HC Deb 08 February 1995 vol 254 c344
23. Mr. Olner

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will discuss the impact of standing charges on low-income customers when he next meets the Gas Consumers Council.

Mr. Ian Taylor

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave earlier to the hon. Member for Clwyd, South-West (Mr. Jones).

Mr. Olner

The Minister's previous answer was not satisfactory. Does he agree that the 75 per cent. increase in pay awarded to British Gas's chief executive, coupled with a 13 per cent. reduction in showroom staff, is a crime? Does he not think that some of the company's £1.6 billion profit should be used to reduce standing charges for people on extremely low incomes who are suffering from the value added tax increase imposed by the Government?

Mr. Taylor

What appears to be a crime is the Opposition's wilful misunderstanding of the benefits to the consumer. The consumer has benefited from a fall in prices since privatisation. That is what hon. Members who are concerned for their constituents should be talking about. There has been a 15 per cent. fall in prices, even allowing for 8 per cent. VAT. That shows that we have an extremely efficient industry. Simply to go on about management salaries is to distort the truth. It also reveals the hon. Gentleman's complete lack of understanding of what is in his constituents' interests.