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Orders of the Day — Utilities Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:10 pm on 31st January 2000.

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Photo of Mr Bill Tynan Mr Bill Tynan Labour, Hamilton South 6:10 pm, 31st January 2000

The Scottish Executive has dealt with price increases in Scotland. There are variations across the country. In the north, for example, there has been a lack of investment, and the price of water will increase. The increases for all areas were a decision of the Scottish Executive and were accepted by the Scottish Parliament.

The Bill seeks to ensure that disadvantaged consumers will benefit. Regulation must take the needs of all consumers into account. Anyone who has been unable to turn on heating or lights will know how important the Bill is. We must pass it through the House as speedily as we can. The new duty of the regulator to take into account the interests of low-income consumers must be applauded. Energy efficiency standards and performance that will help the poor to reduce their energy bills must be welcome. The modernisation of the regulatory framework is essential to the delivery of keener prices and better services.

Increased competition in electricity supply and the emergence of multi-utility companies have created the need for a flexible framework, which must be able to respond to change and the modernisation of the utilities. Environmental objectives, such as energy efficiency, must form part of the planning process for those utilities.

I welcome the fact that Ministers have the power to make regulations to promote energy efficiency in the generation of renewable energy. It is clear from the consultation process that there is substantial support for the measure. Opposition Members have also expressed support for many of the Bill's provisions.

The primary duty of the new Gas and Electricity Markets AuthorityGEMA—to the consumer will be to ensure that the regulatory body accesses and monitors the safety record of utility companies. That will lead to joined-up working between GEMA and the Health and Safety Executive. That is essential in view of the high standard of safety required in the industry.