HC Deb 17 June 1974 vol 875 cc19-20
13. Mr. Ioan Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will give consideration to co-ordinating the retail outlets of the gas, electricity, coal and oil industries; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Varley

The industries referred to by my hon. Friend of course operate as separate commercial entities, but I have taken note of the sentiments underlying my hon. Friend's Question, which I know are widely shared.

Mr. Evans

I thank my right hon. Friend for that good reply. However—seeing that we now have coal, gas and electricity under public ownership, and that oil and gas from the North Sea will, we hope, soon be publicly owned—would it not be a good thing to set up a coordinating service for consumers on energy matters, so as to give impartial advice to consumers on what forms of energy, heating or lighting they should choose?

Mr. Varley

I have heard that suggestion previously. I plan to have regular meetings with the leaders of the publicly-owned industries and I shall certainly have my hon. Friend's suggestion on the agenda.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Before pursuing that useful suggestion, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he will remove an anomaly whereby in Scotland the price of gas is 27 per cent. more than the average south of the border?

Mr. Varley

I am happy to look into the point, but I cannot give the hon. Gen tleman any assurance that it can be done as easily as he suggests.

Mr. David Stoddart

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is great public concern at the fact that these nationalised industries spend a great deal of public money in advertising their products against each other? When he is having the conversations with representatives of those industries, would it not be better to ensure that they co-ordinate their services, in order that people get the best possible service from whichever nationalised industry they are involved with?

Mr. Varley

As I have already indicated to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans), this is one of the aspects that I shall want to discuss with leaders of the nationalised industries.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

What advice is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to give to consumers who may be tempted by the increase in off-peak electricity charges to switch to gas and incur stiff investment, only to find that gas prices go up in a year or two?

Mr. Varley

I am not sure that I understand the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, or what he is suggesting. If he is going to kick up a fuss as a result of the Government's having to adopt the fuel cost adjustment clauses that he accepted in principle, is he now saying that we should go to the Gas Corporation and say, "Put your prices up as well"?

Mr. Jenkin

I want to know what advice the right hon. Gentleman is to give to the customer.

Mr. Varley

We certainly know the advice which the right hon. Gentleman gave to the Electricity Council during the period of the election. That advice was that the Conservative Government had agreed on the fuel cost adjustment clause, which has resulted in the situation regarding night storage heaters.

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