HC Deb 22 March 1976 vol 908 cc11-3
9. Mr. Peter Morrison

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is the percentage increase in the cost of electricity since 28th February 1974.

Mr. Eadie

I am informed by the Electricity Council that it is about 86 per cent. overall in England and Wales.

Mr. Morrison

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that is a horrifying figure? Perhaps he will explain why the prices of the goods and services supplied by nationalised industries seem to rise much faster than the prices of those supplied by the private sector.

Mr. Eadie

I am surprised by the way in which the hon. Gentleman phrased the Question. I shall try to improve his memory. It was his then right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer who, in May 1973, said mat the whole question required urgent reconsideration and that action had to be taken. The implication of the hon. Gentleman's Question is that the Government have given it urgent consideration and are acting on it. The fact is that the Yom Kippur war took place in 1973. The whole of the Western world has had to face many economic troubles arising from that war. The price of oil increased fivefold. The hon. Gentleman will have to concede that that is a factor.

Mr. Mike Thomas

Does my hon. Friend agree that to allow electricity prices to rise at the present rate, when we know how crucial they are to the budgets of low-income families, is damaging to the Government's price restraint strategy.

Mr. Eadie

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend, but if the Conservative Government had taken action the problems that we are now having to tackle might not be with us. My hon. Friend will be aware that, having considered the matter from the point of view of the poor consumer, we believe that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services is best equipped to deal with this serious problem.

Mr. Bowden

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that millions of elderly people are frightened to turn on their electric tires because they dread the electricity bills that are on their way? Will he stress to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services that there should now be a substantial increase in heating allowances, so that they can pay their bills when they come in in May and June?

Mr. Eadie

No one in the House would disagree with what the hon. Gentleman is saying. Electricity charges are a colossal burden and are causing great concern among pensioners. However, it was my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services who took action and tried to alleviate the hardship. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will read what the hon. Gentleman has said about increased heating allowances.