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Energy Efficiency

Volume 177: debated on Monday 23 July 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Energy when he next expects to meet Neighbourhood Energy Action to discuss the home energy efficiency scheme.

I meet the director of Neighbourhood Energy Action and representatives of other organisations as necessary to discuss the development of the home energy efficiency scheme.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware of the promise that the home energy efficiency scheme would be introduced by 1 November? All the people involved in introducing such a scheme, including a rock wool factory in my constituency, continue to state openly that the Government will not introduce the scheme by 1 November. The Government have backtracked on the promises that they made. The House and the nation want some assurance that the Government will get off their backside and do something about introducing the scheme by 1 November as they promised.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman wanted the consultation that has taken place during the past few months. I hope that he would not have wanted us to go ahead without seeking the views of all groups involved, including Neighbourhood Energy Action. He will be pleased to hear that I hope shortly to come forward with the final details of the scheme. As he will realise, the scheme is a successor to the community insulation projects and, therefore, will flow naturally through.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the rate of energy efficiency improvement in this country has been running at more than double that of the European Community average? Is not that largely due to the success of our community insulation programme? What plans does my right hon. Friend have for continuing that success?

I can certainly confirm that we have had a pretty good record during the past 10 years. However, it would be a mistake to be in any sense complacent, which is why I and my officials at the Energy Efficiency Office are visiting every part of the country to promote our message as best we can.

Does not the Minister astonish even himself with his complacency? How can he claim to be so proud of energy efficiency improvements over the years when he is severely cutting funds to voluntary agencies helping to minimise energy loss? Is not that at best inconsistent with the right hon. Gentleman's remarks, and, at worst, hypocritical?

If I give the impression that I am complacent, I assure the hon. Gentleman that I am not. As I said before, the nation's energy spend amounts to about £40,000 million a year, and our target is to reduce that figure by £8,000 million. Substantial new moneys are coming to the Department for the home energy efficiency scheme, which will also help. I suspect that many of the deliverers—the people who do the job—will be voluntary agencies as well as companies in the private sector.

When my right hon. Friend next talks about energy efficiency to neighbourhood groups, will he impress upon them the importance of the fluorescent gas-filled bulb, which lasts about five years and costs next to nothing to run, but which the bulb manufacturers of the world are slow to produce because they have a vested interest in the consumer replacing bulbs every five minutes? Will he try to persuade British manufacturers to produce those bulbs, because they can be obtained only from abroad at a cost of about £15 to £20 each? Nevertheless, hotels have caught on to their advantages.

If anything, I am becoming a bit of a bulb bore. I assure my hon. Friend that I promote that message as hard as I can. He may not realise that such bulbs are now being produced in this country, and I hope that we shall find them on supermarket shelves from the autumn this year. Those bulbs are certainly very efficient, and every right hon. and hon. Member could benefit by using them in their homes.