HC Deb 15 March 1972 vol 833 cc532-3
27. Mr. Millan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what further discussions he has had with the South of Scotland Electricity Board regarding their policy on customers' arrears and the demanding of security deposits.

Mr. Younger

These are matters of commercial management which are primarily for the board, but a meeting is soon to be arranged between the board and other bodies concerned.

Mr. Millan

Have not the Government some responsibility in this matter? Could they not at least put pressure or bring their influence to bear on the South of Scotland Electricity Board? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is widespread feeling among directors of social work that the way in which the electricity board deals with these matters is insensitive and unfair and that it ought to be changed?

Mr. Younger

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the board is extremely well aware of the need to contact social work departments closely and frequently and that it has done a lot of contacting recently. The meeting to which I referred in my answer will be with the Association of Directors of Social Work and the Department of Health and Social Security. I am sure that this will lead to a better understanding on both sides of a way in which this distasteful business can be dealt with as painlessly as possible.

Mr. Carmichael

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a great deal of frustration among social workers at the time they have to take in dealing with what I agree is a commercial problem? If the Government could take it up at their level and reinforce the directors of social work when they meet the electricity board, it would be of great help to professional social workers who spend so much time on these matters.

Mr. Younger

I appreciate the problems. We would probably be well advised to await the results of the meeting to see whether the parties concerned can reach agreement. It is also worth noticing that this practice has been considered and approved by the Electricity Consultative Council which has a special responsibility to look after the interests of consumers. In the interests of all consumers, I think that a sensible arrangement of this kind is a safeguard which must take place.