coal Utilisation Council has a view on the subject in its survey into the domestic use of solid fuel and solid fuel appliances in Great Britain. On page 25 of the survey, it is stated, in discussing why these appliances are not installed more widely, that one of the reasons is cost. It states that that is an important factor operating against each appliance, and is mentioned by roughly one person in four willing to consider installing a modern appliance. It is hardly surprising that this is something of a deterrent because the more efficient of these fires cost a substantial sum, and the actual installation may cost as much as the appliance itself.
That is why we have moved this Clause tonight; and, speaking of the actual clause, it may be asked why we say:
… certified by the Minister of Fuel and Power….
We should have liked a more definite phrase, but there is difficulty here. The phrase "approved appliances" is considered to be much too broad, and among such would be those whose efficiency is not too great. We were tempted to define the appliances by saying whether they fulfilled one function or more, and should have liked to have confined the concession to dual or triple purpose appliances; but we have used the phrase which appears in the proposed Clause, which carries with it the need for the Ministry of Fuel and Power to produce a narrower definition of appliances to be approved, which is what the Ridley Report suggests.
I appeal to the Chancellor to consider this Clause most carefully, for there is nothing else in the Budget to encourage domestic fuel economy. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman has given a sort of negative incentive in the form of Purchase Tax reduction on electric fires. That is something pulling in the wrong direction. Little has been done to carry out the recommendations of the Ridley Report. The Chancellor has made a small concession on industrial fuel appliances, and, despite the obvious difficulties, I appeal to him to make a concession tonight for domestic appliances.