Electricity (Supply) (Amendment) Bill, 1934—(Certified Money Bill)—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The purpose of this Bill is to increase the amount provided by the Electricity (Supply) (Amendment) Act, 1931, which may be advanced to the Electricity Supply Board, by £1,160,000. For the information of the House I should say that the present financial position of the Electricity Supply Board, so far as advances are concerned, is as follows:—Under Section 12 (2) of the Electricity Act of 1927, £156,000 was provided, and under another section £2,500,000 was provided. Of these two sums authority was sought to expend the whole of the first, and £1,903,688 of the second. The Act of 1931 provided an additional £2,000,000, of which authority for expenditure has been sought for £1,808,688. The Electricity Supply Act of 1932 provided an additional £365,000, of which authority for the expenditure of £314,517 has been given. The total amount provided under all these Acts was £5,021,000. There is to be deducted under sub-section (6) of Section 39 of the Act of 1927, £756,118, leaving a net figure of £4,264,882, out of which authority for expenditure was sought for £4,182,893, leaving the balance available at the end of January of the present year of £81,989. This Bill proposes to provide the amount estimated by the Board to be required for capital expenditure for the three years 1933-34, 1934-35 and 1935-36. The balance available from previous advances on the 1st April, 1933, was £276,100, which is the amount taken into account in calculating advances under this Bill. At the end of January of this year the Electricity Supply Board had estimated capital requirements of £1,436,600, and deducting from these figures the balance available at the beginning of the period, £276,100, the net figures of £1,160,500 are reached.

This Bill provides for £1,160,000. The purposes for which that sum is required arise out of the normal growth of the system. No part of it arises in any sense in consequence of any exceptional or abnormal development, and no part is required for the purpose of increasing the generating capacity of the Board's stations. There is in every year a normal increase in the demand for electricity which involves consequential capital expenditure.

It will, perhaps, be more convenient if I mention in detail the matters for which it is proposed to engage in capital expenditure during the three years. The first item is an expenditure estimated at £50,000 in the present year and £28,000 next year, on the deepening of the River Shannon at Killaloe. As Senators are aware, the partial development stage of the Shannon scheme has been passed. Under the Act, 1932, authority was given for the capital expenditure involved in the installation of a fourth turbine at Ardnacrusha. The installation of the turbine necessitates the deepening of the River Shannon, which was always contemplated, but which did not become necessary until the partial development stage had been passed. That work will not involve any consequential revenue expenditure. It will have some effect in improving the efficiency of the existing installation. There is a smaller sum of £1,500 to be expended in the present year upon various minor improvements at Ardnacrusha, mainly expenditure to improve the reliability of the cooling system there.

A sum of £64,400 is provided in the present year and £5,000 in next year for various improvements at the Pigeon House. The present circulating water supply from the Pigeon House harbour will be inadequate to meet the needs of the increased capacity of the station. Expenditure is necessary in order to provide an adequate circulating water channel and the necessary pumping stations. Because of the increased capacity of the station, a larger consumption of coal is anticipated. The existing Pigeon House harbour is only capable of accommodating boats carrying 500 tons, and only five such boats can be dealt with in a week. Consequently, the amount of coal that can be taken in in a week at the Pigeon House is 2,500 tons. It is necessary that that accommodation should be increased, and consequently it is proposed to extend the wharf and to deepen the harbour by dredging. It is also necessary to provide coal storage and coal handling equipment, so that adequate supplies of coal will always be in stock to meet any demands that may be made on the station.

There are various sums estimated to meet the cost of extending the transmission system. That is, of course, an ordinary development of the system, and although it is not possible to estimate with any degree of accuracy the amount that will be required under that head, the amounts which are set out in the table before me in that connection are what are regarded as the normal amounts. A separate item covers the provision that is being made for contingency expenditure. Sums are also provided for expenditure on an extension of the distribution system, for the hire of apparatus, for the provision of public lighting and the like. A sum of £3,100 in the present year, £4,500 next year and £4,700 the following year is provided to meet the cost of changing over consumers' apparatus and meters to the alternating current system. A sum of £80,000 is provided in each year to meet capital expenditure arising out of the development of new areas. The provision of £3,500 is made in each year to finance work in connection with the projection of future development and the cost of an inquiry into the use of the River Liffey for power purposes.

