Officials were attacked for allowing China Light and Power a second rise in electricity prices in six months. Democratic Party legislator Sin Chung-kai asked why the Government had approved the 6.7 per cent rise in March if it knew the company would have another four per cent increase in October. 'I can't understand why the Government allows two price rises within six months,' he told the economic services panel. The new increase is a result of the company switching from coal to natural gas to generate fuel. The increase will take the form of a reduction in the fuel rebate from 4.5 cents per unit to one cent. Secretary for Economic Services Stephen Ip Shu-kwan said the fuel cost was directly passed on to customers, and the extra charges were unavoidable. 'We see no reason to prohibit the company from increasing the price if it is a direct reflection of the variation in the cost,' he said. 'After all, the company is not going to tap profit from this.' Legislators were told the increase was to cover the $6 billion deficit which would occur in the fuel account of the company in 1999. Mr Ip said suggestions the company should use the development fund to cover the deficit were impractical. 'The $2 billion development fund is not able to cover the huge deficit. 'It is limited to infrastructure only,' he said. Company managing director Ross Sayers said more increases would be necessary to cover the cost of natural gas. Legislator Howard Young accused the company of deliberately splitting the increases. 'The sum of the two increases is more than 11 per cent,' he said. 'So you deliberately separate them, so each will be lower than inflation.' But Mr Sayers said the aim was to avoid the summer peak consumption and was for the benefit of consumers.