HC Deb 05 April 1982 vol 21 cc672-3
3. Mr. David Atkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Energy how domestic gas prices currently compare with those in European Economic Community member States.

19. Mr. Speller

asked the Secretary of State for Energy how prices for domestic gas paid by consumers in France and Germany compare with prices in Great Britain.

Mr. John Moore

Making adjustments for the change in exchange rates since the latest available information was given to my hon. Friend in answer to his similar question in February, prices in France and Germany are typically about 100 per cent. and 70 per cent. higher than in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Atkinson

Does my hon. Friend's reply mean that, when taking British pay and pension levels into account, the British domestic gas consumer is now paying a more realistic price, which his European counterparts have always had to pay, and that it was grossly irresponsible of the Labour Government to force British Gas to sell at a loss?

Mr. Moore

My hon. Friend is right in the sense that the price is more realistic, but it is only right to point out to people in the United Kingdom that the relative price change between domestic and industrial prices on the Continent still shows a far wider disparity than in Britain.

Mr. Rowlands

As there is a very large lobby outside the House, and quite a strong lobby within it, for the export of British gas to Europe and therefore the establishment of a European price for domestic gas, are not the increases that the hon. Gentleman mentioned what the British domestic consumer could expect if such a lobby were successful?

Mr. Moore

First, it would be better if the hon. Gentleman recognised that we are still not self-sufficient in gas. We import more than 23 per cent. of our gas from across the median line. He should also understand the nature of competition in producing new supplies. Competition always offers the consumer a better deal than monopoly pricing of supplies.