Fuel Supplies (Elderly Persons)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th February 1974.

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Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North 12:00 am, 7th February 1974

I shall try to speak a little to use up the time by making a few remarks to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I understand that you are not standing again and I shall, therefore, not have the pleasure of confronting and discussing with you on occasions as I have done in the past. That is rather a pity, but I hope that you have a long and happy retirement in any other place you might arrive in.

I see that the Minister has arrived, which substantiates the point I made, which was that I had given the Minister notice, although, I agree, not very long notice and I apologise for that. I am sorry if I have dragged the Minister away from some other function which he considers more important and enjoyable than being here. I am sorry that I did not give him longer notice, but I can assure him that I took no part in rearranging Government business today. I took no part in calling a General Election or in telling the Government to run away from their term of office. It is purely fortuitous that there was a collapse of business and an opportunity arose of raising this matter on the Adjournment.

I had difficulty in contacting the Minister, just as I had difficulty in contacting his colleague a short while ago. On that occasion his right hon. Friend wrote to me and explained the difficulty, which was that the Department was very busy and there were only a limited number of lines on which to telephone. That is the first part of my complaint. There is a fuel crisis, yet it is impossible to telephone the Ministry. It is worse than trying to get through to Ladbroke's or William Hill's. If a Member of Parliament is kept waiting for half an hour to get through to a Minister, what chance have ordinary members of the public—and it is the ordinary members of the public who pay the Ministers' salaries?

When the Minister of State, Welsh Office, began to speak he commented that there was no one on the Labour benches. When I rose to speak there was no one on the Tory benches. There was no one on the Front Bench.