The Board has found that its existing office accommodation has become unsuitable to house the activities of its headquarters staff. Consequently, it is proposed to provide the capital necessary to erect new office buildings. An expenditure of £60,000 under that heading is expected to arise next year, and a similar sum the following year. The contingencies item, to which I have referred, is being covered by the provision of £30,000 in each year. That sum of £30,000 is provided in the ordinary way to meet capital expenditure of a kind that cannot be foreseen. There is a further contingencies item estimated at £25,000 in the present year, £50,000 next year and £35,000 the following year to meet expenditure of a kind that cannot be well foreseen upon the transmission and distribution systems. For example, a heavy industrial load may call at any time for a substantial outlay on these systems, and the Board must have the finances available to enable it to undertake the expenditure involved if such a load should offer.

The Bill before the Seanad is in every sense a routine measure. Presumably, every three years or at somewhat similar intervals, a Bill of this kind will be submitted to the Oireachtas providing for the advances that may be made to the Board to provide capital for an extension of its activities during the ensuing period. Any abnormal capital expenditure that may arise will be provided for in separate measures. It is contemplated that we will bring before the Oireachtas in the present year a Bill to provide the capital necessary to undertake the provision of additional storage on the Shannon, and to make certain changes in the law affecting the Electricity Supply Board. That Bill might have been part and parcel of this measure, but for the desirability of having the amount which this deals with provided without delay, and the fact that the other Bill will take some time to draft because of complicated legal points that are involved.

The Seanad may be interested to know the present position of the scheme and of the Electricity Supply Board's finances. The report of the Board for the year 1932-33 was circulated to all members of the Oireachtas two or three weeks ago, and presumably has been noted by them. The Board closed its accounts for the year, showing a small surplus after making no provision for depreciation, but otherwise meeting all its working costs and paying interest on advances made to date. The repayment of advances has not yet begun. Since 31st March, the last date covered by that report, the revenue of the Board has increased by £75,000. That covers the period from 1st April to 31st January. The number of units generated increased by 15,000,000, and the number of additional consumers connected was 6,560. A number of new areas were connected up during the period, and when the money asked for under this Bill is provided it is intended to wire up a large number of additional towns. The position of the Electricity Supply Board is improving, as the accounts show, and as the figures which I have just mentioned indicate, but it cannot yet be said to be in the satisfactory position that we would all like to see it in. It is making progress towards that position, and I am sure we all trust that that progress will be continued.

Unfortunately I must speak entirely from memory on this Bill. The Minister has stated that a sum of over five million pounds has been advanced in connection with the Shannon scheme. I know that my memory is faulty sometimes, but I have the feeling that in all the sum of about ten million pounds was advanced by the State for the purposes of this scheme.

The amount advanced to the Board for the purpose of financing the Board's activities, as distinct from the advances made for the construction of the Shannon scheme, was, as I have stated, £5,021,000.

When this scheme first came before the House we were told that the cost of it was going to be about £5,200,000: that under it all the principal towns and villages in the Free State were going to be supplied with electricity for that sum. As time went on we were asked for more money. At one period we were asked for £1,000,000, and at another period for £2,000,000, and so on. I have lost count of all the advances that were made, but I am certain the statement was made frequently that in all between £9,000,000 and £10,0000,000 had been put into the Shannon scheme. Now we are told by the Minister that we are to have Bills like this every three years: that more money is to be advanced from time to time. I think that is a very serious matter. An extension of expenditure from £5,200,000 to £9,000,000 or £10,000,000 is certainly very great. I am certain that the scheme would never have been approved of if we had been told at the start that it was going to cost this huge sum.

I want my remarks on this Bill to be taken in a purely non-Party spirit. In anything that I have to say I am not blaming the present Minister or his predecessor: this administration or the last administration. Anything I have to say will be directed entirely to the Electricity Supply Board. With the best intentions in the world, I want to see the Shannon scheme a success. I want to tell the Electricity Supply Board that the original intention, in starting the Shannon scheme, was that instead of having to import coal to make electricity here we proposed to make it from the Irish water flowing to waste all over the country. We are not confined to the River Shannon. In saying that I do not want to boost any other scheme. I am not an engineer and I do not know which scheme would be the better one, but I imagine that if you were to harness all the rivers in the country to produce electricity it would probably be the best scheme. In the report issued by the Electricity Supply Board, to which the Minister has referred, we find that instead of doing away with the need for imported coal the Pigeon House has been working quite a lot during the year ending 31st March, 1933. Owing to the fact that last year was a very dry year, I think the installation there was working practically throughout the whole year. The result is that it is burning coal. It does not matter to the people whose money is going out of the country for this coal whether it is English or German coal. All that matters to them is that their money is going out for coal. I think that the Electricity Supply Board instead of re-opening the Pigeon House to burn imported coal, should have made greater use of the Galway Electricity Supply Works which they took over. When that scheme was in operation, current was supplied to the people of Galway at a very cheap rate. The Board had the river at hand for any further development that they desired to carry out there. As to the amount of current—I am not an engineer and I am speaking subject to correction—there is as much power, in my opinion, in the Corrib as would supply the whole of Connaught with electricity. Before going to this expense and sending money out of the country for the import of coal, I think they should turn their attention to that aspect of the question.

