Equal gas prices call

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The Independent Online

The Labour Party has called for uniform gas prices across the country when competition is introduced in the domestic gas market, in spite of the widespread view that variations are inevitable. The call comes as the Government prepares to publish today the Gas Bill, paving the way for domestic competition from next year.

Martin O'Neill, shadow energy minister, said: "The starting point for Labour's attitude to gas deregulation is that access to cheap fuel should be a right and not a luxury. It should not depend on who you are, where you live or how you pay."

There is a consensus that gas bills will vary across the country to a limited extent once cross-subsidy is eliminated, reflecting the cost of carrying the gas. Independent suppliers argue, however, that they will be able to undercut British Gas prices by about 10 per cent, so that all consumers will be better off than they are today.

The debate over the bill is expected to focus on standards of service to be imposed on British Gas and new suppliers, which include electricity companies and North Sea producers.