HC Deb 25 February 1991 vol 186 cc634-5
8. Mrs. Roe

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what discussions he has had with the Director General of Ofgas about disconnection for debt.

Mr. Moynihan

I have had no specific discussions with the Director General of Gas Supply on the subject of disconnection for debt. I can confirm that the number of British Gas customers who have been disconnected because of debt is lower than at any time since 1977, when records were first kept.

Mrs. Roe

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's reply, especially as 3 million new customers have been connected. Does he agree that protection for debtors has increased since privatisation, not decreased?

Mr. Moynihan

That is absolutely true. From a peak of almost 62,000 in the year ended March 1988, just over 19,000 people have been disconnected for debt.

Mr. Allen McKay

Is not it also a fact that the drop in disconnections has coincided with an increase in the installation of credit meters, which have an automatic cut-off on what people can pay? As the Government are trying to encourage wage settlements below the rate of inflation, will the Minister tell the electric industry not to increase its prices by more than the rate of inflation?

Mr. Moynihan

On the substantive question, I acknowledge that the offer of a prepayment meter as an alternative to disconnection has played an important role, but the reality is that privatisation and the excellent work of the Office of Gas Supply have been paramount in assisting the gas industry to reduce the number of people who are disconnected for debt.