Electricity Prices

Oral Answers to Questions — Energy – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th December 1984.

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Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry , Banbury 12:00 am, 17th December 1984

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on the estimated increases in electricity prices to industry during the coming year.

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

Electricity tariffs for industrial consumers are determined by the electricity supply industry. I understand that area boards will not be increasing tariffs this winter.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry , Banbury

I am delighted to hear that news, because industry needs to know well in advance, when it is budgeting, what prices might do in the coming year. Is my right hon. Friend aware that some industries have been worried that one of the effects of the damaging miner's strike will be to make them less competitive because electricty prices will go up?

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

I am aware of the importance to industry of keeping electricity prices as low as possible. That is the electricity industry's objective. I am pleased to say that electricity prices to industrial consumers have fallen on average by 8 per cent. in real terms in the last two years.

Photo of Mr Dave Nellist Mr Dave Nellist , Coventry South East

Does the Secretary of State agree that he has wasted £4,400 million in the last 10 months attacking the National Union of Mineworkers and that a large part of that cost will fall on industries such as the electricity industry, resulting in price increases in the coming months or years? Will not old-age pensioners between the ages of 70 and 85, whose heating benefits have been cut, and the families of striking miners whose benefits have also been cut, have to bear the cost of the Government's attack on the miners and their families in the last 10 months? Yet again the people least able to bear the cost will have to bear it.

Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester

As I know of the hon. Gentleman's passion for looking after pensioners, I know that he will be doing all that he can to persuade Mr. Scargill to accept the very good terms available.

Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory , Wells

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is the average electricity price charged to industrial customers in the United Kingdom; and what information he has on the comparable figure in France.

Photo of Mr Alastair Goodlad Mr Alastair Goodlad Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Energy)

Electricity prices to industrial consumers vary greatly within all countries, according to the nature of the load being supplied. In general, however, French prices are the lowest in Europe and are, typically, up to 20 per cent. lower than those in the United Kingdom and other EEC states. This is largely due to the greater proportion of electricity generated by nuclear power in France.

Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory , Wells

As French electricity prices put British industry at a competitive disadvantage, which is bad for investment and jobs, will my hon. Friend explain some of the reasons for the price differential? Does he agree that the large French nuclear programme enables that country to generate electricity significantly more cheaply than we can manage?

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike , Burnley

Does the Minister accept that while European electricity suppliers may advertise certain tariffs through long-term agreements, they supply electricity at a much lower figure to many industrialists working in Europe? Is there not a massive subsidy to industry in Europe? Are there not many companies with bases in this country and Europe which obtain electricity at a cheaper rate by using that method to get around the advertised tariffs?

Photo of Mr Alastair Goodlad Mr Alastair Goodlad Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Energy)

The French tariff is lower because, broadly speaking, it has a larger nuclear element. The electricity supply industry in Britain is currently considering proposals for successors to the present load management schemes, including the contracted consumer load scheme, which formally expires in March 1985. I understand that the Electricity Council intends that the new arrangements should, overall, be no less beneficial than the present schemes.