§ The Under-Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Alex Eadie)
Arrangements for the payment of electricity accounts are matters for the boards themselves in consultation with their consultative councils. All boards operate some sort of easy payment scheme for consumers who find it difficult to budget for quarterly bills.
§ Mr. Gould
Does my hon. Friend accept that consumers on small fixed incomes who are able to pay their bills in this way find it more convenient and less embarrassing than other forms of special arrangement that might be made for them? Does he agree, therefore, that it is unfortunate that this arrangement or facility is not available to consumers throughout the country?
§ Mr. Eadie
I note what my hon. Friend says. A number of alternative schemes are operated throughout the country—for example, the provision of monthly budget accounts, weekly or fortnightly prepayment schemes by bank or Giro standing order, agreement with the local authority to include the cost of electricity in the tenant's rent, and the provision of a prepayment meter. The discretion is entirely with the board concerned.
§ Mr. Mike Thomas
Does not my hon. Friend agree that any form of payment arranged for small consumers that avoids their having to pay the exorbitant rates charged by prepayment meters is preferable to the prepayment meter scheme?
§ Mr. Eadie
My hon. Friend has raised this question repeatedly. My right hon. Friend has given the matter sympathetic consideration and will try to inform the House further. The best scheme is that which suits the tenant in relation to his income. I repeat that the discretion lies with the board concerned.