asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the effect of present Government action in regard to coal and gas production is that stockholders in public utility concerns, such as the Gas Light and Coke Company, are being compelled by Government action to subsidise the cost of living in London, and whether he will take steps to implement the policy of equality of sacrifice by seeing that a burden, which should be shared equally by all, is no longer imposed on a small arbitrarily selected class?
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his Budget Speech last year a general policy of restricting increases in price to a minimum and stated that this policy would apply to the prices of coal, gas and electricity. In pursuance of this policy an Order was made by the Board of Trade in May, 1941, controlling the price of gas throughout the country. Licences to increase prices have been issued from time to time to various undertakings and the Gas Light and Coke Company were authorised in February last to increase their price by 1½d. per therm. Although as my right hon. Friend has stated, the policy of price stabilisation imposes large additional charges on the Exchequer, it has never implied a liability on the Exchequer to pay compensation in all cases where the price of an article or service has been controlled by Government action.