§ LORD SEGAL
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to encourage the installation of gas and electricity meters in locked containers on the outside of new houses and flats.]
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD STONHAM)
My Lords, Area Gas and Electricity Boards have examined the possible advantages of providing external access to consumers' meters, and in a number of cases, where the additional expense involved has appeared justified by the likely economies and convenience, such arrangements have been introduced in new premises. A major difficulty in introducing them more widely is that they can be applied only 1678 in the case of credit meters; for prepayment meters, the use of which varies between Boards, the need for security against theft and for constant access by the consumer makes external positioning unsuitable. The possible scope for the development of new methods of meter reading is, however, kept under review by the industries.
§ LORD SEGAL
My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for his reply, may I ask whether he is aware of the enormous amount of time and labour lost by the present archaic method of reading meters inherited by our national industries; whether he is also aware that many invalids and old people resent this intrusion into their privacy, and that there are risks of crime through breaking in and misrepresentation? And can he give the House any statistics as to the relative inefficiency of this method for non-prepayment meters and also the incidence of crime due to this type of misrepresentation?
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I regret that without notice I cannot give my noble friend any information with regard to the question of crime or the particular statistics involved in the breaking open of meters. Sometimes, of course, this is done by the householder himself. But I can assure him that, so far as credit meters are concerned, the Area Gas Boards encourage the installation of such meters wherever possible, and indeed in some areas they do so with new developments free of charge. But he will understand, I hope, that this can be done only with credit meters, and that many of the elderly people he mentioned of course have coin meters.