HC Deb 12 April 1976 vol 909 cc904-6
14. Mr. Durant

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection whether she has any plans to meet the Electricity Users' Consultative Council.

Mr. Alan Williams

I will be meeting Mr. Tom Young, the new Convening Chairman of the Electricity Consultative Councils, tomorrow to discuss a number of matters of interest to electricity consumers.

Mr. Durant

When the Minister meets the Council will he discuss the various problems facing old-age pensioners who do not understand the different tariff rates of the electricity boards? Will he discuss also the inequities of the rates of standing charges?

Mr. Alan Williams

The hon. Member is right in saying that the public could benefit from clear information about the importance of being on the right tariff. There have been discussions on this subject with the industry and I am willing to discuss it further with Mr. Young tomorrow.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Will my hon. Friend consider with the Council the idea advanced by housing chairmen that heating costs should form part of the rent and that rent rebates could therefore be given? That would therefore avoid the risk of hypothermia among the elderly.

Mr. Alan Williams

I have not seen that proposition before and I shall look into it.

Mr. Rost

Since fuel represents 60 per cent. of the CEGB's costs, will the Minister talk to the Department of Energy about what can be done to improve the thermal efficiency of the power-burn, which would make a most important contribution to keeping down electricity prices? This is being done on the Continent.

Mr. Alan Williams

The thermal efficiency of power-burn is outside the remit of my Department.

Mr. Cryer

Does my hon. Friend agree that, since food subsidies are an important element in the budget of old-age pensioners and others on low incomes, it would be better if subsidies to the nationalised industries, including gas and electricity, were to be maintained or phased out over a much longer period? Would not this reduce the difficulties which increased gas and electricity charges are causing to these people?

Mr. Alan Williams

If the basic proposition put forward by my hon. Friend were sound, I would accept it. Our researches show, however, that, whereas the benefits of food subsidies operate four to one in favour of the low-income family, subsidies on fuel actually work two to one in favour of the high-income families. If we have £100 million to spend, we have to decide how it will create the maximum social benefit—putting it on foodstuffs or putting it on electricity.