§ 12. Mr. Molyneaux
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, further to his reply to the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker), Official Report, 15 January, column 1524, what progress he has made with his examination of the effects on the economy of Northern Ireland of the Province's higher energy costs compared with the rest of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Adam Butler
The review of electricity supply arrangements in Northern Ireland, to which I referred in my reply to the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) on 15 January, is now complete. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced on 5 March, the Government will be taking steps to bring electricity prices in Northern Ireland more closely into line with those in England and Wales and to keep them there. Work continues on the evaluation of whether natural gas can be economically supplied to Northern Ireland from the Kinsale field.
§ Mr. Molyneaux
Does the Minister agree with the Prime Minister's welcome undertaking that reform of electricity costs can best be implemented by integrating the Northern Ireland organisations supplying electricity and other forms of energy with those in the remainder of the United Kingdom?
§ Mr. Butler
I am sure that all hon. Members who represent Northern Ireland constituencies will join in the welcome that the hon. Gentleman has extended. We still have to work out the precise details, but I am sure that in the circumstances of Northern Ireland they will be found equitable.
§ Mr. McCusker
As Northern Ireland is the poorest region of the United Kingdom, should not electricity users in the Province be granted parity with the lowest level of tariffs in Great Britain?
§ Mr. Butler
In the debate the hon. Gentleman argued for bringing the level down to the average, but now he chooses the lowest level. He will have to wait for the Government's announcement.