HL Deb 18 November 1936 vol 103 cc199-201

Order of the Day for the consideration of the Commons Message of yesterday read.


My Lords, in moving the Motion that stands in my name, that this House do concur in the Commons Resolution, I should like to remind your Lordships that a dispute arose in South London a few months ago regarding a new tariff of gas prices which the South Metropolitan Gas Company had put into force. The tariff involved a substantial increase in price to the smaller gas users and a lower scale of prices to the larger gas users. The local authorities, as well as individual consumers, joined in a complaint regarding the new tariff and appealed to the Board of Trade on the subject. My right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade explained that this company obtained its powers of charging for gas direct from Parliament under Private Acts, and that he as President of the Board of Trade had no power to intervene. In these circumstances he promised to ask Parliament to consider the matter as soon as it reassembled, and it is for that purpose that the present Motion is being moved.

The powers of the South Metropolitan Gas Company are based on what is known as the basic price system of charging for gas, in which the rate of dividend payable is related to the average price of gas and not the price to the ordinary consumer. This system gives greater flexibility than the older systems in the way of variation in charges between different classes of consumers. A number of other companies obtained powers of a similar kind, and it is thought desirable that an opportunity should be taken of reviewing generally the adequacy of the protection afforded to consumers under the system. The terms of the Motion have, therefore, been drawn to enable the Committee to do this. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House do concur in the Resolution communicated by the Commons, namely: "That it is expedient that a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons be appointed to inquire into the powers of regulating charges possessed by the South Metropolitan Gas Company and other gas companies authorised to operate under a basic price and basic dividend system, to consider whether adequate protection is afforded to the interests of the different classes of gas consumers under such powers, and to report what action, if any, is necessary."—(Lord Templemore.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Ordered, That a Message be sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith.