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Conservation And Competition

Volume 889: debated on Monday 7 April 1975

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14.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what discussions he has had with the gas, electricity, coal and oil industries recently with a view to conserving energy and avoiding wasteful competition.

My officials are in close touch with those of the fuel industries with the objective of co-ordinating their energy-saving publicity. The advertising of the fuel industries now has a substantial energy-saving content. The industries already make available to their customers substantial advisory services on how their fuels can best be used.

The House will welcome the action taken by my right hon. Friend and his Department to save energy. but does he agree that much more co-ordination is needed on distribution between the various energy industries? Could there not be joint gas and electricity showrooms? Could not savings be effected in collecting from and reading gas and electricity meters? That is the sort of thing we expect now that the industries are socially owned.

I know that my hon. Friend is very interested in this question which he has raised before in the House. I am having the matter considered to see whether benefits can arise and in due course I shall report the conclusions to the House.

Will the right hon. Gentleman have another look at this matter? Will he remove the distortions from the gas market and ensure that there is a realistic price for gas?

If I understand the hon. Gentleman correctly, he is saying that gas prices should go up. Many people in the country will note that a leading Conservative Member is advocating an increase in fuel prices.

Will my right hon. Friend pay particular attention to the latter part of the Question, which asks for the avoidance of wasteful competition, and look into the question of what it costs the gas and electricity industries to offer free samples, and so on, in showrooms? Will he endeavour to cut out such waste and adopt a true energy policy for advertising as well as for the production of energy resources?

I certainly want the energy industries and publicly owned energy industries to be realistic. There is a later Question on the Order Paper about free gifts. However, I should be loth, as I am sure my hon. Friend would be, to advocate that the showrooms of the gas and electricity boards should be closed. The showrooms are very profitable sectors of the industry.