HC Deb 08 March 1982 vol 19 cc597-8
20. Mr. Stoddart

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what disussions he has had with the chairman of British Gas concerning increases in the price of domestic gas in 1982.

Mr. Lawson

I have had no discussions with the chairman of the British Gas Corporation about the increases in the price of domestic gas announced by the corporation on 25 February. These increases are consistent with the three-year financial target agreed by my predecessor with British Gas in January 1980. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that this matter was debated in the House last week and approved by a large majority.

Mr. Stoddart

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is most regrettable that he did not have conversations with the chairman of British Gas about the 22 per cent. increase that has been imposed on gas consumers this year? Had he done so he would have discovered that the chairman very much resents the fact that the Gas Corporation is being made a scapegoat for the Government's disgraceful policy of putting a 10 per cent. tax on gas.

Mr. Lawson

There is no question of a 10 per cent. tax. What is more, had it not been for Government policy on domestic gas prices—a policy with which the Gas Corporation was in a large measure of agreement—it would not have been possible to hold prices for industrial consumers of gas.

Mr. Waller

Will not the Government's policy ensure that gas is used more efficiently in the future and that we are less likely to see the British Gas Corporation obliged to supply gas to domestic consumers at a relatively low price when it is unable to provide gas, even at a higher price, to those industrial consumers who need it?

Mr. Lawson

My hon. Friend is right, and that is the position that the Government inherited and the position that we have changed substantially by the measures we have taken—unpopular though they are. There are other measures that we are looking into now. We have, for example, asked the British Gas Corporation to review its policy on combined heat and power.