§ 31. Mr. Ottaway
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many public service units have been awarded a charter mark to date.
§ Mr. Ottaway
Is my right hon. Friend aware that three of those public service units are located in the London borough of Croydon—the consumer advisory service, the environmental health department and the continuing 16 education and training service? Does he agree that winning the mark is recognition of the high quality of those organisations and that members of the public should be encouraged to nominate those departments which provide services that deserve the charter mark?
§ Mr. Hunt
I join my hon. Friend in his pride over what has been achieved in his local area. As he will know, we have decided that, as the initiative for the honours system met with a warm public response with nominations for recognising suitable people, we would now like to open up the charter mark procedure to public nominations. We will announce the detail of how we propose to proceed in due course. I welcome my hon. Friend's support for that policy.
§ Mrs. Roche
Does the Secretary of State agree that the charter mark awarded to British Gas should be withdrawn immediately, given today's disgraceful news that it is considering charging £25 for home visits to elderly and disabled people?
§ Mr. Hunt
I am afraid that the hon. Lady is engaging in scaremongering. With regard to the second part of her question, I am very happy to make it clear that British Gas has confirmed today that there will be no service cuts to elderly, blind or disabled customers. I am also happy to confirm that the Government are determined that all suppliers of gas will have to offer special services for elderly, disabled or blind persons.
In relation to the first part of the question, I have received a letter from the Gas Consumers Council—which I have before me—dated 18 January. It says:we have faith in British Gas as a company that puts safety first and deservedly earned the Charter Mark, for past performance, in 1993".The letter goes on to raise some current concerns. I am very happy to confirm that I will consider any specific concerns and seek to establish the facts before deciding on any further action.