To ask the Secretary of State for Energy when he next expects to meet Friends of the Earth to discuss energy-related issues.
I have no present plans to meet Friends of the Earth.
If my hon. Friend receives a request to meet these friendly and earthy people, will he say yes to it and then do all that he can to reassure them that the Government attach a high priority to the promotion of alternative and renewable forms of energy?
My right hon. Friend has already had a meeting with Friends of the Earth. We shall always be happy to have further meetings because they would enable us to tell them that the Government are stimulating the development and application of all promising renewable energy sources by means of a major research, development and demonstration programme. To date the Department has spent more than £160 million on research, and the budget for this year is about £20 million. A special place has also been set aside for about 600 MW of capacity from renewable sources under the non-fossil fuel obligation—in addition to whatever is contracted for under the initial tranche. I would welcome the opportunity of giving Friends of the Earth this good news.
Is not the reality that there needs to be a substantial change in investment in favour of renewables and away from sources such as nuclear power? Will not the Minister find a positive response from organisations such as Friends of the Earth only when he shows that the Government understand the economics of energy and spend money in the right place?
We pay significant regard to energy efficiency. The hon. Gentleman might like to recall that United Kingdom energy consumption in 1989 is less than it was in 1979, despite a 25 per cent. increase in gross domestic product.