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Gas And Electricity Prices

Volume 932: debated on Monday 16 May 1977

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7.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he will make a statement about Government policy in regard to prices charged by the gas and electricity industries and the likelihood or otherwise of further subsidies to those industries.

We believe that gas and electricity should be priced at economic levels which reflect the cost of supply, encourage the best use of national energy resources, and maintain the industries on a sound financial basis.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that despite previous mis-demeanours on the part of previous Governments we are now reformed characters on the Opposition Benches and warmly approve of his answer?

The hon. Gentleman does not have to convince us that he and his hon. Friends are reformed characters. He has to convince the electorate, and I think that that will be a marginally harder job.

Will my hon. Friend comment on the exaggerated estimates that have been made of the likely increase in electricity prices as a result of the forward ordering of the Drax B power station? Will he ask the Opposition why they never quote the figure of £45 million that would be saved in social benefits as a result of the 4,000 jobs that the order would preserve? Will he also make clear that there is no question, if the order is to save jobs, of its going out to competitive tender and new designs, and that the only option, if we are to save jobs, is for the order to be a replica of Drax A?

I can only advise my hon. Friend to table a number of those Questions to the appropriate Department. As to the figures that have been mentioned in the Press, the House should be aware that there is a fair amount of discussion, if not dissatisfaction, about many of those figures and my right hon. Friend is having the whole position thoroughly examined.