HC Deb 21 February 1977 vol 926 cc1021-2
12. Mr. Madden

asked the Secretary of State for Energy how many electricity and gas showrooms have closed in the past year; and how many others are scheduled to close within the next year.

The Under-Secretary of State for Energy (Dr. John A. Cunningham)

I am informed by the industries that 24 electricity and 14 gas showrooms were closed in 1976. In 1977 they plan to close 17 electricity and 12 gas showrooms.

Mr. Madden

Is my hon. Friend aware that 10 electricity showrooms are to be closed in Yorkshire, three of them in my constituency? Does he agree that electricity showrooms provide important services in addition to the payment of accounts, and will he urge electricity boards to reconsider this extremely short-term policy with a view to profitable city centre showrooms subsidising less profitable ones in rural areas?

Dr. Cunningham

I am aware that the closure of electricity showrooms seems to be falling disproportionately on my hon. Friend's constituency. I recognise his long interest in consumer affairs in this and other fields. Decisions of this nature are for the day-to-day management of the industries, and such decisions are taken only after consultation with the appropriate consultative council or the Gas Consumer Council. I should emphasise that the closures represent fewer than 2 per cent. of all showrooms, and I cannot agree that decisions on the retention of showrooms are matters upon which I should advise the boards. These are decisions that they must take for themselves.

Mr. McCrindle

Has not the time come when consideration should be given to merging gas and electricity showrooms, particularly in small towns?

Dr. Cunningham

That matter has been considered on a number of occasions. It was considered by the hon. Gentleman's party when it was in office and it has been reconsidered recently. On both occasions the unanimous conclusion was that there was no case for this.

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