HC Deb 07 July 1986 vol 101 cc10-1
10. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he next expects to have a meeting with the chairman of British Gas to discuss gas prices.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Prices are a matter for the commercial judgment of the British Gas Corporation.

Mr. Hannam

With regard to industrial gas prices, when my right hon. Friend meets the chairman of British Gas, will he discuss different gas prices for consumers on interruptible contracts, who receive good, competitive price charging, compared with those on long-term firm contracts for gas supply, whose contracts are still subject to price increases far out of touch with the present energy position?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

My hon. Friend is right. There has been a considerable drop in the price of interruptible gas. The price for the supply of firm gas by contract is a matter for each contract commercially negotiated by British Gas. I understand that some planned increases have been cancelled and in some cases there have been reductions.

Mr. Rogers

When the Minister meets the chairman of British Gas to discuss prices, will he ask him how they will be affected by the flotation of British Gas shares, especially as most will go to foreign investors and British Gas customers will own a very small percentage of the shares that will be sold?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The hon. Gentleman knows that privatisation of itself has no effect on the price of gas. As for the availability of shares, I simply ask him to await the details. A real opportunity will be given to many millions of people—who recently, for the first time, and under a Conservative Government, have enjoyed having shares in industry—as a result of this exciting and enterprising flotation.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the sterling work carried out by energy cost analysis companies, which have negotiated very reasonable prices for gas all over the country? Does he agree that there is now an opportunity to promote some of these private arrangements so that other major companies can benefit from a tariff analysis which is fair to them?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

For interruptible gas, many companies already enjoy very favourable tariffs from British Gas. I note what my hon. Friend said about the opportunities provided by consultancies and others. No doubt they will make their services available to those who find them useful.

Mr. Rowlands

As the Government plan to raid British Gas accounts to the tune of £2.5 billion on privatisation, to collect nearly £500 million in the gas levy and still leave British Gas with a large profit, instead of trying to benefit some gas consumers with some shares, why not benefit all gas consumers by reducing gas prices?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

We are trying to give the British public, for the first time, a genuine share in the ownership of one of our greatest industries. Many people outside now realise how the hon. Gentleman and the Labour party would deny them an opportunity of which I know many people will avail themselves.

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