HC Deb 17 January 1967 vol 739 cc10-1
8. Mr. Dance

asked the Minister of Power whether he will give a general directive to the Gas and Electricity Boards to consider the desirability of co-ordinating their meter-reading services so that a single representative of the two nationalised industries will read both meters.

Mr. Freeson

The Weir Committee on co-operation between electricity and gas boards reported in 1959 that the balance of advantage appeared to lie in leaving meter reading within the responsibility of each industry. However, the scope for further co-operation between the two industries in this and other fields is kept under review.

Mr. Dance

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I have seen this system operating very satisfactorily in France? Would he agree that there would be about 50 per cent. saving in actual meter reading if this system were used; that there would certainly be 50 per cent. less inconvenience to consumers, who sometimes have to arrange for someone to be present when the meters are read, and that there would be 50 per cent. less security risk in unknown people being allowed into people's homes and flats?

Mr. Freeson

I agree with the hon. Gentleman's point about allowing unknown people into flats and houses, but this does not really arise here, as it is a matter of tenants and householders taking care in this respect. I can certainly accept his point about convenience to consumers, but I am afraid that he is quite wrong in regard to the economics. There is no question of a 50 per cent. saving being involved here. It would be a quite marginal saving and, indeed, certain developments now being studied in both industries might overtake even this suggestion about co-operation.

Mr. Barber

May I join in congratulating the hon. Gentleman on his appointment? I would not wish on this his first appearance at the Treasury Box to press him unduly, but I hope that in the light of what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance), and of other statements that have been made on this topic, he will look at it again.

Mr. Freeson

The answer is, "Yes". I have already indicated that we are keeping in touch with this matter.