§ Sir John Hannam
To ask the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to his answer of 24 January,Official Report, columns 125-27, if he has reached any conclusions in relation to the consultation on the initial areas for domestic gas competition; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Eggar
The area for the first phase of the transition to a competitive gas market will cover some 500,000 gas consumers in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset.
The south-west has received by far the most support—nearly a third of all responses to our consultation document suggested the south-west as the most suitable area.
The responses demonstrated widespread enthusiasm for competition in gas supply from all over the country. Local authorities and other organisations from all parts of the country—from Clydesbank to Carrick, from Devon to Dover, from Rotherham to Rugby—requested that they should be the first to benefit from competition in the domestic gas market.
The south-west fulfils the criteria set out by the Trade and Industry Select Committee and the consultation document:it will be one of the areas that might be relatively disadvantaged by the higher transportation charges applicable;it has a mix of rural and urban areas and a representative cross-section of types of consumers;it is suitable for testing and necessary technical systems;it is a clearly defined area with clear natural boundaries.
Because of the need for further consideration of technical factors, no decision regarding the second phase of the transition to competition has yet been made.
The Gas Bill published last week would provide the legislative and regulatory framework for the extension of competition in supply to 18 million domestic gas consumers in Great Britain. We have proposed that, subject to parliamentary approval of the Bill, the introduction of competition should be phased from 1996 to 1998, with the first phase in April 1996 covering some 500,000 homes, which would be extended to 2 million homes in 1997, before nationwide competition in 1998.