HC Deb 20 October 1981 vol 10 cc92-3W
Mr. Field

asked the Secretary of State for Energy on what date the Policy Studies Institute study into the fuel supply industries' code of practice will be completed; on what date it will be published; what period of time will be allowed for comment between publication and any decisions; and what are the dates of meetings of the full review group of the study's sponsors between now and the publication of the study.

Mr. Viggers

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what action he proposes to take in the light of the recently published report by the Policy Studies Institute on its review of the gas and electricity industries' codes of practice on the payment of bills; and if he will arrange for a copy of the report to be placed in the Library.

Mr. Mellor:

I presided at a meeting on 13 October of the parties concerned in setting up the PSI review. The meeting decided on immediate publication of the study in order to give interested parties every opportunity to make their views known to the industries.

The PSI report finds that in general the industries operate in accordance with the provisions of the code of practice and that breaches occur only occasionally and accidentally. But the report points to areas of the industries' debt collection procedures in which there is room for improvement.

The industries have accordingly agreed to consider changes in the operation of the code in the light of the report. I have asked them to report back to me after consultation with the Gas and Electricity Consumers Councils by February 1982. The aim will be to introduce any changes to the code and its operation by March, when consumers will be receiving their main winter fuel bills. I shall maintain a close interest in the progress of the discussions on the code.

For the present the gas and electricity industries will continue to stress to their staffs the need for strict observance of both the letter and the spirit of the code. In particular, attention will be paid to the need for the industries to offer repayment arrangements to people with fuel debts and to the availability of prepayment meters.

I have arranged for a copy of the PSI report to be placed in the Library of the House.

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