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Volume 519: debated on Wednesday 1 December 2010

1. What (a) recent meetings he has had and (b) meetings he plans to have with representatives of Scottish Power to discuss the energy industry in Scotland. (26707)

I have regular meetings with the energy industry, including with Scottish Power, and will continue to do so, given the sector’s importance to the Scottish economy.

I thank the Secretary of State for his answer. He says that he has had these meetings, yet British Gas, Scottish Power and Scottish and Southern Energy have said that on no occasion has he ever discussed the price hiking that these companies are undertaking. When will he try to support the people of Scotland by doing something about the price hikes?

What I recognise is the importance of ensuring that we get a fair deal for consumers, as well as for the shareholders—the companies are concerned about that. As the hon. Gentleman will know, Ofgem has announced an inquiry into consumer protection and competition in the sector. I expect that to be a very thorough process.

I am glad to see that the Secretary of State was able to get back from Scotland to be here today, despite the cold weather and the travel difficulties. Given that cold weather, and the increase in energy bills that many people have experienced, is he aware of the concern among many of my constituents and many others that the most vulnerable people will struggle to pay their bills, when they should be entitled to be on social tariffs? Will he therefore undertake to convene a summit of the six energy companies to discuss, in particular, what they are doing to ensure that people who should be on social tariffs are on them, and that people in Scotland are not left cold at home this winter?

I am glad of the hon. Gentleman’s welcome, and I appreciate, as he will, that many people in Scotland, and indeed in the whole of the United Kingdom, have been struggling to get to work and go about their business today. He rightly focuses on temperature and the fact that this will cause extra difficulty for people, so I am sure he will welcome the fact that we are maintaining the cold weather payments and the winter fuel allowance. I am certainly happy to discuss ideas of getting together with the different energy companies to make sure that they are properly focused on the needs of their customers.