§ Mr. Eggar
Domestic gas consumers in Worcestershire will be able to benefit from competition in the supply of gas from a date to be determined in 1998. Experience in the first phase of competition in the south-west suggests that consumers may be offered average savings of 15 to 20 per cent. on their gas bills—and more in some cases.
§ Mr. Luff
Does my right hon. Friend understand that of all the policies that he pursued during the three years during which I had the privilege to be his parliamentary private secretary—[HON. MEMBERS: "Give him a job."]—probably none will bring greater benefit to ordinary consumers than competition in the supply of domestic gas? For precisely the reason set out in my right hon. Friend's answer—the sharp reduction in prices that competition will bring consumers in the trial area—does he understand my enthusiasm to ensure that my constituents have that benefit at the earliest possible date?
§ Mr. Eggar
I thank my hon.—and close—Friend for his opening comment. I assure him that I am doing my best to live up to the standards that he set. There is no doubt that domestic consumers will benefit immensely from the Gas Act 1995. The information that we have already received from the south-west trial area shows not only that consumers of average quantities of gas will benefit, but that low-quantity consumers will benefit, too. At least two of the competitors have offered consumers tariffs involving no standing charge, thereby exposing as a fraud the constant accusation from the Opposition Front Bench that gas competition will benefit only averagely-off consumers and not low-volume and therefore often lower-income consumers.
§ Mr. Foulkes
Thank you, Madam Speaker. Can the Minister say whether gas consumers in Worcestershire, in the south-west of England—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"]—in the west country—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—in the west midlands, not far from your constituency, Madam Speaker, if they get competition in gas supply, will be any luckier than a constituent of mine in Coylton, who on 6 December ordered a—
§ Madam Speaker
Order. That was a good try, but it is out of order. I call Ms Jean Corston, who I am sure will do a lot better.