When the Secretary of State next meets the chairmen of regional boards, will he discuss why boards such as NORWEB have reduced the number of inspectors that they employ and, for example, no longer inspect empty properties before they are reconnected to the electricity supply? Is that not an example of how, as the industry moves towards privatisation, profit becomes more important than safety?
I do not accept that. I have visited NORWEB on a number of occasions and I think that the improvement in its standards of service to its customers is remarkable. For instance, it has improved the level of disconnections, and that is again remarkable. It is preparing itself to give better service and is not doing so by taking any risks with safety.
When my right hon. Friend next meets the chairman of NORWEB, will he discuss the proposal to phase out Europa house in Stockport, where 600 or 700 people are employed? Does this new proposal arise out of privatisation? Are the rumours true that jobs are to be moved from Stockport, where unemployment is relatively high, to Swindon, where there is virtually none?
I cannot give my hon. Friend an answer to that. It has not been raised with me before and as he knows, I am not responsible for the day-to-day running of area boards. That is why there are boards of directors. However, I shall find out the answer and write to my hon. Friend.
Will the Secretary of State discuss with the chairman of regional boards who is to pay for the scandalous waste that is about to be experienced, as all Wellington boots, donkey jackets, overalls, crockery, crested paper and so on bearing the emblem of the CEGB are replaced by goods bearing the logo of the new companies? Does the Secretary of State expect the customer to pay for that in advance of privatisation?
It has always been the practice in the electricity industry to promote the corporate identity of the industry. The idea that something new is being done is wrong. As a small example, in the last year of Labour Government, the equivalent of £57 million was spent on advertising, the object of which was to steal business from another national industry, the gas industry.
Does the Secretary of State concede that when he can meet the chairmen of the electricity boards of England and Wales, he can discuss problems of mutual interest between them and British Coal? That, however, does not apply to Scotland. Nonetheless, there is a matter of considerable interest involving the South of Scotland electricity board and British Coal. When will the Secretary of State be able to resolve the important coal contract between that board and British Coal?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, that is very much a matter for the two parties. The Government have used their good offices to some effect—I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree with that—to maintain coal production in Scotland. We hope to see an agreement between the two parties in the near future.