HC Deb 29 February 1944 vol 397 cc1241-3
41. Mr. De la Bère

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will confer with the appropriate authorities with a view to obtaining all the relevant facts concerning gas and electricity meters which are on hire to householders throughout the country, having regard to the fact that many of these meters are 20 years old and that the original cost has been repaid by householders several times over; and whether he will consider introducing legislation whereby after an agreed period of seven to 10 years of payment meters became the property of the householders concerned.

The Minister of Fuel and Power (Major Lloyd Georģe)

It is the practice of gas and electricity undertakings in fixing meter rents to have regard to expenses other than the prime cost of the meter, e.g., the cost of fixing, reading, maintenance, etc. In the case of pre-payment meters, there is also the heavy cost of collecting the coins. I cannot, therefore, accept the implication underlying the first part of the question.

Mr. De la Bère

Does my right hon. and gallant Friend not realise that some rearrangement of this matter is rather overdue? Prior to the outbreak of war there was an overwhelming demand for reconsideration, and it was urged that this matter should be looked into. I cannot accept the Minister's statement.

Major Lloyd Georģe

Without entering into a discussion on the subject, I cannot accept the statement of my hon. Friend either. There are other costs, besides the costs of the meter.

Mr. A. Edwards

Does the Minister consider that these meters are not fully paid for in 10 years?

Major Lloyd Georģe

It is not an uncommon practice; I am not saying it is a perfect one. It is not only the cost of the meter; there is constant maintenance and in some cases there is a collection of moneys. The practice varies. Some companies charge rent, others do not.

Mr. De la Bère

Should it not be clearly shown what the householders are really paying for? The whole thing is unsatisfactory.

Mr. E. Walkden

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that most of the joint electricity authorities have already ceased to charge for ordinary quarterly meters but continue the practice of charging for prepayment meters, which is not unreasonable, but that private gas companies still continue to charge for gas meters the normal rent charged for the last 25 years?

Major Lloyd Georģe

So far as gas is concerned the practice of most companies is to charge rent. It has some effect on the sliding system of charges.

Sir H. Williams

Can the Minister say how many joint electricity authorities there are? I understand there are only two; and in that case can he say what "most" means?

Mr. De la Bère

In view of the inadequate nature of the reply, I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.