HC Deb 05 November 1968 vol 772 cc665-6
4. Sir B. Rhys Williams

asked the Minister of Power if he will make a statement on his consultations with the Gas Council on the problems involved in the conversion of consumers to North Sea gas.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power (Mr. Reginald Freeson)

The main conversion programme began this year and about 250,000 consumers have been dealt with. The Gas Council have informed my right hon. Friend that a small number of consumers have suffered real inconvenience, but the boards are trying hard to overcome initial difficulties so that the operation is carried out smoothly and efficiently.

Sir B. Rhys Williams

Is the Minister aware that there is widespread public feeling that insufficient has been done to inform consumers, particularly domestic consumers, of their rights? What steps does he propose to take to rectify that?

Mr. Freeson

That is not my experience. I have been around a number of Gas Boards, and I am aware of the tremendous efforts which are being made to organise excellent public relations and information services on this matter. If the hon. Member has a particular case in mind, no doubt he will get in touch with us.

Mr. David Watkins

Is my hon. Friend aware that considerably more than 30 million appliances will have to be converted? Is he satisfied that the Gas Council is geared to this immense task without causing too much inconvenience to consumers?

Mr. Freeson

In a massive operation of this kind, there is bound to be some inconvenience, considering the large number of consumers involved, but we are satisfied that the Gas Council and the boards are well organised for this purpose. There are proposals to strengthen the central organisation in connection with the absorption of natural gas.

Mr. Emery

The Minister said that a small number of consumers had been inconvenienced. What number does he mean by "a small number?"

Mr. Freeson

I am not in a position to quote the specific figure.