§ Mr. Clapham
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many households in the UK do not have access to the gas network; and what initiatives he plans to encourage companies to extend it. 
§ Mr. Hain
Approximately 5 million households in GB do not have access to the gas network.
The legislative position is that under the Gas Act 1986 (as amended) a Gas Transporter only has a duty to connect premises 23 meters from the gas mains. The same Act gives Ofgem a duty to ensure that all reasonable requests for gas through pipes are met, providing this can be done economically.
The Gas Act 1995 provided three ways a household can be connected to the mains. First, a consumer can go to one of the many competing Gas Transporters. Secondly, the Gas Transporter can apply to Ofgem to use a system of supplemental charges where the cost of making the gas connection is recovered over a period of typically 20 years by means of an additional charge on each unit of gas. Thirdly, the consumer can purchase the pipes and hire a specialist company to lay them for him—the so called "self-lay" system.
The Government are aware that many households which are not currently connected to the mains would like to be and, in the coming months, they will be working with Ofgem and the industry to ensure that the gas network provides the widest viable coverage.