HC Deb 07 July 1986 vol 101 cc11-2
11. Mr. Sackville

asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he last met the chairman of the British Gas Corporation to discuss the terms of the privatisation of the corporation.

Mr. Peter Walker

I regularly meet the chairman of the British Gas Corporation.

Mr. Sackville

Does my right hon. Friend agree about the importance of reaching a good and effective code of practice for the elderly and disabled?

Mr. Walker

Yes, Sir, and that will be done.

Mr. Douglas

When the Secretary of State meets the chairman, will he be kind enough to explain to him why it is wrong for the Gas Corporation to have drilling and exploration activities when it is in the public sector and right for it to have drilling and exploration activities when it is in the private sector.

Mr. Walker

There is no need to explain it. He is delighted about going into the private sector, for that reason.

Sir Dudley Smith

When my right hon. Friend sees the chairman, will he tell him that a fair minority of my constituents look forward to privatisation and even now would be prepared to pay the going rate for gas if only they could get connected to it? Is he aware that they are increasingly irritated by the splendid television advertising of the virtues of gas? Is it not a scandal that they are asked to pay prohibitive connection charges?

Mr. Walker

The problem with connection is that the cost of linking places to gas, especially in rural areas such as my hon. Friend represents, has been difficult. Under the process of nationalisation, there has been a clear basis according to which British Gas has had a statutory duty to connect potential consumers. That basis will continue unchanged after privatisation. The difference is that, after privatisation, if other groups wish to take on areas which British Gas has not taken on, they will be free to do so.

Mr. Bruce

When the right hon. Gentleman meets the chairman of British Gas, will he explain that, although British Gas has got away lightly in the Gas Bill in terms of the lack of effective regulatory control, if it abuses its monopoly in the private sector, a future Government, which might be a Conservative Government, will have no hesitation in imposing stronger regulators?

Mr. Walker

In view of the policies and differences in the alliance at the moment, I do not imagine that the hon. Gentleman will have any influence on any future Government.