HC Deb 31 January 1983 vol 36 cc14-5
20. Mr. Eggar

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what response he has received from the British Gas Corporation with regard to the level of standing charges.

Mr. Gray

The British Gas Corporation recently announced that it will be limiting standing charges to a maximum of 50 per cent. of a domestic consumer's bill in relation to meter readings on or after 28 February 1983. I welcome this decision.

Mr. Eggar

While, of course, my hon. Friend's remarks are extremely welcome—and I know that the whole House will congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy on putting forward this initiative—may I ask whether the British Gas Corporation gave any excuse for the delay in replying to my right hon. Friend's initiative, especially when the electricity board replied a full month earlier and before Christmas?

Mr. Gray

The result that has been achieved from both the British Gas Corporation and the electricity board has been satisfactory. If one organisation took rather longer than the other to come to a conclusion, I am prepared to overlook that in view of the happy position that we have now reached.

Mr. John Smith

Will the Minister confirm that, from the last election until October of last year, gas prices for domestic consumers rose by 97.7 per cent.? Is that not one of the highest increases in prices ever engineered by any Government? Is it not the case that the Government forced the British Gas Corporation to increase prices by 10 per cent. above the rate of inflation for three years?

Mr. Gray

This is the second time this afternoon that the right hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Mr. Smith) has raised this matter. Can he not welcome the excellent announcement that has been made—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] My right hon. Friend has already fully answered that question. One of the main reasons is that the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member ducked all those issues while they were in power.

Sir Peter Emery

May I suggest that we consider those who will benefit as a result of the corporation's statement? There are many who might need to have this information and it is not sufficiently widely known at present. Will my right hon. Friend have discussions with Sir Denis Rooke on exactly how more information can be given to ensure that this excellent step forward is understood?

Mr. Gray

I shall pass on my hon. Friend's suggestion. It is essential that as much publicity as possible is given to this excellent piece of news.