§ Mr. Kirkwood
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy (1) if he will withdraw the legal powers available to the new electricity companies to charge standing charges to pensioners on income support and families in receipt of family credit;
(2) if he will now commission an independent review of electricity standing charges and poor consumers;
(3) if he will now seek the necessary legislative changes to abolish standing charges for the supply of domestic electricity for pensioners and claimants of family credit;
(4) what percentage of electricity sales revenue is currently derived from standing charges to domestic consumers; and what estimate has been made of any change to the proportion of sales revenue so devised in future;
(5) whether any research has been undertaken to study the financial impact of standing charges for electricity to pensioners and claimants on low incomes and benefit.
§ Mr. Michael Spicer
The question of standing charges has been considered by successive Governments. They have consistently taken the view that standing charges are the fairest means of recovering the costs attributable to each consumer. The social security system provides effective means of targeting assistance on those in need.
The percentage of revenue represented by standing charges in 1988 was 6.5 per cent. of total sales revenue from domestic, industrial and other users. Forward estimating of revenue is a matter for the electricity industry.
Powers to include standing charges in electricity tariffs are set out in Section 18 of the Electricity Act 1989. I have no intention of seeking to change these powers.