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Volume 892: debated on Monday 12 May 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he is satisfied with the efforts which are being made by Government Departments and local authorities to conserve energy.

There continue to be encouraging signs that the national effort to save energy is beginning to show results. I am satisfied that Government Departments and local authorities are making their contribution to this effort.

To what extent does the hon. Gentleman think that there is an opportunity to save energy by reducing the swollen and still swelling number of civil servants and those employed by local authorities?

I do not think that that is relevant to the Question. But perhaps I can assist the hon. Gentleman. Since the energy conservation campaign has commenced, there are valuable statistics available to him and to the House. If he takes crude oil imports, in the first quarter of this year they totalled only 22 million tons compared with more than 26 million tons in the two preceding quarters. For 1974 as a whole, total energy consumption was about 4½ per cent. down on the previous year. Up to about 2 per cent. could have been due to savings. Energy consumption in the three months from December 1974 to February 1975 was 7 per cent. lower than in the same three months two years ago. Although there are uncertainties, I think I have demonstrated that energy conservation is very well worth while.

Will the hon. Gentleman accept that the Property Services Agency has shown the way remarkably in saving energy through the proper use of instrumentation and controls? Is not it doubly sad, therefore, that the Government are not prepared to take space at a trade fair like Insulation 1975 at Leeds even when offered a stand for free in order to demonstrate what can be done in the country at large?

I am well seized of the point made by the right hon. Gentleman, but I wish that he would stop listening to gossip and try instead to put forward constructive suggestions for energy conservation. There was an explanation of that point. Since the right hon. Gentleman spoke at the conference first, I took the opportunity to explain to it what had happened—and the date and the time. I wish that the right hon. Gentleman would stop listening to gossip and would try to assist us and the nation in introducing a policy for conservation.

Will my hon. Friend attempt to persuade the Secretary of State for the Environment to extend improvement grants to cover roof insulation? Is not it daft for one Department to pursue energy-saving courses and for another to be cutting out valuable support for the energy saving that my hon. Friend's Department is advocating?

My hon. Friend must be aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has introduced insulation measures. However, I shall convey to my right hon. Friend the point he has made.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the great amount of heat that is being wasted in cooling installations, especially in power stations? Is he aware, further, that Dolphin Square, London, has been heated by heat exchange units since 1938 and that that has worked satisfactorily'? Why are not all power stations using these facilities?

The hon. Gentleman is talking about waste heat from power stations. I concede at once that this is a very important subject which the Government take very seriously. A great deal of work has been done. But there are no quick and easy answers to this problem. I was interested to see, for example, that the valuable National Economic Development Office report on energy conservation published earlier this year was doubtful about the potential in this area.