Minister promises to retain gas services

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The Independent Online
Special services for elderly, disabled and blind people will be written into the forthcoming Bill to liberalise the gas industry, the Government pledged yesterday in a hasty damage limitation exercise after the leaking of British Gas proposals to cut advisory and safety help. The promise by the Energy Minister, Tim Eggar, failed to satisfy consumer groups and Labour, which will today crank up its "fairness'' campaign over the privatised utilities with new figures showing a 700 per cent rise in the remuneration of electricity company chiefs since the industry's sell-off.

Nigel Griffiths, shadow consumer minister, criticised as "half-way'' a commitment from Mr Eggar that the Gas Bill to break British Gas's monopoly would lay down standards of service to be provided by all the companies entering the market.

The concession came in the wake of the leaking of a British Gas document suggesting a £25 charge for advisory visits and safety checks and abandoning braille services for the blind and cooker adaptations for people with arthritis.

As Mike Alexander, Public Gas Supply's managing director, disowned the document, Robin Simpson, acting director of the National Consumer Council, said: "We shall be looking at the small print of the Bill to ensure existing services are safeguarded."