HC Deb 28 February 1972 vol 832 cc31-2
39. Dr. Marshall

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he is taking to prevent the resale of electricity at a profit to tenants of rooms, flats, caravans and similar accommodation.

Sir J. Eden

Suggestions have been made that charging more than the statutory maximum price should be made a criminal offence, but I have decided that legislation to this effect would not be justified as it would be unlikely to be significantly more effective than the present law. But I am in touch with the consultative councils and the electricity boards about mounting a publicity campaign designed to ensure that those concerned are made better aware of the maximum prices laid down and the present means of enforcement.

Mr. Dr. Marshall

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in many instances where electricity is resold the charge per unit does not vary according to the amount of power consumed, even though the supplying electricity board may have a considerably reduced rate above a certain level of consumption? Will the hon. Gentleman bear this change of rate particularly in mind in any discussions he has?

Sir J. Eden

Yes, I certainly will.

Sir G. Nabarro

Would the Minister bear in mind that the practices of electricity boards have been brought into grave doubt in the public mind in recent months, including the whole of the nefarious practice of estimating people's accounts even 300, 400 or 500 per cent. more than the actual amount? Should not the Minister impress a code of conduct on electricity boards in the interests of millions of defenceless consumers?

Sir J. Eden

My hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) and I have already discussed this matter in debate in the House. He therefore knows that it is under very active study by the Electricity Council and the electricity boards.

Mr. Bob Brown

Is it not a fact that any landlord can resell gas or electricity through a check meter to a tenant at any price he cares to charge, and should not this practice be tackled and controlled?

Sir J. Eden

We have considered whether legislation should make this a criminal offence and decided it would not materially advance the protection of the consumer. The consumer wants to know exactly what his rights are. It is to this end that a major publicity campaign is being prepared.