HC Deb 28 November 1983 vol 49 cc644-6
10. Mr. Hayes

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what information he has as to the average price of electricity per kilowatt hour in 1982 to customers in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, West Germany and France.

Mr. Giles Shaw

Information on overall average prices is not available. However, in 1982 a typical industrial customer paid prices in the following ranges in pence per kilowatt hour: in the United Kingdom—3.49p to 3.97p; in Germany—3.66 to 4.76; in France—2.73; and in the United States—3.83 to 7.21.

Mr. Hayes

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. Is he aware of the devastating effect that gas and electricity prices will have on heavy users, particularly on beleaguered industries such as the glass industry? In my own constituency of Harlow we have United Glass, and on a projected increase of 6 per cent.—I sincerely hope that it will not be that—it will have to pay an additional £120,000 a year. Does my hon. Friend accept that the heavy users have a raw deal, and will he do something about it?

Mr. Shaw

I warmly welcome my hon. Friend's firm defence of United Glass, which has a substantial plant in his constituency, including the cullet processing plant, which is essential to the glass recycling schemes for London. My hon. Friend will be aware that special provision has been made for heavy users. Indeed, only those with a fuel usage of 80 per cent. have not enjoyed some of the benefits that have occurred. I also remind him that the CBI is examining the position closely and I have no doubt that it will make representations.

Mr. Rowlands

In that case, may we have an assurance that the Electricity Council will not increase industrial electricity prices in the new year?

Mr. Shaw

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that that matter has been adequately and splendidly dealt with by my right hon. Friend.

11. Mr. Fatchett

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what representations he has received from industry in relation to energy costs.

22. Mr. Kirkwood

asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he has received representations from industry on the current costs of electricity and gas.

Mr. Peter Walker

I have received various representations.

Mr. Fatchett

Have not Conservative Members this afternoon made the Secretary of State aware of the fact that energy prices for British industry are higher than in most European competitor countries and the United States? As a result, are not competitiveness and jobs lost? Will he therefore reassure the House than any increase in energy prices will not lead to further losses in competitiveness and increasing job losses in British industry?

Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman cannot have heard the reply given by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to the last question, when he said that energy prices in Germany and the United States were higher than in this country. Only in France, with its substantial nuclear electricity power industry, are energy prices lower. We are well aware of the importance of energy prices if industry is to remain competitive, and in no way will we allow industrial energy costs to go up in the alarming way that they did under the last Labour Government.

Mr. Kirkwood

If the right hon. Gentleman's friends in the CBI can persuade him that export-led industries will suffer from any price changes that may occur, will he seek to change the Government's policy?

Mr. Walker

Industry has applauded the Government's policy, which has meant a freeze on the price of one major source of energy for 21 months and a freeze on the other for 15 months.

Mr. Rost

Will my right hon. Friend remind the House that not all of industry is moaning about possible increases in energy prices as, thanks to the Energy Act, it now has the ability to go it alone? Does he also agree that there is enough room for improved efficiency within the electricity supply industry to make any price increases unnecessary and allow the industry to meet the Government's capital return requirements?

Mr. Walker

There is also considerable scope for improving energy efficiency in industry. We estimate that energy use by industry and domestic users could, with proper methods, be reduced by about 20 per cent.

Mr. Eastham

In view of the massive energy profits last year—£660 million for gas and £330 million for electricity—is the right hon. Gentleman aware that people now call them energy taxes rather than energy prices? Will he differentiate between a tax and a price?

Mr. Walker

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman has a closer look at the figures. For example, gas profits were £188 million on a turnover of £6 billion and a capital of £12 billion. That is hardly excessive.