HC Deb 08 February 1982 vol 17 cc731-2
15. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is the amount and proportion of gas and electricity bills represented by standing charges.

Mr. Gray

The standing charge on the normal tariff for quarterly-billed consumers is £7 to £8 per quarter for gas and £5.10 to £7 per quarter for electricity. On average, the standing charges account for 12 per cent. of electricity bills and 17 per cent. of gas bills.

As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security said in the debate two weeks ago, we are taking another look at the effect of standing charges on low-income consumers.

Mr. Chapman

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. I appreciate that the standing charge is fixed to cover the average cost per household of providing energy, including the repair of lines, and so on, but does my hon. Friend agree that it is unfair when people pay more for the standing charge than they pay for the energy consumed? That hits low-income consumers particularly hard. Will he look sympathetically at the matter?

Mr. Gray

The boards look sympathetically at cases involving poor families, but I remind my hon. Friend that poor families are not necessarily those who consume least. In that regard, the amount of the standing charge varies substantially according to the families.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall call one more question and allow one minute extra at 3.30 pm.

Mr. Rowlands

Will the Minister of State answer the question that the Secretary of State ducked, when I put it to him that this year domestic gas consumers will face increasing gas prices of at least 20 per cent.?

Mr. Gray

I cannot accept that figure.