HC Deb 11 May 1994 vol 243 cc317-8
19. Mr. Miller

To ask the President of the Board of Trade when he will meet the Director General of Electricity Supply to discuss electricity prices.

Mr. Eggar

I meet the Director General of Electricity Supply regularly.

Mr. Miller

Given the disquiet on both sides of the House about rumours of differential pricing of utilities, and particularly of gas, as we heard earlier, will the Minister assure the House that the Government will not allow differential pricing of electricity? Does he agree that such differential pricing would be a huge disadvantage to people, particularly those in rural communities? He has an opportunity to give a clear commitment here and now.

Mr. Eggar

I am surprised at the hon. Gentleman. He should know perfectly well that there is already considerable regional differential pricing.

Mr. Oppenheim

How seriously can we take Opposition Members when they express concern about electricity prices or the interests of consumers? If they had had their way, would not they have insisted that—

Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is aware that we are dealing with Government policy and not with activities or policies of the Opposition. Will the hon. Gentleman transpose his question?

Mr. Oppenheim

Did not the Opposition oppose Government policy to ensure that we had competition in electricity generation so that consumers' interests were paramount? Do not they always put the interests of producers and vested interests first?

Mr. Eggar

Yes, as so frequently, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. As a result of the privatisation of the electricity industry, there has been a 7 per cent. real-terms reduction in the price of electricity to domestic consumers. I have to say again to Opposition Front-Bench Members that if they do not realise that there have been long-established regional pricing differentials on electricity, they really need to use their Short money more effectively.

Mr. Beggs

When the Minister next has a meeting to discuss electricity prices, will he bear in mind the fact that the successful intervention of the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and of Ministers in attracting companies such as Hualon to Northern Ireland, could be threatened because of the very high cost of electricity in Northern Ireland and the need for Northern Ireland consumers, both domestic and industrial, to have access to cheaper electricity?

Mr. Eggar

I am well aware of the hon. Gentleman's concern about that issue. He and I have discussed it in the past. I will again bring his remarks to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Mr. Matthew Banks

In advance of my hon. Friend's next meeting with the director general, will he join me in congratulating the Merseyside and North-Western electricity board which has announced not just a reduction in its electricity tariff, as have other boards, but a £10 rebate to every consumer in the north-west which will do most for those in greatest need?

Mr. Eggar

I will indeed congratulate MANWEB on its £10 rebate and its 1 per cent. reduction. In addition, the Midlands board has reduced its prices by 2 per cent. The North Western electricity board has announced a 6 per cent. reduction from April 1994. The South Eastern electricity board has made a 2 per cent. reduction and given a £8 rebate. Time and again, the success of privatisation is recognised in the way in which regional electricity companies are bringing down their prices to domestic consumers.