We were told also when the scheme was started—and that was the intention of those who supported it—that we would have cheap electricity in every farmer's house in the country. We were told we would have light and power for everybody in the rural areas. We know to-day how much electricity they are getting there. They are getting simply none. The Pigeon House system was built up by the consumers of electricity in Dublin. The last year that scheme was working, under the Corporation, there was £87,000 profit which was able to be devoted to the relief of rates. The electricity scheme at the Pigeon House in Dublin was the citizens' business and the profits went to the relief of rates. The working of the Electricity Supply Board for the whole country has produced a profit of £5,814 and yet these people are clapped on the back for their achievement. I do not want to criticise them unduly but I want to say this that on the last day, when an item was on the agenda for two millions for the Electricity Supply Board it occupied seventh place but it was taken first and, because I was one minute late, that sum was passed without one word of protest. The Electricity Supply Board should understand that their job is to produce electricity or "juice" as it is called in the trade, and to produce that at a cheap rate. Their duty is not in selling lampshades or even in the wiring of houses. These things can be done much better by people in the trade all their lives and who have devoted themselves specially to that branch of the business. Instead of taking over the Shannon scheme and giving cheap electricity to consumers the Electricity Supply Board have concentrated more upon acquiring showrooms all over the country. I would like to know the nature of the bargain they made in connection with the house they bought in Kilkenny and houses they bought elsewhere for showrooms. They have since had to pull in their horns, and sell these houses and I would like to know what they got for them. Considering the nature of these transactions I am simply horrified at the statement the Minister made to-day that the Electricity Supply Board want to expend £60,000 upon new buildings in the City of Dublin. I say if their present accommodation in Mount Street and Stephen's Green is not good enough for the business, they are doing, then let them close down Stephen's Green showrooms and convert them into proper offices for their staffs instead of spending £60,000 in the provision of new offices. They should close their showrooms all over the place and let the ordinary traders in the city and in the country sell lamps, and lampshades, and fittings, for which they are much better qualified than the Electricity Supply Board. These ordinary traders by the sale of lamps and lampshades, and such things, will make a little profit for themselves and they will be able to pay their employees better than the Electricity Supply Board are paying their employees. The same applies to the work of installation. There were firms here in Dublin, and in other parts of Ireland, installing electricity long before the Electricity Supply Board had come to do any installing work, and these firms are doing better work in that direction to-day than the Electricity Supply Board are doing.

The Labour Party know the wages the Electricity Supply Board are paying their tradesmen and they know the wages that the old electrical firms in Dublin were paying, and they can compare the two. When the Electricity Supply Board send men to the country they pay no country money, as it is called, but when private firms in Dublin send their men to the country to do work they pay them country money or lodging allowances. I am not blaming the Minister at all in this matter, but I think he might pass a quiet hint to the Electricity Supply Board that they would be well advised to close down their showrooms and leave to ordinary business people, who are qualified to do so, the work, the carrying out such operations. If they did that they would save a lot of expenditure. The job of the Electricity Supply Board is to produce current—to produce "juice." I do not object to the demonstrators. Demonstrators can do a great deal of good going around showing people how to use electric ovens and cookers and so on, and they can promote trade in that way. They have got to try, as the Corporation did, to encourage people to use power during the day time and thereby increase the day load and then they would be able to supply power during the day at a much cheaper price. The machinery is there and the more power that can be used on the day load the better. It is different with regard to the night load. They are not able to produce much more than they are selling at night.

If the Board are to continue coming to the Oireachtas year after year and saying we want another million and another million I do not know where the thing is going to end. Let them come down to business and confine themselves to their proper operations. Take, for instance, their showrooms. Some of the lampshades exhibited there are very expensive. You see a silk-shaded lamp in St. Stephen's Green which would cost £25. What is that worth after standing there for a number of years? It is practically not worth three-halfpence. Their accounts do not say anything about that. In paragraph 28 of the Annual Report and Accounts, 1932-33, it says:

"The sale of appliances and apparatus for which credit has been taken amounted to £35,603 16s. 8d., on which the rate of gross profit was 18.6 per cent. Having charged a proper proportion of general overhead expenses the merchandised trading account shows a nett profit of £484 15s. 11d."

