HC Deb 12 December 1967 vol 756 cc196-8
15. Mr. Lane

asked the Minister of Power what will be the average percentage rise in the electricity bills of private consumers, arising out of the September 1967 price increases.

20. Mr. Ridley

asked the Minister of Power what will be the average percentage increase in electricity bills for farmers as a result of the recent increases in prices.

Mr. Freeson

Fourteen-and-a-half per cent, for private consumers and about 14 per cent, for farmers.

Mr. Lane

How strong a reassurance can the hon. Gentleman give to consumers that there will be no further increase in 1968 or 1969?

Mr. Freeson

I can give a general observation that we do not expect prices to rise for some time to come. One could not at this stage expect any more specific answer than that.

Mr. Ridley

On what basis is it decided whether industrial, domestic or farming consumers are to be hit hardest? Is it a question of which will bear the increase with the greatest fortitude, or is there some logic behind this madness?

Mr. Freeson

The lower increase for industrial consumers, which is the central point of the hon. Gentleman's query, partly reflects the relative cost of supply and the fact that they faced an increase in April last year when coal prices went up. It should be borne in mind in considering these price increases that, as compared with the general run of price increases of 89 per cent., since the industry was nationalised the rise in electricity prices has been only about 61 per cent.

Mr. Spriggs

Is my hon. Friend aware that pensioners and low wage earners are not able to afford the fixed minimum charges which the boards are now charging consumers? Is he further aware that one of my constituents has complained recently—[HON. MEMBERS: "Only one?"]—about being charged more than double the cost of the electricity consumed?

Mr. Freeson

It is difficult for me to comment on individual cases put forward in this fashion. There is machinery for these complaints—if there are grounds for complaint—to be taken up; in the first instance with the board concerned and, subsequently, with the appropriate consultative council.

Mr. Albert Roberts

Is it not possible to steady the price by bringing about increased efficiency in the gas industry?

Mr. Freeson

In terms of increased productivity it has experienced in the years since it was nationalised, this in- dustry has nothing of which to be ashamed.

17. Mr. John Smith

asked the Minister of Power by what further percentage he expects electricity prices to rise as a result of devaluation.

Mr. Marsh

Devaluation will effect only those consumers whose tariffs contain a fuel price adjustment clause. No revision of tariffs is contemplated.

Mr. Smith

Would not it help to keep electricity prices down if we abandoned the unfair policy of making today's consumers, out of today's charges, pay for future development for the benefit of future consumers?

Mr. Marsh

That is a rather different question from the one on the Order Paper. I am afraid that one of the sorrows which I have discovered in the office which I hold is that today's consumers are almost bound to pay, in one way or another, for future developments.

21. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Minister of Power what is the average percentage increase for industrial consumers resulting from the rise in electricity charges of September, 1967.

Mr. Freeson

Six per cent., but the effect of the higher fuel costs had already been passed on to some industrial consumers.

Mr. Taylor

Can the Parliamentary Secretary give any guidance about the future trend of electricity prices over, say, the next 18 months? Would he agree that it is hopeless to try to restrain these prices when costs, under the Government's direct and indirect control, keep soaring?

Mr. Freeson

I indicated, in answer to earlier Questions, that we do not expect electricity prices to increase again for some time to come.

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