§ 9. Mr. Molloy
asked the Secretary of State for Energy what proportion of the electricity industry's receipts are from the sale of off-peak electricity.
§ 16. Mr. Leslie Huckfield
asked the Sectary of State for Energy what percentage of the electricity industry's revenue is from the sale of off-peak electricity.
§ 24. Mr. Tomlinson
asked the Secretary of State for Energy how much of the electricity industry's receipts since 1971 has been attributable to the sale of off-peak electricity.
§ Mr. Molloy
May I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the great anger and annoyance of many people because of the recent announcement about night 11 storage heaters and white meters? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear."] Hundreds of thousands of ordinary people think that they have been cheated and conned—
§ Mr. Raphael Tuck
It is no use hon. Gentleman opposite cheering; the fact is that they were going to put up prices.
§ Mr. Molloy
If the Trade Descriptions Act has technically not been broken, it has been raped in spirit. Does my hon. Friend not agree that in view of the intense feeling among people he ought to reconsider the anouncement that has been made and that the entire proposal should be abolished? Otherwise folk will have no confidence whatsoever in any future announcements by great public industries.
§ Mr. Eadie
I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree when I say that we are well aware of the statement that he has made about the feelings of consumers of off-peak electricity. My hon. Friend will be aware that about 2 million out of 17 million consumers use the appliances that he has mentioned, and he knows that the House is to debate this matter on Thursday.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg
Will the hon. Gentleman accept that that complacent reply will not satisfy organisations such as Help the Aged, which are desperately disturbed by the fears which his announcement has caused among old people?
§ Mr. Eadie
Yes, Sir, but the hon. Gentleman must be fair and agree that the Government have implemented a policy which can be of assistance to the aged. They have announced that heating charges for people on supplementary benefit will be increased by one-third from July.
The hon. Gentleman knows that the Conservative Opposition have put down a motion on this subject for debate on Thursday. As they agreed with the fuel cost adjustment clause, the House will await with interest the statement by the Opposition Front Bench during that debate.
§ Mr. Huckfield
Does my hon. Friend accept that once upon a time night storage tariff customers used to be valuable to the generating boards because they used off-peak capacity? Because of that, an advertising campaign, which proved a 12 great success, was undertaken to persuade people that they could install electric central heating for a small sum per week. Is my hon. Friend now saying that the Electricity Council and the generating boards do not want night storage tariff customers? Will my hon. Friend consider the whole matter again, because there is a tremendous amount of feeling on this issue?
§ Mr. Tom Boardman
Will the hon. Gentleman say what proportion of the increase in off-peak heating is directly attributable to the increased cost of coal due to increases in miners' wages?
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I accept that much of the problem was created by the Conservative administration and was disguised by them, but will my hon. Friend explain to my constituents how they are to meet this increased cost of 70 per cent., in addition to the increased rate burdens which they have had to suffer? Will my hon. Friend accept that we find it small comfort that he tells the House that the increase affects only 2 million people? For them the increase is as severe and damaging as it could possibly be.
§ 15. Mr. Trotter
asked the Secretary of State for Energy what was the amount spent by the nationalised electricity industry in the last five years on advertising aimed at encouraging consumers to use cheap off-peak electricity for storage heating.
§ Mr. Trotter
I should declare an interest, in that I put my trust in these advertisements and completely converted to night store heaters, only to be conned like 2 million other people. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if there had been a similar breach of trust or misrepresentation by a private organisation it would have been pilloried? Is this the unacceptable face of nationalisation, and will he, before Thursday, consider his policy on this matter?
§ Mr. Eadie
On the first point, if the hon. Gentleman had consulted me and some of my hon. Friends we could have given him good advice on what proper central heating should be. His second question has nothing to do with nationalisation. It has an awful lot to do with the fact that the House and the country did not think out a proper energy policy in relation to cost.
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
Does my hon. Friend accept that no matter how incompetent the previous administration were over this nationalised industry it will not do now to say that people must accept these charges? I am afraid that it will be a great hardship to a number of people. We expect from him much more enlightenment in the administration of this industry.
§ Mr. Eadie
I certainly take the strictures of my hon. Friend, but the question related to advertisements for night storage heaters. It still is a cheaper form of electricity—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes it is. It is cheaper than ordinary electricity. I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that it is preferable, from the point of view of conservation, that night storage heaters should be sold in conjunction with cheap insulation.
§ Mr. Peyton
Not all of us would accept the hon. Gentleman as a heating consultant, but would he advise his right hon. Friend that he failed earlier to answer the perfectly reasonable question of his hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield), and that as a result of Government policy we shall now have a growing mistrust from the public, who once felt that an agreement had been made, respecting the interests of both sides, that special prices should be given to those who used off-peak heating, and that this has now been violated?
§ Mr. Eadie
My qualifications as a heating consultant may be better than those of the right hon. Gentleman. He should address his second point to his right hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench. They agreed to the fuel cost adjustment clauses and they will have to enlighten the right hon. Gentleman in the debate on Thursday.
§ Mr. Palmer
Is my hon. Friend aware of the contradiction in the attitude of Conservative Members, who are always lecturing the nationalised industries on the need to be commercially minded and then, apparently, deny them the right to advertise?
§ Mr. Patrick Jenkin
Is it not now becoming apparent to the hon. Gentleman and to his right hon. Friend that they would be well advised to accept the Opposition motion about off-peak heating, especially since the advice of the Patronage Secretary is that they should accept it?
§ Mr. Hunt
As, in the main, these night storage heaters have been installed by householders with very limited means, does not a figure of that kind represent a savage blow to their weekly budgets? Is it not time that we had at least some expression of sympathy from Ministers to these people in their pressing plight?
§ Mr. Greville Janner
Is it not completely hypocritical of Conservative Members to attack this decision, when it arose directly out of their plans and their arrangements? That said, however, is my hon. Friend aware that the complaints which most of us on the Government side of the House have received have come from people of limited means, who regard the change as extremely unfair?
§ Mr. Eadie
I am glad that my hon. and learned Friend has raised the question of people of limited means. As I told the House previously, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services is trying to take care of this matter and has made announcements relative to the giving of some financial aid.
§ Mr. Eadie
I have received 333 letters from hon. Members and 416 direct from the public about the electricity price increases. The bulk of them refer to the increases in off-peak and night rates. In addition, I have seen the letter sent to the Prime Minister by the National Consumer Protection Council on 10th June covering about 3,000 letters from consumers and signed on behalf of various organisations.
§ Mr. Dykes
Will the Minister stop appearing to be so complacent about this matter? Is he not aware that hundreds of thousands of people are facing literally unbearable increases in charges? Will he for one moment forget the debate later this week, behind which he has continued to shelter for the whole of this Question Time, and undertake to postpone any of these increases for three months pending full inquiries?
§ Mr. Leadbitter
I hope that my hon. Friend will bear in mind that it is of little consequence either to many of us in the House or, certainly, to the people affected by this matter where he says that the blame is laid. Is he aware that the people involved place the responsibility on many of us in the House? Is he, therefore, aware that unless something is said on Thursday to change our minds, some of us will not be persuaded that we should support him and the Government?