I really doubt that there is even that profit, but if there was it was a very small amount of profit on that turnover of £35,000. They are taking away the trade from the hardware merchants in the country while at the same time they come here and ask these same hardware people, amongst others, to pay their way in the shape of taxation. In the next paragraph in the Report they say:

"The policy of the Board of retaining showrooms only in the most densely populated areas or at central points except during the initial development of an area, has been justified in a substantial reduction in expenditure. The sales recorded through the permanent showrooms at Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Dundalk and Athlone show an increase over the previous year although there is a decrease of £6,288 2s. 1d. in total sales owing to the reduction in the number of showrooms."

It is necessary I should state, like my friend Senator Staines, that I approach this matter not from any Party point of view. That, perhaps, may be expected from the fact that fortunately I have not attained sufficient eminence in any Party in this country. I am not opposing this Bill. I can fully understand the difficulty that the present Minister is placed in in connection with it. He is shouldering, in my opinion in connection with this matter, a tremendous job. I am quite satisfied that he is not at all pleased in having to bring forward this Bill. I leave it at that. There was one statement he made which to a certain extent will be a source of great satisfaction to the citizens. He pointed out something in connection with the Pigeon House which goes to prove that the Pigeon House was not, after all, the white elephant it was pointed out to be when the Shannon scheme was first before us. I am not going to say that Senator Staines has a bee in his bonnet in connection with this matter. But there is one thing in connection with this electricity supply question in regard to which I confess I have a bee in my bonnet and that bee stings very severely and to my great annoyance very frequently. I respectfully take this opportunity of suggesting to the Minister the propriety of considering restitution to the citizens of Dublin in connection with the electricity supply system in this city. The unfortunate ratepayers of Dublin and the consumers spent between one and two million pounds—I have not the actual figures by me—on the erection of an electricity supply for Dublin. During the last year of the working of that supply in Dublin there was a clear profit of £87,000. The citizens of Dublin did not get one penny compensation for the handing over of their system which produced that profit, although the citizens of Cork and Galway, and other places whose systems were taken over, were compensated. Why, in the name of Heaven, Dublin was left out of consideration in such an instance I cannot understand. The Minister is a Dublin man; he represents a Dublin constituency. I do not want the Minister to give me an answer right off now, but I think in fairness to the citizens he should give this matter of some restitution to the citizens of Dublin for the handing over of their scheme his serious consideration; and if he makes amends in this matter it will be a great feather in his cap at the next election.

When we proceed to make comparisons I think they should be fair comparisons, and I contend that the production and distribution of electricity for a city like Dublin is quite a different proposition to producing and distributing electricity to the country as a whole. The cost of distribution in Dublin City would be at the very minimum as compared with the number of consumers, while in the small urban and rural districts the cost of distribution would be very high in proportion to the amount of current sold. So, it proves nothing to say that the Dublin Electricity Station made a certain profit whilst the Electricity Supply Board, so far, has failed to show any profit worth mentioning. I think, however, that it is appropriate here for the Minister to give some information regarding the finances of the Board. It is quite clear that there has been a deficit in the estimate of revenue as made out by the Board late in 1931. In this respect, it is interesting to refer to a speech made by the Minister's predecessor here in this House on the 17th December, 1931, which is reported in columns 317 and 318 of the Official Debates. Mr. McGilligan said:—

"They (the Board) believe that now they can get in an ordinary year about £1,232,000 per annum as revenue. Against that they must set interest and sinking fund payments to the extent of £713,000."

He was talking then of this year, 1933-34.

"The division of that sum would be: £543,000 interest, and £170,000 sinking fund. Operation costs, fuel, oil, maintenance and repairs amount to about £150,000 a year, general charges and management to £184,000, and the liabilities of the acquired undertakings to about £90,000 a year. These figures give a total of £1,137,000 as against an income of £1,232,000—a carry over of £95,000."

