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Ministry Of Power

Volume 644: debated on Monday 10 July 1961

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Electricity Boards (Credit Facilities)

19.

asked the Minister of Power if he will give a general direction to the electricity boards to offer the same credit facilities to consumers of electricity as are offered by private commercial companies to their customers.

No, Sir. My right hon. Friend considers that such matters are best left to the electricity boards.

Is it not rather an abuse of their monopoly position that the area electricity boards should threaten to cut off a customer's supply, and indeed do so? Is it not rather using their special position?

No, Sir. The boards are most reluctant to disconnect and do so only when there is no alternative. They are always willing to make reasonable arrangements with consumers who have special payment problems. However, when a board decides to disconnect there is usually a further delay of 7 to 14 days, so that the total delay between sending the bill and disconnecting for nonpayment is 42 to 49 days.

Is my hon. Friend aware that if an electricity board is minded to give longer-term credit the customer who gets the credit should pay for it in full rather than that the burden should fall on other customers or on the taxpayer?

I understand that the area boards consider that their credit facilities compare favourably with those generally allowed by private commercial concerns. Any extension of credit would require additional working capital in millions rather than thousands of pounds. For example, if consumers on average delayed payment by two weeks, the industry would need a permanent increase in its borrowing of no less than £25 million, on which it would have to pay interest.

Iron And Steel Board (Chairman)

21.

asked the Minister of Power whether he will define the new responsibilities and the extent of the duties of the Chairman of the Iron and Steel Board now that he is part-time; and what consideration has been given to the salary now to be paid.

There will be no change in the responsibilities or duties of the Chairman of the Iron and Steel Board now that he is devoting less than his full time to the work of the Board. With the approval of the Treasury, my right hon. Friend has fixed his salary at the reduced rate of £6,000 a year.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is rather odd that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power, who is responsible for iron and steel, electricity, gas, coal and the whole range of power industries, should now be receiving a smaller salary than the part-time Chairman of the Iron and Steel Board?

The office of Chairman is not part-time in the ordinary sense of the word. The Chairman of the Board will be doing exactly the same work as he did when he was full-time, and he will be devoting only less than his full time to the job. The salary paid for the job is commensurate with the importance of the work which he undertakes.