§ Mr. Wade
The Minister will appreciate that in framing this Question I had to consider how to bring it within order. 1108 Is he aware that there are in Yorkshire occupiers of small houses and old people's bungalows who are faced with increases in electricity charges of 40 or 50 per cent., and it is not much consolation to them to be told that the increases are necessary in order to finance the capital development of the industry in the future? Is there no way of lessening the effect of these steep increases?
§ Mr. Wood
It would not be right for me to go into the merits of these charges since that is very much a matter of the day-to-day administration of the board. In any event, there has been set up under the Acts machinery by which consumers who wish to complain can do so through the consultative councils and, ultimately, through the Electricity Council, either of which can, if necessary, make representations to me. I understand that the consultative council has not decided to do so in this particular case.
§ Miss Bacon
Does the Minister realise that, during the past few years, householders have been encouraged to buy more and more electrical appliances and that to be faced with an increase of 40 per cent. in the rates is causing great concern? The right hon. Gentleman says that there is machinery for complaint. Can he assure us in Yorkshire that something will happen as a result of complaints?
§ 7. Mr. Wade
asked the Minister of Power whether, in view of the provisions of the Clean Air Act and the conditions imposed on consumers as a result of which they have had to cease using coal fires, he will take steps to ensure that those who change over to electricity are not penalised by having to pay excessively increased electricity charges.
§ Mr. Wade
Is the Minister aware that, where smoke control orders have been approved, householders who have been persuaded to change over to electricity have been suddenly faced with very steep increases in electricity charges so that they are really hit both ways? Is there any consultation between his Ministry and the electricity boards on this problem?
§ Mr. Wood
It would be quite impossible for boards to introduce differential tariffs in smokeless zones. In any event, the electricity boards are taking the action necessary, under the Government's White Paper on the Financial and Economic Obligations of the Nationalised Industries, to try to ensure a greater degree of self-financing of the electricity industry.
§ Mr. Ridley
Will my right hon. Friend not be panicked by the recent voltage reductions due to the cold spell into urging the electricity authorities to provide so much surplus capacity that electricity charges have to go up still further?
§ Mr. T. Fraser
The right hon. Gentleman said in his earlier answer that in clean air zones an alternative smokeless fuel was available, namely, electricity. Is not he aware that it has become painfully apparent in recent weeks that this alternative fuel is not available when it is most required?
§ Mr. J. Hynd
How can the Minister argue, as he did on the previous Question about gas, that complaints could be put to the consultative councils when, at the same time, he tells us that the situation is due to Government policy in regard to redevelopment investment? What is the point of consumers complaining to the local consultative council if the Government control the situation by their own policy?
§ Mr. Wood
In fact, both Questions were about electricity. I was suggesting that tariffs were a matter for the boards and that the particular structure of the tariff was a matter on which the consultative council might be expected to have an informed and useful view. I pointed out that the consultative council had not taken the view which was pressed upon me by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade).