HC Deb 15 July 1985 vol 83 cc4-5
3. Mr. Michael Morris

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he proposes to include in the legislation for the privatisation of the British Gas Corporation provisions covering safety standards for the installation of gas appliances; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of State, Department of Energy (Mr. Alick Buchanan Smith)

Yes, Sir. The installation and use of appliances are already the subject of safety regulations, and my officials are discussing them with the Health and Safety Executive.

Mr. Morris

That is an encouraging answer, but there is concern outside. Is there not an analogy with the privatisation of British Airways, where pilots have maintained safety and will continue to do so? Can the public be totally reassured in the same way that, when gas is privatised, safety will be a major consideration?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Yes, indeed. British Gas has a very good safety record. We want to do everything in the legislation to encourage the highest possible standards.

Mr. Portillo

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that there is absolutely no reason to think that the privatisation of British Gas will involve lower safety standards? Does he agree that if allegations are made that privatisation will involve lower safety standards, they can be seen as the usual scare story that always accompanies a privatisation proposal?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

My hon. Friend is correct. Safety is extremely important, and all those concerned are getting the fullest co-operation in the preparation of the law.

Mr. Rowlands

If British Gas is privatised, thereby creating a huge private monopoly that is not answerable to the Secretary of State or to this House, will the Minister at least give us a complete assurance that any regulatory body which governs that industry, in regard to safety, prices or other energy matters, will be of a maximum, not a minimum, character?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

We all know the hon. Gentleman's background. He wants maximum Government interference in the affairs of British Gas. Privatisation will involve less interference and greater efficiency. I assure the hon. Gentleman that, under the arrangements to be made in the legislation, safety standards will be fully safeguarded and encouraged.