HC Deb 13 March 1940 vol 358 cc1180-2
30. Sir William Davison

asked the Minister of Transport whether he can now give particulars of the report he asked for from the Electricity Commissioners with reference to the large increase in charges for electricity of the Central London Electricity Company and other companies; and what action he is taking in the matter?

Mr. Bernays

Yes, Sir. The Electricity Commissioners have carefully examined the detailed estimates of income and expenditure and supporting data upon which Central London Electricity Limited have based their increased charges for electricity; they have advised my right hon. Friend that they see no reason to dispute the estimates. These estimates provide for earning a dividend of less than 5 per cent. on the ordinary stock of the company, as compared with the standard dividend of 7 per cent. under the sliding scale of prices and dividends to which the company is subject; and are made on the basis that the sales of electricity in 1940 will be only 70 per cent. of the sales in 1938. It will be appreciated that the company's costs are mainly fixed costs which they cannot avoid; and that with such a considerable decrease in sales, the result must be a material increase in the costs per unit apart from other increased costs due to the war. Whether the company's estimate of decreased sales will or will not prove to be correct depends, as my hon. Friend will appreciate, upon factors which it is impossible to forecast, and any appreciable variation in either direction would materially affect the results of the company's operations. In these circumstances, my right hon. Friend, while not proposing to intervene at the present stage, intends to review the position at the end of the first six months of the current year. I am expecting to hear from the Electricity Commissioners at an early date with regard to the charges of the Notting Hill Electric Lighting Company.

Sir W. Davison

Does my hon. Friend realise the urgency of this matter? Is he aware that the increased charges are largely due to the evacuation policy of the Government and that this burden is being borne by persons who are engaged in national service work and by traders who have remained in London discharging their duties for the benefit of the public?

Mr. Bernays

Yes, Sir, but I am afraid I cannot answer questions on evacuation.

Mr. Thorne

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that in the borough of West Ham there is no increased charge and that they have the cheapest electricity in the country?

Mr. Lyons

Why is there this great differentiation in charges throughout the country?

Mr. Bernays

It is largely due to the differences in the scale of evacuation. Obviously, the greatest amount of evacuation has taken place from Central London.

34. Mr. Lyons

asked the Minister of Transport whether he can now make any statement with reference to increased charges for electricity?

Mr. Bernays

A statement of the increases which have been made in electricity charges is in course of preparation by the Electricity Commissioners as the outcome of a communication which they addressed to all electricity undertakers in January. The statement involves a good deal of work and inquiry: I will furnish my hon. and learned Friend with a copy as soon as it is ready.

Mr. Lyons

Is it realised in my hon. Friend's Department that a great deal of public feeling is being aroused by these increased charges, and will he confer on the matter, not merely with the big undertakings, but with some representative people who have to bear the cost of the increased charges?

Mr. Bernays

Certainly, Sir, and if the hon. and learned Gentleman has anybody in mind who would like to make representations I shall be glad to bring the point to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Kirkwood

Is not the trouble about extra costs due to the fact that the Government's ideas are out of joint with existing conditions, and that the supply of electricity ought to be nationalised?

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