§ The Under-Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Alex Eadie)
My right hon. Friend discussed with the Chairman of the Electricity Council the electricity price increases announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget Statement.
§ Mr. Rost
By how much are electricity prices going up now, and by how much further will they have to rise later in the year to allow for the increased price of coal? Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that more economies and greater 873 efficiency could not be introduced by the industry to avoid part of these increased charges?
§ Mr. Eadie
My right hon. Friend is satisfied that the industry is efficient and economical. As far as the effect on consumers' bills is concerned, the small domestic consumer may expect to pay only about 10 per cent. more—for example, 3p per week; the average domestic consumer may expect to pay 30 per cent. more, which is just over 25p per week; and the large domestic consumer with a high proportion of off-peak and night use may expect to pay nearly 50 per cent. more in some cases—for example, 75p per week.
§ Mr. Dalyell
What about the skeleton in this particular cupboard? For how many months were the price increases that the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) and other Conservative Ministers knew ought to take place delayed for political reasons?
§ Mr. Eadie
My hon. Friend is on the ball. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition Front Bench may jeer, but they should honestly admit to the House and the country that decisions which should have been taken were not taken by them and had to be taken by the present Government.
§ Mr. Pardoe
Can the hon. Gentleman say a little more about his statement that the small domestic consumer will have his bill increased by only 10 per cent.? What does the hon. Gentleman mean by "small domestic consumer"? How certain is he that 10 per cent. represents the maximum increase that the small domestic consumer can expect during the next 12 monhs?
§ Mr. Skinner
Does my hon. Friend agree that the truth lies in the fact that the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues when in government were responsible for these price increases through the three-day working week, the confrontation with the miners and other actions? Does he also agree that the Leader of the Opposition behaved like an IRA terrorist in planting an economic time bomb and then running away?
§ Mr. Patrick Jenkin
How can the Prime Minister claim that he did not know what was in the pipeline concerning electricity when my colleagues and I in the last Government spelled out in the starkest possible terms in the proceedings on the Statutory Corporations (Financial Provisions) Act 1974 exactly what was required? It is ludicrous for the Prime Minister to try to pretend that all this came as a stupendous shock to him.
§ Mr. Eadie
The right hon. Gentleman will recall that we took part in the proceedings on that Act as well. His comment is probably the comment of the week. The nation has indeed been confronted in the starkest possible terms with the bill it is having to pay now because of the bungling incompetence of the last Government.