HC Deb 20 January 1975 vol 884 cc1000-1
9. Mr. Michael Marshall

asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he will give a general direction to the gas and electricity authorities to combine their present showroom facilities.

Mr. Eadie

This idea has been examined before and found inappropriate but is now being reconsidered.

Mr. Marshall

I thank the Minister for the partial encouragement in that answer, and I, too, thank him for sending me an advance copy of it in good time. Will he, however, look at the matter in the widest possible sense, because there is here the question not only of possible economy but of direct energy saving? Will the hon. Gentleman consider this proposal also in the context of the advertising being done by these two nationalised undertakings, which also can cause a serious waste of resources?

Mr. Eadie

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he says. He will know that this question has been under examination over the past 20 years, but even in the last report no firm recommendation was made. It is fair to say that there has been resistance to any such proposal, especially from the consumers' councils, which, after all, have to be considered. They do not like showrooms to be closed, because these premises are used for other purposes—for instance, the payment of bills. However, the hon. Gentleman is quite right when he makes the point that some forms of advertising would be undesirable in today's conditions. I imagine that he and other hon. Members have noted the relevance of much current publicity for energy-saving efforts, and, as I have said, the whole matter is now being reconsidered.

Mr. Palmer

Will my hon. Friend assure the House that it is not the present Government's intention to proceed with the policy of the previous Conservative Government, which was to close these publicly-owned facilities altogether?

Mr. Eadie

I am glad to take this opportunity to allay my hon. Friend's fears. Any studies in relation to energy saving would certainly be motivated entirely by other considerations.

Mr. Gow

What progress has been made in combining meter readings for both gas and electricity at the same time?

Mr. Eadie

This question has been considered in great depth in the past. No conclusion was reached because, from the standpoint of possible savings—I assume that that was the point of the hon. Gentleman's question—it was agreed that any saving would be very marginal, if anything at all.