HC Deb 21 February 1967 vol 741 cc1410-1
18. Mr. Hugh Fraser

asked the Minister of Power if he will state the numbers of small gas consumers affected by the new standing charges.

Mr. Freeson

I understand about 65,000 using less than 50 therms a year.

Mr. Fraser

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that real hardship is being caused to many old age pensioners and poor people and that since December, in Stafford alone, gas bills have gone up by 30 per cent. in spite of the so-called incomes freeze? Will the hon. Gentleman quickly look into the question of giving these people, for free. prepaid meters so that they may avoid the new standing charges?

Mr. Freeson

As the hon. Gentleman knows, these matters are essentially for the boards concerned. As for any hardship that may have occurred, the Government, by way of the Ministry of Social Security, make provision to allay that hardship—and the hon. Gentleman is fully aware of this as a result of correspondence which he has had with the Department.

Mr. Dobson

Is not my hon. Friend aware that a large number of people living in what one might call specialist localities have been adversely affected by the new standing charges and that they have great resentment against the Minister for agreeing to these new charges and for allowing them to go on?

Mr. Freeson

The answer to that question has been given previously. On the last occasion when the Department answered at Question Time it was pointed out that there are ways by which people can apply for special prepayment meter arrangements. [Interruption.] Some hon. Gentlemen opposite should have a little manners.