HC Deb 23 July 1984 vol 64 cc706-7
14. Mr. Hayes

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what percentage of electricity sales in 1982 and 1983 was accounted for by industrial users and domestic consumers, respectively.

Mr. Giles Shaw

The proportions of total electricity sales in England and Wales accounted for by the main groups of consumer were, domestic consumers in 1982, 37 per cent.; in 1983, 36 per cent.: industrial consumers 38 per cent. in both years, and commercial consumers 21 per cent. in both years.

Mr. Hayes

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply, and for all that he and his Department are doing to help the heavy users, but will he bear in mind that heavy users such as the glass industry have enough problems with foreign I mports? Will he do all he can to review the situation and to give more help to heavy users, particularly the glass industry?

Mr. Shaw

I respect my hon. Friend's interest in the glass industry, and no doubt it stems from the very large cullet plant established recently in his constituency. I can assure him that much has been done to bring United Kingdom prices well into line with those in the rest of the EC, and the CBI is now reasonably satisfied with that. There is, however, a small minority—roughly 2 per cent. — of firms for which there is some competitive disadvantage, and I very much hope that that problem can be gradually resolved in the intensive electricity sectors.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle

Is it not true that industries which use electricity desperately need cheap electricity if they are to sell their goods abroad? Is that not another reason why we simply must have a modem and cost-effective coal mining industry? Is it not, in addition, another reason why we simply must find a solution to the mining dispute which enables us to have cheap coal and cheaper energy prices?

Mr. Shaw

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. At 86 per cent., coal remains the largest single component of electricity fuel generation costs, and the future price of coal is crucial to the future price of electricity.

Mr. Hoyle

How does the Minister measure prices here against those in European countries? Time after time industries, and particularly the processing industry, have complained about unfair competition and have pointed, in particular, to countries such as France where electricity for bulk users is far cheaper. Why is something not done to assist industry, instead of just talking about it?

Mr. Shaw

There are two answers to that question. First, the CBI and not the Government commissioned the report, and the CBI has all the evidence from its members and consumers. Secondly, the cheaper electricity in France is entirely due to a very substantial increase in nuclear power. I assume that the hon. Gentleman applauds that.