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Volume 887: debated on Monday 24 February 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he will make a further statement about Government policy to conserve energy.

An energy conservation campaign is of necessity a long, hard slog but there are already encouraging signs of worthwhile achievement.

Will the Secretary of State say what progress he has been able to make to ensure that the cost of energy represents the true cost of producing that energy? Will he also say what discussions he has had with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services to ensure that any increased costs do not bear unfairly on the weakest section of the community?

The hon. Gentleman will have noticed that in the last 11 months my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I have made it plain that energy pricing must be undertaken on a much more realistic basis. I am sure he will also have noticed that there has been a record increase in social security benefits. There is to be an uprating in April this year and a further uprating later in the year.

Is it not a fact that Conservative Members persist in demanding that my right hon. Friend should take stern action to conserve energy and then criticise every step he takes?

That is true of some hon. Gentlemen, but there can be a massive reduction in energy use only by strict allocation, rationing and electricity rota cuts. I think that this is well understood.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what progress is being made towards a European conservation programme? What contribution are the Government making to it, and what view do they take about Dr. Kissinger's proposals for a floor price for oil?

On the last point, we are examining the proposals which have been made about downside risk and are considering them seriously. As for the EEC, I remind the hon. Gentleman that our measures are probably in advance of anything that is being done in the Community.