HC Deb 07 November 1983 vol 48 cc4-5
3. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what subjects he expects to discuss at his next meeting with the chairman of the British Gas Corporation.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

My right hon. Friend's next meeting with the chairman of the British Gas Corporation has not yet been arranged, nor the subject matter decided.

Mr. Canavan

Will the Minister discuss with the chairman the safety of high pressure gas pipelines and in particular the case in my constituency, about which I have informed him, involving a pipeline which is only 18 inches below the ground and looks as if it never was laid to the regulation 3ft depth? Instead of trusting private contractors and private surveyors to check the laying of such pipelines, will the Minister send out Department inspectors to ensure that the specific pipeline is laid at its proper depth and to determine whether similar pipelines exist elsewhere?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who, with his usual courtesy, informed me at the end of last week about the particular problem affecting one of his constituents. The problem is serious and causes anxiety. I shall do what I can. I understand that the chairman of the Scottish gas board has offered to appoint an independent arbitrator to try to settle the matter. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will persuade his constituent that that is the best way to resolve the problem.

Mr. Rost

Will my hon. Friend have words with the British Gas Corporation and the Electricity Council about their undignified advertising slanging match which, instead of informing, is confusing the consumer and has cost £22 million in the last year? Can the Department of Energy move in as referee to stop the fight and produce independent estimates of the relative advantages of electricity and gas heating so that the consumer has an independent assessment of the differences?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am sure that the chairmen of both industries will take note of what my hon. Friend has said. Advertising is a matter for the commercial discretion of those who run the industries.

Mr. Orme

When the Minister meets the chairman of the BGC, will he discuss with him the recent speech by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in which he made a disastrous attack on the nationalised industries? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the excellent productivity record in the gas, electricity and coal industries refutes the Financial Secretary's allegations? Where does the Minister stand in relation to that speech?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will read the speech, because I do not think that one should draw from it the conclusions that he drew. I repeat what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said about the future of all the industries. We want to examine all ways of running them more efficiently.