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Nationalised Industry Chairmen

Volume 897: debated on Monday 4 August 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he next expects to meet the chairmen of the nationalised energy industries.

I meet the chairmen regularly, but a collective meeting is now unlikely before the early autumn.

Does the Minister agree that he is in duty bound to convene a meeting at an early date so that he can explain to the chairmen collectively what measures he proposes to take to regain their confidence, which has been wholly shattered after the revelations about Court Line and the right hon. Gentleman's failures and to some extent by the steel review? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that his own fallibility in taking top-level decisions is in question? What does he propose to do about trying to regain the confidence of the chairmen?

Last month I organised a collective meeting with the chairmen which had to be deferred because the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-lines Bill came forward at rather short notice. I share the view that relations between Ministers and chairmen of nationalised industries are important but I have always taken the view that Ministers, being accountable to the House, have concerns that they have to safeguard. I have sought to do that and I intend to do so in the future.

Will the Minister discuss with the chairmen the ludicrous position that calls in the Press and on television day in, day out for the conservation of energy are followed by advertisements telling people to go to this or that electricity showroom or gas showroom to buy new equipment? Should there not be one showroom for gas and electricity and one meter reader to read both gas and electricity meters? Should there not be co-ordination to cut down expenses and possibly to reduce the number of chairmen and so that one chairman runs the two boards?

My hon. Friend will know that the possible combination of showrooms is under discussion. I have written to the consultative committees about it. I hope my hon. Friend will also recognise that some of the most wasteful appliances that are in use are old appliances, and if they were replaced by new ones energy would be conserved. [Interruption.] If my hon. Friend puts a supplementary question to me he must let me reply. There are many modern appliances that produce great economies, not only to the householder—

If my hon. Friend will rise to his feet I will allow him to ask endless supplementary questions. New appliances can save energy, and one would expect that information about them should be made available to customers.