East Midlands Electricity

Oral Answers to Questions — Energy – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th June 1991.

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Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire 12:00 am, 17th June 1991

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what action he proposes to take in response to the report of East Midlands Electricity plc on the electricity supply crisis which arose from severe weather conditions.

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

I welcome East Midlands' comprehensive report which makes a number of recommendations. My engineering inspectorate will monitor the company's progress in implementing these, to ensure that they are carried out as expeditiously as possible.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

Is the Minister aware that the worst of the weather crisis occurred in north Nottinghamshire and in north Derbyshire where hundreds of thousands of people were without electricity and water supplies for a considerable period? That coincided with the flotation of East Midlands Electricity plc and meant that the Government did not declare an emergency in circumstances in which they should normally have done. Should not the Government have set up their own inquiry and not just depended on the inquiry of East Midlands Electricity plc?

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

No distribution network could have survived those weather conditions without sustaining damage. All those in the industry—management and staff —worked heroically to restore supplies and it is wrong to refer in any way disparagingly to their efforts or to link the problem to the privatisation of the industry.

Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham

While on the subject of severe weather, will my hon. Friend join me in welcoming last Friday's announcement on improvements to the cold weather payments scheme—the second set of improvements within six months? Will he also confirm that those vast improvements are greatly superior to those on offer under the previous Labour Government?

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

I welcome that observation, although it was not my Department which introduced those improvements.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Can the Minister confirm that there have been more interruptions in supply to consumers since the electricity industry was privatised? Before he denies that, will he also confirm that neither the Secretary of State nor the Office of Electricity Regulations can provide any statistics?

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

The privatisation of electricity has resulted in significant benefits to its consumers, which include timely reaction to any interruption of supply.