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Orders of the Day — Electricity Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:05 pm on 13th December 1988.

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Photo of Mr David Harris Mr David Harris , St Ives 6:05 pm, 13th December 1988

I am sure that the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) will forgive me if I do not follow his arguments now that the ten-minute speech rule is in play. Unlike the right hon. Gentleman, I support the Bill. My remarks about a particular aspect of it should not be taken as meaning that I intend to oppose the Bill. I am in favour of its general principles.

I wish to concentrate on a matter of acute importance to one area of my constituency and I believe that it is important to all constituents in rural areas. I believe that parity of charges between comparable consumers throughout a company's area should be written into the Bill.

My particular interest in this matter stems from the injustice that is suffered by my constituents who live on the Isles of Scilly. For 31 years the Isles of Scilly have had to pay the highest tariff for electricity in the United Kingdom. That stems from the simple fact that, until next year, they must rely on the oil-fired power station on St. Mary's. In April next year all that will change when the submarine cables, which have been laid to the Isles of Scilly, begin to operate. Then, the Isles of Scilly will be connected to the national grid.

Those cables are the result of a long campaign in which I have played a part, but which has been spearheaded by the islanders. I should like to pay tribute to three islanders, Colin Daly, John Poat and Tony Dingley. They are the officers of the Isles of Scilly electricity tariff parity action group.

They have won the battle to connect the Isles of Scilly to the mainland grid and they have won the argument for parity between the tariff paid by the islands and the tariff charged by the South Western electricity board. They now fear, however, that that parity might be snatched from them as a result of privatisation. I trust and believe that the Minister of State will assure me that that is not so. I believe that one of the provisions of the European regional development fund grant, which was given for laying the cables, is that parity should not be taken away once it is given. I do not believe that the islanders have anything to fear on that score.

Let me draw attention, however, to clause 3(2) which relates to the provisions for Scotland. It gives, as in so many cases, special and privileged treatment to Scotland. That clause makes it clear that the Secretary of State can make an order under which tariffs shall not distinguish, directly or indirectly, between different parts of the area covered by that order. The Isles of Scilly would certainly like such a provision written into the Bill—