§ 1. Mr. Nicholas Baker
asked the Secretary of State for Energy what representations he has received about the way in which consumers' complaints will be dealt with following implementation of the provisions of the Gas Bill.
§ The Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Peter Walker)
I have received a number of representations on the subject of gas consumer interests after the privatisation of British Gas, including those from the national and regional gas consumers councils.
§ Mr. Baker
Following the implementation of the Gas Bill, will the Gas Users Council be sufficiently independent? Will there be enough voluntary helpers to enable consumers to be seen in their own homes, and will the Gas Users Council have the power to pursue complaints as far as they should be pursued in the interests of consumers?
§ Mr. Walker
Yes, Sir. In preparing the legislation for privatisation, I was determined to ensure that the good work done previously by the National Gas Consumers Council should be enhanced in future and should in no way deteriorate. We shall have set up an organisation with the power to create regional and local activities and local efforts, which will be far more efficient and effective in future than anything we have seen in the past.
§ Mr. O'Brien
I note the Secretary of State's point about the setting up of the consultative gas councils, but what provisions are being made in the event that neither side can resolve a matter, perhaps concerning prices or supply, which has nothing to do with an ombudsman? Who will settle such a problem when there is deadlock on important issues between the British Gas Corporation and the consultative councils?
§ Mr. Walker
In the regulated, domestic sector, the director will have the power to fix the price. On other issues, the director will also act as an arbitrator, as specified before. There is a range of complicated issues, all of which are effectively dealt with.