§ 6. Mr. Bercow
To ask the President of the Board of Trade what progress her Department is making towards liberalising domestic gas and electricity supply markets. 
§ Mr. Battle
The phased opening up of competition in the gas industry is well under way: it began in the south-west in April last year, it continued in Dorset, Kent, Avon and Sussex in February and March of this year, and the next stage of domestic gas competition is proposed to start on 1 November in Scotland and the north-east.
For electricity, the Government inherited a programme which was left in drift by the former Administration. Within weeks of taking office I sought and obtained reports from the Director General of Electricity Supply, the regulator, and discussed the way forward with the responsible parties and obtained their endorsement for the delivery of robust and successful competition in the electricity market in 1998. A timetable for the remaining work has been agreed. Although there is still much to do and very little time in which to do it, the Government look to the companies to play their full part in ensuring that robust, sustainable competition is introduced on time.
§ Mr. Bercow
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that reply. Does the Minister of State who is responsible for competitiveness still hold shares or options in British Petroleum? If so, does that not mean that he is automatically prohibited from participation in ministerial discussions at the Department of important energy issues?
§ Mr. Battle
I know that the hon. Gentleman has not been here long and that our briefs are not long established, but he should know that I am not the Minister for competitiveness: my colleague in the other place is. But in so far as I understand the question, the answer is no: that does not prohibit him.