§ Mr. Peter Morrison
My right hon. Friend met the chairman of British Gas three weeks ago, and the MMC report was among the topics discussed.
§ Mr. Rost
In view of the MMC's devastatingly critical report on British Gas's discriminatory pricing in the industrial market, which has confirmed all the criticisms made by industry over a long period, will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the director-general of Ofgas will in future be given powers to monitor and control the industrial as well as the domestic market?
§ Mr. Morrison
As my hon. Friend knows, the director-general of Ofgas is currently discussing with British Gas the recommendations in the MMC report and how they can best be put into practice. He will have power, with British Gas, to come forward with amendments to the authorisation. In the event of their not being able to agree, it will be for my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to come forward with his new regulations.
§ Mr. Malcolm Bruce
Does the Minister accept that the reference of British Gas and industrial prices to the MMC was forecast by many of us who were involved in the passage of the privatisation legislation? We warned that 633 this would happen. Does the Minister now accept that those in industry, particularly high energy users, are very disillusioned about the effects of privatisation? Having been ripped off by British Gas for four years, they are extremely concerned that they will be ripped off by the electricity industry as well.
§ Mr. Morrison
I think that the hon. Gentleman will remember that at the time of the passage of the Bill privatising British Gas it was consistently made clear that British Gas would be subject to the normal laws relating to competition, and the right process was put into practice —namely, that the Gas Comnsumers Council could make a recommendation to the director-general of Fair Trading. That is precisely what has happened in the event. As the hon. Gentleman knows and my hon. Friend the Member for Erewash (Mr. Rost), has said, the recommendations from the MMC have been brought forward to make British Gas more competitive. That seems the right way to proceed.