That was the estimate of the Board, after very careful investigation as to what the income would be in this year, 1933-34, and, according to the estimates of costs of generation, distribution, and so on, they would be able to make contributions to the sinking fund of £170,000 a year, and put £95,000 to reserve. In order to get this income, a pretty substantial increase in the cost of current was imposed, ranging from about 10 per cent. to 25 per cent. That was supposed to bring in an increased revenue of at least £80,000 per annum, and certain economies were to be put into operation which would involve a fairly considerable saving. Quite obviously, the expectations of the Board have not been realised. The revenue for 1932-33 was only £1,044,000. The Minister tells us that in the ten months of the year 1933-34 that have elapsed there is an increase of £75,000. That would bring the revenue for the ten months, say, up to £1,119,000 and, if we allow for the two months that have yet to elapse we would find that the revenue is at least £100,000 short of the estimate made by the Board in December, 1931. In any case, the sum of £1,232,000, even if it were now available, would not be sufficient to enable the Board to contribute towards the sinking fund and towards reserves because the generation and operation expenses, which were estimated to cost £150,000, have gone up to approximately £200,000, whilst the overhead expenses, general charges, and so on, are about a quarter of a million pounds as against the estimate of £184,000.

The present Minister, speaking in the Dáil on the 15th of this month, as reported in columns 1550-1551 of the Official Debates, said:

"The Board is meeting at present its interest charges. It has not, however, commenced to repay nor has it been asked to commence to repay, nor would it be able to commence repaying, the capital advanced. It is not making provision for the depreciation of its plant and no reserve fund of the kind mentioned has been or is being built up as yet."

It is clear, therefore, that there must have been some error in the estimates made. One would like to know what has been the result of the increased cost of current to the consumer. It was estimated to bring in £80,000 per annum. I wonder if that has been the case or whether, on the contrary, there has not been a fall in consumption and a fall in revenue as a result of it. The increase in consumers, for the whole country, for last year was 4,500, which seems rather poor considering the large number of new houses that are being built, practically all of which are being wired. In quite a number of towns there was actually a reduction in the number of consumers and one can only attribute that, in part at any rate, to the increased cost of current, because any householder, once he gets in the electric fittings, is not likely to turn to some other form of lighting if he can possibly get electricity at a reasonable price. It seems to me that the best policy would be to try to spread the network far and wide at the earliest possible date. I think the real object of the scheme was, as Senator Staines said, to provide light, heat and power at the lowest possible price to the whole community. There has been a very considerable slowing down in the spreading of the network and the distribution system. In 1930 there were about 600 electricians employed by the Board. By December, 1931, the number had fallen to 200, and, according to the present report, only 162 are now employed. Even these are not being given the same conditions of service as the workers employed by private firms, so that any deficit that has occurred in the revenue, as estimated by the Board, is certainly not due to any decent labour conditions they are giving to their employees.

I think it is desirable that the Board should have a definite plan. I do not care whether it is for a year, or for five years or ten years, but they should have some plan to work to and a real estimate as to the time when they will be able to be self-supporting without imposing unfair conditions on the consumers of electricity. Personally, I fancy that that period will be considerably shortened in proportion to the speed at which the distribution of the network is carried out. That will not take place if we reach a sort of stalemate now and develop no further but just rest on our oars and make no enthusiastic and determined effort to spread this scheme to a great number of citizens. Senator Staines objected to the showrooms set up by the Board. I do not know if that is the best form of publicity, but I do certainly strongly favour as much publicity as possible on the part of the Board. The private vendors of electrical fittings, with very few exceptions, have done nothing at all of a practical character to popularise electricity. There are very few windows worth looking into by anybody who would like to study electrical fittings, such as lamp shades and so on except those set up by the Electricity Supply Board, and until private retailers come forward and do more to popularise electricity than they have done up to the present I hardly think there is any real justification for denouncing the Electricity Supply Board for themselves trying to do what the private retailers so far have failed to do.

In regard to the work done by the Board in the matter of wiring, one can only judge them as you find them, and I have to say that as far as I have had any experience with them in the matter of wiring private houses, their employees certainly have done first-class work and have done it in the minimum of time.

