asked the Secretary of State for Energy what measures he is planning to secure adequate energy supplies and savings for the coming winter.
I am currently advised that stocks and supplies should be adequate to see us through the winter. Contingency plans are available should they be needed. I shall continue to develop measures to achieve savings, including the current publicity campaign.
Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the Department's contingency plans cover the worst that could happen this coming winter, such as severe weather after four mild winters and also a substantial increase in the cost of Middle East crude? Both these factors are possible.
I am grateful for what my hon. Friend has said. Any Secretary of State for Energy may run the risk in the winter of having to look back on an overoptimistic forecast made on a hot summer day. I underline what my hon. Friend has said. The House and the country should know that in winter there are risks from weather and of other interruptions and dislocations, so we have to be careful. Contingency plans have been prepared with that in mind.
What has been the expenditure of the Government on the conservation advertising programme carried out so far? What is to be the budgeted figure for the remainder of the year?
That is another question, but I will furnish the hon. Gentleman with the precise figures.
Should it not be a matter of concern to my right hon. Friend that the consumption of electricity is actually down on what it was three years ago, and that this is the first time there has been such a situation in the history of our electricity supply industry? Consumption has been dropping over the past two years. Does not this situation reflect the low level of industrial productivity? Should not this be a matter of grave concern to the Government?
Yes, Sir. My hon. Friend has an unrivalled knowledge of the industry and is quite right in what he has said. As a result of the recession, the consumption of electricity is well below what it has been and could be. That gives us some margin, but no satisfaction should flow from that margin because it still leaves the hazards of the winter in the electricity supply and other fuel industries.
Even on a hot summer's day, can the right hon. Gentleman say what research his Department or any other agency is conducting into solar heating, domestically or industrially? If so, what results, if any, have there been?
There is, of course, as the hon. Gentleman will know, the Energy Technology Support Unit at Harwell. There are a number of national and international programmes, including the topic of solar energy, although our normal weather conditions do not make solar energy top priority in the United Kingdom. However, there are other forms of non-conventional energy consumption which are being vigorously explored.