HC Deb 26 November 1984 vol 68 cc607-8
7. Mr. Winnick

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what discussions he has had with the chairmen of the gas and electricity boards over increases in fuel prices.

19. Mr. Ray Powell

asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he last met the chairman of the British Gas Corporation to discuss gas prices.

Mr. Peter Walker

Prices are a matter for the industries within the framework of their agreed external financing limits and financial targets.

Mr. Winnick

Is it not clear that the increases which are to take place this year are a form of fuel tax and hidden taxation? If it is a matter for the fuel and power industries, why has the Cabinet decided on the increases? Is this not another case where the Secretary of State disagrees strongly with Government policy, but lost out in the Cabinet to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Mr. Walker

In fact, the Government have not agreed any specific price increases. They will be a matter for the industries. All that the Government know is that, unlike during the period of the previous Labour Government, the increases will be below the rate of inflation.

Mr. Powell

Will the Secretary of State be honest with the House and admit that the primary object of the exercise is to increase prices yet again to consumers and industrialists?

Mr. Walker

The enormous increases that took place about every six weeks under the previous Labour Government now, on average, take place every two years under a Conservative Government. The hon. Gentleman should rejoice at the fact that there has been such an improvement during this Government's lifetime.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the Government keep changing the external financing limits, as they have for gas, electricity and water, although it may not be called a tax, if the Government keep making the industries raise money which they say they do not need it will amount to the same thing—a tax upon the consumer?

Mr. Walker

Yes, Sir. That is why I am pleased that on this occasion I reached agreement with the gas and electricity boards as to what should be done.