I should like to follow up one point made by Senator O'Farrell, and that is in regard to the consumption of current by private domestic consumers. I have gone through this report, and though I have not made close comparison, or very little comparison at all, with the previous year's report, I fail to find any indication of the effect of the increased prices upon the consumption in domestic houses of current whether for lighting, heating or cooking. We have in this report indications of the increase in the units consumed for public lighting and of the increase in the total units produced. The increase in the number of consumers is shown, and the increase in the industrial horsepower that is produced, but there is no indication of the increase or decrease in the number of units consumed by domestic consumers. I think that is an important omission and that it ought to be remedied. If there are going to be comparisons given in these reports of one year with another, as I think there ought to be, I think it ought to cover all the different kinds and classifications of consumers. I should be interested to know whether there has been any considerable decline in any areas in the consumption of power for cooking, let us say, or for domestic heating. Perhaps the Minister has that information available, but if it is not available with him at present I hope that when a new report is being issued real comparative figures will be given of all the classes of consumption, not merely public lighting or industrial power or Dublin tramways or anything of that kind, but particularly the domestic consumer, because, in the main, it is the domestic consumption for heating and cooking that will probably tell most in the ultimate, because the sale of industrial motive power would probably be at low prices, and I am not quite sure whether the economy from the point of view purely of the purchaser of that power would be so great as to justify a policy which concentrated upon the sale of industrial power as distinct from domestic heat.

From the point of view of general welfare, I should like to see the policy of this Board directed towards making the consumption of electricity in houses as cheap as possible, so that there will be a real inducement to the domestic consumer to consume electricity. If the poor person can have a cleaner house, without any considerable increase in the cost of heating, then there will be a very great social advantage obtained. That is of more importance, I think, than the turning over of, say, the Dublin Tramways Company from the production of their own power to the consumption of Shannon power, without any public advantage. There would be a real public advantage if that amount of consumption by the Tramways Company had been obtained from an increase in consumption by the ordinary, domestic householder. I should hope that the policy of the Board would be to take into account the social advantages that would accrue if they could supply domestic consumers with heat as well as light, but more particularly with heat, at so cheap a rate as would justify them in turning over from either gas or coal and give them the advantage of a clean house. I am sorry that the report before us does not give the figures for 1932 as compared with 1933, but I hope that relative figures will be available in the future.

I should be glad if the Minister would tell us in his reply whether the temporary increase of 25 per cent. is likely to become permanent. I agree, generally, with what Senator Johnson has said, but I am inclined to think that, with the 25 per cent. increase on the present rates for heating, it is not practical politics to talk about heating houses by electricity. A number of people who, through enthusiasm, have tried it are sorry they did so, because they have found that, even with the most careful calculations, and even allowing for a contemplated increase in cost as compared with other forms of heating, the actual cost worked out more than they had dreamed of. I have come to the conclusion that any charge over ½d. per unit for heating is not practical politics. I am not prepared to say that at ½d. per unit the cost would be cheaper than it would be by using coal, but, for many people, heating by electricity at ½d. a unit, in view of the other advantages which attend the use of electric power, would be practical politics. But 1¼d. per unit, plus a charge on the valuation, is not practical politics for any but the few people who can afford to pay that price for occasional convenience. I do not know much about the cost of cooking, but I think 1¼d. per unit for cooking is too high. I was in the North of England about 12 months ago. I found that a friend with whom I was staying had his whole house heated with electricity and that the cooking was done by electricity. I expressed a certain amount of surprise at this, and I found that in that English town they paid ½d. per unit for heating and 1d. per unit for lighting.

Plus a rental.

There was a valuation charge which was, I think, half of our charge. That charge was decidedly more favourable than ours, and there was a charge of ½d. per unit. I went into our own cost when I came home and I came to the conclusion that they were paying in that English town rather less than half of what we are paying. I am not taking up the attitude that a scheme of this kind should not be undertaken because we are not able to quote the same rates as certain towns in England, but I think it is going to be extremely difficult to popularise the use of electricity all over the country on the present charges. The position we had dreamed of, in which every cottage and house would have electricity and in which there would be a very considerable use of electricity for heat and smaller power, apart from industrial power, is not being reached. I doubt if the policy of the Board at present is likely to achieve our aim. I do not know anything about special rates that may be quoted. For large industrial power, special rates will, no doubt, be quoted, but for smaller power a charge of 2d. is not practical politics, except on rare occasions. If you put in a power meter in the city you pay 2d. I do not know what is paid in the country. That is not practical politics except for occasional convenience.

If there was any hope that the increase of 25 per cent. would be really temporary one might be tempted to extend one's commitments in regard to electricity. I, myself, in dealing with a concern in which I am interested, decided that that increase was likely to be permanent and made arrangements for another type of heating, though, if I had any hope that in the near future there would be a reduction in the rates, I should certainly have gone in for electric heating. I know that in some cases quite large houses have found electric tubular heating a great success, with enormous advantages over other types of heating, but not at the rates which we have to pay here.

Debate temporarily adjourned.