HC Deb 23 April 1968 vol 763 cc18-9
8. Mr. Palmer

asked the Minister of Power what total extra sum will have to be invested in the gas industry to convert existing consuming appliances for the burning of natural gas.

Mr. Freeson

The total cost is estimated at about£400 million.

Mr. Palmer

Will this be met by extra Treasury borrowing if it has not been covered already or, alternatively, is it proposed that the sum should be met by increased self-financing? If the latter, will it result in price increases to the consumer?

Mr. Freeson

The question of where the capital is to be obtained for this kind of expenditure is one of the factors taken into account by this Department and the Treasury in due course in considering the allocation as between self-financing or borrowing. As regards self-financing of expenditure for this purpose and its effect on prices, we have already had the recent Report of the Prices and Incomes Board, and there is nothing further to add to its recommendations and their application.

Mr. Emery

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that this sum of£400 million is likely to be only about a quarter of the total capital requirement of the Gas Council over the next five years, and will this not have a serious effect on the way in which the money is raised?

Mr. Freeson

In response to the Question which has been put down, I can only confirm that this is expenditure for conversion, which excludes a number of other aspects of expenditure in relation to the introduction of natural gas into the system.

Mr. Lubbock

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, according to the Prices and Incomes Board, it will cost, on average, about£30 to convert a consumer's domestic appliances? What steps is the Ministry taking to encourage the production of appliances which can be more readily and more simply converted when the time comes, so that this expenditure will not fall on the consumer?

Mr. Freeson

This is already in hand in the industry. All equipment now being put on the market is so designed as to be easily adaptable over the 10-year programme. As regards the carrying of the cost by the consumer, as I have already said, prices will not be affected.

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