HC Deb 16 February 1965 vol 706 cc983-5
7. Mr. Peter Walker

asked the Minister of Power if he will now make a statement on the action to be taken to prevent landlords using electricity meters as a means of obtaining additional rent.

42. Mrs. Lena Jeger

asked the Minister of Power what action he is taking to deal with excessive charges for electricity retailed by landlords to tenants through prepayment meters.

Mr. John Morris

I would refer the hon. Member and my hon. Friend to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Dodds) on 9th February.

Mr. Walker

When does the Parliamentary Secretary expect to be able to make a further statement on this? Will he undertake to the House that, as soon as he does find a way of taking action, he will announce it to the House and immediately introduce any legislation which may be necessary?

Mr. Morris

There are difficulties about this matter. My right hon. Friend has been consulting the Electricity Council. The Council is consulting the boards and its consultative councils. My right hon. Friend is determined, when agreement is reached, to ensure that early action is taken.

Mrs. Jeger

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that there are many tenants who had hoped that there would be some news at least before this winter is over, because winter is the most penal time for them to endure this situation? Will he bear in mind the typical case of an elderly invalid whom I know who is playing Is. an hour for a 1 kilowatt fire which the London Electricity Board informs me should not cost more than 3d. an hour? Is not this a situation which the Government clearly must do something about?

Mr. Morris

A number of complaints have been made from time to time to my right hon. Friend's Ministry, and he is determined at the earliest possible moment to ensure that a solution is found to this problem.

Mr. Carmichael

Will the Parliamentary Secretary bear in mind that the perfect solution to this problem is almost unattainable, but in attempting to attain this perfect solution will he bear in mind that there are grave abuses just now and any amelioration at all and any legislation which will reduce the exploitation by some landlords of their tenants would be a very great help?

Mr. Morris

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's interest in this matter. The electricity boards have the power under Section 29 of the Electricity Act, and if it is possible to obtain a solution without recourse to legislation my right hon. Friend will ensure that those steps are taken.

Mr. Lipton

Is my hon. Friend aware that too much time can be spent on trying to obtain the consent of the multiplicity of councils that he is now consulting? Is he further aware that the electricity boards have the power to do it? Give them the power to do it and get on with stamping out this nasty little racket which has been going on for far too long.

Mr. Morris

My right hon. Friend is well aware of the seriousness of the situation. Consultative councils have been set up under the Nationalisation Act, and it is therefore important that they should be consulted in this difficult matter. They are being consulted.

Sir Knox Cunningham

What does the Parliamentary Secretary mean by "the earliest possible moment"? Does he mean before Easter? Will he get on with the job?

Mr. Morris

As regards getting on with the job, this matter has been hanging fire for a number of years. The predecessor to the present Minister made it clear on 13th February, 1964, as appears from HANSARD. My right hon. Friend, as soon as he took office, interested himself in this matter, and he hopes that an early solution will be found.