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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 cannot give way; I have only 10 minutes.

My constituents would certainly like such a provision.

I have been involved in detailed correspondence with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and my hon. Friend the Minister of State on these points while the Bill has been in preparation. I asked my right hon. Friend on 4 July whether he would give an assurance that the new privatised electricity companies will have parity of charges within their areas, so that, for example, there will be no disadvantage to consumers on the Isles of Scilly in my constituency or, indeed, consumers who live in rural as opposed to urban areas within that company's supply system". I am pleased to say that my right hon. Friend replied: We are extremely conscious of the anxiety that is felt in areas such as the Scilly Isles and the south-west. We recognise that it is a serious problem. We are sure that, when we make our proposals, my hon. Friend will be happy with them."—[Official Report, 4 July 1988; Vol. 136, c. 713.] I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will make my happiness complete and give me the assurances that I seek on this important matter.

At present, my constituents on the Isle of Scilly pay 27 per cent. more for their electricity than the rest of the consumers served by the South Western electricity board. Those with businesses and block tariffs pay 50 per cent. more than those on the mainland. That injustice will be corrected when the cable comes into play, and I hope that this parity will not be snatched away.

This is a point of much wider application than merely to my constituents on the Isles of Scilly. I heartily agree with the Select Committee on Energy; which states: We do not think rural customers should be charged more per kilowatt hour consumed than people living in towns". It is a sad reflection on the Opposition that they have not seized on that point—[Interruption.] At least, they have not done so in this debate. But it is an important point, about which I want a reassurance from the Minister.

I hope that this fear will not be realised. I appreciate that the legislation on this wider point will be exactly the same as the legislation that is now in place. I want something written into the Bill to ensure that there is no discrimination against those who live in rural areas as opposed to those who live in towns, and I confidently expect an assurance from my hon. Friend that the needs of my constituents in the Isles of Scilly will be met.